Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

Itineraries for Your Trip to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta locals share their perfect days.
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3 Days in Puerto Vallarta for First Timers

Curated by Madigan Talmage-BowersMadigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

Set on Banderas Bay and backed by the Sierra Madre mountains, Puerto Vallarta attracts visitors for its natural beauty, but it offers more. A 3-day stay allows ample time to soak up the city’s heritage, catch some marine or jungle thrills, explore the Jalisco coast on a day trip, and dip into the cuisine. Read on for our top picks.

Day 1

Most of the sights within Puerto Vallarta’s walkable old town and more modern Marina Vallarta can be covered in a day. Start at Our Lady of Guadalupe church (La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe), and then follow the cobblestone streets lined with gardens, bohemian galleries, and souvenir shops selling Huichol handicrafts to the lively El Malecón boardwalk. City tours by coach often stop at Cuale River Island, El Pitillal, and the marina lined with yacht clubs. Fit in some beach time at the Beach of the Dead (Playa de los Los Muertos) near the river or quieter stretches of sand such as Playa Los Arcos and Mismaloya. In between sightseeing, indulge in Puerto Vallarta’s famous culinary scene on your own or with a food tour, topped off with tastings at a tequila distillery. 

Day 2

With easy access to sun-drenched beaches, canopied jungles, and mountain scenery, Puerto Vallarta makes an ideal base camp for outdoor activities. Family-friendly options include swimming with dolphins, snorkeling tours, beginner scuba dives, and horseback riding. Or, kick up the action a notch with high-speed zipline courses or off-road ATV tour through the forested Sierra foothills. For any age or ability, a sunset sail on Banderas Bay is the perfect way to end a day in Puerto Vallarta.

Day 3

From fishing villages to mountain enclaves, day trip options from Puerto Vallarta abound. Discover an exclusive beach hideaway at Las Caletas, accessible only by boat, or get a taste for the Mexican countryside on a trip to the colonial town of San Sebastian, where little seems to have changed in 100 years. Coach tours can carry you up the coast to beach hop along the Riviera Nayarit, stopping to swim and sunbathe in the fishing villages of Sayulita and Punta Mita. Thanks to Puerto Vallarta’s central location, you can get a regional sampler in one day and still be back in town in time for another dinner of enchiladas mole or ceviche tacos. 

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