A glittering bay. Cool bars. A welcoming attitude. Puerto Vallarta packs a serious punch when it comes to beach destinations in Mexico.
In Puerto Vallarta, a popular resort town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, you’re just as likely to see leaping humpback whales as you are to zip-line through the jungle or wind up on the dance floor of an LGBTQ-friendly nightclub. Here’s why Vallarta should be your next Mexican vacation destination.
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In Puerto Vallarta, all-inclusive resorts abound. Beyond the stellar restaurants, spas and poolside service at the resorts, many also have access to the best beaches in town. Some opt for an off-the-map approach, secluding themselves among the Pacific jungle, while others are right in the middle of the action downtown. Yoga lovers, couples looking for a private getaway and fun-seeking families can all find resorts tailored to their needs.
A handful of dishes represent Puerto Vallarta, including pescado embarazado (fish grilled with lime and smothered in Huichol salsa), shrimp pozole stew and pescado zarandeado (a grilled fish split in two and served with rice and tortillas). But if you’re looking for a more general introduction to Mexican cuisine, you’ll find that here too. Visit Casa Tradicional, just a block from the beach, to try cochinita pibil (braised pork) from the Yucatán region, mole from Oaxaca, and slow-cooked pork carnitas from Michoacán. Seafood lovers shouldn’t miss the fresh lobster tail or blue shrimp served six ways.
Though there’s serious competition when it comes to Mexican beaches, the warm, sandy coves around Puerto Vallarta are hard to top. Some, such as Playa Camarones, are just off the boardwalk; hole up at a shoreside bar to sip margaritas while gazing out to sea. Others, such as Las Gemelas, are more secluded. While there are some, such as Las Caletas, that are practically only accessible by boat.
The sun beats down on Puerto Vallarta throughout the year. Most visitors from the US and Canada come here to escape the cold back home from December to March, which also happens to be the perfect time for whale watching. If you’re looking to beat the crowds (and higher prices), visit between April and June. Do note, however, that rainy season runs from June until around the middle of October.
In Vallarta, you can let out your wild side on an outdoor adventure. Among the many tour companies offering adventure sports in the jungle, Vallarta Adventures gets you seriously off-grid with ATV off-roading; zip-lining on one of the longest zip lines in the country; and rappelling from tree-line platforms.
Some of the best swimming in Puerto Vallarta is out of town, down the coast. For warm, blue-green waters that are ideal for swimming, head to Playa Las Ánimas, about 20 minutes from the south end of town. Most get there by boat – hop in a water taxi (known as a panga) for a relatively affordable trip. If you prefer an all-inclusive option, tour companies can take you to the beach and throw in snorkeling, fishing and cruising on the open sea.
If you’re in the mood for a fiesta, you’ll be well served in Vallarta. Head into the Zona Romantica for LGBTQ-friendly clubs and beach bars. Or if you’re on the boardwalk (known as the Malecon) stop at La Bodeguita del Medio, a Cuban bar playing salsa music, before turning things up a notch at club Bar Morelos, a mezcalería filled with sparklers, performers and shots.
At the south end of town, the Zona Romántica has developed a reputation as an LGBTQ haven. The neighborhood is packed with dozens of clubs and gay bars, plus gay-friendly spas, tours and cabarets. It’s also home to a thriving arts scene, with outdoor sculptures and houses painted all colors of the rainbow.
The Islas Marietas are a set of uninhabited islands just outside the bay; one of which is home to Playa del Amor (also known as the Hidden Beach), a cave beach with an open roof that’s often listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can snorkel, scuba and visit the beach, but you’ll need to book a tour to do so. The islands are protected.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, why not book into one of the best boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta? Or perhaps one of the best resorts? For more inspiration while you’re in town, check out the top things to do, including the best beaches in the area. And don’t miss out on the top restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
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