Top Reasons to Visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast, is the LGBTQ capital of Mexico
Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific Coast, is the LGBTQ capital of Mexico | © Sorin Colac / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

1. The all-inclusive resorts are top-notch

Resort

A bed, purple chairs and a balcony with an ocean view in a hotel room at Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta
Courtesy of Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta / Booking.com

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.

2. It has incredible traditional cuisine

Restaurant, Mexican

Casa Tradicional, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco State, Mexico
© Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

3. The beaches are some of the best in Mexico

Natural Feature

Shrimp Beach (Playa Camarones), from the north end of the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
© Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

4. There's warm weather all year round

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature, Park

Puerto Vallarta beach, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, North America
© Michael DeFreitas / robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

5. There’s always an adventure

Sports Center

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.

6. You can visit the home of tequila

Distillery

Mexico-Tequila Town-Bruce
© Culture Trip
Just a four-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta is Tequila, the home of Mexico’s beloved spirit. Visit to sample the drink, watch the production process, and meet some of the major players in the industry. If you can’t make it there to taste the spirit from the source, options are available locally. Vallarta Tequila Tastings serves a variety of tequila and mezcal, and less common agave derivatives such as raicilla and bacanora. Some tastings pair drinks with classic Mexican dishes, while others match sips with dark slabs of chocolate.

7. Banderas Bay has ideal water for swimming

Natural Feature

Unindentified people at Playa Las Animas in Mexico.
© Goran Bogicevic / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

8. There are plenty of places to party

Bar, Caribbean, Beer

La Bodeguita del Medio Cuban Restaurant, Malecon, Old Town, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. Image shot 11/2008. Exact date unknown.
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

9. It’s the LGBTQ capital of Mexico

Architectural Landmark

Restaurants and apartment buildings in Zona Romantica in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
© Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

10. You can scuba dive off the Marietas Islands

Natural Feature

A tour boat shoots through a narrow channel of the Marietas Islands off the Pacific Coast of Nayarit, Mexico
© Brian Overcast / Alamy Stock Photo

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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