The time has come for you to discover Puerto Vallarta. The bougainvillea-covered Mexican beach town lured Hollywood’s elite in the 60s, and today; it’s just what the doctor ordered for every frazzled urban escapee.
Located on the same latitude as the Hawaiian islands, this Pacific coastal city knows how to enjoy itself.
Puerto Vallarta, formerly Las Peñas, is the fifth-largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
Much more than just a beach destination, dramatic scenery, cobblestone streets, divine dining, and ancient rainforests await. Distractingly good-looking, it’s embraced by the Sierra Madre Mountains and surrounded by the horseshoe-shaped Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay).
There is ever so much to admire in Puerto Vallarta. Here are 18 things to do to help you fall in love with Puerto Vallarta!
1. Head To Los Muertos Beach
An assemblage of quirky facts and liveliness make Los Muertos a must-visit beach in Puerto Vallarta.
There are Mayan dancers, salesmen of pregnant fish (pescado embarazado), a promising catalogue of beachside bars and a 200-foot pier to savour the visual feast.
Los Muertos (Deadman’s Beach) hides a macabre past – it was once a sacred burial ground. Today it’s the beating heart of beach revelry in Puerto Vallarta.
For a more secluded beach experience, travel to the uninhabited Islas Marietas National Park where you’ll find the Hidden Beach of Puerto Vallarta.
You’ve certainly seen photos of this private oasis, which can only be accessed by swimming or kayaking through a water tunnel. Also known as Playa del Amor, this remote white sand beach is completely enclosed within an island cavern and is visible only to the blue sky.
3. Sleep In A Former Palm Tree Plantation
When it comes to views, it’s hard to compete with The Westin Resort & Spa, a wellness hotel spread across 14 acres of lush beachfront land. In a past life, this spot was a palm tree plantation which means you’ll have over 600 tall tropical palms for company.
Underneath the palm trees, you can leave your worries and live your best life in one of two azure blue swimming pools. There’s a resort-wide focus on wellness at the Westin, right from the nutritionist-designed smoothies to the trademark Heavenly beds, which help iron out any earthly body preoccupations.
For more unique places to stay, check out our 12 Favorite Airbnbs in Puerto Vallarta!
4. Marvel At Los Voladores De Papantla
You’ll gasp watching the Voladores de Papantla (Papantla Flyers) take over the skies. This pre-Hispanic tradition sees men swinging upside down off ropes that are affixed to a sizeable pole.
One gentleman stays upright on the pole while playing the flute, and altogether, it’s a hypnotic display to invoke rainfall. Various Mexican ethnic groups, including the Totonacs of Veracruz, perform this ritual ceremony.
You can gape at these aerial showmen on the Malecón where they regularly perform and kindly request tips from thrilled observers.
5. Swim In Puerto Vallarta’s Largest Infinity Pool
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa is the proud owner of the largest infinity pool in Puerto Vallarta.
A captivating day is wholly possible as you stay cool by the pool, which is perilously close to the Coco Station which does exactly what it says on the tin – each creation is served in an embellished coconut.
While at the Marriott, make it your business to dine at the sky-high waterfront restaurant Nosh where approximately everything is worth tasting.
Nosh also cradles the Marriott’s turtle sanctuary where baby turtles are released into the water at sunset between July and December.
6. Stroll Along The Malecón And Centro Histórico
Beachfront boardwalk meets open-air museum at Puerto Vallarta’s Malecón.
The many statues are as famous as the promenade itself and there are also artistic sandcastles to enjoy along the way. People watch, breathe in the ocean air and pose at the Puerto Vallarta sign.
The Malecón is a great starting point for adventures on foot in the Centro Histórico.
Be sure to visit Plaza de Armas (the main square), Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe (the city’s iconic church landmark), and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses, bougainvillea and abundant flora that bloom throughout this city.
7. Check Out The Art Scene
Puerto Vallarta is decked head to toe in colour. You’ll thoroughly enjoy taking a self-guided tour of the city’s street art that has burgeoned all around the downtown areas of late.
You can also meet celebrated Mexican artists and find gems for all sorts of budgets at the numerous galleries dotted around Old Vallarta. Poke around Galería Omar Alonso and Corsica Galería del Arte for its quirky open-air sculpture exhibit.
8. Have A String-Lit Meal At Café Des Artistes
Speaking of art, Mexican-French fusion restaurant Café des Artistes is easy on the eyes and kind to the palette. This is one of Puerto Vallarta’s finest restaurants and both the exterior and interior rank high in the looks department.
It’s polychromatic on the outside and a string-lit fantasy on the inside. There are five distinct areas; the most coveted being the embellished exterior garden.
9. Spy On Elizabeth Taylor And Richard Burton Kissing
Puerto Vallarta got the Hollywood treatment in 1964 when it featured in the popular movie The Night of the Iguana, a drama based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. It was directed by John Huston and starred Richard Burton whose affair with screen icon Elizabeth Taylor made Puerto Vallarta the talk of the town and the world.
The couple’s former love nest, Casa Kimberly, has been converted into a boutique hotel and there’s a lifelike model of the enamoured pair that you can spy on at the entrance.
10. Spot Whales During Morning Yoga
Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay is a historic play and breeding ground for migrating humpback whales. At the Westin, you can take your yoga practice with a side of waves and a dash of whale watching.
Between November and April, you can catch a glimpse of whales frolicking right from your yoga mat at the resort’s outdoor morning yoga class overlooking Banderas Bay. If luck is on your side, this might extend to May.
These sunrise classes are open to Westin guests as well as the general public and the surroundings are perfect for connecting with nature and calm contemplation.
11. Visit Mexico’s First Costume Museum
It’s all about leather at this upstairs-downstairs family institution in the Zona Romantica.
Upstairs lies Mexico’s first costume museum, Museo del Arte en Piel. The humble museum is the brainchild of craftsman Alfonso Nuño Romero who designed Hollywood Western movie costumes for many years for the likes of John Wayne.
Over 25 years, Alfonso has built a broad collection of costumes of ancient Mexican cultures made from leather. His motivation stems from a promise he made to his ancestors to show the culture to the next generation and his son runs the downstairs leather shop, Art With Leather.
Down here you can get your hands on pre-made and custom handcrafted leather goods and even watch the artisans work their magic.
12. Travel To The World Of Tiles
Traipse through the cobblestone streets and find yourself at the Mundo de Azuelos (World of Tiles) where you can buy Talavera tiles in all shapes and sizes. Talavera Mexican ceramic tiles are skilfully crafted, glazed, and painted by hand.
This store is fully stocked with the full gamut including mugs, dishes, vases, plaques, napkin holders, murals, lamps – you name it. Some of these artisan wares are said to have crossed Mexico’s borders and ended up in the White House and the Vatican. Well, if it’s good enough for the Pope…
13. Look Out From Cerro De La Cruz
For splendid panoramic views of the Mexican Pacific, make your way to Cerro de la Cruz, the best lookout spot in Puerto Vallarta.
The climb takes 15 to 40 minutes depending on ability and pace. This stairway to heaven is not for the faint of heart nor is it advisable for those with mobility issues. Puerto Vallarta’s sunsets are legendary, and this is as good a place as any to take it in.
14. Sip On An Exclusive Tequila – The Mexican Way
There’s only one place in the world you can purchase Casa Magna tequila and that’s at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.
The resort created the drink to educate guests on the history of the region within which it sits; Jalisco is Mexico’s tequila producing region and Puerto Vallarta is a mere three hours from the town of Tequila where the drink was invented.
Delight your taste buds with a private tasting with the resort’s tequila sommelier who will guide you through the different types of tequila, pleasant pairings and the rich history of the region.
Request to have your nibbles and tequila education under the twinkling lights of the hotel’s alfresco Herb Garden.
15. Get Retail Therapy At The Flea Market
The rest of the city becomes a distant memory on Isla Cuale, a quiet pedestrian-only sand island. It’s here you’ll find Puerto Vallarta’s colourful flea market.
Flex your Spanish skills for some haggling and bag some souvenirs, accessories, leather goods, novelty slogan tees and local threads.
16. Work Remotely
Digital nomad? Puerto Vallarta has countless quaint cafes and restaurants to sip on Mexican coffee and get your creative juices flowing.
If you’re staying in town a bit longer, working remotely actually pays at certain hotels including the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. Under their Work from Anywhere program, guests staying for 21 days receive a whopping 50 percent off the retail rate.
17. Hop On Board A Pirate Ship
If the sea conjures thoughts of swashbuckling pirates, why not have a day you’ll treasure on a bona fide wooden pirate ship?
The Marigalante will take you to the Majahuitas Islands natural reserve or for Dinner Under the Sea, an open bar pirate show extravaganza where party poopers reportedly walk the plank.
18. Walk On The Longest Hanging Bridge In The World
You can stroll, run or even race your ATV across it. At 470 meters, Jorullo Bridge is the world’s longest hanging bridge and a relatively new attraction in Puerto Vallarta.
To discover it, the Mexican-owned eco-tourism company Canopy River will take you on an adventure through the jungle culminating in a sweet dip in the El Salto Waterfall.
Take notice of the mellifluous chachalaca birds chirping in the background as you complete this hike that’s socially distanced by design.
On the way back after the trek, you can live on the edge of the mountains and reward yourself with a delicious dip in Canopy River’s infinity pool.
Where To Stay In Puerto Vallarta
The Westin Resort & Spa
Who wouldn’t want to luxuriate at a wellness resort where the countless palm trees remind you that you’re in heaven? At the Westin, everything is geared towards lessening of stress and busyness.
You can sleep, eat, play, and feel well at the spa or when dining on the hotel’s nutritional powerhouse SuperFoodsRx dishes. Escape from reality and come here.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
What do you get when you mix striking poolscapes with Jalisco-inspired bay view rooms, a sea turtle rescue program, a 22,000 square foot spa, a ceviche bar overflowing with 180 tequilas and throw in six world-class restaurants for good measure? A paradisiacal place you never want to leave. That’s the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.
Follow these 18 steps and you’re guaranteed to fall for Puerto Vallarta; the stuff tropical dreams are made of!
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Puerto Vallarta. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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