Puerto Vallarta is a tale of two cities - a resort town with an old-world atmosphere, where you can lie out by the pool or wander around narrow cobbled streets that have something of a European feel. If you’re the type of traveler who prefers to mix relaxation with exploration and is bored by the idea of 10 whole days on the beach, then Puerto Vallarta - or PV as it’s called by those in the know - is a great vacation choice. And it’s beautiful too. The red-roofed town is nestled between the crescent-shaped Banderas Bay and the green-sided Sierra Madre Mountains, and there are great views at every turn.
The best time to visit is January to June when it’s sunny nearly every day but not too blisteringly hot. From July to October, the weather can very humid and somewhat rainy. If you’re interested in whale watching then make a beeline for the coast in January, February or March.
Strolling the cobbled streets of the so-called “Zona Romantica” is a lovely way to pass an afternoon - and perfect if you want a break from the hot sun. You can pick out a restaurant to try later in the day, and browse the boutiques for unique souvenirs - from artisan jewelry to paintings by local artists and colorful ceramic tiles, before stopping for a coffee in an outdoor cafe.
On Saturdays from 9:30am-2pm, the old town is filled with the farmer’s market. It’s the place to find delicious local produce as well as handmade garments and souvenirs, and all of the vendors must live within 50 miles of the town, so there’s a genuine local feel. If you miss Saturday’s event you can find handicrafts and souvenirs every day at the stalls along the Malecon boardwalk. There’s also a charming Thursday market in the nearby village of La Penita offering everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to silver jewelry, ceramics, rugs and more.
If you just enjoy browsing stalls of any kind - or you forgot to pack a toothbrush - make time to head to the covered flea market just along the riverbank. Covering the space of a whole city block, the market has everything you could imagine - from handicrafts to household goods, and some really authentic Mexican food.
Afterwards, cross the swinging rope footbridge to the river island Isla Rio Cuale. Dividing “El Centro” from the Old Town, the river Cuale starts up in the Sierra Madre Mountains before winding its way to the sea. In the 1920s a sandbank developed which the local population then built on, creating the Isla Cuale. The east end of the island has been kept as a peaceful park and makes a good place for a shady stroll, and you’ll find restaurants a-plenty in the west of the island towards the Malecon.
Beach life in PV revolves around Banderas Bay (which means Bay of Flags in English), which is bounded in the north by the exclusive resort community of Punta Mita, and in the south by Cabo Corrientes. Stretching some 60 miles, it’s one of the longest bays in Mexico.
You’ll definitely come across the darkly named Dead Man’s Beach (the name recalls the beach’s popularity with pirates in years gone by) during your PV vacation. It’s the most popular beach and home to many watersport outfits - you can try parasailing here - plus restaurants and bars. The waves are gentle here too, so it’s great for swimming or visiting with younger children. You’ll find it south of the Malecon on the far side of the Cuale river, in the Zona Romantica.
A walk along the Malecon - or boardwalk - is a rite of passage for all visitors to PV. The boardwalk is pedestrianized, with the beach on one side and colorful shops and cafes on the other, and dotted with palm trees for shade and benches where you can stop and watch the world go by. At sunset, locals and tourists alike come out to stroll, chat, watch the street performers and look at the sand sculptures that are regularly created on the beach. Keep an eye out for the statue of a boy riding a seahorse as you go - it’s one of PV’s most iconic sights. After dark, the Malecon becomes the epicenter of local nightlife, where you can enjoy a cocktail to the sound of the Pacific ocean.
Just up the coast from Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find the village of Sayulita, which is fast becoming one of the coolest spots in Mexico with a reputation for great surfing and a laid-back, boho atmosphere. For a change of pace, take a day trip and hit the waves for a few hours. If you’re a beginner your Luxury Retreats concierge can organize surf lessons, including equipment rental, for the day.
If you’re looking for a comfortable home base with great views for your PV vacation, our luxurious properties in the hills above the town make the ideal choice.
Some 10 miles south of Puerto Vallarta along Banderas Bay lies Mismaloya, a beautiful beach, and offshore marine park, where snorkeling and diving is the order of the day. Dominated by a natural rock formation known as Los Arcos, it’s an area of outstanding natural beauty. You can dive down to swim through caves, and see bright coral formations and plenty of tropical fish. For keen snorkelers and divers, our home rentals in Mismaloya mean you can spend the day underwater before heading home for a relaxing swim in your private pool before your personal chef cooks up a delicious Mexican feast while you enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding coastline.
An upscale resort community just south of Puerto Vallarta, Conchas Chinas is perfect for families or groups that enjoy plenty of space and privacy while still being close to a thriving city center. Whether you choose to stay up in the hills with incredible views, or right on the water with direct beach access, our Conchas Chinas villa rentals have spacious rooms, swimming pools, and many offer chef services so you can truly relax and enjoy your vacation.
For luxurious accommodation with access to all resort amenities, take a look at our homes inside the Garza Blanca resort , which is located between Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya. With tennis courts, swimming pools, kayaks, fitness center and a relaxing spa, plus beautiful white sand beach, there are so many ways to spend your time that you’ll have difficulty choosing which activity to try first.