Welcome to Paradise: Your Ultimate Guide to Puerto Vallarta

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Curated By

Melissa Franco

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  • Mexico

  • Puerto Vallarta

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • All-Inclusive Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Local Culture

  • Local Food

  • Entertainment

An aerial view of the city with the ocean in the distance.
Curator’s statement

Nestled along the pristine shores of the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta stands as a vibrant tapestry of natural beauty, rich history and unparalleled charm. This Mexican coastal gem, often hailed as one of the country’s most enchanting destinations, beckons travelers with its sun-kissed beaches, azure waters and warm, welcoming atmosphere that captures the essence of traditional Mexico. Whether you’re a sun-seeker, an adventurer, a history buff or a food enthusiast, Puerto Vallarta offers an exquisite blend of experiences that cater to every traveler’s desires.

The Fora Difference

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Insider knowledge

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Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta

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Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta

The family-friendly pick in Puerto Vallarta, with an all-inclusive set up and raft of daily activities on the land and sea.

Fora Perks
  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta

Relaxed hotel along the Pacific Ocean with tranquil, luxury rooms and suites.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Welcome amenity

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

BellView Boutique Hotel

A charming retreat where history meets modern comfort.

Fora Perks
  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

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Unlock perks by contacting Melissa to book your trip.

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

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Malecón: Take a leisurely stroll along the Malecón, the wide pedestrian-only boardwalk that runs 12 blocks and is always a hub of activity, featuring sculptures by Sergio Bustamante, street performers, art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars with beautiful views of the ocean.

Zona Romántica: The heart of old-town Puerto Vallarta, the Zona Romántica is a must-visit. This area is home to some of the best restaurants in the city along with the popular Los Muertos Beach. This is a great area to stroll, checking out the lovely shops and galleries, then stopping for a rest and a drink at one of the many bars.

Isla Cuale: A narrow island in downtown PV filled with galleries, shops and restaurants. You’ll find this just before entering the Zona Romántica.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Explore the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) in the heart of the old town. This beautiful church is a blend of architectural styles and is a significant cultural and religious landmark famous for the crown atop its bell tower.

Art Galleries: Puerto Vallarta has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries showcasing local and international artists. Take a stroll through the old town to discover art galleries featuring paintings, sculptures and crafts. My personal favorite: Galeria Sergio Bustamante.

Tequila Tasting: Learn about Mexico's famous spirit by participating in a tequila-tasting tour. You'll have the opportunity to visit tequila distilleries, learn about the production process, and sample different types of tequila. There are also many shops in town where you can simply drop in and sample tequila, mezcal and raicilla, then take home a bottle (or two) of your favorite.

Sunset Cruises: Enjoy a romantic sunset cruise on the Bay of Banderas. Many tour operators offer evening cruises with dinner, live music and breathtaking views of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Beach Activities: Relax on the sandy beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Playa de los Muertos is one of the most popular beaches, offering beachfront restaurants, water sports rentals and a lively atmosphere. You can also explore quieter beaches like Conchas Chinas and Playa Mismaloya.

Botanical Gardens: Visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, located just outside the town. It's a lush paradise featuring a variety of plant species, hiking trails and scenic viewpoints.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: Explore the underwater world of the Bay of Banderas by snorkeling or scuba diving. There are several dive sites around Puerto Vallarta, including the Marietas Islands, home to diverse marine life and underwater caves.

Ziplining and Adventure Tours: Experience the thrill of ziplining through the lush tropical canopy of the Sierra Madre mountains. Many tour companies offer adventure packages that include activities like ATV rides, jungle hikes and canopy tours.

Places to eat & drink in Puerto Vallarta

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Café de Olla: For the best Mexican food, you must visit Café de Olla, my all-time favorite restaurant in Puerto Vallarta! This place has been around for over 30 years and is popular with locals and tourists alike. The atmosphere is lively and casual, the food is always fresh and delicious and the service is friendly and warm.

La Dolce Vita: Another personal favorite which has now expanded to three locations, but I highly recommend the original La Dolce Vita on the Malecón. If you stop in for dinner, try to get a table at the front of the restaurant for the best views of the sunset.

El Dorado Beach Restaurant: Located directly on Los Muertos beach and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, El Dorado has been a favorite in Puerto Vallarta since the 1960’s. The menu focuses on seafood, caught fresh daily in Banderas Bay.

La Palapa Restaurant: The first restaurant to be built directly on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (in 1957!), La Palapa is a PV institution and still family owned. Here you’ll find fresh seafood, tropical drinks and live music, right on Los Muertos beach.

Café San Angel: Located in the heart of the Zona Romántica, Café San Angel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and features traditional Mexican dishes such as chilaquiles and huevos rancheros and some of the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta.

El Panorama: Since 1973, El Panorama has been welcoming guests for delicious meals and the best views of Puerto Vallarta from its two open-air terraces. El Panorama features international cuisine, lots of fresh seafood, a relaxed atmosphere and live music.

Café des Artistes: A fine dining restaurant in the heart of Puerto Vallarta, Café des Artistes features Mexican-inspired French cuisine and has become an icon in this city. Excellent service and truly great food, Café de Artistes is a great option for a special dinner.

The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar: Located in Casa Kimberly, a small boutique hotel in downtown Puerto Vallarta that was formerly the home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The Iguana is a beautiful open-air rooftop restaurant featuring contemporary Mexican cuisine in a relaxed but elegant environment. The Iguana Tequila Bar features top-of-the-line and lesser-known tequila and mezcal labels. Note: The Iguana is only open to non-hotel guests for dinner and there is a dress code.

Margarita Grill: A casual open-air restaurant in downtown Puerto Vallarta, Margarita Grill offers great margaritas (obviously!) and delicious guacamole made fresh right at your table. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and Margarita’s is a great place to stop for a drink and snack while you’re exploring the Zona Romántica.

Andale’s Restaurant & Bar: A favorite of locals and tourists alike, Andale’s has been serving great margaritas and delicious food since 1980. The atmosphere is fun and casual and this is a great place for a night out with friends.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, The Best of Scotland on a 7-Day Tour. This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Mexico.

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Travel Advisor

Melissa Franco

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Mexico.