Puerto Vallarta is one of those locations with an unfortunate reputation as being great for cruise ship passengers or spring breakers alone. This is too bad because it is a far more charming seaside city than many might realize. Staying a beautiful Puerto Vallarta villa allows you to enjoy the sites of the port town and wonderful culinary experiences. If you are a beach fan, love watersports, enjoy outdoor activities of all kinds, savor great cuisine and tasty street foods, or love to shop in world-class settings, you’ll want to lean in and take a closer look at Puerto Vallarta.
Divided into a few different neighborhoods, including the Marina area (an upscale setting full of luxury hotels), the Hotel Zone (also a hotel area but with shopping malls), the Old PV or Centro area which is where the Malecon promenade is found along the waterfront, the Centro which is noted as a romantic area will waterfront along the river and access to one of the nicest beaches, and Conchas Chinas that takes its name from the beautiful seashells found here.
And with mention of seashells…
The Beaches of Puerto Vallarta
First and foremost, anyone who is considering a visit to Puerto Vallarta will want to take some time to enjoy the area’s stunning beaches, particularly those around the Banderas Bay area. Noted as one of the deepest and widest natural bays in the world, it is framed by picture-perfect beaches with a lot of excellent services and amenities. Among the best of the beaches are Playa Camarones, Playa Las Gemalas, and Playa Los Muertos (the latter being in the Centro area with amazing scenery).
Playa las Gemalas is only 20 minutes south of the city and offers white sands and excellent conditions. It is not dense with hotels or other buildings and features only two residential buildings. You will want to bring food and snacks as there are no services, but it is well worth the effort.
If you want to be entirely away from fellow beachgoers, the town of San Pancho may be for you. An hour south of the city, it is all about eating, leisure, and a pristine beachfront.
The Walking-Friendly Locations of Puerto Vallarta
Whether you opt to take a long and leisurely stroll along the Malecon (boardwalk) in the Old town or you simply decide to explore the entire city on foot, you’ll soon discover it is one of the most walking-friendly destinations imaginable.
In fact, and as one enthusiast noted, walking the streets in Puerto Vallarta is “a great way to see what the vendors are selling, to people watch and to get a lay of the land. You never know what you’ll stumble across when discovering the city on foot.”
This might let you also do something as fun and exciting as a food tour (after all, as that same enthusiast said, “Mexico’s cuisine has made the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.” It is also a great way to just savor the many delicious dishes and street foods around almost every corner.
You can also plan a walk up the Mirador de la Cruz for an unforgettable experience of the sunset over the city. It will require you to climb a long set of steep stairs, but there are many spots to sit, rest, and snap a few photos.
You’ll also want to visit the Botanical Gardens in the city and take a tour or spend time seeking out the many murals that were part of a beautification project throughout Puerto Vallarta.
If you want the delights of a seaside town without the crowds that can frequent Puerto Vallarta, the small fishing village known as Bucerias is growing in popularity. A common and easy day trip from the city, it is the perfect spot for wandering the markets, visiting the beach, and doing a bit of peaceful fishing or shopping.
Shopping In Puerto Vallarta
If shopping is your thing, the Malecon is a good choice. It is packed with boutiques and designer shops as well as souvenir stores, and all kinds of restaurants. You will find a lot of photographic opportunities here, and many local artists make their wares available.
The Malecon is also home to the Choco Museum where you learn about cacao and all sorts of amazing facts about chocolate. And if you are at the Malecon, see when the next Danza de los Voladores reenactment is scheduled as it is an amazing and breathtaking performance by men who perform acrobatics atop high poles.
There are also amazing local markets that run on weekends or even daily, and they are great options for stocking up on tasty local foods and the freshest ingredients. And if you book a villa with a kitchen, be sure to visit one of the local Municipal markets where food finds range from fresh produce and snacks to locally grown meats.
Puerto Vallarta Restaurants
While we’d say it is a good idea to get your fair share of street food and tacos during a visit to Puerto Vallarta, don’t ignore all of the fine dining, including a Michelin star restaurant. Café des Artistes is home to celebrity chef Thierry Blouet and the meals here are a unique blend of Mexican and French cuisine. With its castle-like exterior and gorgeous interior, it is a must-try for any foodies in the city.
Take in a Sunset
While we already mentioned one great way to enjoy a sunset, there are many others. In fact, there are many spots right along the Malecon. You can also enjoy great sunsets from the beach bar known as El Barracuda or from the hills behind the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
There is much to see and do on a visit to Puerta Vallarta, and if you choose to a luxury villa rental, you can find yourself along those lovely beaches and just minutes from the natural destinations, the waterfront fun, and all of the rest that makes this area far more than many realize.