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A view of Bandera Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board/Latitude

A view of Bandera Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Fun things to do & see in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, on the west coast of Mexico in the state of Jalisco, is best known for its stunning beaches, incredible resorts and great nightlife. But there’s much more to the city than first meets the eye.

A trip to Puerto Vallarta isn’t complete without a walk along the Malecon, the beachside boardwalk peppered with art galleries and stalls where you can find everything from fresh fruit to handicrafts and even street performers! The best time to visit this area is when the sun begins to set over the ocean and the area’s bars and nightclubs begin to open.

Couples or culture lovers can also explore the Romantic Zone. While its formal name is Olas Altas or South Side, this neighborhood exudes romance, with its cobblestone streets, picturesque buildings, small cafes and historic art galleries. In the center of it all is the Lázaro Cardenas Park, with its stunning mosaics that resemble something Gaudi could’ve made.

Puerto Vallarta is home to the Cuale River Island, where you’ll find the Cuale Cultural Center. Poetry readings, music and theater performances, as well as other fun events, are held here. The Cuale Archaeological Museum is also located here and can be enjoyed free of charge.

Puerto Vallarta is an artistic community, and it has been that way for centuries. The local Huichol people still continue to craft and display their arts and handicrafts everywhere, from the highest-end galleries to the street markets. Multicolor yarn and beads are primary materials, with animals like snakes, deer, eagles and jaguars being popular subjects.

People watching on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta.
Courtesy of Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board/LatitudePeople watching on the Malecon of Puerto Vallarta.

Just walking along the street, visitors can find incredible street art, like the portrait of Frida Kahlo, that adds color and vibrancy to the town. City explorers might also find charming buildings adorned with flowering vines, cobblestone streets and impromptu music performances featuring accordions, violins and guitars.

Puerto Vallarta is near the Sierra Madre mountains, making it a perfect place to explore jungles and other natural wonders like volcanoes, waterfalls and more. Day trips to El Salado Estuary, the Palo María Waterfall, Haravéri Botanical Garden near San Sebastian, which is home to a cloud forest, El Malpais petrified fields near Mascota, the Maple Forest near Talpa de Allende and more are all incredible options that not only help visitors explore the region’s natural beauty, but also spread the benefits of tourism outside of Puerto Vallarta.

The region’s ocean also holds underwater wonders that scuba divers can explore. At Los Arcos Marine Park, divers can explore Devil’s Canyon, which seems to stretch all the way into the center of the earth. Near the Mismaloya beaches, divers can also explore the Princesa Vallarta shipwreck. Guests staying at many of Puerto Vallarta’s resorts can also easily book an excursion out to the Islas Marietas, which offer breathtakingly serene beaches and great whale-watching opportunities.

The towns of San Sebastian, Mascota and Talpa de Allende are also worth visiting. San Sebastian is a certified Magical Town, which means that Mexico’s tourism industry recognizes it for its cultural and historic heritage and preservation. This beautiful town is where you’ll find the Haravéri Botanical Garden.

Mascota is another stunning town that offers a beautiful church, historic cobblestone streets and more picturesque scenes that you can post on Instagram. A visit here can be rounded out by exploring the Corrinchis Dam, the Juanacatlan Lagoon, El Rincon de Ixcatan waterfall, El Molcajete Volcano and El Malpais petrified fields.

Talpa de Allende, about two hours from Puerto Vallarta and nestled high into the Sierra Madres, holds a special significance for the region. Four times a year, thousands of pilgrims come to visit the 18th-century basilica, Nuestra Señora del Rosario and its statue of the Virgin Mary, “La Chaparrita,” which is said to have healing powers.

As you can see, Puerto Vallarta is so much more than a resort destination. It’s a destination that immerses its visitors in colorful and vibrant cultures and allows one to discover the region’s natural beauty wherever you look.

— excerpted from our Agent Studio site