One of Mexico’s most enchanting coastal destinations, Puerto Vallarta has been a jet-setter destination since the 1960s – thanks in part to John Huston’s sultry drama iguana night, which helped put the then sleepy region on the map. It’s easy to see why so many people fall in love: beautiful beaches, a thriving culinary scene and vibrant nightlife are just some of the reasons to book a getaway. You will also find attractive outdoor activities ranging from kayaking and surfing to horseback riding and mountain biking.
Where to stay
Options are extensive in Puerto Vallarta, with upscale boutique hotels, beach resorts, and budget guesthouses. Prices are highest from December to April.
Best Hotel: Marriott Puerto Vallarta
Located on a beautiful stretch of beachfront, the Marriott has all the features you’d expect from one of Puerto Vallarta’s top resorts. Lush grounds, an ocean-view infinity pool, a luxurious full-service spa (the largest in town at 22,000 square feet), a swim-up bar where you can sip cocktails poolside swimming pool are just some of the noted features. Freshly renovated at a cost of $20 million, the 433 rooms have a contemporary and welcoming style and most offer views of the ocean or the swimming pool. There are four restaurants here, two bars, and plenty of activities on offer — from tequila tastings to guided tours of the hotel’s sea turtle sanctuary.
Best Location: Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta
Perched between the golden sands and the picturesque marina, The Westin boasts an enviable location and beautifully landscaped gardens where guests can feel immersed in the tropical surroundings. Two huge swimming pools bordered by palm trees (including one with a swim-up bar), a spa, a fitness center and three tennis courts mean you’ll have plenty of distractions at your fingertips. The Westin is popular with families and has an indoor kids’ club with craft activities. The spacious, modern rooms are well-equipped, all with balconies and separate baths and showers.
Best Budget Option: Hotel Galeria Belmar
One of the best budget options in Puerto Vallarta, Hotel Galería Belmar has 30 rooms, each uniquely decorated with paintings and other artwork by different artists. The best rooms have small balconies and many have kitchenettes. Staff deserve high marks for friendliness, though location is the Belmar’s best feature. Located in the heart of the lively Zona Romántica district, the hotel is within walking distance of restaurants, cafes and bars. The beach is also nearby (a ten-minute walk west).
Where to eat
No need to go far to find Mexican cuisine in Puerto Vallarta. The city that loves to eat, whether munching on street tacos in the Zona Centro or lingering over a multi-course meal while admiring the view in a beachfront dining room. of restaurants can be found in the Zona Romántica.
Best street food: Tacos Revolución
Competition is fierce when it comes to the best tacos in Puerto Vallarta, but this revolutionary-themed spot one block from the Malecón is a serious contender. You’ll find all the classic options: Tender asada (grilled beef), al pastor (pork) and chorizo (spicy sausage) as well as fish and shrimp tacos, plus half a dozen vegetarian options — try the Revolución Veggie, with mushrooms, roasted onions, nopalitos (cactus strips) and grilled cheese.
Best for Classic Mexican: El Mole de Jovita
A longtime favorite among discerning foodies is El Mole de Jovita, a simple family restaurant in the Zona Romántica. The art-filled interior is a perfect setting to enjoy grilled chicken, enchiladas or chiles rellenos, smothered in mole (a rich sauce with spices and hints of chocolate). There’s also outdoor seating on the sidewalk, perfect for admiring the passing street scene.
Best gourmet restaurant: Tintoque
On the edge of the Río Cuale, Tintoque has been ranked for three years among the best restaurants in Mexico by the Guía de México Gastronómico. Puerto Vallarta-born young chef Joel Ornelas worked in renowned restaurants around the world (including Martín Berasategui’s three-star Michelin restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain) before returning to his hometown to open this famous space of restoration in 2016. You will find regional dishes recipes with a creative twist, with menu options changing daily. The tasting menu is the way to go – and best enjoyed at a table on the terrace overlooking the river.
Puerto Vallarta has plenty of options for going to the beach. The centrally located Playa de los Muertos, just south of the Zona Romántica, is a great spot for some beach action, but you’ll find the best beaches a bit outside of town. Playa Palmares, about four miles south of the center, has white sand and calm waters ideal for swimming. While more remote beaches like Playa Las Animas and Yelapa can only be reached by water taxi. Another way to experience the water is to snorkel and dive amid stingrays, tropical fish, and brightly colored coral. You can also take sunset cruises, explore the scenic Islas Marietas on a boat tour, or go whale watching.
Vallarta Botanical Garden
When you need a break from the beach, head to Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens. On a hill, about 16 miles south of town, this 64-acre stretch is teeming with orchids, bromeliads, wild palms, cacti, and lily ponds. You can often spot hummingbirds and other bird species along nature trails. You can also swim in the river here (don’t forget your wetsuit).