Puerto Vallarta Mexico Travel Guide
Why go to Puerto Vallarta instead of Cabo or Cancun?
When deciding on a trip to Mexico the decision was between Cabo or Puerto Vallarta. After a lot of research, we choose Puerto Vallarta. I’m so happy we did. It’s the perfect blend of modern with cultural charm. The streets are cobblestone and the signs are tiles etched into the walls of buildings. Puerto Vallarta is where a lot of Mexicans go on vacations. They have their handful of foreign tourists but it felt authentic. I found it a great escape to feel like you’re in a foreign country. Even though we were 3 hours from Los Angeles, California.
Where to stay in Puerto Vallarta?
You’ll find options for all-inclusive, vacation rentals, small hotels, and big chains. For your first visit, you’ll want to stay near El Centro which is the Downtown area. I stayed in 5 de Diciembre which was walking distance to the Malecon (boardwalk) and El Centro. Another good area to stay in is Zona Romantica. If you pick from those you’ll be walking distance to stores and restaurants. Anything too north or south of those areas is too far for walking to restaurants and shops.
We stayed at the Villa Premiere located in 5 de Diciembre. This was a boutique hotel that offers ocean views from all the rooms. The boutique size allows you to have an intimate experience. They offer all inclusive but it’s not needed. With the cool restaurants and bars nearby you’ll be fine without all inclusive. This hotel is also Adults Only. Which sounds naughty but means there are no children allowed. A bonus for some.
Upon welcome, you’ll receive a glass of champagne and a 5-minute massage. You’ll have a brief introduction to the hotel. Where they do mention if you want to schedule a timeshare presentation. Say you’re not interested and they won’t bring it up anymore through your trip. From what I heard this is a normal situation at hotels in Mexico.
The pool was our favorite spot and we always found a seat. The drinks at the pool were reasonable about $5 USD for a margarita and $2.36 USD for a beer. They have board games available. We played backgammon and chess.
I was happy with my experience with Villa Premiere and I would stay here again. But I might try a vacation rental next time. Since they have a lot of cool condos available.
Best Places to Eat in Puerto Vallarta?
Eating in Puerto Vallarta is an experience you don’t want to miss. There is a lot of reasonable and delicious cuisine. Here is an overview of our favorites restaurants in Puerto Vallarta:
Mariscos El Güero - Mexican, Seafood
We had to visit this place twice during our trip. It’s seafood is flavorful and fresh. This seafood centered restaurant has a welcoming environment. Our waitress’ name was Cecilia and she was awesome. Recommend the ceviche, stuffed marlin taco, shrimp quesadilla, fish tacos, and shrimp tacos. Don’t forget to try all the sauces.
We ordered a lot of food both visits and never paid over $20 USD each time.
If you’re looking for a fancier experience. Gaby’s is a cool place for a romantic dinner. When heading to Gaby’s walk through the neighborhoods for a European feel. All the architecture and hidden corners are worth it. Plus you’ll see a few cute cats along the way. Once in the restaurant, get the table in the corner which gives a view of the beach. They have unique margaritas made with their own house tequila and carry local Mexican craft beers. I tried the passionfruit margarita and the Cayaco beer . I recommend that you start with the plantain empanadas. Our entrees were a burrito and shrimp fajitas.
This was our most expensive meal which was around $45 USD including drinks.
One morning we woke up with the need to start the day with a healthier meal option. I know we were on vacation but you have to listen to your body. Enter The Green Place. A restaurant that if it was in LA everything would be more expensive. Though not one of the cheapest options in Mexico. Everything was affordable and worth it! We got two coffees, overnight oats, peanut butter toast, smoothie, and wellness shot. They even make their own almond milk which is tasty.
The wellness shot was delicious and needed! I’ll return here next time I want a healthy option. I loved having this restaurant as an option in PV.
The total cost for both of our breakfasts with coffee was $15 USD
After walking miles, we stumbled upon this place and didn’t want to check Yelp. We wanted to eat. This place was a gourmet surprise. We were both craving pizza. On top of the excellent service, we had more than enough food (and leftovers!). We started with the Cesar salad and it was crisp. The pizza was flatbread, fresh and unique. I was able to get half and half of two of their most popular pizzas the Basilio (signature) and Vallarta. I recommend both. Our waiter Nico was awesome.
The cost for dinner: $25 USD
My favorite little coffee shop. They sell their own coffee, vanilla flavoring, and agave. I got their Mocha Blanco latte two days in a row. One of the best latte’s I’ve had. I mean hello I got it twice! They take their time and create a delectable cup of coffee. This was a satisfying treat.
Cost for two lattes: $4 USD
La Romantica - Coffee and Churros
For some reason, I thought that I would see a churro stand on every corner while in Puerto Vallarta. Believe me, I walked miles so if there was one I would have found it. We ended up finding this churro cafe. Even though it wasn’t a street food experience it was worth it! They filled my churro fix. I got churros all the dipping sauces and a churro ice cream sandwich. I would go back because it was there when I needed it. Plus it’s a cute little shop with a friendly ambiance.
Cost for Classic Churros, all the sauces and ice cream sandwich: $7 USD
What to do in Puerto Vallarta?
There’s no shortage of activities in Puerto Vallarta. Just a quick walk down the Malecon and you will see deals for tours and tequila tastings. I’m more of a laid back traveler. I like to explore on my own, shop, eat and drink. With the occasional physical work out like hiking or yoga. Here are some activities you can do in Puerto Vallarta if you’re into keeping it chill:
Walk the Malecon while you’re in Puerto Vallarta. Which is easy to access if you're staying in the El Centro, 5 de Diciembre or Zona Romantica areas. It’s a fun area to get a breeze from the ocean and check out some street art. At night they also have food vendors lined up and entertainment. I enjoyed walking up and down the Malecon every day. Tale a walk to El Centro where you can visit the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Which is a gorgeous church that is a Puerto Vallarta landmark.
Bonus Tip: Wednesday evenings they have an art walk.
Colomitos Beach Hike
If you want to do something active, this hike is for you. The Colomitos hike will take you to a small private beach. The starting point of this hike is a small fishing village called Boca de Tomatlan. We took an Uber for about a 45 minutes. Which was nice to see the Southside of Puerto Vallarta. You can also take a taxi or bus to the main starting point of Boca. The Uber cost about $12 USD there and we took a taxi back for the same amount. There are no Ubers in Boca once you're done with the hike. You’ll have to take a taxi back so make sure you have pesos with you.
To start the hike grab some food at the nearby taco stand to take with you. We went to one right near the starting point (don’t know the name). It’s run by a husband/wife it looks like. We got some shrimp tacos and a burrito to go. Then we started the hike. It took about 45 minutes. The beach was a bit crowded with locals and children but it was easy to find a spot and set up a picnic.
We thought it’d be easy to grab a water taxi to leave. But they come in waves. You don’t know how long you’ll be waiting for one. Water taxis are $20 MXN ($1.05 USD) to take you back to Boca. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s a guy that will say he has a boat for $100 MXN. You don’t have to listen to him. You’ll see the water taxis. We ended up hiking back. Which was easier than the hike there. Then grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.
The hike is worth it and adds a good element of activity to your trip. You will have earned the margaritas and tacos after this hike.
Bonus Tip: From Colomitos you can continue to hike to other beaches.
Where to shop in Puerto Vallarta?
Shopping in Puerto Vallarta is everywhere. I suggest to get the best deals you stray away from the Malecon and tourist sections. I did a little bit of shopping on my trip. Here are some of my favorites:
I made the mistake of not packing any flip flops or flat sandal for my trip. When I got to Puerto Vallarta I realized my mistake. I only had wedges and sneakers. Which is great but the sneakers were for hiking so not the cutest outfit accessory.
I researched and found Hurarcheria Fabiola. I vowed to go on the second morning of the trip. Thank goodness I did! These handmade sandals were heaven sent. I didn’t have to break them in. They were comfortable from the start. I was ecstatic. I wore these shoes every day.
They were very friendly inside and helped me make my decision. It was a pleasant experience. I didn’t have to get custom sandals since I fell in love with the ones they had already made. They were $400 MXN ($20 USD) and worth it.
Next time I visit I will be going there again for another pair. This is a great handmade souvenir and unique experience if you want to treat yourself.
La Isla Shopping Mall
When visiting other countries it’s fun to visit their malls. You get to see new stores and what shopping is like there. We went to La Isla which is close to the Marina side of Puerto Vallarta. This store isn’t available in the US but has modern fashion at affordable prices. Plus it’s cool to have clothes you can’t get at home.
Bonus Tip: Make sure to get the Moneyback form. If you spend over $1200 MXN you can get money (8.9%) back.
The best market is the one near the bridge. It’s away from the Malecon area so you’ll find a better deal on souvenirs. I didn’t have enough time on my trip or enough space in my carry on. But next time I’ll take advantage of this market. They have a great selection of gifts to take home.
I loved this trip to Puerto Vallarta. I practiced my Spanish and feel I learned my way around pretty quickly. Next time I hope to explore some new places, eat more sweets and revisit the ones on this list.
TIFFY TRAVEL TIPS
Catch a good flight deal. We booked with Interjet through Expedia and our tickets were $207 each for the round trip.
Ubers are inexpensive and fast to catch. $5 to and from the airport!
Only needed about $200 USD per person in pesos for the trip.
Walk away from the Malecon for great restaurants at affordable prices
Get water and cheap beers at the OXXO (their 7-11)
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