Puerto Vallarta offers an astounding number of things to see and do – there is never a dull day in this vivacious city. Our Culture & Entertainment section is a great place to discover what it is that you want to do when spending a holiday, be it a long weekend, a week, or, if you have more time, a full month! From beaches and bikes to surf and sail, from seductive shopping and delicious dining to never-ending nightlife and mini-makeovers, this Mexican city has just what every traveler needs to make the vacation perfect.
Browse through our pages to know some helpful tips about Puerto Vallarta museums, popular festivals, traditional cuisine, excellent restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and lively bars and clubs. We will also give you a snapshot of the city’s shopping experience, what shops and markets to go to, gay life in Puerto Vallarta, sports and recreation, striking architecture, parks and gardens, arts and crafts made and sold by local artisans, and great Puerto Vallarta music.
Puerto Vallarta is an excellent city steeped in culture and history. It has less number of museums than other cities, but its two major museums – the Museo del Cuale (or Museo de Rio Cuale) and Manuel Lepe Museum – offers an impressive collection of artifacts.
Museo del Cuale
This tiny yet perfectly formed museum is one of the more notable museums in Mexico. Despite its size, Museo del Cuale has a surprisingly rich collection of ancient artifacts and boasts of regular art exhibitions. Located alongside the River Cuale, it boasts of general information about the history of Western Mexico. The museum houses a number of important treasures found within Puerto Vallarta, traditional arts and crafts, well-preserved pre-Hispanic objects, and folklore displays.
Location: La Isla de Rio Cuale, Puerto Vallarta, 43810. Open Tuesday to Saturday – 10 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 7 pm, Sunday – 10 am to 2 pm. Admission is free.
Manuel Lepe Museum
This museum, located within the city center, is another interesting venue dedicated to the life and work of Manuel Lepe, a well-known Mexican artist. It houses a wide range of works created by the artist himself. He was known for his dramatic oil paintings, but he also produced other unique works other than his paintings.
You will find here displays of fine jewelry, colorful ceramics, detailed paper maché creations, and miniature sculptures of particular interest. You can also buy posters of his well-known and reasonably priced oil canvases.
Location: Juarez 533 Col Centro, Puerto Vallarta, 48300. Open: Monday to Saturday – 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free.
Architecture in Puerto Vallarta is an amazing eclectic showcase of styles. Just walk around the city streets and in the coastal area to experience an authentic aesthetic feast of buildings with the prehispanic era and contemporary styles. With architectural influences tied together by the backdrop of the fierce pacific Ocean and cobblestone streets, the city’s historic center is one to be appreciated again and again
Architecture in the city is a testament to its past as well as future cultural splendor. The Teatro Saucedo reflects the golden era of belle epoque in Europe. Designed by Italian Angel Corsi, it opened its doors in 1922. It housed a theater and casino area that also functioned as a ballroom. Another great architecture is Los Arcos, an amphitheater that faces the sea. It is a host to music festivals and lives performances throughout the year.
Another major architectural attraction in this Mexican city is La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. Its construction began in 1929 and was finished after 12 years. Located on Calle Hidalgo, this church follows the Baroque style – it has detailed molding inside and hand-carved columns. A crown modeled after that of Mexico’s Empress Carlotta (18th century) tops the church. Many people think it is a cathedral, but it is actually a church since the Bishop of the Diocese does not hold the throne here.
Traditional architecture in Puerto Vallarta blends elements of coastal and mountain architecture. Compared to coastal architecture, mountain architecture has a more internal and protective style. It has internal courtyards and smaller windows. On the other hand, coastal buildings are more open because of the hotter climate in the coastal region.
In addition, historically, foreigners have had a huge influence on Puerto Vallarta architecture. For example, the Spanish imported the style of domes, courtyards, and arches that dominate the city’s architecture. You will also see beautiful re-tile roofs and adobe (often whitewashed) and colonial buildings.
Parks & Gardens
The natural scenery is a very important part of the landscape of Puerto Vallarta, both underwater and on land. The major reserves and parks and gardens in the city are described below:
El Moro Wildlife Sanctuary
Many Playa Vallarta visitors visit the El Moro Wildlife Sanctuary for its amazing coral reefs alone. Located off the coastline, it enjoys an island setting and brims with colorful flora and fauna. In addition to snorkeling and scuba diving, other highlights of the El Moro Wildlife Sanctuary include sea turtles as well as many colorful underwater creatures. You can view them by glass-bottom boats. Address: Bahia de Banderas, Nuevo Vallarta, 63732.
Los Arcos is a notable park within the city. Everything within this beautiful nature reserve is protected. It is one of the best places in the region to appreciate wildlife. Many travelers visit Los Arcos for wonderful views. The glass-bottom boat trips are popular with locals and tourists alike. Underwater attractions are unparalleled, perfect for travelers who enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving. Address: Highway 200, Puerto Vallarta, 48300.
The Botanical Gardens in Puerto Vallarta is a pleasure garden as well as an educational research center high in the mighty Sierra Madre Mountains. Situated against the lovely backdrop of mountain peaks, it offers an experience that you will never forget. It features the Carnivorous Plant Collection, Rose Garden, Palm Gardens, Orchid House, Tree Fern Grotto, Tropical Bird Watching, Jungle Trails, Mexican Wildflower displays, and the Agave Gardens. Bring your swimsuit and take a refreshing dip in the glasslike waters of Rio Los Horcones. Address: Carretera Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad Km. 24.
El Zoologico de Vallarta
See local animals and many exotic animals from different parts of the world at Puerto Vallarta Zoo. Experience the magic of the deep jungle and admire the elegant flamingos and the mighty white tigers. Also, enjoy the tenderness of the squirrel monkey and the macaco. Know more about the enigmatic black panthers and feel the ferocity of the jaguars and lions. You can even touch and feed the animals at this zoo. Address: Camino al Eden 700, Mismaloya, Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta is an exciting place. There are so many things to do and sights to see that there is never a dull moment in this Mexican city. It is home to colorful festivals and fascinating events that fill its calendar year. This means that there is always something fun happening in the city.
Like the rest of Mexico, festivities in Puerto Vallarta begin with New Year’s Day and then by the Day of the Kings. In February, locals commemorate the Constitution Day (February 5), Valentine’s Day, the Mexican Flag Day, and the National Charro Tournament. This is also the month of the International Yacht Race.
In March, locals celebrate the vivacious and famous Carnaval (first Tuesday of the month). They also celebrate Ash Wednesday, Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17), as well as Benito Juarez Day (March 21). In April, they observe the Holy Week Celebration; it is also the spring break for most schools. The revelry continues onto May, where people observe Labor Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, and the Cultural Festival of May. The festivities continue onto the months of June to August as the city welcomes the arrival of the hot summer season.
Cultural pride and nationalism become more apparent in Puerto Vallarta during September as it is the month when Mexicans commemorate their independence. In October, many programs are staged to pay tribute to the United Nations Day. Halloween, which signals the beginning of autumn, is also an exciting festivity in the city.
Festivities in Puerto Vallarta reach their peak as the year closes. Dia de Todos Santos, Dia de Los Muertos, the International Gourmet Festival, the Festival of the Arts, the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, the International Film Festival, Thanksgiving Day, and the International Sailfish Tournament all happen in November. Lastly, the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Guadalupe Processions, the city’s founding anniversary, and the Christmas holidays in the merry month of December is a great ending to another amazing year in this paradise.
The cultural diversity and rich history of Puerto Vallarta are mirrored in the food that its restaurants offer. From the casual taco stands in the city to beachfront palapas, to high-end rooftop restaurants overlooking the city, there are hundreds of restaurants that serve exactly what your craving palate and hungry stomach look for.
You can find some of the cheapest but tastiest food in Puerto Vallarta at the evening taco stands that regularly line the Madero. There is a cluster of family restaurants nearby. They have plenty of character and offer a budget but a memorable dining experience.
Many restaurants that boast outdoor terraces and feature pleasant surrounding scenery are scattered around downtown Puerto Vallarta. You can find some of the most popular dining options and eateries within the district along with the Avenue Juarez, Avenida Mexico, Morelos, Lazaro Cardenas, Pino Suarez, and Paseo Diaz Ordaz.
You can have the best views of the Banderas Bay along with the Calle Ecuador and the Aguacate. Numerous restaurants also dot the Los Muertos Beach. Visitors who look for a lively dining experience in Puerto Vallarta can go to the Hard Rock Café situated in the Malecon area.
Many dining venues on the southern part of the Cuale River are popular among locals and tourists alike. Particularly, the Basilio Badillo has become Puerto Vallarta’s restaurant hub, featuring a number of top restaurants in the city. Also check out riverside cafes and restaurants on Isla Rio Cuale, waterfront dining venues around the Paseo de la Marina and the Marina Vallarta, as well as the many beachfront restaurants around Olas Altas. Restaurants and eateries also dot Highway 200, many of which overlook the Lindo Mar beach, giving you the chance to watch migrating whales between November and March.
Puerto Vallarta is well-known throughout Mexico for its gastronomical delights. Numerous restaurants within this port city offer fine dining with unparalleled coastal views and various freshly caught seafood
If you happen to visit in November, you will enjoy Puerto Vallarta’s 10-day International Gourmet Festival. This event draws a number of world-renowned chefs and gives you the opportunity to sample a lot of tasty dishes and unlimited tequila.
If you are looking for something different, the beach restaurants will not disappoint. Popularly called as “de rigeur”, these beach restaurants overlook the Banderas Ba. They feature thatched roofs as well as many delicious dishes that will make you fall in love with the city.
You can find traditional Mexican cuisine, many European dishes, and American-style fast-food restaurants within Puerto Vallarta. Many tourists prefer dining within the major resort hotels, which cater well for travelers. They provide extensive menus that feature such Mexican classics as ceviche (seafood salad), enchilada (filled tortillas usually topped with cheese), grilled shrimps, spicy octopus omelet, scallops, and lobsters.
You will find that many dishes in Puerto Vallarta use chilies as major ingredients. They are being accompanied by guacamole, sour cream, and salsa. They are also washed down with tequila.
Whether it is an exciting game of tennis or a fun bike ride along mountain trails, you will find in Puerto Vallarta all the favored ways to get the most out of your vacation, while re-energizing and appreciating what nature offers. Gifted with the spectacular Banderas Bay and 25 miles of golden beaches, the city presents unlimited possibilities for enjoying the pacific waters.
Many hotels in Puerto Vallarta can arrange your sports activities and recreation, including canopy zip-line tours, windsurfing, water-skiing, deep-sea fishing, and fly fishing. When traveling to the city make sure that you try the following activities: sailing, parasailing, scuba diving, whale watching, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, international regattas, kayaking, yacht, and catamaran excursions.
Sports and recreation activities in Puerto Vallarta are endless. Make sure to plan well in advance to know your priorities and to avoid any hassle that may come your way.