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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: When To Go And The Best Reasons To Visit

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is a world-renowned holiday destination on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. It is the fifth-largest city in the state of Jalisco. According to the 2005 census, the city had a population of about 177,800. The city borders the southwestern part of the state of Nayarit to the North. It borders the municipalities of San Sebastián and Mascota to the east and the municipalities of Cabo Corriente and Talpa de Allende to the south.

The name Puerto Vallarta is derived from a former governor of Jalisco, Ignacio Vallarta. In Spanish, it usually shortened to “Vallarta”, while many English speakers simply call it P.V. for short. It is also often spelled as Porto Vallarta. Following conventions in the Spanish language, Vallarta is often pronounced not as “val-arta” but “vie-arta”.

Puerto Vallarta’s lush jungles, sparkling waterfalls, and beautiful beaches offer many opportunities for travelers with adventurous spirits, while five-star resorts, gourmet restaurants, and world-class shopping please even the most stylish visitor.

Your eyes can also feast on intricate textiles, impressive beadwork made by the Huichol Indians, or the original artworks from local artists. Moreover, you can enjoy the beach with its pristine white sand and glasslike waters.

Locals are very warm and friendly and are generally happy to help visitors with directions and other requests. With plenty of opportunities for activities at every turn, the adventurous side of every visitor will be satisfied. Puerto Vallarta is the perfect destination for a magnificent and sun-soaked holiday.

Itineraries

Puerto Vallarta is a great holiday destination in Mexico. Among its attractions are its beautiful pristine beaches, world-class golf resorts, diverse indigenous culture, beautiful handicrafts, and unique traditional cuisine. You can spend a few days in the city very pleasantly with trips to the downtown, museums, parks, and gardens, and craft villages, as well as with a horse-riding expedition into Vallarta’s verdant tropical forest. Also, your visit will not be complete without hitting the markets for shopping and experiencing the vibrant nightlife.

There are so many sights to see and activities to experience in Puerto Vallarta that it gives many visitors severe headaches just by thinking about what to do first. It is always a good idea to plan your Puerto Vallarta itinerary well in advance to get the most out of your vacation, especially if you are staying in the city for a week or more. A good tip is to map out the routes for your excursions and tours to save energy as well as traveling time.

Top Attractions

This beautiful resort city was once the World’s Friendliest City. Puerto Vallarta became during the filming of The Night of the Iguana in 1963. Also, the press coverage of the extramarital love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton put the city on the world map. But this heavenly part of Mexico offers more than just resorts.

Malecon and the Vallarta Arches

The Vallarta Arches is one of the more famous Puerto Vallarta icons. It is located in front of the Los Arcos Amphitheater, which holds free performances every night. You can find the amphitheater in the downtown plaza at the end of the Malecon boardwalk. Malecon is a nice place to shop souvenirs from the artisans and local street vendors. Alfresco cafes and trendy boutiques line the boardwalk. It is a great place to feel some romance while appreciating the beautiful Puerto Vallarta sunset.

Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral

The Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral is a must-see when you visit the Malecon area. This cathedral is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. The construction started in the early 1900s but because of many obstacles, it was not finished until the 1960s. This fine example of neoclassic structure is reminiscent of the temples found in Austria.

Bullfights

Watch bullfights when you are in Puerto Vallarta. The popular Latin bullfights are widely known in Spanish as “Corrida de Toros”. Every Wednesday in the city you can see professional matadors engage in authentic bullfights. Head to the Paloma Bullring located near the Maritime Terminal. Be very prepared, matadors kill the bull.

Puerto Vallarta beaches

The place has many beaches to choose from. You can go downtown to Playa Olas Atlas and Playa Los Muertos. Playa Olas Atlas is located in the southern part of the Río Cuale. Known for its vibrant nightlife, it is more popular with party goers and singles. It has many bars facing the beach.

Despite its dark name, Playa Los Muertos is a very fun beach. Enjoy the sun and water here for an exciting afternoon. Restaurants and shops line the boardwalk. Hair braiding and massage, among other things, are also offered here.

Banderas Bay

The city is set on Banderas Bay, which offers many watersport attractions. Many intrepid fishermen come there to hook big game such as yellowfin, amberjack, and trophy-size black marlin. Its tall waves also draw in surfers. The Vallarta waters – with their crystalline visibility, large marine life, and black coral formations – are also popular among scuba divers.

Whales also flock to the waters of Puerto Vallarta during the winter season. They play in Banderas Bay from December to March. Tourists can see humpbacks from the beach. You can also spot whales on a whale-watching expedition.

Tequila tasting

Puerto Vallarta is the perfect place to booze and have fun. The city offers extensive tequila menus that invite every visitor to experiment. There are many tequila shops that offer free tastes.

When to visit Puerto Vallarta?

Tourists will surely love to visit Puerto Vallarta’s sunny weather all year-round. You can make this a winter escape and a summer vacation place, with temperatures ranging from room 70 to 90.

Peak season is from November until April with temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 degrees. It’s more humid on may through October with stifling 95% humidity. The temperature on typical days ranges from 80 to 90. Shopping is an advantage during this period of heat and rain because of low prices and smaller crowds. July and August are exceptions since many Mexicans take holidays throughout the country on these months.

Vacationers can enjoy nighttime sleeping with the cool air that storms and rains bring during the rainy season which begins in June and ends in early October. Afternoon showers and infrequent thunderstorms are expected during the season.

Enjoying the local and regional culture of Puerto Vallarta is at its height during a festival. There are festivals and events all year round so make the most of the experience if you happen to see any of these.

Prices vary heavily from season to season in Puerto Vallarta. During the peak season, prices can go as high as 30% to 50% more than the offseason. Booking accommodation in advance will save you the trouble during peak season as many hotels and villas fill to capacity early.

A Week

Spending a week in Puerto Vallarta will give you enough time to explore and discover this stunning Mexican city. The weekend itinerary below will allow you to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this beautiful city. Each of these takes a day or more. Together, they touch on some of the city’s quintessential experiences, from golfing to getting outdoors for some adventure, from shopping to relaxing at the best spas and beaches. If you decide to stay longer, simply add a few days in your Puerto Vallarta itinerary.

Go north

Rent a car and head north to experience a different resort scene. After breakfast, grab the sunscreen, beach togs, and other beach essentials. If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to make a pit stop at Pie in the Sky, which offers excellent chocolate, pie, and many other sugar fixes. Head to the beach at Rincón de Guayabitos, on the beautiful Jaltemba Bay. Walk the long beach, enjoy the mild surf, or ride a glass-bottom boat to the attractive El Islote, where you will find snorkeling opportunities and a small restaurant.

On your way back south, you might want to stop in the charming town of San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) for dinner. You cannot go wrong at the classy Cafe del Mar or La Ola Rica or Gallo’s Pizzeria.

Go south

If you want to experience excellent dining and shopping experience, head south to the Zona Romántica. Have an island breakfast at the River Cafe overlooking the stream and a heavenly lunch at Le Bistro, where the monumental architecture and neo-Continental and romantic decor add to the pleasure. Go to Isla del Río Cuale for T-shirts and trinkets.

Watch the fishermen on the small pier at Los Muertos Beach and lie in the sun or sit in the shade with a really good book. You can also walk south to the Conchas Chinas Beach‘s rocky coves. When the water is calm, the beach becomes very good for snorkeling. If you want to shop for souvenirs, go to Calle Basilio Badillo and the surrounding streets for housewares, folk art, antiques, accessories, and clothing. Head back to Los Muertos to have dinner, booze, and enjoy great live music.

Head for the hills

Have an unforgettable experience by taking a horse-riding tour into Puerto Vallarta‘s lush tropical forest. Rancho Ojo de Agua and Rancho Charro offer full-day excursions. The latter also offers multiday excursions, including trips to the former silver-mining towns of San Sebastián and Mascota. If you prefer motorized horsepower, there is Wild Vallarta that operates full-day ATV trips to San Sebastián.

A day of golf and spa

The city one of the most popular golfing destinations in Mexico. At the southern part of the Costalegre, Grand Bay Isla Navidad and Tamarindo not only have world-class courses, but also very good spas. Above Puerto Vallarta, the Four Seasons offers good golfing as well as an excellent spa. In between are less-exclusive yet still nice courses. The closest spas to the Vista Vallarta and Marina Vallarta greens are those at the CasaMagna Marriott and the Westin Regina.

Downtown tour

With a little leg and footwork, you can explore culture in Puerto Vallarta. Learn about the city’s first inhabitants at the small but rich Museo Arqueológico. From here, go downtown along the Malecón. Check out all the action at Los Arcos amphitheater and in the main plaza about four blocks north. You might want to visit the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and pay respect to the city’s (and Mexico’s) patron saint. Walking farther north along the Malecón is like strolling through a sculpture garden. Check out the statue of a seated couple, La Nostalgia, by Ramiz Barquet, a noted artist in Puerto Vallarta.

Weekend

Spending a weekend in Puerto Vallarta will give you some time (although not enough) to explore every bit of this beautiful city. There are art galleries to view, horse trails to ride on, and reefs for snorkeling. Here’s a three-day list of itineraries you can do in the Mexican city.

Day 1

The moment you reach your hotel, relax by having a good massage. After you have gotten your Puerto Vallarta mood, walk down the Malecon where you can find some good shopping and interesting art. Head to La Bodeguita del Medio for some delectable Cuban classics. It is a fun place that offers roast pork and great music. Then, head to the Marina Vallarta and charter a catamaran or a sailboat for an afternoon cruise.

There are many beautiful beaches along the length of the bay. There are also some interesting little towns to see as you glide along. One of the loveliest introductions you can have to the city is being on the calm water as the sun goes down. Cap your day off by having a cocktail. Relax on the terrace at the first-class El Palomar de Los Gonzalez, and try some of the fresh seafood and the steaks.

Day 2

For a unique Puerto Vallarta experience, try an Aztec steam bath ceremony (temezcal) at Terra Noble Art and Healing Center. It is a nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center. Afterward, head to Los Arbolitos and get some nice fresh guacamole made tableside. Los Arbolitos is an authentic restaurant that offer s a great view of the mountain and Cuale River.

If you happen to visit the city during winter, see the igrating humpback whale. Guided tours operated by marine biologists have boats with hydrophones that you can use to listen to the whales. Also, try the Mexican Folklore and Tequila Tour to know more about Mexican culture and tequila-making. La Palapa is a great place to visit for nice sunset drinks on the beach.

Day 3

Start your day by taking a snorkeling tour to the Marietas Islands or Los ArcosVallarta Adventures is one of Puerto Vallarta’s best ecotour operators. You will see the lively sea life in the bay: rays, turtles, eels, and lots of colorful fish. Spend your afternoon by taking a horseback ride to the Cuale falls. It is worth the ride when you see the beautiful view and swim in the crystal-clear pools here. In the evening, go to Cafe de Olla and indulge yourself with their famous seafood platter. Get to this sidewalk cafe early enough to secure a seat, as the venue is popular among tourists and locals alike.

Long Weekend

Spending a long weekend in Puerto Vallarta will give you some time to explore every bit of this beautiful city. There are art galleries to view, horse trails to ride on, and reefs for snorkeling. The four-day itinerary below will allow you to appreciate this beautiful city.

Day 1

There are many beautiful beaches along the length of the bay. There are also some interesting little towns to see as you glide along. One of the loveliest introductions you can have to the city is being on the calm water as the sun goes down. Cap your day off by having a cocktail. Relax on the terrace at the first-class El Palomar de Los Gonzalez, and try some of the fresh seafood and the steaks.

Day 2

If you happen to visit the city during winter, see the igrating humpback whale. Guided tours operated by marine biologists have boats with hydrophones that you can use to listen to the whales. Also, try the Mexican Folklore and Tequila Tour to know more about Mexican culture and tequila-making. La Palapa is a great place to visit for nice sunset drinks on the beach.

Day 3

Start your day by taking a snorkeling tour to the Marietas Islands or Los Arcos. Vallarta Adventures is one of Puerto Vallarta’s best ecotour operators. You will see the lively sea life in the bay: rays, turtles, eels, and lots of colorful fish. Spend your afternoon by taking a horseback ride to the Cuale Falls. It is worth the ride when you see the beautiful view and swim in the crystal-clear pools here. In the evening, go to Cafe de Olla and indulge yourself with their famous seafood platter. Get to this sidewalk cafe early enough to secure a seat, as the venue is popular among tourists and locals alike.

Day 4

If you want to experience excellent dining and shopping experience, head south to the Zona Romántica. Have an island breakfast at the River Cafe overlooking the stream and a heavenly lunch at Le Bistro, where the monumental architecture and neo-Continental and romantic decor add to the pleasure. Go to Isla del Río Cuale for T-shirts and trinkets.

Watch the fishermen on the small pier at Los Muertos Beach and lie in the sun or sit in the shade with a really good book. You can also walk south to the Conchas Chinas Beach’s rocky coves. When the water is calm, the beach becomes very good for snorkeling. If you want to shop for souvenirs, go to Calle Basilio Badillo and the surrounding streets for housewares, folk art, antiques, accessories, and clothing. Head back to Los Muertos to have dinner, booze, and enjoy great live music.

Summer

Puerto Vallarta is more than a romantic place, it is also a wonderful holiday destination for the family, especially during summer break. You can hang out all day playing by the pool or beach or head downtown and enjoy the cool activities that the city has to offer. For one, there are many kinds of excursions and tours for the family at discounted rates. Whether you are out on the shimmering blue sea or deep in the lush tropical jungle, you will definitely have an experience of a lifetime.

Many children love dolphins and spending a vacation in Puerto Vallarta is a perfect time to see them. Spend a day at Vallarta Adventure where you can interact with dolphins, learn about their habits and behavior, and you can even kiss them. Your kids will love you for it. Another great day out is at one of the city’s water parks. You will not have to go far just to enjoy all the thrills if you are staying at the Mayan Palace Nuevo Vallarta. If you want to relax after a day’s activities, you can lie beside a pool on a sunny day and take a sip of pina colada. This certainly sounds like paradise.

Sumer is also a great time to enjoy shopping and culture in Puerto Vallarta. Take a city tour where you will cruise down the sea-side promenade to the market full of vendors selling Mexican handicrafts, big sombreros, and funny t-shirts. You can also see how the Huichol Indians make beautiful beadwork. The highlight of the city tour is a trip around Gringo Gulch. Here, you will see the residences of many famous Hollywood stars who lived in the area, including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Beaches

Located in a protected cove on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta beaches expand more than 20 miles of coastline. They are well-known for their white sand that mimics powdered sugar. Here are some of the more popular beaches in the city.

Nuevo Vallarta

Located a few miles north of the downtown is the Nuevo Vallarta beach. Take a long walk along miles of empty coastline, hop on a toboggan, or cast a line at the fishy river mouth. Located nearby is the Sea Life Park. Here, you can watch the sea lion shows and even swim with dolphins. This is a great activity for travelers who visit the city with children. There are also many restaurants nearby.

Marina Vallarta

Marina Vallarta is situated a few miles on the south of Nuevo Vallarta. It is famous for its stunning white-sand beaches. The immediate area that surrounds it generally caters to tourists who stay at resorts. There is also a cluster of beach stretches that run south of the Marina: Playa de Oro, Playa los Tules, Playa las Palmas, and Playa los Camarones (Shrimp Beach).

Mismaloya Beach

The Mismaloya beach area is 15 minutes away from downtown Puerto Vallarta. The Los Arcos beach is a famous spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Snorkel tours in the area as well as surrounding beaches, like Playa Punta Negra, will allow you to see up close various sea creatures, such as clownfish, angelfish, parrotfish, octopi, Hawksbill sea turtles, and many more.

Yelapa Beach

The Yelapa beach is located 7 miles south of Mismaloya. It is very popular for its water taxi service, which takes guests to the surrounding beach areas. One-way water taxi rides will cost you around $10 or 100 pesos in Mexican currency.

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