This post was last updated January 15th, 2024
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Puerto Vallarta is one city in Mexico that you don’t want to miss! With tropical temperatures inviting tourists to visit year-round, the city is nestled in between the Sierra Madre mountains and beautiful Banderas Bay, giving us breathtaking views. Every year millions of people go to Puerto Vallarta to explore the rivers in the jungle, walk the Malecon, snorkel the blue waters, and taste the authentic Mexican food. With so much to get up to, here’s what you really need to know before you go to Puerto Vallarta.
What You Need To Know Before You Go To Puerto Vallarta
I spent one blissful week in Puerto Vallarta, and have been dreaming of returning ever since. You could spend one week here, one month, 6 months, 1 year… plenty of people visit the city and end up moving right back!
With plenty of coworking spaces, more and more digital nomads are basing themselves in this city.
I visited on a one week vacation, but could easily see myself spending a significant amount of time here. This is a city that is easy to be in; there are taxis galore, Uber is available, beach clubs, loads of bars, restaurants, night clubs, entertainment, the list goes on.
Here is everything that I wish I had known before going to Puerto Vallarta, from the average weather, to the different zones (neighborhoods).
Table of Contents
Is it safe to visit Puerto Vallarta?
First things first, is Puerto Vallarta safe? Short answer is YES. Longer answer can be found in this post here.
The high season takes place from October to April, with thousands of people escaping the cold Northern temperatures.
During high season you can expect dry days with temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is also the time for whale watching! From the months of December to May, Humpback whales migrate to Puerto Vallarta to breed and raise their calves in the warm water of Banderas Bay. Hiking is a popular activity during the high season, so don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes!
The best time to visit is between April and June. During this time you will have a bit hotter weather and far less tourists than October to December.
The off season is from July to September, when soaring temperatures reach an average high of 90F in July! This is the best time to hide away inside with an air conditioner.
I personally found it to be very easy to get around Puerto Vallarta!
The cheapest option is of course the bus. I found this article on Visit Vallarta to be the best resource for using the public transit in the city, as it can often be overwhelming to use the bus in a foreign city.
There are also plenty of taxis everywhere. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in; the drivers will try to overcharge you if not.
Where To Stay In Puerto Vallarta
I stayed in the Marina Zone, spending 3 nights at The Westin and 3 nights at The Marriott.
Personally I really enjoyed staying in the Marina Zone. We were close to the airport, a short taxi ride away from the Malecon, had fantastic restaurants, and was a lively, clean area to stay.
Next time though, I would love to expand my horizons a bit and stay in a new area.
Whenever I travel and need to find a place to stay, I start with a visit to Booking.com.
Which areas should you stay in Puerto Vallarta? I would vote Zona Romantica, the Hotel Zone, Conchas Chinas for a romantic experience, or downtown.
If you like to take day tours while traveling then you are very much in luck if you go to Puerto Vallarta!
I took an ATV tour with Estigo Tours that will forever be one of my favorite days ever lived. We went to see where parts of the movie Predator were filmed, ate amazing nachos, rode ATV’s throughout the city and surrounding areas. It was everything I needed at that time. Sitting on the back of the ATV was really freeing. I was very happy to let my partner drive that day and just enjoy the experience on the back.
Here is my post on this excursion detailing my experience!
A tour that is one of the most popular tours to embark on in Puerto Vallarta is the Rhythms of The Night Cruise & Dinner show. I didn’t do this because I enjoyed nothing more than spending my evenings in the near empty pool, watching the lights of the town, but I have heard rave reviews of this!
How nice does a cooking class sound? I have always wanted to do a class like this where you’re paired with a local, go to a market and cook the local food purchased together. Mexican food is one of my favorites, so I think this tour sounds really nice!
This sunset sailing cruise in Banderas Bay sounds very romantic and relaxing!
If you’re interested in whale watching, Puerto Vallarta is a great place to see humpback whales as they migrate to give birth in Banderas Bay. Come from December to March, but the best months to see the whales are January and February!
If you enjoy snorkeling, then explore two beautiful coves on this day tour of Yelapa and Majahuitas.
Let’s start with the most popular Puerto Vallarta Zone, Zona Romantica, also known as the gay neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta. This is the most happening neighborhood to be in, with endless bars, gay clubs, beach clubs, and restaurants (lots of vegan and vegetarian options will be found here!). Locals and tourists alike flock here, not just for the endless entertainment, but this zone is so walkable!
Another part of the romantic zone is Old Town, also known as Centro. This area is divided in two, half being the Zona Romantica to the South, and the other being Old Town, which is just North of 5 de Deciembre.
In Old Town is where you’ll find the Malecon, aka the most popular thing to do in Puerto Vallarta. Along with walking the Malecon, you can also stop into art galleries, check out the Guadalupe Church, and hit up some touristy shops.
For a more authentic Puerto Vallarta feel, head to 5 de Diciembre. Just North of the heart of the city, this very hilly neighborhood is popular for long term digital nomads and locals, and due to the climb, has excellent views of the city. There isn’t much to DO here, but there are plenty of food options! Here you’re a close walk to both Zona Romantica and Centro Zone, giving you the best of both worlds.
This area is where you start to see some of the bigger hotels, lots of shops, fine dining restaurants, and great bars. Located a quick 5 minute drive to the airport and 15 minute drive downtown, this zone is the perfect location for a stay in Puerto Vallarta. Every Thursday evening from October to May there is a market along the waterfront.
Tip: Go eat at Cafe Tacuba, or Victor’s Place! It’s located right on the water, the food is the best I have ever eaten, and the owners are SO friendly.
For those looking for all of the big resorts look no further than the North Hotel Zone. Here you’ll find the all inclusive resorts. This is a great area to stay in if you want the ease of the resort and all of the amenities nearby. Since this is where the cruise ship terminal is, you can expect to see large cruise ships letting off passengers during high season here.
Another up and coming neighborhood would have to be Versalles. It’s quieter here than some other areas, and as such is a great area for digital nomads due to the coworking spaces, good Wi-Fi, and cafes to work in. It’s a quick 5 minute drive to popular Romantica Zone, or, alternatively, 5 minutes to the beach. If you’re wanting to base yourself in Puerto Vallarta for work, this would be a great choice.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head a bit further to the Amapas Zone. There isn’t much to do here, but it’s close to the Romantic Zone, steps from Los Muertos beach, and has beautiful views of the mountains!
Want to be even further than Amapas? Check out Conchas Chinas. This area is really only a several minute drive from downtown, but here you’re in between the lush jungle and the Pacific coastline. This is the perfect place to escape into nature, there’s mountains, jungle, a beautiful beach unlike the others of Puerto Vallarta, and waterfalls!
South of Conchas Chinas is the South Hotel Zone. It’s the zone with the least people, but still close to some attractions, such as the Botanical Gardens. Here you’ll find all inclusive resorts with the best views. There aren’t many places to go to eat or drink, so you’d have to either stay at your resort or take a taxi to one of the busier zones, but this sounds perfect to me!
From The Airport
My biggest airport tip that you need to know when you go to Puerto Vallarta is to ignore everyone who tries to talk to you at the airport! They are trying to sell you timeshares.
Instead go outside. You can use the airport WIFI to order an Uber. Since Ubers aren’t allowed inside the airport, you’ll have to cross the street to be picked up. To cross you’ll need to take a left once you leave the airport, then one more left at the end of the building. From here you cross a bridge, and are across to await your Uber!
Or you can overspend on a taxi at the airport. Hey, sometimes it’s worth it.
Things To Do When You Go To Puerto Vallarta
I have a whole blog post dedicated to the 25 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta, but I’ll give you a few fun examples!
Take a Zip Line and ATV combo Tour!
Snorkel Islas Marietas.
Take a day trip to Sayulita or San Pancho (or both!).
Take a taco tour!
And here are 12 beautiful photos to inspire you to visit Puerto Vallarta!
Do you need to speak Spanish? No.
Puerto Vallarta is a tourist destination, so most of the locals speak English. They’re used to visitors not speaking Spanish.
However, I always recommend learning a few key phrases to help you get around. Not only is it good for you to know, but really shows locals that you’re making an effort for them, which they will surely appreciate.
I’m currently using Duolingo to learn Spanish and I am loving it!
Key Phrases to know in Puerto Vallarta
Hola – Hello
Como Estas – How are you?
Mucho Gusto – Nice to meet you
Buenos Dias – Good morning
Buenas noches – Good night
Me llamo – My name is
Yo soy – I am
Por Favor – Please
Gracias – Thank you
Disculpa, Donde esta el bano? – Excuse me, where is the bathroom?
Vegan Options? Yup.
There are plenty of vegan options, it’s amazing! From purely vegan restaurants to lovely locals making something special just for you, you will not go hungry if you are a vegan in Puerto Vallarta!
Probably the gay mecca of the world, and most definitely of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is actually known as a gay city, so if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you can feel safe in Puerto Vallarta. There are a plethora of gay bars, hotels, and events in the city.
Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta
- San Pancho
- Las Caletas (need to take a tour here)
Is Puerto Vallarta Touristy? Oh Yes! But that’s what makes it so easy to visit!
Yes, absolutely Puerto Vallarta is touristy. It is a resort city after all! But there is a huge backpacker and expat scene, so it isn’t just filled with tourists. Also, I met quite a few people living in Puerto Vallarta who told me they first came as a tourist, and made the permanent move back.
Here are 8 things that surprised me about this popular Mexican destination.
I hope that this post on what you need to know before you go to Puerto Vallarta helps you have an incredible time on your trip, or if you’re just interested in Puerto Vallarta, has inspired you to go! It is such a special place, I cannot wait to go back!
This page contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through my link I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you!
Have you ever been to Puerto Vallarta?
Which Zone would you prefer to stay in?
What tips do you think you need to know before you go to Puerto Vallarta?