Thursday, April 25, 2024

15 Fun And Unique Things to do in Puerto Vallarta


With its vibrant culture, adventurous activities, captivating scenery and welcoming spirit, Puerto Vallarta has won my wanderlusting heart completely over repeated visits. I simply can’t get enough of zipping through jungle canopies, spending sun-drenched days unwinding on sandy beaches, discovering amazing street food haunts or just soaking in the festive atmosphere along the Malecon promenade that defines this Pacific jewel.

Through extensive exploration by land, sea, and air, along with numerous conversations with locals, I’ve discovered marvelous travel treasures beyond the usual tourist paths. Feel free to utilize my valuable insights to curate your own unforgettable Puerto Vallarta experience – brimming with romance, adventure, and ample tequila toasts to Punta Mita sunsets! However, be warned, the allure of affordable luxury vacations may make it hard to bid farewell.

Top Thrills and Adventures in Puerto Vallarta

Adrenaline junkies rejoice! Puerto Vallarta serves up plenty of heart-thumping ways to get your fix beyond just swimming with 20-foot mantas or braving world-famous surf breaks like Los Muertos. Pack your GoPro and sense of daring to capture the action!

1. Jungle Zip lining

Soaring Superman-style on cables through jungle canopies always guarantees an awesome time especially Vallarta Adventures action-packed tours. Their location allows traversing 11 ziplines effortlessly via sturdy harness dangling you high over the glorious Sierra Madre mountains and River Cuale canyon while expert guides educate you on the surrounding ecosystems.

With names like “Jaguar” and “Copper Canyon”, the network whizzes you across suspension bridges, towering platforms and even an underground cave for added thrills. Friendly competition trying to set speed records with my group kept us all laughing between rides. Highly recommend!

2. Off-Road ATV Exploration

Revving powerful ATV quad bikes through the regions rugged backcountry sledgehammered by countless thrilling stream crossings and high-speed dirt trail action easily ranks among my all-time favorite Shore Excursion adventures!

Vallarta Adventures provides everything needed from vehicles to helmet/goggles plus awesome guides escorting riders of all abilities during this wet-and-wild, 5-hour expedition evoking real Outback vibes.

Expert instruction ensures newbies feel comfortable rolling over gnarly tree roots and boulder fields before hitting fast straightaways perfect for whipping up plumes of dust between jungle sections so verdant you’ll swear dinosaurs lurk behind each fern!

3. Parasailing Over Banderas Bay

We saved the super splashy boat-towed parasail outing above the beautiful Bahia de Banderas for my thrill-seeking niece’s visit but honestly I enjoyed the breathtaking views and sheer exhilaration just as much as her!

With budget travel on Puerto Vallarta Parasailing’s courteous staff handling every aspect from harness fitting to controlling perfect take-off/landings, we simply needed to relax floating solo or tandem 500ft high to admire sprawling beaches/hotels along the coastline set against the Sierra Madre mountains.

Non-Touristy Puerto Vallarta Travel Gems

Dodging souvenir shops packed shoulder-to-shoulder with cruisers requires venturing beyond Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone but doing so richly rewards intrepid travelers with wonderfully vibrant sights, sounds and flavors! Here are top offbeat experiences I suggest to fellow wanderlusters:

4. Traditional Rhythms Dinner Cruise

Aboard the lovely Marigalante pirate-themed tall ship, the Rhythms of the Night dinner cruise remains hands-down my PERFECT recommendation for experiencing Puerto Vallarta’s essence from festive folkloric dances to savoring gourmet fare under the stars!

After sailing south past exclusive Punta Mita resorts as the sun sets, we dropped anchor at a gorgeous private cove nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains for an unforgettable evening filled with tropical cocktails, torch-lit buffet feasting on regional cuisine before an incredible performance by the Ballet Folclórico troupe in traditional costumes retelling mystical legends of pre-Hispanic Jalisco state through music, chants and synchronized moves.

Truly a JOYFUL memory seared wonderfully in my mind forever!

5. Marietas Islands Ecological Reserve Kayaking

Accessing the remote Marietas Islands requires several hours boating from Punta Mita but makes for an awesome day escaping Puerto Vallarta crowds.

We booked the islands kayaking eco-tour with Vallarta Adventures taking us to pristine natural settings and even inside the area’s iconic Hidden Beach only accessible swimming through a rock archway.

Paddling the perimeter allowed us to enter caverns with tunnels revealing cliffside blowholes spraying surf upwards like watery geysers! Our guide Mark kept us laughing deep into the trip with tales of super drunk newlyweds accidentally ending up here after boarding the wrong vessel for their reception!

6. Local Farmers Market Food Tour

Meeting passionate cheesemakers, bakers, tamale vendors and plenty more artisans at Puerto Vallarta’s thriving Saturday farmers market through a superb walking food tour rates among the most DELICIOUS ways for tastebudding one’s way into the regional culture!

Our affable guide Manny guided us sampling various salsas, exotic fruits from mangos agua to sweet pepinos plus homemade empanadas and wickedly smooth Mezcals at stalls most passersby simply overlook. Making local connections always resonates while traveling versus generic resort fare.

Top Romantic Experiences in Puerto Vallarta

Beyond action-packed romps, The cheap cities in Puerto Vallarta also allures honeymooners and couples craving quality time soaking up fiery sunsets with chilled champagne, strolling hand-in-hand along the palm-fringed Malecon or experiencing awe indulging marine encounters.

7. Los Arcos Snorkeling and Lunch

Snorkeling amid colorful schooling fish swirling around the massive Los Arcos rock formations before picnicking on secluded Mismaloya Beach with my boyfriend Alex sparkles as one of my most cherished PV memories.

Vallarta Adventures ensured our ultimate comfort every moment of the relaxing outing – providing sizes for perfect wetsuit fits, guiding us to protect the fragile marine ecosystem plus preventing floating tangles around others for best underwater viewing.

Post-snorkel on soft sand, attentive staff unpacked a delicious lunch of shrimp ceviche, chicken mole and tres leches cake paired wonderfully with chilled White Zinfandel as pelicans floated lazily overhead. Utterly romantic!

8. Sunset Sailing Cruise

We saved our final night to embody the magical ambiance Puerto Vallarta infuses so flawlessly. Blooming pinks and fiery oranges over the Sierra Madre mountains visible from the sleek catamaran’s upper deck set an ideal romantic mood made even richer by Amigo Tours’ amazing staff delivering tasty tapas perfectly paired with regional wine varietals between secluded bay swimming stops.

Under moonlight with Sade songs playing softly, my sweetheart surprised me with the perfect ring setting inside a tiny conch shell box discovered after dinner by staff who helped him orchestrate his ingenious stealth proposal right at the best moment! I said YES!!

9. Outdoor Jacuzzi Couples Massage

Allowing skilled massage therapists at my beloved Vidanta Spa to simultaneously melt away knots and tension built up from months of my crazy work schedule proved just the therapy my guy and I required to fully shift gears into relaxation mode for our 10-day respite.

The open-air jungle setting with birds chirping softly and fragrant therapists incorporating indigenous botanicals like orange and sage into their blended oils intensified the sublime experience. Afterwards, we floated blissfully around the hydrotherapy beds letting jets further lull our bodies into delicious tranquility better than any drug!

Best Local Dining and Drinking In Puerto Vallarta

Sampling legit street food, joining cooking classes with abuelitas and knocking back artisanal Mezcals at hole-in-the-wall cantinas tripled my Puerto Vallarta appreciation showing how wonderfully warm hospitality thrives amid less commercialized areas.

10. Local Market Food Tour

Street eats hold a special place in my culinary heart so I insisted my parents join me on the fabulous walking food tour of Puerto Vallarta’s largest farmers market to start their visit on the most delicious foot…and they loved it!

At each vendor our enthusiastic guide treated us to authentic specialties like carnitas, ceviche, churros and more while explaining ingredients and customs. My grandma would’ve cherished the handmade tortillas! We then enjoyed a hands-on cooking class preparing unique salsas and guacamole to finish a mouthwatering excursion.

11. Sierra Madres Brewing Company

When seeking tasty craft beers less touristy than the Malecon, my husband and I discovered this tiny North Shore gem filled with lively locals and transplants inside while mellow deck seating allows whale watching. Their flagship English-style bitter ranks smooth and superb!

Run by an American expat and his wife, the taproom’s limited food menu impresses too – perfectly spiced shrimp tacos, yummy guac/salsa sampler and incredible fish ceviche highlighting the day’s coastal catches. Vibe here is ultra chill for whiling away “manana” hours or continuing lively discussions on what makes PV so magical.

12. Coco Tropical Gastrobar

Classy rooftop setting overlooking the picturesque Cuale River plus globe-spanning fusion cuisine blending Mexican, Asian and European flavors make CocoTropical my #1 pick for fine dining on special occasions! Start with their creamy avocado tempura then try any meat/fish dish wrapped in housemade banana leaves or the decadent flan for dessert. Impeccable!

Extensive cocktail artistery shines too – I always enjoy their “Mango Thai Chili” mixed vodka drink further punctuated by live Bossa Nova guitarists. With candles flickering across linen-covered tables surrounded by green jungle walls, the ambiance oozes pure romance!

Best Areas Near Puerto Vallarta Worth Exploring

Though lazily lounging poolside has its allure, ambitious travelers should also pencil in several superb side trips offering vacation tale upgrades. Just pack binoculars and sense of discovery!

13. Yelapa Waterfall Jungle Trekking

Accessible only by boat, reaching diminutive Yelapa Village provides the perfect escape to lesser-known natural settings for hiking jungle trails leading towards two glorious waterfalls – Cascada Majahua and Cascada Cola de Caballo.

Our guide Juventino educated our group on which plants help treat diabetes or relieve joint pain during the 11⁄2 hour uphill trek before reaching a calmer pool underneath the first falls to recoup before pushing onwards through river crossings and rock tunnels.

Though challenging, making it finally to the spectacular 150ft horse tail falls thundering down proved magical – like discovering Shangri La minus any tourists!

14. Kayaking Day Escape to Quimixto Village

Another charming fishing village reachable only by boat that warrants hours of exploration is Quimixto offering not just gorgeous beaches but also unique thing like kayaking through the estuary for standout wildlife sightings of long-legged birds, colorful geckos and even crocodiles!

I joined a fantastic tour with Vallarta Kayak Adventures taking our group past the main beachfront where pelicans dive like Olympians into waters for fish before venturing up narrow mangrove channels witnessing tiny chachalacas chickens perched curiously to watch us paddle by. Super cool experiencing this very authentic side of Mexico!

15. Surf Town Sayulita Day Trip

Boho-chic surf enclave Sayulita located 45 minutes north from Puerto Vallarta city always delights with it colorful buildings, funky artisan shops, tasty taco stands and lively beachfront surf scene perfect for learning to hang ten!

Horseback riding through lush surrounding jungle or Stand Up Paddleboarding peaceful waters count as bonus activities between bodysurfing sandy bottom waves. Don’t miss tasty shrimp ceviche, uber-fresh tuna tostadas and regional craft brews at Don Pedros right on the main plaza!

Last Bit of Puerto Vallarta Travel Advice

Aiming to keep your travels smooth plus appreciate this paradise responsibly? Take these tips to heart:

When to come: December-March tend to be driest weather-wise if hot crowd-wise. I prefer shoulder seasons April/May and October for thinner tourist density with less intense heat/humidity

Water precautions: Only drink bottled water and ask restaurants if fruits/veggies are washed in purified . Street food rarely upsets my stomach but Pepto tablets provide peace of mind!

Money matters: Carry smaller bills for transactions since change can be limited plus notify your bank of travel dates to prevent frozen accounts even on debit cards. Using ATMs in busy areas adds security.

Staying safe: Use hotel safes, avoid wearing flashy jewelry and only take licensed taxi transports like red/white striped cars versus random cabbies offering rides on street. Uber works very well here.

Respect goes far: Learning basic Spanish phrases shows good intent while refraining from haggling too hardhandedly keeps positive shopping exchanges

Reduce your footprint: Conserving water, not littering and supporting eco-conscious tour companies benefits locals who cherish PV as much as visitors

Hopefully these insights from my wanderlusting heart inspire you to discover your own magic within gorgeous Puerto Vallarta on a trip matching wonderfully unique tastes, top sightseeing, relaxation and culture together in perfect harmony that keeps luring me back! Feel free to comment with any other great experiences to share with fellow travelers. We’re all one big global family after all!

Leona D. Hansard
Leona D. Hansard
Leona D. Hansard is not just a travel writer; she's a storyteller weaving adventures through her words. With a passport in one hand and a pen in the other, Leona explores the world, capturing the essence of each destination with vivid descriptions and immersive narratives. Her passion for travel is matched only by her love for discovering hidden gems and sharing them with fellow wanderers

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