Puerto Vallarta Destination Guide
Puerto Vallarta Holidays
It’s home to one of the most quirky and glamorous beachfront precincts in all of Mexico, but Puerto Vallarta is so much more than just a beach resort destination. Offering natural beauty, historic landmarks, action-packed water sports, charming markets, a diverse dining scene and all-round fantastic fun in the sun, the city holds appeal for adventure-seekers and culture vultures alike.
The city itself is made up of several zones, all of which are close to the celebrated waterfront area of Banderas Bay. Within these distinct zones you’ll find historic monuments, sprawling holiday resorts, spectacular architecture and charming streets that offer an authentic peek into the Mexican way of life.
From sunbathing and scuba diving to nature and nightlife, Puerto Vallarta has plenty to keep the whole family entertained. Kick things off with a wander along El Malecon, the stunning palm tree-lined waterfront walkway that runs along part of Banderas Bay. Bustling with sand sculptures, street art and cultural performances, this energetic strip is a favourite meeting place for locals and tourists alike.
Move on to the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe, which dominates the city’s skyline and serves as its most recognised landmark. Offering a glimpse into traditional Puerto Vallarta before it became a tourist destination, the church is an essential addition to every itinerary.
For natural beauty, make your way to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Set high in the Sierra Madre Mountains, the gardens showcase native Mexican plant life and horticulture and make for an informative and engaging day trip.
The iconic Los Arcos, a row of symbolic arches positioned on the waterfront, is one of the city’s most popular landmarks and the perfect place to catch a memorable sunset in the evening. Finally, a great range of water sport activities is readily available on the beachfront, with something to suit all abilities.
Due to the rise in immigration in the region, local offerings have developed far beyond the traditional Mexican flavours and simple seafood that were once the city’s staples. The food scene in Puerto Vallarta is now international, with eateries ranging from fine dining to popular chain restaurants and intimate local cuisine. If you’re keen to get stuck into some local fare, try the street food taco stands and beachside seafood tables.
The downtown area is an excellent hub of local street food, as is the neighbourhood of Pitillal, which offers authentic Mexican cuisine in abundance. El Centro, Riviera Nayarit and Zona Romantica are where you’ll find the majority of the city’s international restaurants, from Spanish and Italian to Asian and American.
Where to Stay
If you’re in the market for wallet-friendly accommodation, downtown Puerto Vallarta is your best bet for quaint and affordable hotels. Zona Hotelera (the Hotel Zone) offers a variety of waterfront options, from sprawling high-rise hotels to low-key condos and time-share apartments.
Riviera Nayarit caters to the high-end crowd, with opulent villas providing the height of luxury and boutique bed and breakfasts with stunning beach views surrounded by fine dining restaurants and upscale bars.
With its thriving art scene, its not surprising that much of Puerto Vallarta’s best shopping in the historic town centre is concentrated around independent boutique stores that sell contemporary Mexican fine art, unique yarn paintings and traditional hand-crafted beadwork.
Market shopping is a popular pastime, with the downtown Saturday Market Co-Op being the top pick to browse bustling stalls and listen to live local music with a coffee and cinnamon roll in hand. Snap up an assortment of delightful souvenirs including local handicrafts, pottery, fragrant soaps and jewellery.
Puerto Vallarta Like a Local
To escape the hustle and bustle, head north to the fishing town of Bucerias where you’ll find authentic Mexican charm in spades. Spend a full day enjoying the quiet shoreline, fresh seafood served right on the beach, friendly locals and lovely cobbled streets.