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Best Things to do in Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit

Puerto Vallarta Excursions & Attractions 

Drawn by the hidden gems of western Mexico? We don’t blame you. Adventure, romance, wellness, nightlife, culture, cuisine—there’s nothing that Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit don’t excel in. Keep reading to find out what to see and do.

All night long

Sun-kissed by day… neon-lit by night. In Puerto Vallarta, the excitement doesn’t stop at sunset. Stroll along the Malecón (boardwalk), stretching from the oldest hotel in town (Hotel Rosita) to the Cuale river. Lined with restaurants, shops and bars, this is where the spirit of the city resides—with live musicians often providing a soundtrack to the waterfront views, you could keep the party al fresco.

Follow the fiesta past the Malecón to the LGBTQ+ party hotspot cheekily named the Romantic Zone. Still not tired? Seek out the humpback whale statue that marks the entrance to Marina Vallarta, where upscale restos, boutiques and clubs overlook a luxury yacht-lined harbour.

Riviera Nayarit also comprises about 23 micro-destinations bursting with a variety of urban thrills—some are well-known, others are well-kept secrets. If you’re looking to chill, we recommend Bucerías, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, and Chacala. For nightlife injected with laidback surfer vibes, go for Sayulita, where the streets are always buzzing with excitement and nightlife options are a-plenty.
Malecon Puerto Vallarta

Force of nature

From wild nights to wildlife—tons of nature preserves and parks around Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit protect native flora and fauna. Wake up and smell the (many) flowers at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, voted one of the best in North America by USA Today. Sprawled over 64 acres, it’s home to exotic or endangered plants from all over Mexico.

Not all scenic wonders are on land; dive into Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarait’s best spots for scuba diving and snorkelling, Los Arcos Marine Park where you’ll find rock formations, islets, caves, tunnels, marine birds, reefs, and colourful fish. Want wilder? Monkey Mountain in Higuera Blanca is a hiking must for its incomparable summit views of Banderas Bay and Riviera Nayarit.

Pro-tip: True nature lovers shouldn’t miss whale watching in Puerto Vallarta! Humpback whales swim in Banderas Bay between December and March. Or, to admire exotic birds and reptiles year-round, navigate the mangrove canals of La Tovara near San Blas.
La Tovara

Feast for the senses

Mexico is one of our favourite foodie destinations and Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are the perfect places to sample the country’s most unique dishes. Taste modern fare at fine-dining establishments like Tintoque and Hectors Kitchen in Punta de Mita or stop at any traditional taqueria along the boardwalk for more low-key fare. Do also try tejuino, a fermented corn drink that’s very popular in western Mexico and served from stands across the region. Don’t knock it till you try it!

Cultural, as well as culinary, cravings are well satisfied here. Explosively colourful murals adorn many of the buildings, including tributes to Frida Kahlo and Einstein. Sculptures are scattered by the sea; Rafael Zamarripa’s The Boy on the Seahorse is even considered one of the city’s iconic landmarks. Beyond the countless galleries that dot the city, head to the Cuale Cultural Centre, on Cuale River Island, for creative workshops, art events, poetry readings, musical performances, and more!

In San Pancho, also known as the Cultural Capital of Mexico’s Pacific Treasure, you’ll also find murals adorning the streets of this little boho-chic village, just waiting to be included in your Insta pics, plus plenty of yummy eateries, live music, and a fun vibe.

Pro-tip: Don’t leave Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit without some psychedelic Huichol art, hand-made crafts made by the local Indigenous people.
Frida Kahlo Mural

Go extreme, stay zen

Want to kick it up a notch? Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit will delight adrenaline junkies. ATV tours or ziplining down the peaks of the Sierra Madre—extreme sports have found a beautiful home here, between mountains and the sea. Daredevils of all stripes should make a beeline for El Jorullo bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge, and remember that parasailing or skydiving over the bay are also options.

Come down from high-energy thrills with a touch of TLC. Wellness is always top of mind in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit; a variety of resorts house world-class spas, where massages and treatments await after a day of adventures. Life is about balance, right?

Day Trippin’

Curious travellers know that Puerto Vallarta isn’t just a fantastic beach town, but also an excellent gateway to all the fascinating villages in the Riviera Nayarit region, like some of Mexico’s famed pueblos magicos (magic towns). The Mexican government designates them as such for their magical qualities.

Intrigued? Fall under the spell of San Sebastián, a pueblo magico at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountain range, defined by historic architecture that imbues the town with enchanting nostalgia. Mystical Mascota also invites you to step back in time across picturesque streets and squares before venturing out to nearby marvels like the Juanacatlan Lagoon and El Rincon de Ixcatan waterfall.

Discover Isla de Mexcaltitán, better known as the “Venice of Nayarit” for the unique system of canals that crisscross it. Historians consider this island the mythological Aztlán, cradle of the Aztec civilization. A trip to Mexcaltitán is a voyage to a world full of mystery, history, and a unique cultural experience.

Sunshine on beach time

Keep the best for last, always. Beaches are what bring us here and there are all kinds to discover around Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit.

Of course, we all know and love popular Los Muertos, Blue Flag certified Camarones, or resort-lined Mismaloya. But hop on a boat to discover off-the-beaten path shores. An excursion to Marietas Islands off Riviera Nayarit reveals the hidden shores of Playa del Amor, or Lover’s Beach, a secret swimming spot tucked away beneath a verdant crater.

For more tranquility, steer your course for the private Las Caletas beach, once owned by famous Hollywood director John Huston (who filmed The Night of the Iguana with Elizabeth Taylor here!). Grown-ups can even enjoy an adults-only, hammock-strewn section.

Pro-tip: There is also a deserted and secret beach for adventurers hiding between Sayulita and San Pancho, accessible by hike or mountain bike tour.
Marietas Islands

What’s Next

Now that you’ve got your Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit bucket list ready, check out our vacation packages to this gorgeous destination on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Get there soon with our last-minute deals to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit or save now for an escape later.