The 20 Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta for First-Timers

Bahia de Banderas

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico is Puerto Vallarta. This resort town is located on the Pacific coast of the country, and it is famous for its beached, water sports, and nightlife. If this is your destination of choice, you will find plenty of things to see and do to keep you entertained during your stay. Learning more about your options before visiting will help you to plan your trip and to get the most out of your stay in this amazing location. The following are the 20 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta for first-timers.

Puerto Vallarta street and market

20. Try the Street and Market Food

Although there are some outstanding restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding area, the best way to enjoy a true taste of Mexican cuisine is to sample some of the food sold in the market and on the street stalls. According to Grateful Gypsies, you should try to sample as many different types of tacos as you can while in this town as there are some fantastic variations to try as you wander around the streets. At the markets, you can try some of the delicious local produce and buy some to take home.

Mirador de la Cruz

19. Climb Up to the Mirador de la Cruz

If you are feeling energetic, you should climb the stairs to the Mirador de la Cruz, which is a cross at the top of a hill. Not only can you see the cross, but you can also admire impressive, photo-worthy views. One of the best times to complete this climb is just before sunset, and there are two reasons for this. First, the temperature is just starting to drop at this time, which makes the climb a little easier. Second, you can enjoy the spectacular sight of the sun setting over Puerto Vallarta before beginning your descent.

Surfing at Sayulita

18. Go Surfing at Sayulita

A popular sport in Puerto Vallarta is surfing, and one of the best spots to give this water sport a try is Sayulita. Regardless of whether you are a surfing novice or an experienced novice, this is something that you can enjoy in Sayulita as it has the perfect waves. If you are new to surfing, there are instructors that will give you lessons so that you can become accustomed to standing on the board and improve your skills riding the waves.

Horseback Riding at Rancho El Charro

17. Try Horseback Riding at Rancho El Charro

Regardless of whether you are an experienced equestrian or a horseriding novice, you can enjoy some horseback riding at Rancho El Charro. According to US News, Rancho El Charro is a rural area that is just 15 minutes outside of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Visitors can enjoy horseback rides in the Sierra Madre mountains. The tour operators make an effort to match the best horse with each rider. The horseback tours vary in length from three to eight hours, and there is even the option to take a multiday tour. Some of the tours are suitable for children, and all the longer tours include food. Other than enjoying riding the horses, those who enjoy this activity also have the opportunity to spend time in the stunning surrounding of the mountains.

Water Taxi to Quimixto

16. Take a Water Taxi to Quimixto

If you feel like taking a trip out of Puerto Vallarta, then a pretty place to visit is Quimixto. This is a small village in Bandera Bay that is famous for its beautiful beach. It is only accessible by water, so you will need to either take a water taxi to the village or book yourself on a boat tour that includes a stop at Quimixto. Other than the beach, another reason to visit is Quimixto is to dine in one of the amazing beachfront restaurants. It is one of the best places to try some traditional Mexican cuisine in stunning surroundings.

Museo Naval Secretaria de Marina Armada de Mexico

15. Visit the Museo Naval Secretaria de Marina Armada de Mexico

An interesting museum to include in your itinerary is the Museo Naval Secretaria de Marina Armada de Mexico. At this museum, there are more than 150 cultural objects that relate to the history of the Mexican Navy. The items are spread across 14 rooms, and many of the exhibits are interactive. One of the highlights of the museum is seeing the collection of Navy uniforms. There are also to-scale ship models and a navigation simulator to enjoy. Special events take place at this museum throughout the year, so it is worth checking out what is on before visiting Puerto Vallarta.

Ride on the Marigalante

14. Take a Ride on the Marigalante

There are few things so impressive as the sight of the Marigalante. This is an authentic Spanish galleon that is made from more than 30 species of tropical wood. It was built as an exact replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship, the Santa Maria. There are four decks on the ship, and it can hold up to 240 passengers. There is a variety of tours available on this ship, most of which include some form of entertainment and dining. One of the highlights for many who take a ride on this ship is the pirate show, which is performed in both English and Spanish.

Bahia de Banderas

13. Sail Around the Bahia de Banderas

Bahia de Banderas is the largest bay in Mexico, and it is located along the Pacific coast. One of the most popular activities to enjoy is sailing around the bay in a chartered boat. This is a wonderful activity for people who enjoy spending time outdoors, and it is a fantastic way to admire the coastline from a different perspective.

Area Natural Proteqida Estero El Salado

12. See the Animals at the Area Natural Proteqida Estero El Salado

Vacation Idea describes the Area Natural Protegida Estero El Salado is an urban estuary that is home to more than 100 species of birds along with various fish, reptiles, and other animals. IN the mangroves, visitors will spot raccoons and opossums, while the waters are an egg-laying site for many fish species and home to the garrabo, green iguanas, and river crocodiles. There are wooden platforms to view different parts of the estuary, or visitors can take a guided boat tour.


11. Scuba Dive at Los Arcos

What you can see on the land in Puerto Vallarta is nothing compared to the underwater sights you can experience if you go scuba diving. The national marine park that is made up of small granite islands in the southern part of Banderas Bay is the perfect setting for scuba diving. You can explore underwater tunnels and caves, while also taking in the marine life. Some of the scuba diving tours will take you to the El Bajo underwater mountain range of to Devil’s Canyon.

Choco Museo

10. Visit Choco Museo

An unusual museum to visit while in Puerto Vallarta is the Choco Museo, which is a museum devoted to the history of cacao and chocolate-making. Not only can you take a tour of the facilities and learn about the chocolate-making process, but you can also give it a try yourself. There is a range of workshops that you can sign up for, ranging from mini-workshops that are aimed at children to three-hour workshops that involve shopping in the local market for ingredients and then making chocolates, truffles, or mole.


9. Have a Go at Zip-lining

Adventurous travelers should have a go at zip-lining when they visit Puerto Vallarta. The rainforests surrounding the town are the perfect natural playground for enjoying a wide range of ecoadventures, and one of the most popular is ziplining. The Los Veranos Canopy Tour allows you to explore the jungle and the river below from a bird’s eye perspective while enjoying the thrill of whizzing between the trees at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Tequila Tasting

8. Go Tequila Tasting

The alcoholic beverage most typically associated with Mexico is tequila, so it makes sense to include a tequila tasting session in your list of things to do in Vallarta. There are various tours that either take you to tequila production facilities or will allow you to try different varieties of tequila in bars around the town.

Whale Watching Tour

7. Take a Whale Watching Tour

The waters off the coast of Puerto Vallarta are the natural habitat for whales. Therefore, one of the most popular activities for nature lovers is whale watching. Us News says that the best time to take a whale-watching tour is from early December to early March when humpback whales live in Banderas Bay to have their babies.


6. Walk Along The Malecon

The promenade at Puerto Vallarta is called the Malecon. As you walk along this promenade, you will see colorful street art and interesting sculptures. It is also home to Los Arcos, which is one of the most significant landmarks in this town. The promenade is lined with shops, cafes, and bars for you to explore. One of the best times to visit The Malecon is at sunset.

Marieta Islands

5. See the Marieta Islands

Las Marietas are a group of islands just off the coast of Puerto Vallarta that form a national marine park. Time Out recommends taking a boat trip out to the Marieta Islands during your visit to Puerto Vallarta. Many visitors go to the islands to see the Hidden Beach, which is a beach engulfed by a cave. It is only possible to access this beach by kayaking or swimming through a tunnel. People also visit to explore the caves, go birdwatching, and to admire the wildlife.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

4. Visit the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most significant landmarks in Puerto Vallarta, so a visit to this religious building is something that you should include in your vacation itinerary. It is an iconic structure in Puerto Vallarta as its silhouette stands out on the skyline and the ringing of the church bells is one of the most recognizable sounds in the town. If you are lucky enough to visit Puerto Vallarta in early December, then you can get involved in the Feast of Guadalupe, which is an annual festival that involves street processions, singing, and dancing.

Isla Rio Cuale

3. Go to Isla Rio Cuale

Some tourists find it difficult to find Isla Rio Cuale, despite it being in the heart of the city. It is a tiny island set in an inlet from Banderas Bay that you can access from The Malecon where there is a bridge that spans the river. Once you reach Isla Rio Cuale, you will find some interesting market stalls that sell various trinkets and handcrafted items, so it is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs from your travels. While at the Isla Rio Cuale, you should also visit the Museo del Cuale. This museum boasts an amazing collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

2. Vallarta Botanical Gardens

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Puerto Vallarta is Vallarta Botanical Gardens. There is a mixture of formal gardens and natural jungle trails that provide visitors with varied experiences. Other than the hiking trails and the pretty gardens, visitors also enjoy the views of the surrounding valley. There is also an on-site restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat.

Playa de Los Muertos

1. Spend Time at Playa de Los Muertos

According to Trip Savvy, one of the best things to do is to spend time at Playa de Los Muertos, which translates as Dead Man’s Beach. Puerto Vallarta is a typical beach resort town, so many of the people who visit do so because they want to spend time relaxing on the beach. Although there are several fantastic stretches of beach, Playa de Los Muertos is one of the best and most popular.

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