One of Mexico’s favourite tourist destinations is the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta. Straddled around the alluring Bahia de Banderas, it is a cavalcade of rolling mountains, luscious countryside and a buzzing city life. The focal point of the resort is undoubtedly the white, powdered beaches which are complimented with lines of palm trees and a wealth of bars and restaurants.
The centre of the city is known as El Malecon which is constantly alive with the sounds of street artists and music humming from every corner. Holidaymakers and locals mingle together as they peruse quaint shops and soak up the intoxicating atmosphere. Head down to the promenade past the iconic bronze seahorse statue and watch the various yachts float into the cosmopolitan marina.
This is a quintessential slice of Mexico and the perfect place to enjoy whether you’re visiting for the first time or returning once again. So, what else is there to explore in this part of the world? Let’s take a little tour.
The place to be in Jalisco
Having a coastline which spans over 40 kilometres, it is easy to see why Puerto Vallarta is deemed the place to be in the western state of Jalisco. It is a destination where locals and holidaymakers come to let their hair down whether that is immersing themselves in the culture of the city or simply basking in the warm weather.
Puerto Vallarta’s beating heart is El Malecon, the historical centre of the city which has become a hub for people to get together day or night. Packed with bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries, jewellers and much, much more it has a bustling atmosphere throughout. Follow this promenade to Marina Vallarta, the city’s modern sophisticated port where you can spend hours watching luxury yachts come into shore.
However, the main reason people come to this part of Mexico is for the beaches. Puerto Vallarta’s location next to the Bahia de Banderas makes a day at the beach all the more inviting. One of the area’s most loved beaches is at Mismaloya where the white sands are perfectly contrasted with the azure waters and green of the surrounding rainforest.
With a coastline this amazing it has become a haven for scuba diving and watersports. Surfing is huge here with spots such as Veneros, Burro, San Pancho and Sayulita real favourites and no matter if you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro you can catch some serious waves here.
Enjoy a spot of culture by visiting the Vallarta Botanical Gardens a couple miles south of the city centre. This picturesque expanse of natural beauty provides incredible views of the surrounding mountain range as well as the tranquillity of wandering through these peaceful gardens.
Why go to Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta offers a refreshing alternative to the eastern resorts in Quintana Roo. It has something for everyone whether you’re looking a quintessential beach holiday, an exciting city break or a relaxed couple of weeks by the pool.
With plenty to do in the city and the surrounding, it does not matter what type of holiday you’re after as Puerto Vallarta can deliver all that and more.
At the other end of the city is the suave and stylish Marina Vallarta. This is one of the most exclusive parts of Puerto Vallarta with a selection of luxurious hotels, world class restaurants and even a private golf club. If you were looking for a taste of high society then you will find it here as lavish yacht after lavish yacht floats into shore.
Simply walk around Puerto Vallarta and you’ll discover the incredible beauty of the city. Fall in love with Zona Romantica, also known as Old Vallarta, which flanks the River Cuale. Wind your way along the cobbled streets and pop into the various boutiques, shops and cafes and you’ll come to the city’s star attraction – the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Described as “one of the most endearing” landmarks in the city it has been an ever-present for centuries. Visit during December and you’ll catch the ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival’ which is a 12-day celebration of the city’s Christian and Aztec heritage.
Any trip to Mexico should be about creating memories that will last a lifetime that’s why witnessing the release of turtles should be on the to-do list. There are a host of excursions to see this wonderful event take place and you simply cannot miss out. Then, of course, there is the huge wealth of beaches to explore – whatever you are looking for you will not be disappointed with Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta’s beating heart is El Malecon situated in the historical centre of the city. This almost kilometre-long stretch of promenade encompasses everything that makes this part of the world so special. Lined with bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries and cafes; it is a community hub with the street packed with locals and tourists no matter what time of day. As night falls the promenade is lit with an inviting neon glow as everyone settles in for meals and cocktails.
Such is the variety of beaches; meaning there is a stretch of shoreline that can appeal to every type of holidaymaker. If you’re looking for somewhere to chill out then the Garza Blanca Beach is the place for you. Surprisingly, it is the only white sand beach in the region and provides stunning views of the nearby Los Arcos Islands creating an air of blissful calm among this busy resort.
Surf’s up on the strip of Playa Camarones. Situated in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone, this beach provides excellent conditions for trying your hand at water sports. Whether you’re parasailing, paddle boarding or surfing you won’t find a better spot than here.
Speaking of adventure, the southern end of Bahia de Banderas offers beaches with a bit of edge. Boca de Tomatlan feels like a hidden retreat but it offers a gateway to exploration. Follow the trails to the beachside villages of Las Animas, Quimixto and Telpa and along the way you can take in some incredible views of the magnificent Mexican countryside.
Of course, you can always spend the day chilling with your family and the town of Sayulita offers one of the best beaches around for letting the kids run wild. With a host of shops, bars and cafes lining the shore it is an excellent place to spend a lazy day by the beach.
You would be pretty hard pushed to find anywhere in Mexico that has such a diverse choice of beaches than Puerto Vallarta. The region boasts over 40 kilometres of pristine coastline hugging the sumptuous Bahia de Banderas creating a paradise for sun worshippers, surfers, jet skiers and everyone in between.
A short walk from the seafront is a Puerto Vallarta institution – Gaby’s. This family-run restaurant has been feeding the city since 1989 with a menu of classic Mexican dishes. Stop by for a spot of lunch or try the fixed-priced menu in the evening, it’s a venue that never disappoints. One of the city’s hidden gems is La Ronda, another family-run affair, with delicious fish, fajitas and molcajete – a traditional Mexican stew.
You won’t be stuck for options when looking for some hearty Mexican grub with the likes of El Mole de Jovita, Red Cabbage Cafe and El Arrayan offer delicious meals and welcoming atmosphere. There are also a number of seafood restaurants such as El Barracuda and La Palapa serving locally sourced fish throughout the day.
There are, of course, a number of international restaurants and a few household names to ensure your hunger is satisfied.
Puerto Vallarta offers a wide range of restaurants and cafes catering for every type of tastebud. From the authentic Mexican eateries to a wealth of international restaurants serving whatever your belly craves. While you can take your pick, it would be a crime to come to this corner of the country and not try the local delicacies.
As the focal point of the city, many people flock to El Malecon to soak up the party vibe each evening. Here you will find a range of live music, DJs and everything in between and you better be sure that the cocktails and tequila will be flowing. Each evening there are a number of open air shows which take over the public squares such as La Plaza de Armas, Hidalgo Park and the Ampitheatre Aquiles Serdan (also known as Los Arcos del Malecon).
El Malecon is home to some of the most happening bars in the city with Senor Frogs, Hilo and El Zoo the places to be if you want to dance the night away. However, the star attraction is undoubtedly Christine’s in the Hotel Zone – a huge nightclub with varying themes creating a night you’ll never forget.
Of course, it is not just El Malecon where it all goes on as there are plenty of bars around in the Downtown while the Old Town is also a favourite among holidaymakers. Don’t forget to check out Steve’s Sports Bar on Basillio Badillo which is said to serve the best margaritas in the whole of Puerto Vallarta – certainly not one to miss.
Quintana Roo may have Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but Puerto Vallarta is flying the flag for the state of Jalisco when it comes to nightlife. This corner of Mexico is a place that simply never sleeps with every corner of the city alive with the sound of music as soon as the sun sets.
Browse the colourful stalls along El Malecon and Juarez taking your pick at local handicrafts, jewellery, pottery, authentic Mexican masks and much more. With a host of gifts created by local contemporary painters and sculptors, you can purchase a unique memento of your trip. Don’t forget to have your bartering skills at the ready to land yourself a bargain.
Puerto Vallarta may be best known as a beach resort but it is a veritable treasure trove when it comes to shopping. While the city is home to the usual sprawling, modern shopping malls; the real experience is haggling with locals at the markets. The main flea market, known as the Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale, has been going for over a century and remains a popular attraction to this very day.