Few things in life compare to the simplicity and joy of a short flight to paradise. If you can brave the screaming babies, stale air, and TSA strip searches (where else can you get that kind of action for only the price of an airplane ticket?) you are well on your way to some well-deserved fun in the Mexican sun!
Puerto Vallarta is one of those places that straddles the line between off the beaten path and prime time Mexican tourist town. You can stay downtown near the restaurants and bars or a short 25-minute ride to Nuevo Vallarta for some secluded shenanigans. Either way, there is no shortage of activities and fun to be had. Viva Mexico!
Do and See.
Start your day off with breakfast at the resort. If your lodging doesn’t provide breakfast, there are plenty of choices in Puerto Vallarta. Hit up the Malecon, before the sun becomes overly oppressive, as there isn’t much shade along the way. The one mile walk along the waterfront features artists and different sculptures (hi photo ops). You will eventually end up near the Church of Our Lady Guadalupe, a great place to stop and admire one of the famous city landmarks. Stay for the bells, or hear them from a few blocks away as you wander further down the hill to check out some of the street markets for some trinket shopping. There are numerous markets towards the river. There is no one go-to spot in particular, as everything starts to repeat itself after 25 feet.
Make sure to put your game faces on since there are no set prices and street vendors will come in on the high side when you ask how much. Have nerves of steel and use the walk away tactic. They will run after you with a “new best price.” I usually go through 4-5 rounds of haggling before buying or calling it a day. Remember, it’s all a game and that ceramic skull painted in your favorite team’s colors will be available at the next stall.
A great choice for lunch, this small place proudly serves craft beer locally sourced from neighboring districts or Jalisco itself. I highly recommend their shrimp and fish tacos. Their Al Pastor is good as well, but does not beat the king of pig products, Pancho’s.
Our favorite tacos in Puerto Vallarta, bar none. However they are only open for dinner and there’s often a wait. Definitely get their Al Pastor tacos, the best J and I have ever eaten. The rest of their menu is solid as well. We ordered so much food it wouldn’t fit on our table and then…the plates were empty. Well worth the wait! We even brought home some extras for a late-night snack back at the resort.
Café Des Artistes.
An upscale restaurant featuring a French twist on Mexican cuisine. Here you have the choice of a tasting menu or a la carte. We went with the a la carte, as there were 6 of us with a variety of preferences. All the dishes I tasted were delicious – especially recommend the fish, the duck, and the lamb. We were celebrating an engagement, so they brought a huge platter of different desserts at the end. All were beautiful and delicious. Definitely a great spot for a special occasion or just a nice night out. Prices weren’t too bad either as we left at $55 per person including drinks, appetizers and entrees.
While you walk along the streets, you’ll have many offers for “happy hour” or 2 for 1 dink specials. This is fine if you are looking for overpriced margaritas or cervezas, however, the absolute best happy hour is at Los Muertos, a craft brewery in the heart of PV. 30 pesos a pint (roughly $1.50 USD), and they have everything from IPAs to Agave Amber to Hefeweizens, all great to beat the heat. They also serve food, such as pizza and sandwiches. Lastly, they have 4 TVs and the NFL network—so if you’re looking to watch a game, this might be the place!
The best view of Puerto Vallarta that we made it to was the lighthouse lookout (Faro de la Calle Matamoros). It’s located in the back of a neighborhood, but easy to get too, as you just walk up some of the residential roads and follow Google Maps. There’s no official entrance, and it’s basically a lookout in between multiple homes. Another view can be had at El Faro Lighthouse Bar, which also serves drinks and food with the view. We didn’t go, but heard it’s quite nice, especially at sunset.
You can also catch the sunset from one of the many beach bars. Tables and chairs in the sand and a cold drink in your hand. You will be bombarded by food and trinket vendors that are hawking some interesting and bizarre stuff. J was bewildered by the same grilled shrimp making the rounds for over 3 hours. He believes it’s good for some liquid weight loss…
Puerto Vallarta has many day trips and other activities located outside of the Downtown area. Often the tour companies will do hotel pickups and drop offs if you sign up ahead of time.
There are numerous canopy zip lining tours. We chose El Eden and were quite happy with our choice. The ziplines were perfect for beginners. If you are looking for a thrill, you should probably find some of the longer zip lines or ziplines built for “extreme” excursions. If you’ve never been ziplining, it’s a quite fun experience where you walk uphill to an area, get strapped in, grab on to the pully, and just ride the zipline to the other side. You basically zig zag up across the forest at your own pace. The views are pretty awesome and there’s also the rush of hanging a hundred feet in the air and going fast. Interesting fact! The movie the Predator was filmed at Canopy El Eden. After the tour, you stop for a quick walkthrough of how Tequila is made and get to taste different tequilas including aged and flavored.
Swim with the Dolphins.
The Dolphin Discovery Center, located near Nuevo Vallarta, has multiple Dolphin Swim packages. They give you a brief intro on the dolphins, the rules, and then you change into your bathing suit and step in the pool. The group was split into two, depending on the experience you had selected. Everyone got to pet the dolphin and take a swim with it. The dolphins seemed to be very well taken care of and quite content with all the attention. A great experience with beautiful animals and definitely a good one for kids.
If you only have one day in Puerto Vallarta, stick to the downtown. However, if you’re on a resort, such as the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta, and you want to get off and do something every few days, this post should give you some ideas to get going!