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Planning a trip to paradise can be overwhelming, so this Puerto Vallarta travel guide is here to help.
I lived in Puerto Vallarta for six weeks and ate, drank, hiked, and thoroughly enjoyed my way through the city from top to bottom. Now, I’m sharing all the basics and most important info you need to know plan your own trip.
I’m going to start with some quick facts about Puerto Vallarta and then get into the juicy stuff like:
- Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta
- What to do in Puerto Vallarta
- What to eat and drink
- The best time to visit
And that’s it!
Stop wading through hours and hours and hours of content and get everything you need to book and build your itinerary right here in this Puerto Vallarta travel guide. Let’s dive in!
Puerto Vallarta after dark from the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint
Puerto Vallarta Fast Facts
Puerto Vallarta is a beachside city in the state of Jalisco on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It has a population of around 200,000 people, many of whom are expats from the US and Canada.
The two major traveler / expat groups in Puerto Vallarta are retirees and gay tourists, who actually balance each other out pretty well. The vibe is mostly laid-back, but expect to pass by the occasional beach club and pushy vendor as well.
The currency in Puerto Vallarta is Mexican pesos (you can use USD in many places, but don’t be that guy), the language is Spanish (but English is usually spoken/understood in the touristy zones), and the cost of living is pretty reasonable. Expect to pay around 2 usd for a beer on the beach, 5 to 10 usd for a midrange meal, and anywhere from 20 usd and up for a night in a hotel or Airbnb.
One of many hidden beaches, accessible only by foot or boat, on the Puerto Vallarta coast
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a long, thin city spread along the Pacific coastline, with the ocean on one side and the jungle-covered mountains on the other.
It’s divided into many neighborhoods and each one has a different personality for a different type of traveler.
Nuevo Vallarta, the Marina, and the Hotel Zone are modern and swanky, with the all-inclusive resorts that have become almost synonymous with the city itself.
For something a little more casual (and more fun, in my opinion) check out the central / downtown neighborhoods of 5 de Diciembre, El Centro, and the Zona Romantica.
This Puerto Vallarta neighborhood guide breaks down the pros and cons of each neighborhood and has suggestions for unique, romantic, and just plain nice places to stay in each one!
Sayulita, a colorful surf town 1.5 hours north of Puerto Vallarta
What to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is probably one of the most diverse places in Mexico. There are jungles, mountains, beaches, clubs, galleries, boutiques, resorts… Puerto Vallarta is a hodgepodge of all the best vacation destinations rolled into one.
I’ve been living in Mexico for about a year now, hopping to a new city every month, and Puerto Vallarta remains one of my absolute favorite places because there’s just SO MUCH to do.
Of course, the number one reason to visit Puerto Vallarta is the idyllic beaches lining the long coast. This guide to the 12 best beaches in Puerto Vallarta ranks each one in categories like ‘most beautiful’ and ‘most fun,’ so you can make sure you’re only visiting the best ones.
And the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. From spectacular shows to panoramic viewpoints to romantic beach picnics to tacos crawls, this roundup of the 16 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta at night has everything you need to plan a jam-packed evening itinerary as well.
But, don’t get too wild, because getting up early in the morning for a jungle hike is one of the highlights of any visit to this natural oasis.
I did nine hikes during my stay in Puerto Vallarta (each one within two hours or less of the city by public transport) and wrote step-by-step guides for every single one. Use this Puerto Vallarta hiking roundup to choose and do your favorites!
Finally, don’t forget to capture the beauty of Puerto Vallarta with this list of the best Instagram spots in the city. Or, give back on your vacation by volunteering with the heart-meltingly adorable dogs looking for love (and new homes) at SPCA Puerto Vallarta!
Fresh marlin and shrimp
What to Eat and Drink in Puerto Vallarta
Whatever you want, Puerto Vallarta has it. This is a city of excess – excessive sun, excessive fun, and of course, excessive drinking.
You can always get buckets of Corona beers on the beaches for around 2 usd per bottle, or margaritas and cocktails for around 5 to 10 usd if that’s more your thing.
Blondie’s is a popular spot near Muertos Beach because they serve alcoholic slushies. For something a little less sugary sweet, this Puerto Vallarta craft beer guide will take you to three breweries in the city (and two more in the surrounding towns as well).
The food in Puerto Vallarta is similarly varied. From shrimp kabobs on the beach to five-star meals, you can find anything you’re looking for.
Because it’s so hot, I found food was less of a priority for me than usual while I was living in Puerto Vallarta, but there are still some good eats on offer. Veggitalia is a delicious vegetarian Italian kitchen, and there’s also a fab weekly market in Olas Altas every Saturday morning with bagels, greek food, Indian stands, and more.
And if you find yourself overspending, this guide to the best cheap eats in Puerto Vallarta is here to help keep you satisfied and under-budget during your stay!
Vallarta Botanical Gardens
What’s the Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta?
The high season in Puerto Vallarta is from mid-December to mid-April. That’s when the weather is the coolest but the crowds are at their fullest.
However, I stayed in Puerto Vallarta during high season and it was still seriously hot and humid. If you go in the low season in the summer, make sure you’re prepared for the weather, because hiking or any activity that doesn’t involve being completely submerged in water is going to be pretty miserable.
So, the high season (winter) is the coolest but most crowded and most expensive. The low season (summer) is the hottest but the cheapest.
What about spring and fall?
These are actually the ideal times to visit because the weather mostly cooperates (it may be a little wet and hot) but the crowds still haven’t arrived en-masse and you won’t have to deal with high season prices!
Jungle trek to Colomitos Cove
Plan Your Trip With This Puerto Vallarta Travel Guide
I lived in Puerto Vallarta for six weeks and wrote a ton of content on the city to help you follow in my footsteps!
Whether you’re into hiking, craft beer, good food, or just chillin’ at the beaches, the guides linked throughout this article (and conveniently listed again below) will make sure you plan the best trip for you, your budget, and your travel style.
So, bookmark this page, book your flight, and plan your Puerto Vallarta dream trip today!
Ready to go?
Explore unique stays on Airbnb – like this open-air earth house with a private pool or this 66 ft. yacht – and the top-rated hotels on Booking.com to plan the perfect night, weekend, or long-term stay in Puerto Vallarta.
This article is part of the Puerto Vallarta Planner Series. Read the rest below:
Or, check out the complete Mexico Series for 50+ more articles on what to see, do, eat, drink, and discover in the country.
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