Puerto Vallarta is a unique destination in Mexico, where the mountains meet the jungles and the sea. Its historic center, the Romantic Zone, is full of cobbled streets and whitewashed buildings with iconic terracotta roofs, adorned with bright purple flowers. The Malecón is the city's iconic mile-long walkway that hugs the coast and takes visitors on a journey from Downtown to the Romantic Zone or the historic district. Along the way, travelers can enjoy stunning views of Banderas Bay and jungle-covered mountains; see downtown's beautiful red tile roofs; stroll through many of the city's most popular restaurants; and see the city's sculptures, beaches, and live street shows.
The Malecón is also closed to vehicle traffic, making it perfect for a morning jog or leisurely stroll. The Romantic Zone is the historic district of Puerto Vallarta and one of its most visually pleasing parts. It starts at the bridge over the Cuale River and is home to some of the city's most popular beaches, restaurants, art galleries and boutique hotels. It's also where the highest concentration of expats live, making it very tourist-friendly.
Mismaloya Beach is located in the next small coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, called Mismaloya. It was this beach that put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, since it was the setting for the 1964 film, Night of the Iguana, starring Richard Burton. Banderas Bay is one of the largest bays in the world and life in Puerto Vallarta revolves around it. One of the best ways to enjoy it is to go out on its waters.
Yelapa is a quiet sandy beach just 20 miles south of Puerto Vallarta that can only be accessed by boat from Los Muertos pier or by hiring a private charter from Boca de Tomatlán. Islas Marietas National Park is a dedicated part of UNESCO biosphere reserve and a RAMSAR site. Fishing and hunting are not allowed on its islands, which are home to a wide variety of wildlife including whales, seabirds, manta rays, dolphins and thousands of species of tropical fish. Visitors can jump into its waters for kayaking, surfing, snorkeling or paddleboarding at La Nopalera beach.
Los Arcos is a famous rock formation in Banderas Bay that is very popular with boat tours and photographers alike for having some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Casa 449 is a newer family restaurant whose managers trained as international chefs in some of the most expensive restaurants in Puerto Vallarta and Spain. Sayulita is just across the border in Nayarit but it's a perfect day trip from Puerto Vallarta. It has salt-drenched beach bars and surf huts galore but lacks the feel of big city Puerto Vallarta.
The Malecón is also home to live shows, art, street food, restaurants with beach access, live music, crafts and other activities. LGBT travelers will find Puerto Vallarta one of the most gay-friendly cities in Mexico or perhaps even in the world. Conchas Chinas is an exclusive neighborhood along Puerto Vallarta's south coast with incredible condos with spectacular ocean views. If you're looking for car rental in Puerto Vallarta, then airport is your best bet for convenience. This stunning and beautiful Puerto Vallarta boutique hotel is also one of its best tourist attractions. In fact, Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta are side by side making it possible to visit them on a day trip. Truly no Best of Puerto Vallarta guide would be complete without a mention of Sayulita. No matter what type of traveler you are there are plenty of things to do in Puerto Vallarta.