Puerto Vallarta claims to be the World’s Friendliest City. Once you arrive, there are no questions as to why. Rainbow flags adorn downtown’s most prestigious places. The hospitality here goes above and beyond what I’ve ever imagined. There is a farmer’s market that will delight you with diversity. A beach and mountains that are so close to each other, you’ll find it hard to decide where to spend the day. In Puerto Vallarta, you’ll discover a theater, clubs, beach sports, mountain adventures, botany, Huichol art, and daily mind-blowing pink + purple sunset to soothe and release any stresses collected along the way. Whether it’s fun crowds or quiet hidden nooks, there is a variety of both that’ll cater to whatever mood you are in. Paradise falls short of really describing what this beautiful beach town encompasses.
Above everything, we were blown away by the inclusiveness and diversity found in the people in town. There lies a large population of travelers turned-locals who have found themselves to adopt this town as their home. The community is strong. Even if you are only there for a few, you’ll get a sense for it. It’s inspiring. Although we actually spent nearly a month there (it was hard to leave) it was challenging to narrow down this experience for a 24-hour guide with the exclusion of the obvious “go get a coconut + a tan by the beach.” This is a given, just do it. Remember, when you go, no matter what you decide to do, it will be really really hard to get it wrong. You’ll have a good time, nothing less. But in case you want a place to start, here are a few suggestions on how to spend 24 HOURS TO Puerto Vallarta.
EAT + DRINK
Although our first go-to eatery in Mexico wouldn’t normally be a place with a name in English, Joe Jack’s captivated our taste buds’ from the start when we were invited there for a family dinner last year. This place takes pride in their “bilingual dining” experience through a newspaper-like menu that teaches you basic restaurant survival slang for your stay. We love how they integrate culture in this way. A fun casual fusion of Mexican and international cuisine + cocktails with plenty of vegetarian and pescatarian options for those non-meat eaters. Sit on the upstairs deck for a more eclectic ambiance. And whatever you do, do not skip on their signature Mojitos. Mermaid always included.
Who would’ve thought that the most adorable + affordable studio comes with more luxurious amenities than most hotels? We were stoked to find thoughtful, calming decor in the room. Not pictured: our jaws dropping when we got to the rooftop to discover an oasis built for the perfect chill sesh.
Gym? Check. Pool? Check. Breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta’s downtown, beaches, and mountains? Check, check, check.
All for only around $65 bucks a night and located in the heart of Old Town Puerto Vallarta, just walking distance to everything you could want to discover during your stay. Not bad if you ask us. Our Airbnb host, Lucia was the most darling. She welcomed us with a bottle of wine, fresh flowers, and bug repellent because, mosquitoes are real here (travel tip numero uno). We felt at home every minute spent here – whether spreading out in the studio or lounging on our own private outdoor patio.
Take a few steps across a swinging bridge + land on a cute, tiny island for a stroll. A short and sweet walk through murals, sculptures, shops, and restaurants. Even on the sunniest of days, it’s the perfect spot, thanks to the shade provided by tall surrounding palms and trees. We were most impressed by the art on the walls that we discovered on a few of the abandoned buildings lying on the furthest inland side of the island. Walk east towards the ocean to find higher-end restaurants and artisan shops. This is a great place for souvenirs you won’t be able to resist bringing back home.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a great spot to do it all while surrounded by pure nature. A few easy-to-moderate hikes will take you through a collection of plants native to Mexico. And you might have the chance to run into a jaguar – although very unlikely. (there’s one hanging around and everyone knows it). This place is famous for an extensive collection of orchids, which you must see when you visit. The traditional Mexican restaurant located within the gardens has delicious refreshing cocktails and aguas frescas that will refresh you after a long hike.
TAKE IT TO THE OFF-ROAD
UP THE SIERRA MADRE
If you love adventure, it goes without saying you’ll love a good backcountry road. Lucky you, Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by old caminos that will take you through the smallest pueblos and spit you out to amazing views of the Sierra Madre with amazing food to try along the way. Not fully equipped or confident to lead your own expedition? Book an off-road tour, or rent a vehicle. Pro tip: make sure to download + zoom into your google maps before hit the road.
FIND THEM OFF THE MALECON UNDER THE BRIDGE BY THE RIVER.
You never had the best seafood if you haven’t had it right next to the source. This little changarro is literally on the sand and serves the freshest lunch to the locals nearly every day. Ceviches, shrimp cocktails, tostadas, and oysters or pata de mula in espanol are served for hours by a team of a few men and women who take first-come-first-served orders. Be sure to arrive knowing what to order since there’s no official menu. Not sure on your own? Just ask the people around for some guidance. We recommend the Tostada de Ceviche and the Orden de Pata de Mula. Grab a spot in the sand or BYO blanket if you want to get fancy and dig in.
BASICS BUDGET INCLUDED HERE: $120 PER PERSON
(PARTY OF 2)
Excludes car rental, flights, and airport transportation.
Check out our 5 PRO TIPS FOR TRAVELING IN PUERTO VALLARTA for a few extra insider tips on how to make it easier for you to get outside the grind in Mexico.