The blue, calming waters of Bahía de Banderas… the rolling peaks of the Sierra Madre… the warm light of the overhead sun… these are the delights that await the traveler in Puerto Vallarta. Nestled along the western coast of Jalisco, “PV” takes up just over 500 square miles and boasts a population of 255,000. The resort city is blessed with a climate that is described as luxurious during the late summer months, bringing thousands of visitors to its shores each year.
For Canadians making their inaugural trip, Puerto Vallarta will likely prove to be unforgettable. Make it a trip you won’t regret by getting travel insurance this summer. The people are warm and welcoming; the food is scrumptious; and the entire city seems designed to host fun activities and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s possible to have a great time without a plan. But with a little preparation, you can ensure your vacation in Puerto Vallarta lives up to your expectations.
We’ll get you started with a few recommendations below.
A Guide To Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta
One of the first things you’ll notice as you drive along the coast is the scenery. Puerto Vallarta is filled with natural beauty. Spend some time enjoying the beaches, mountains, and gardens. Keep in mind, the city is also home to a number of art galleries, golf courses, shopping areas, and nightclubs. In short, you’ll have plenty to do in PV with little time to fit everything in. Here are four activities we suggest you put on your list.
#1 – Plan A Day Trip To Bahía de Banderas
Known as the “Bay of Flags,” this stretch of coastline is a great place to go whale-watching, snorkeling, diving, or simply lounging on the sand. The entire bay is more than 60 miles long and hosts stingrays, dolphins, and a network of underwater caves.
Cost of entry: free.
#2 – Visit Zona Romantica
The Romantic Zone is a quaint neighborhood in the south end of PV that offers numerous stores and restaurants, some of which are reputed to be among the best in the city. The area provides a casual glimpse at life in Puerto Vallarta. You’ll find an assortment of small shops, cafes, and other entrepreneurial ventures that add another vibrant tone to the city.
#3 – Go Snorkeling Or Scuba Diving
Although you can enjoy the waters of Puerto Vallarta from afar, it is another experience entirely to enjoy them from below the surface. There are several companies that arrange snorkeling and diving excursions on a near-daily basis. You’ll get a firsthand glimpse at an underwater world filled of tropical fish, colorful coral beds, and mysterious caves.
Cost of entry: plan to pay $40 for snorkeling and $80 for scuba diving. Both are worth the cost.
#4 – Enjoy The Rhythms Of The Night
This is an exciting show organized by Vallarta Adventures. Held in a private hideaway on the beach, the Rhythms Of The Night celebrates Mexico’s history through a dazzling performance of music and dance. Following the show, you’ll be treated to a delicious meal prepared and served under the stars.
Cost of entry: $93.
Where To Go For The Best Cuisine
The foods of Puerto Vallarta are one of the city’s many delights. You’ll find cuisines from around the world prepared by chefs trained in Germany, France, Argentina, and the U.S. With nearly 300 restaurants, there’s a dining experience that can accommodate your culinary cravings at a price that meets your budget.
Visit the Café des Artistes Bistro to enjoy a delicious meal in a romantic setting. Begin with the fried soft shell crab or octopus carpaccio and follow it up with baby lobster tail roasted with herbs. Fans of the Bistro rave about the chocolate fondant and milk caramel crème brûlée for dessert.
Expect to pay $100 or more for a full meal.
If you’re visiting Zona Romántica (see above), take a break from the sightseeing to enjoy an early dinner at the Vista Grill. It’s located in a spot that provides a captivating view of the city during sunset. Start with a roasted pear salad or sea bass and shrimp cakes. Then, move on to the serrano ham and chicken breast roulade or red snapped filet. A lot of people also enjoy the beef filet prepared bellini style. For dessert, try the chocolate sonata.
Plan to pay $60 for the entire experience.
For a quick meal that is easier on the checkbook or credit card, stop by La Taquiza. This is where the locals go for fast, mouth-watering food on a budget. It’s not a romantic setting; plastic chairs and Formica tables are set up in a hole in the wall setting. But the tacos and antojitos (a delicacy filled with grilled meat) are hard to beat for the price.
An entire meal can be enjoyed for $10.
Top-Rated Hotels Along The Coast
You’ll find large, upscale resorts in Puerto Vallarta alongside smaller hotels that offer a quieter atmosphere. You can also reserve a private villa to enjoy your stay with an added level of privacy.
One of the highest-rated hotels is the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa. It’s located near the water and provides easy access to numerous hotspots in the area. Garza Blanca offers 3 restaurants, a full-service spa, and ocean views from the balconies of the guestrooms. An oceanfront room will cost approximately $240 a night at the start of summer (assuming you book your reservation early).
If you’re on a tighter budget, grab a room at the Marriott Casa Magna. It’s located a little further from the water, and offers a family-friendly environment. The resort provides a fitness center, full spa, and a clubhouse for the kids. The guestrooms are adorned with marble bathrooms, balconies, and all the amenities you would expect from a top-notch hotel. Prices range between $140 and $170 a night during June.
Another popular place to stay is the Villa La Estancia Beach Resort. This large resort provides a health club, full-service spa, and multiple restaurants. Each guestroom comes with a balcony. Some of the rooms look out onto the ocean while others look upon the gardens or pool. A single-room suite will cost approximately $340 a night during the summer.
On Foot, By Car, Or Bus: Getting Around Puerto Vallarta
Most people visiting Puerto Vallarta for the first time get around by taxi. It’s convenient because there are plenty of taxis throughout the city. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the drivers charge by the area, not by the distance or time clocked. You’ll notice the taxis lack meters. If you’re concerned about the fare, ask the driver how much it will cost to get to a certain destination (rides to the airport are approximately $10 to $12).
The best way to travel in the city is by bus. It’s a bit less convenient of course, but it’s also far less costly. Keep your ticket readily available at all times on the bus since you may be asked to present it on a moment’s notice. Also, be prepared for a bumpy ride.
You can also rent a car to get around. This is another convenient option, but the convenience comes at a price. Rentals are costly, largely because of insurance. It’s also worth noting that it can be difficult to find parking in many places throughout Puerto Vallarta. So, if you intend to rent a car, do so with the right expectations.
Booking Your Flight To Puerto Vallarta On A Budget
Many travelers who have been to Puerto Vallarta recommend visiting the city between April and June. The weather is gorgeous and the tourist season hasn’t yet gained momentum at that time of year (June is the best month for travelling, in case you are wondering). The good news is that most of the major hubs in Canada host daily flights to the city. That means fares tend to be lower than they are for off-the-beaten-path travel destinations.
Round trip flights from Toronto will cost between $600 and $900. Fares are similar from Vancouver ($650 to $900) and slightly higher from Montreal ($700 to $1,000). Look for special promotions from select airlines to take advantage of reduced rates during certain times of the year.
Most people think of Puerto Vallarta as a mere coastal town that draws lazy travelers looking for sun-soaked days spent on the beach. But the city offers much more. Amidst its mesmerizing, natural beauty, you’ll find an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.