Best Puerto Vallarta Attractions in 2021
You will be pleased with the wide variety of Puerto Vallarta attractions in 2021 that are ideal for couples, families and groups to enjoy. When you are interested in watersports the Banderas Bay is the perfect place with places such as Boca de Tomatla for a secluded beach to Sayulita which is a favorite with surfers. There are several adrenaline filled adventure parks such as Las Animas Adventure Park and Aquventuras Park as well as skydiving opportunities. When you want to see iconic area of the city then visit Gringo Gulch, Marina Vallarta and Isla del Rio Cuale. For underwater enthusiasts places such as Los Arcos or the Marietas Islands are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. When you just want to take a stroll then try Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk or the Zona Romantica. Other exciting adventures exist in the Sierra Madre Mountains such as the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
Top Puerto Vallarta Activities
Banderas Bay is one of the most intriguing Puerto Vallarta attractions that bring thousands of people yearly to this resort community to enjoy fun in the sun and on the water. Banderas Bay also known as Bahia de Banderas is situated in the Pacific Ocean and is Mexico’s largest bay. Banderas Bay stretches for 42-miles from Punta de Mita in the north to Cape Corrientes in the south and 25-miles of this bay are associated with Puerto Vallarta. The Banderas Bay has seven rivers that flow from the Sierra Madre Mountains and drain into the bay which create ideal conditions for many watersport activities from surfing to snorkeling to scuba diving to deep sea fishing. If you are just looking for quality beach time the Banderas Bay boasts over 44 different beaches along the shoreline. One of the highlights of the bay happens during the winter months when many gray and humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of the bay to calve. Banderas Bay runs along the coastline of both Nayarit and Jalisco offering travelers a wide range of vacation opportunities from lodging to attractions to activities.
Sierra Madre Mountains
When you are ready to get outdoors then the best Puerto Vallarta attraction is to take an excursion in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Located east of Puerto Vallarta the Sierra Madres run northward to the Mexican state of Sonora. The Sierra Madre Mountains hold a tremendous amount of adventure just waiting to be explored. One of the best ways to experience the beauty and ruggedness of the mountain range is to take a horseback ride, drive an ATV or even take a bicycling tour through this vast tropical jungle type environment. There are seven rivers that start in the Sierra Madres that drain into the Banderas Bay and each river system offers superb swimming opportunities as well as beach fun at the mouth of the river. When you are looking for adventure, exploration and a bird’s eye view of Banderas Bay then take an excursion to the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Photo by Melissa Wentarmini
Puerto Vallarta's El Malecon Boardwalk
When you are looking for a perfect place to enjoy a walk while seeing the sights and sounds of the Pacific Ocean then the best Puerto Vallarta attraction for you is Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk. Located along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and Banderas Bay adjacent to downtown, Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk stretches for more than 11-blocks and 80 percent of the boardwalk is dedicated pedestrian traffic only. Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk has been in existence for over 80 years and has always played an important role in the city. While you are strolling along Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk you can watch the marine life in Banderas Bay like dolphins, sea turtles and migrating whales during the winter months. The promenade is lined with unique shopping boutiques and numerous restaurants that feature all types of cuisine from traditional Mexican to seafood to Italian to French. The Voladores de Papantla perform shows daily along the promenade and in the evening this is a prime Puerto Vallarta attraction for party goers. Another exciting reason to visit Puerto Vallarta’s El Malecon Boardwalk is the twelve statues that you can view that range from the Cabalito to Tierra Madre to the Friendship Fountain.
When you are searching for a truly unique Puerto Vallarta attraction that offers secluded beaches, snorkeling and world class scuba diving then you need to plan a trip to the Marietas Islands. Located 5-miles offshore southwest of Punta de Mita, the Marietas Islands were once a bombing area for the Mexican military and are now a protected National Park. During the 1960s Jacque Cousteau convinced the Mexican government to protect this special place which is home to more than 400 species animals on land and in the surrounding ocean waters. Often referred to as the Mexican Galapagos the Marietas Islands are teeming with special places like Hidden Beach which is only accessible during low tide and is the only place on the islands you can go ashore. The Marietas Islands are ancient volcanic formations that jut from the ocean floor with average water depth around the islands between 70 to 110 feet. The coral reefs and the many underwater caves that surround the islands are a superb place for snorkeling as well as scuba diving. Underwater enthusiasts have a tremendous amount of marine life to view from tropical fish to manta rays to sea turtles to migrating whales during the winter months.
Vallarta Botanical Gardens
When you want to view and learn more about the wonderful flora and fauna of the area then a great Puerto Vallarta attraction for you to visit is the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Located 16-miles south of Puerto Vallarta along Highway 200, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens are situated on 20-acres high in the Sierra Madre Mountains along the banks of the Horcones River. Established by Bob Price as an educational research center the Vallarta Botanical Gardens has a vast array of native plant from Mexico which includes over 6,000 plants from some 3,000 different species. There are numerous walking and nature trails that traverse the gardens as well as an abundance of native wildlife including a bird reserve. This popular Puerto Vallarta attraction has an excellent orchid house, a rose garden, an agave garden, tree fern grotto and the palm garden is spectacular as well as a carnivorous plant collection. You can also take a dip in the Horcones River or grab a bite to eat at the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant.
Boca de Tomatlan
When you want to experience a gorgeous beach as well as visit a quiet little fishing village then a superb Puerto Vallarta attraction for you is to plan a trip to Boca de Tomatlan. Located 10-miles south of Puerto Vallarta, Boca de Tomatlan is situated between the Boca Bay, Horcones River as well as the mountains and is accessible by land or water. Boca de Tomatlan exudes a wonderful small village atmosphere that is perfect for a relaxing day. You can enjoy yourself on Caribbean style beaches that feature beachfront restaurants and plenty of tranquility. The main beach at Boca de Tomatlan is located at the mouth of the Boca de Tomatlan River and changes yearly based on the waterflow coming from the Sierra Madres. Also from Boca de Tomatlan you can take a panga (water taxi) to one of the several stunning beaches such as Majahuitas, Quimixto or Las Animas which are located along the southern portion of the Banderas Bay. There are plenty of small shopping boutiques, restaurants and other Puerto Vallarta attractions. The vibe of Boca de Tomatlan will throw you back in time.
Photo by Mark Tyra
When you want to experience a laidback atmosphere then the best Puerto Vallarta attraction for you is to plan a trip to Sayulita. Located 25-miles north of Puerto Vallarta, the small town of Sayulita is an ideal place to relax on soft sand beaches and has been a favorite with surfers since being discovered in the 1960s. Sayulita is often referred to as the Crown Jewel of the Riviera Nayarit and provides excellent surfing conditions with consistent water flowing out from the Sayulita River. The beach area is spectacular for lounging and watching the surfers carve the waves that form within Sayulita Bay. The area has also become a mecca for snorkelers and scuba divers at the Marieta Islands National Park which are volcanic formations that reside a couple of miles offshore. These islands feature numerous caves, grottos and tunnels as well as a tremendous amount of wildlife both on land and underwater. The town of Sayulita is the perfect Puerto Vallarta attraction to experience Mexican culture at its finest with numerous artisan shopping boutiques and several great beachfront restaurants.
When you want to explore the underwater world of the Banderas Bay the best Puerto Vallarta attraction for you to visit is Los Arcos also known as Los Arcos de Mismaloya. Located off the coastline of Puerto Vallarta between Las Gemelas and Mismaloya Beach, Los Arcos is a protected National Marine Park that features a variety of islands and plethora of enjoyment for underwater enthusiasts. You will be thrilled with the wide assortment of underwater features within Los Arcos which include tunnels, caves, coral reefs, grottos and plenty of arches. Scuba divers and snorkelers can spend hours at Los Arcos exploring these various underwater formations that are home to an assortment of marine life from lobsters to angelfish to octopus to clownfish. There are several granite islands within Los Arcos National Marine Park which stand tall in water depths between 30 to 1,600 feet. These granite islands attract a wide variety of bird species from parrots to penguins to pelicans which you can view while sailing or waiting for your turn to explore this magical underwater world.
One of the more popular Puerto Vallarta attractions for you to visit is the Marina Vallarta where you will a wide assortment of activities to keep you busy for the day. Located adjacent to the Puerto Vallarta International just 15-minutes from downtown, the Marina Vallarta is a perfect mixture of pleasures that include a 450 boat slip, a white sand beach as well as great shopping and dining opportunities. The Marina Vallarta has a gorgeous cobblestone boardwalk with swaying palm trees which fronts the Pacific Ocean. Along this stunning promenade you will find several key attractions such as El Faro Lighthouse which boasts panoramic views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. There is also an 18-hole championship golf course as well as a water park for children. Marina Vallarta contains the Marina Vallarta Beach which is a superb place to lounge and the marina is an ideal area to schedule your favorite watersport activity from fishing to snorkeling to whale watching. There is an abundance of shopping and dining choices which allow travelers to relax while enjoying a libation along the Marina Vallarta boardwalk.
Photo by daryl_mitchell
The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
One of the most iconic and beautiful Puerto Vallarta attractions for you to see is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe which is also known as La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. Located adjacent to the main square in downtown, the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a focal point within the city and construction lasted more than 70 years during the 20th century. The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a fascinating building made of pink stone that bears several architectural styles with a neoclassical façade and side towers that have a renaissance accent. The jewel of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the main tower where a wrought iron crown is being held by angels. The crown was fashioned after one worn by Carlota who was a mistress of Emperor Maximillian. Between December 1st and 12th of each year the Church of Our of Guadalupe becomes a festive area with candlelit parades and feast of food. The festivals are a celebration of the meeting between the Virgin of Guadalupe and Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. The festivals attract thousands of people from tourists to worshippers of the Catholic religion.
When you are ready to view one of the more picture perfect neighborhoods then an ideal Puerto Vallarta attraction for you to visit is Gringo Gulch. Located in a historical part of downtown, Gringo Gulch is situated on a hillside from the main square along the north bank of the Cuale River. Gringo Gulch has been a hotspot in the development of tourism for Puerto Vallarta with many famous photographs and paintings of the area which glamourized the city. When the area started to be developed the main style of architecture used in the homes was a Mexican pueblo style with adobe facades, red tiled roofs, stone walls and lots of wrought iron adornments. Gringo Gulch served as the filming site for the famous movie Night of the Iguana. Over the years this part of downtown became very popular with long term expatriates that relocated to Puerto Vallarta including several well-known celebrities such as John Huston, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who have all built houses in the area. Today the area has a vibrant historical character with numerous brightly painted staircases climbing the hillsides to these magnificent homes.
Photo by David Stanley
When you are searching for an area of Puerto Vallarta which exudes the essence of days gone by then the perfect Puerto Vallarta attraction for you is to visit the Zona Romantica or Romantic Zone. Located in the southern portion of Puerto Vallarta, the Zona Romantica is also known as Old Town and is set away from the hotel zone. Zona Romantica can be reached from downtown by crossing south over the Cuale River. This area features cobblestone walkways and streets which are lined with restaurants, shopping boutiques and there is a newly constructed pier on the waterfront. Many of the homes in the area are painted white with red tiled roofs and have picture perfect views of the Banderas Bay. In the evening the Zona Romantica is a hot Puerto Vallarta attraction with several lively cantinas and the weekends also feature an old-fashioned farmers market. If you are looking for a fantastic beach in the area try Playa Los Muertos where you will find plenty of space to lounge and relax near the water.
Photo by James Diggans on Flickr.
When you want to see one of the most iconic landmarks in the city then a superb attraction for you to visit is the Caballito. Located on the Malecon, the Caballito is a beautiful 10-foot tall bronze sculpture of a naked child riding a seahorse. The replica bronze statue was created in 1976 by artist Rafael Zamarripa and located in the Olas Atlas area of town. The Caballito has endured numerous storms and hurricanes but each time the original statue had been miraculously found mostly intact. Today the replica by Rafael Zamarripa has become an emblem for Puerto Vallarta and is situated just steps away from Los Arcos del Malecon. You can also view the original statue that was created in 1960 at one of Puerto Vallarta most gorgeous beaches known as Playa Los Muertos.
Photo by Santiago Almada
Isla del Rio Cuale
When you want to relax in a romantic setting while visiting downtown then the best Puerto Vallarta attraction for you to see is the Isla del Rio Cuale also known as the Cuale River Island. Locate within the Rio Cuale in downtown Puerto Vallarta, the Isla del Rio Cuale was created in 1926 when the Rio Cuale swelled and formed a huge sandbar that forked the river when the water subsided. The Rio Cuale is one of seven rivers that flow from the Sierra Madres into Banderas Bay and separates downtown on the north from the Romantic Zone on the south. The Isla del Rio Cuale is lined with cultural venues such as the Museo Arqueologico del Cuale where you can view archaeological artifacts from the pre-Hispanic time to present and Casa de Cultural where people can attend workshops on dancing, painting, music, sculpturing and singing. The island’s streets feature several hanging bridges that pass over alleyways lending to a more intimate setting. There are a number of shopping, dining and entertainment venues on the Isla del Rio Cuale which makes this area very attractive to tourists as well as local business owners.
Photo by David Stanley
The Museo Historico Naval Puerto Vallarta
When you are interested in learning more about the history of Mexico’s travels at sea from the time of conquest to the modern era then the ideal Puerto Vallarta attraction for is the Museo Historico Naval Puerto Vallarta. Located along the Puerto Vallarta Melacon adjacent to Los Arcos and the Fountain of Friendship, the Museo Historico Naval Puerto Vallarta is situated in a Spanish colonial designed building and highlights the Mexico Navy achievements around the world. There are five specific galleries at the museum which are dedicated to the Expeditions and discoveries of the South Sea; the Union of Two Worlds; Puerto Vallarta and the San Blis Station; Islands and Reef as well as the Armada of Mexico. There are over 150 naval oriented artifacts such as maps, uniforms, weaponry, model ships, historic photographs and paintings as well as a large collection of carabiners are used throughout the museum in fourteen different interactive exhibits. This popular Puerto Vallarta attraction explains the story from early trade with the Philippine Islands to the defense of Puerto Veracruz on April 21, 1914 to the modern activities of the Mexican Navy.
Photo by David Stanley
Las Animas Adventure Park
When you want to combine a thrilling adventure in the jungle with some quality beach time then the perfect Puerto Vallarta attraction for you is the Las Animas Adventure Park. Located just south of the Boca De Tomatlan Pier, the Las Animas Adventure Park is situated in a jungle area directly behind Las Animas Beach which is only accessible by boat. Once you meet your panga or water taxi at the Boca de Tomatlan Pier you will be transported directly to the Las Animas Beach where you will be outfitted with your harness. You will then enter an amazing jungle theme park that includes ziplines, several hanging bridges, a spider web, balance beams and via ferrata. After finishing the adrenaline filled course you can relax on the beautiful beach and play in the warm waters of ocean. There are added bonuses when visiting Las Animas Adventure Park which include a complimentary as well as the spectacular scenery you will view during the boat ride which includes unique rock formations, pristine tropical landscapes and you will probably watch a dolphin or manta ray swim in the Pacific Ocean.
Photo by Andy Blackledge
El Faro Lighthouse
When you are searching for a bird’s eye view of the stunning natural and built environment then the perfect Puerto Vallarta attractions to visit is the El Faro Lighthouse. Located in Marina Vallarta, the El Faro Lighthouse stand majestically over the marina and is easily accessed by the Marina Boardwalk. The El Faro Lighthouse is a 110-foot lighthouse which contains some 100 steps that you must climb to reach the top. Once on top of El Faro Lighthouse you will have commanding views of the Sierra Madre Mountains, downtown Puerto Vallarta and the Pacific Ocean. One of the best times to visit the El Faro Lighthouse is around sunset when you can watch the blue sky turn into a canvass of pastel colors. An added bonus is the El Faro Lighthouse Bar which serves perfect cocktails and offers live music on seven nights of the week in a very romantic setting.
When your family is looking for an extreme water park with added bonuses like swimming with dolphins then the ideal Puerto Vallarta attraction for your family is Aquaventuras Park. Located in Puerto Nuevo Vallarta, Aquaventuras Park is a superb place for families who like to have fun in the water. Aquaventuras Park features ten outstanding waterslides which include the racing style Octopus, extremely curvy Tooth Breaker, the steep Happy Widow and the Flush which includes an incredible jump. You can slide down Hasta La Vista Baby in an inflated tube and land in the slow waters of the 500 plus foot lazy river. Children will be thrilled with their specially designed water playground which contains features such as low speed waterslides, a pirate ship and a paddling pool. Also onsite at Adventuras Park is Dolphin Discovery where families can upgrade to swim with dolphins and everyone can enjoy the wonderful animal shows that boast lovable sea lions. Other activities at Adventuras Park are three thrilling ziplines, a 36-foot climbing wall and a challenging aerial obstacle course. An added bonus to this Puerto Vallarta attraction is a complimentary box lunch which is included in the price of admission.
Act II Entertainment
When you are searching for a variety of entertaining shows that range from musicals to singing to theatrical drama then a perfect Puerto Vallarta attraction for you to visit is Act II Entertainment. Located in the heart of the Romantic Zone within the South Side of Puerto Vallarta, Act II Entertainment is an ideal venue for people of all people. Act II Entertainment contains three separate venues which include a 180-seat theater, a 98-seat cabaret and 60-seat piano lounge. You will be pleased with the variety of performances that place within the venues from singers serenading the crowd in the piano lounge to full blown theatrical performances in the theater to stunning cabaret style shows. Act II Entertainment brings quality entertainment to their stages with performers such as Hedda Lettuce, Casa Valentina, Paul Fracassi and Gabe Arciniega as well as Come Together which is a celebration of the Beetles. Most shows are bi-lingual with more English performances in the high season and during the summer months. Many of the shows are in Spanish which adds a little bit more fun to the evening.