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View of the colorful city's skyline in Puerto Vallarta
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The 10 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Secret beaches, taco tours, stunning scenery, and local art are just a few of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Written by
Lori A May
Kelly Lewis

Like many resort towns, the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta are seemingly endless—but unlike other beachfront escapes along Mexico’s Pacific coastline, Puerto Vallarta still maintains a small-town feel even with its big city footprint. If you're only expecting spring break vibes, the city will surprise you: families and LGBTQ+ travelers alike flock to Puerto Vallarta for its vibrant food, art scene, outdoor recreation, and of course, its sunny beaches. 

Start your morning with a walking tour or snorkeling excursion, then spend the afternoon zip-lining through the rainforest—better yet, get crafty at a chocolate workshop—before settling in for fresh seafood and incredible sunsets along the city's beachfront promenade. To make the most of your trip, here are some of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

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Best things to do in Puerto Vallarta

The Malecón
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. The Malecón

What is it? The promenade in Puerto Vallarta, which stretches along Banderas Bay, features street art, street performers, and top-notch people watching.

Why go? Soak in the sunset along the Malecón to get a real feel for the culture of Puerto Vallarta. Shops, bars, and local art abounds (keep an eye out for sand sculptures, too) while two of the city's most iconic landmarks, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Los Arcos (a row of standing arches in Plaza Morelos), are sights to behold.

2. Vallarta Food Tours

What is it? A walking tour led by Vallarta Food Tours stops at a variety of taco shops to get you acquainted with the city in a new way.

Why go? Vallarta Food Tours offers several routes to help you experience Puerto Vallarta through your tastebuds. The street taco tour takes visitors to a handful of food stands and local restaurants where different styles of tacos are the main draw, depending on what’s in season. Tours available daily.

Las Islas Marietas
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3. Las Islas Marietas

What is it? The Marieta Islands are a national marine park with fascinating caves and wildlife.

Why go? The islands are a great place to go snorkeling, but most people come to see the Hidden Beach, a beach engulfed by a cave, which can only be accessed by swimming or kayaking through a tunnel. The marine park is also popular with bird enthusiasts for sightings of the blue-footed booby. Book a tour in town or via Vallarta Adventures.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Vallarta Botanical Gardens

What is it? A lush botanical beauty with 64 acres of formal gardens and jungle trails.

Why go? Come for the gardens, stay for the valley views: the Vallarta Botanical Gardens overflows hiking trails, garden enclosures, and even a river for swimming. And if all that greenery isn't lush enough on its own, an on-site restaurant serves dope margaritas that seal the deal. The gardens are roughly an hour away from downtown, accessible by taxi or local bus.


5. Los Veranos Canopy Tour zipline

What is it? Zip-lining has quickly joined the many adventure activity offerings in Puerto Vallarta and there's no shortage of options for those hoping to go sky-high.

Why go? See a different side of Puerto Vallarta as you discover the jungle and river from above, going at speeds of up to 30 mph. The best part? At the end of the last line, you'll zip straight into a tequila bar. Options also include kicking off with a speedboat ride past Los Arcos National Park.

6. Isla Río Cuale

What is it? A small arts and crafts market that offers travelers a glimpse into the culture of Puerto Vallarta of yesteryear (before the all-inclusive resorts came to town).

Why go? To see stunning local art, pottery, street art, and souvenirs you can buy for better prices than those found by the beach. Isla Río Cuale is a river island alongside the Romantic Zone, often discovered by accident when strolling the Malecón on Banderas Bay.


7. Tony’s Hideaway

What is it? Despite the open sides and sandy floor, Tony’s Hideaway is a neat and lovely eatery hidden down Calle Vigente Guerrero in Mismaloya Village.

Why go? Satisfy your seafood cravings at this unexpected restaurant about seven miles south of the Romantic Zone. It’s so fresh here that the restaurant doesn't even have a menu—guests pick dishes off a platter that the waiter brings around once you’re seated, and each dish is made to order.

8. Choco Museo

What is it? A small museum dedicated to the history of cacao and chocolate-making.

Why go? Learn about the history of cacao and find out how chocolate is made by visiting the Choco Museo. For a fun afternoon that will get your hands dirty, sign up for a 2-3 hour workshop in either chocolate-making, truffle-making, or mole-making—the latter also takes you to a local market to shop for ingredients before cooking. Short on time? Pop in for a wonderful selection of chocolates to go.


9. Free Walking Tours

What is it? Free walking tours sponsored by the Municipal Tourism Office.

Why go? Learn about the culture and architecture of Puerto Vallarta on a walking tour through the city's historic downtown. You'll spend two hours learning about the city while spending nothing at all, because the tour is absolutely free (just don't forget to tip your guide). Tours meet at the Municipal Tourism Office in the Old City Hall Building, and no reservations are required.

10. Snorkeling at Los Arcos

What is it? Scenic snorkeling in a national marine park made up of small granite islands, tucked in the southern part of Banderas Bay.

Why go? Join a marine biologist on a snorkeling excursion to Marino Los Arcos Park. Here, a series of granite islands are home to tunnels and caves where snorkelers and divers can experience marine life below the surface (think colorful sea creatures like angelfish, mantas and urchins). Tours depart from the Puerto Vallarta marina.

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