How to See Puerto Vallarta Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
Whether you’re looking for a quick nearby getaway or a weeklong immersive experience combining nature and culture, the iconic Mexican beach destination has something for everyone.
At first you may notice the colorful lanterns and beautifully tiled floors inside La Lulú Raicillería. The small bar is bedecked in an array of colors thanks to framed art, furniture, and a liberal palette of vibrant paint. But cozy up to the bar and you’ll discover the real star: housemade raicilla. This lesser-known cousin of tequila and mezcal is also made from agave, and the bar serves up its own plus others from the region. It’s just one of the ways you can explore Puerto Vallarta like never before.
The coastal Mexican town—with sweeping views of the Bay of Banderas and lined with cobblestone streets—is ripe for exploration. There’s something for everyone at this iconic beach destination, from adventurers who want to explore its far-flung reaches to families looking to stroll down the mural-clad boardwalk, or Malecón.
Ready for an adrenaline rush? Fly down one of Mexico’s longest and fastest zip lines. In search of surf and sand? There are plenty of fringe-lined hammocks and beachfront cabanas up and down the coast. In need of rest and rejuvenation? Head to a yoga retreat at an exclusive resort accessible only by boat.
From the lively Zona Romántica corridor with its colorful rainbow flags and tea dances to the jungle hike that leads to Colomitos, known as Mexico’s smallest beach, we put together our top spots to eat, stay, and play in Puerto Vallarta. Bonus: A year-round warm climate makes it an ideal tropical getaway for any time of year.
Where to Stay
For a bit of adventure: Bohemian luxury abounds at eco-lodge Verana, a boutique hotel nestled into the cliffs of Yelapa with stunning ocean views. Separate suites and colorful casitas each have their own character and furnishings, as distinctly open-air accommodations are punctuated by clear pools and outdoor showers. Mules will carry your luggage up the hill.
For a romantic getaway: Old Hollywood glamor meets wrought-iron fences in Casa Kimberly, a nine-suite hotel created out of the former homes of actress Elizabeth Taylor and actor Richard Burton. Soak in tubs that look out over the red roofs of the city before stealing a kiss on the restored Puente Del Amor, or Bridge of Love, utilized by the famous couple to rendezvous.
For family-friendly amenities: The recently renovated Fiesta Americana sits right on the beach and offers all-inclusive accommodations that include free transportation if you book four nights. Clubs for children and teens offer games and crafts throughout the day, so you can sneak up to the adults-only infinity pool or indulge in a luxury treatment at Nakawè Spa.
For rejuvenation: Nestled amid lush jungle, the 33-room Xinalani Retreat features six yoga studios, meditation classes, and hot vapor baths. You can also attend onsite yoga retreats spanning stand-up paddleboarding to bikram. The property is only accessible by boat, but if you book a stay, the resort team will arrange your transportation.
For nightlife: Head to the beachfront neighborhood known as the Romantic Zone to stay at Almar Resort, which hosts “sunset shows” plus national and international DJs atop its rooftop bar. Billed as “the only gay luxury beachfront hotel” in Puerto Vallarta, Almar is home to Mantamar beach club right on Los Muertos beach, not to mention a sushi bar with all your favorite cocktails.
Where to Play
For a bit of adventure: Look no further than Vallarta Adventures’ extreme zip line tour. At just $83, the thrills never stop. You can ride 70 miles per hour on the “Superman,” billed as one of Mexico’s longest and fastest zip lines; soar above the trees on a new zipline roller coaster; float in a wind tunnel as a skydiving simulation; ride a high-drop water slide, and more. Prefer to fly? Try Jorullo Paradise’s “Bike Flight” to ride across stretched wires suspended above the trees.
For a romantic getaway: Head to Playa del Amor, or the beach of love, in the archipelago of Marietas Island National Park. About an hour (by boat) from Puerto Vallarta’s Maritime Terminal, this hidden gem makes for stunning photos as you look up from the sandy alcove into a natural window to the sky. You can also enjoy dinner and an acrobatic show Rhythms of the Night-Savia, by Gilles Ste-Croix, the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, in a remote amphitheater surrounded by rainforest, thanks to Vallarta Adventures.
For families: The Vallarta Botanical Gardens offers tours that start with winding trails through native plants like orchids, agave, and cacao, and end with a meal at the on-site Hacienda del Oro Restaurant. Afterward, you can swim in the river that flows through the property. Alternatively, stop by Mariposario Jardin Magico butterfly sanctuary.
For rejuvenation: Stinging nettle therapy and hot onion compresses can be found at El Grullo Naturista, a naturopathic resort with colorful casitas, yoga classes, and a variety of massages. You can book a three-day detox retreat that includes access to a steam room, mud masks, and vegetarian meals. And at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, signature treatments include fire opal balancing stone therapy, and an agave syrup and sea salt body scrub.
For nightlife: Pineapple negronis and mezcal margaritas abound at El Colibrí, a speakeasy-style cocktail garden inspired by the jungles of Puerto Vallarta. Weekly DJs and Mexican wines only add to the allure of this dimly lit downtown bar. Of course, you could always just mosey through Zona Romántica—head to Lázaro Cárdenas street for gems like Bar La Playa.
Where to Eat & Drink
For a bit of adventure: Embark on a culinary adventure at El Azafrán in Zona Romántica, where the hand-cut, marinated beef tartare looks almost too beautiful to eat. Decadent dishes include entrees such as cabbage rolls filled with Mexican-style barbacoa lamb with cauliflower purée and green beans.
For a romantic getaway: The chef’s special seafood platter for two kicks off an ideal dinner date at Mar y Vino. Grab a table on the rooftop—in the pool, or out. Artisanal cocktails round out the sunset experience.
For families: Hop on Vallarta Food Tours’ three-hour Bikes & Bites taco tour of seven restaurants and food stands. You can bring up to eight people. It ends on the Malecón where you can check out public art, such as the popular “Seahorse” sculpture for which Puerto Vallarta is known.
For rejuvenation: Vegan restaurants abound in Puerto Vallarta, from gazpacho and wrapped tuna at Playa Detox to the smoothie bowls, pancakes, and chilaquiles at The Green Place. Head to Veggitalia Pizza & Osteria Vegetariana for pizza and Carpaccio.
For nightlife: Accomplished chef Salvador Carrillo opened La Tienda Grande to craft creative Mexican cuisine like smoked duck breast in cinnamon and caramel, and ricotta and red fruit pie. The restaurant hosts Ladies’ Night on Wednesdays with two complimentary cocktails, so you can toast your excellent choice of a vacation destination. You can also head up to La Leche’s second-floor private bar La Nata to keep the evening going.