Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Itineraries for Your Trip to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta locals share their perfect days.
Find your Puerto Vallarta

3 Days in Puerto Vallarta for First Timers

Curated by Ariel Sophia Bardiwho first visited Puerto Vallarta about 10 years ago—and keeps coming back.

Puerto Vallarta has it all. It boasts an enviable position along the Pacific Ocean and a balmy, pleasant subtropical climate, making it an ideal beach destination. There’s also a vibrant, picturesque downtown filled with centuries-old churches and sensational local taquerias, making the city a street food mecca. Puerto Vallarta is a vacation resort that still feels real. Added to that, it’s the perfect base for whale-watching tours and visits to local nature trails or villages.

You could easily spend a week or more in Puerto Vallarta. But three days is enough to give you a well-rounded introduction. Here are some tips and recommendations that I’ve gleaned throughout multiple visits—though I still haven’t exhausted my PV bucket list.

Expect afternoon showers (and cheaper hotels) June–October. To snorkel, dive, or whale-watch, November–February is best.

If you only have time for one thing, make it a stroll down the colorful and café-filled Zona Romántica.

Day 1

First take a stroll along the beach down the 12-block Malećon boardwalk. Browse boutiques, galleries, and café terraces in the laid-back Zona Romántica neighborhood. Make the most of your time and see city highlights on a tour with a local guide—good for first-timers, as hotel pickup and drop-off are usually included.

Puerto Vallarta gets moving after sundown. Before bar-hopping on the Malećon, fill up on tacos al pastor—watching pineapple slices go flying is half the fun. Join a guided food crawl to try several locally loved taco joints. Or, take a market-to-table cooking class to learn to make them yourself.

Day 2

Get up early to hit the beach. If you’re in Puerto Vallarta for the humpback whales migration to the Bay of Banderas (mid-November to March), take a whale-watching tour. See the larger-than-life mammals swim to the surface and learn about their habits—and the conservation risks they face—from a marine biologist.

For the rest of the year (or if you prefer dry land), join a hiking or ATV tour through the rugged hills and jungles of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Don’t miss the chance for a little inland exploration, passing from oceanside beaches to forested mountains and freshwater rivers.

Day 3

Take to the water for a day-long excursion in the Bay of Banderas. For relaxation, take a day tour of Las Caletas, a pristine private beach getaway where the American filmmaker John Huston lived for many years. Considered a protected paradise, it is only accessible by boat.

Divers and snorkelers will want to hop a boat to Marietas Islands, a small uninhabited archipelago that is part of a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve. You’ll find plenty of rocky coves and inlets—ideal for exploring the region’s underwater flora and fauna. If you’re feeling glamorous, get there by chartered yacht.

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