When it comes to choosing the best vacation spots on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta certainly is at the top of the list. This amazing resort town has it all – from stunning beaches, perfect temperatures, and some truly incredible feats of nature to interesting cultural sights, attractive bars, and restaurants with tasty food. So, packing all of that into just one day is actually fairly challenging. But even if you do only have 24 hours here, you can be certain those 24 hours will be time well spent. Prepare yourself for a trip you won’t soon forget!
Puerto Vallarta is a tropical destination, so it has warm to hot temperatures all year round. Therefore, its peak season is in winter, especially in December and January. Not only is this due to the Christmas holidays, but also due to the fact that this is the mating season of humpback whales. This is something many visitors here are dying to see.
March also sees a lot of students come from the US here for their spring break, but after that the prices start to drop and tourists become less and less frequent. Because of that, I’d say the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is from April to June. The weather is nice, and the prices are low.
The months from July to October are quite humid, with regular showers, so far fewer people come and visit. Still, if you don’t mind the weather, go for it – you’ll get significantly lower prices. Finally, it should be said that although Mexico has a hurricane season that usually lasts in summer, there hasn’t been a big hurricane here for more than 20 years.
As for the events and festivals, the season starts in November, with the beautiful custom of the Day of the Dead. December starts with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival, and the Vallarta Bird & Nature Festival is a fascinating event that takes place in February. Apart from that, you have your food festivals, Easter, New Year celebrations, and much, much more to enjoy. Whenever you come, there will be something to do!
With just under a quarter of a million people, Puerto Vallarta is a relatively small city. However, almost half of the people here have jobs that are in some way connected to tourism.
The city was originally called Las Peñas de Santa María de Guadalupe, but the name changed to Puerto Vallarta in 1918. This was done to honor Ignacio Vallarta, a former governor of the state of Jalisco (in which the city is located), foreign minister, and the president of Mexico’s Supreme Court.
Puerto Vallarta is a very safe city. In fact, it is safer than most US cities. So, you don’t have to worry about crime being rampant here. Still, some basic caution and common sense should be exercised, just like in any other tourist destination.
Mexico is full of magical tropical places, and Puerto Vallarta is among the very best of them for anyone looking for an unforgettable vacation. However, if you want to experience this city in one day, you will need some help in the form of this itinerary. These are the best things to see and do in this beautiful resort town.
One of the best ways to start your one day in Puerto Vallarta is to take a stroll along the Malecon. This wonderful promenade is approximately one mile (about 1.5 kilometers) long and offers a beautiful view of the Pacific.
You will also see many artists along the way, and there are many bars where you can sit down for a cup of coffee. And as you sip your morning drink and enjoy the ocean breeze, just do some people-watching and soak in the fact that you are here. It’s an amazing feeling!
Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town (also known as Romantic Zone) is exceptionally charming, so it would be a shame to miss out on visiting it while you’re here. Besides, a stroll there will fit in just nicely with a relaxing day in this great city.
Incredibly charming houses, cobblestone streets, quiet and relaxed atmosphere – all of this makes exploring the Old Town quite an experience. Furthermore, the area is full of greenery and quite colorful, so you will likely be tempted to sit down for a drink somewhere and just chill out a bit.
If you have the time – go for it!
If there is one thing you should visit during your sightseeing of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town, it’s the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. If you didn’t know, Virgin Mary is the patron saint of all of Mexico, so this church is quite important in the life of the city.
You will see weddings here quite often, so don’t be surprised if you come across one when visiting. The church also hosts many festivities, and the intriguing bell tower makes the whole structure quite unique. This is probably the main architectural symbol of the city, so it would be a shame not to visit it as a part of your itinerary. Not to mention the amazing photos you can take.
The lunch options in this city are quite amazing. For example, you can always head to the beach for some fresh oysters and keep it simple.
If you’d like some other seafood, however, you may want to head out to The Blue Shrimp. La Palapa, on the other hand, offers very tasty Mexican food. Naturally, there are some Spanish restaurants too, such as Restaurante Barcelona with its excellent tapas. The list just goes on and on, and you will find plenty of other great places in the southern part of the city.
That being said, you can also sign up for a food tour. That way, you can explore the city center and try delicious dishes and drinks, so it’s a complete experience. It is also possible to go on an evening food tour and have a wonderful night out.
Time to hit the beach! And one of the best if not the best beach in Puerto Vallarta is Playa Los Muertos.
This place has it all: beautiful sand, room for families with children, vendors, bars, restaurants… So, you can just take it easy and relax, no matter if you want to sip a cocktail or soak in the sun.
Apart from swimming, you can enjoy numerous other activities, including parasailing, boating, and surfing. It should also be noted that the southern tip of the beach is an LGBT area. In short, a wonderful beach with something for quite literally everyone.
If there’s one thing you absolutely have to do when in Puerto Vallarta, it’s to go and see Rhythms of the Night. This spectacular show is preceded by a wonderful cruise during which you can enjoy drinks, soak in a magical sunset, and maybe even see whales.
Once the cruise is done, the ship takes you to a private beach where you will watch the show under palm trees and the light of candles and torches. Numerous stories will be reenacted in front of you by various acrobats and artists, and once everything is done, you will head out to a beautiful dinner.
A perfect way to end your one day in Puerto Vallarta, no doubt about that!
Hotel Luxury Patio Azul
Paseo de Las Conchas Chinas 127, 48399 Puerto Vallarta
When it comes to five-star accommodation in Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Luxury Patio Azul is probably the best choice. The ocean view you get here is just magical, especially at sunset, and all the rooms provide it. But apart from the view, you can also enjoy an outdoor pool, a wonderful terrace, and world-class service. The rooms are beautifully designed to enhance the view you get, and there are loads of amenities in them. Also, the location is very quiet and calm, even though the city center is close. Perfect!
The Paramar Beachfront Boutique Hotel
Paraguay 1272 Colonia 5 de Diciembre, 48350 Puerto Vallarta
The Paramar Beachfront Boutique Hotel is a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a hotel in the center of Puerto Vallarta. Featuring a wonderful rooftop pool with a spectacular view, an excellent breakfast, and just a short walk from many bars and restaurants, this hotel guarantees a great stay. Furthermore, you will literally be next to a beach, and the rooms come with a coffee machine and fridge, among other things. You’ll love staying here, that’s for sure.
Hacienda Escondida Puerto Vallarta
Calle 567 Lazaro Cardenas, 48380 Puerto Vallarta
If you’re looking for a place that provides great value, look no further than Hacienda Escondida! This exceptionally beautiful place has an outdoor pool, plenty of greenery surrounding it, and even a hot tub. Furthermore, the interior is simply gorgeous, plus you can easily arrange for an airport shuttle. It’s just a perfect place to rest, relax and recharge your batteries, with plenty of bars and restaurants in the vicinity.
Los Muertos Hostal
Manuel M. Dieguez 138-D, Emiliano Zapata, 48380 Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta also has great accommodations for backpackers! Los Muertos Hostal is a great hostel with plenty to offer. Perfectly clean and comfortable rooms, a well-equipped kitchen, along with the incredibly helpful and kind staff are guarantees of an excellent stay. Furthermore, the location is also perfect, right next to a beach and close to many great bars, clubs, and restaurants. A great choice for every backpacker!
It’s hard to leave a tropical paradise after just one day. And I bet you will soon start contemplating extending your stay. No real travel lover will want to leave this place quickly. Should you decide to add a day or two (or more) to your visit to Puerto Vallarta, you will have plenty of options for a day trip. Here are the most popular among them.
Islas Marietas is a collection of islands designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. That tells you a lot about how beautiful this day trip can be. Some of the highlights include plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and diving with various sea creatures, and all sorts of beautiful birds along with Playa del Amor, an amazing underground beach. The nature here will leave you speechless!
Sayulita and San Pancho are two quiet towns slightly north of Puerto Vallarta. If you get tired of the huge hotels and crowds, come here where everything is much slower. However, the beaches in these towns still have plenty to offer, from surfing to horseback riding. Therefore, this day trip can be ideal for a family just looking to get away from it all for a short while.
Are you a movie fan? Then you will definitely want to visit El Eden, the place where the famous movie “The Predator” was filmed. Yes, this is where Arnie fought off the alien menace! However, apart from that, you can go swimming, enjoy riding ATVs, go ziplining and even try some local tequila. All in all, a very adventurous day trip.
Bucerias literally means “divers’ town”, so if diving is your favorite pastime, this is the place to visit. But even if you’re not into diving, Bucerias will delight you with its small-town charm, cobblestone streets, loads of restaurants, and generally a relaxing vibe. However, the main attraction is the huge white-sand beach that stretches for almost 30 kilometers! Amazing!
- While the Mexican Peso is the local currency, dollars from the US and Canada will also be accepted. If you do need to exchange the currencies, though, the best thing to do is to go to a bank – you’ll get the best rate there.
- The buses here are well organized but keep in mind that you have to pay EVERY time you board one.
- Tap water is not drinkable, buy bottled water instead.
- Puerto Vallarta is also very gay-friendly. In fact, it is at the top of the list in Mexico in that respect. Consequently, they have huge parades here, especially in May.
- Be careful when it comes to the currents here, especially if snorkeling or diving. Pacific currents are much stronger than the Caribbean ones.
- Bring something along to protect yourself from mosquitoes
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.