Puerto Vallarta is without a doubt one of my favorite places in Mexico. I have not only lived in Puerto Vallarta but often visit the city for amazing beach getaways!
For first-time visitors though, the only problem with going to Puerto Vallarta is choosing all the amazing activities you want to do. There are a lot of great activities, but many are unknown to visitors.
Luckily, after many visits to Puerto Vallarta, I’ve just about done it all. From ATV tours to exploring nearby beaches, the list of activities I’ve done in Puerto Vallarta just keeps growing.
To help you plan your trip, here are the 34 best things to do in Puerto Vallarta including free activities, cheap activities, and even some really cool and interesting tours!
1. Go to Rhythms of the Night show
The Rhythms of the Night dinner show is the most highly rated show in all of Puerto Vallarta, and therefore, one of the absolute best things to do!
But it is so much more than just a show.
The Rhythms of the Night tour is a full-on evening experience. It starts with a sunset dinner cruise in the Bay of Banderas. On this 1 hour cruise, you can enjoy a drink (or many drinks, as we did) onboard a catamaran while enjoying the famous PV sunset.
During certain times of the year, you may even see whales!
Then, when you arrive at Las Caletas (a private beach), you’ll be seated in the amphitheater to watch the show. The Rhythms of the Night show was actually conceived by the co-founder of Cirque de Soleil, so it is an impressive combination of acrobatics, theatrics, and music and dance. However, it also has a Mexican spin on telling historical legends and stories. Honestly, it’s so impressive, and during some parts, you’ll be on the edge of your seat.
After the show, you’ll be taken to one of the many restaurants on the beach to enjoy a romantic candle-lit buffet dinner. The food is fantastic, and there are cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine on offer. We were very impressed with the dinner.
This is truly an experience unique to Puerto Vallarta and one you shouldn’t miss out on!
Once you arrive at the port, you can upgrade your ticket to “all you can drink” for $10 USD or “VIP” for $40 USD. I myself got the all-you-can-drink package and certainly got plenty of use out of it. The VIP section just gives you closer seats and a fancier restaurant as well as the drink package.
The tour begins with a 7 pm check-in at the port, and we arrived back at around 1 am – it’s a long night but great value for money. In fact, to me, it is one of the best things to do in all of Mexico!
2. Visit Islas Marietas National Park & Hidden Beach
Islas Marietas, or The Marieta Islands, are simply stunning! This is an area of several untouched pristine tiny islands – the perfect place to relax and explore some of the best natural beauty Puerto Vallarta has to offer. Because they are islands, you’ll need a boat to get there and check them all out.
This full-day tour will take you out to the national park, where you will enjoy a fun and relaxing day of traveling on the catamaran, kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkeling.
Some of the highlights are exploring different caverns and archways by kayak or paddleboard and then seeing fish, turtles, and other sea life while snorkeling! You’ll also stop at Majahuitas Beach which is very secluded and tranquil.
If you can, try to book the tour that also visits Hidden Beach (pictured above.) This is by far the highlight for most people but with the new restrictions, not every tour visits. In fact, even tours that advertise a visit to Hidden Beach don’t always get to see the beach.
The specific tour actually visits Hidden Beach and includes snacks, water, and an English-speaking guide. Although there are cheaper options, these DO NOT GUARANTEE a visit to Hidden Beach.
3. Visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is one of the best ways to enjoy the flora and fauna of Puerto Vallarta. The gardens are actually privately owned and were set up to showcase the diversity of the region and to protect it.
I took a trip out to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens for brunch one morning, and I really loved the experience. The entrance to the gardens is 200 pesos ($10 USD) per person, and once in, you can explore the many hiking trails and even enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
My advice is to go in the morning and enjoy breakfast before exploring the gardens. We got to watch hummingbirds and listen to the rainforest with a coffee in hand – it was magical! On top of that, they have personal hummingbird feeders, so we got to watch them eat right from our hands!
Afterward, we grabbed a free map and wandered the gardens checking out gorgeous flowers, vanilla plantations, and interesting trees. It’s the perfect day out for nature lovers.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are located around 30 minutes from the Romantic Zona and 45 minutes from central Puerto Vallarta. You can either get a local bus to the gardens, a taxi, or Uber. From the Romantic Zone, a taxi costs 350 pesos ($17.50 USD).
You can also visit the Bontanical Gardens on this guided tour. For $69 USD you will get a guide, transport to and from the gardens, entrance to the gardens, lunch, as well as a tequila tasting. It is a 6-hour tour and seems like great value if you ask me!
4. Walk the Malecon
The Malecon is the main boardwalk along the ocean in the center of Puerto Vallarta. There are various nice restaurants here but also huge dance nightclubs and famous bars such as Senor Frogs.
Along the Malecon, vendors set up stalls selling everything from street food to souvenirs. There are gorgeous statues and a central square which always seems to boast some sort of celebration.
A walk along the Malecon during sunset is an absolute must-do. It is a vibrant time of day and the sunsets are almost always spectacular!
5. Ride an ATV in the jungle
Going on an ATV tour is always a fun way to spend a couple of hours. But, in Puerto Vallarta, it is even more special as you ride through the jungle and remote villages!
The ATV tour in Puerto Vallarta we did took us along a dirt road that was really muddy in places (it was the wet season.) This made the tour super fun, and we got a little dirty.
Luckily, our tour stopped at the same place “The Predator” with Arnold Swaranegar was filmed. Here we got to have a few beers and enjoy a swim. On the way back, we also got to enjoy a really cool tequila tasting!
You can ride your own ATV (no experience required as the experts will give you a lesson) or, you can go in a pair. Regardless though, riding an ATV in the jungle near Puerto Vallarta is really one of the most exciting things to do!