Several years ago I was watching The Real Housewives Of Orange County (total guilty pleasure!) & they went on a girls trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (PV). I’ve wanted to go there ever since. About seven or so months ago I decided that I was going to surprise my husband Lorenzo with a trip there for his 30th birthday. I kept it a surprise (for SIX MONTHS) until his birthday party when he opened his gift & learned that one week later to Puerto Vallarta we would go. Our trip was absolutely incredible! It was the perfect balance of exploring, adventure, romance, relaxation, & culture. I already shared where we stayed while in Puerto Vallarta & today I’m sharing our suggestions on where to go & what to do in this beautiful city.
THE MALECON, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
The most known attraction in Puerto Vallarta is The Malecon, a seaside boardwalk with something for everyone. To one side there are many shops, galleries, nightclubs & restaurants that range from fifty-cent popsicles to hundred-dollar fancy plated meals & everything in between. On the other side is the Pacific Ocean, & perfect sunset views if you time your visit out right. All along the boardwalk are interesting sculptures done by both local & foreign artists. Enjoy a variety of street performances & know that there is a 100% chance that you will be approached to buy a gold chain necklace at some point in time. If you stay in the Romantic Zone, which I HIGHLY suggest, then you’re just a skip & hop away from The Malecon.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
One of Puerto Vallarta’s most famous landmarks is the Church of Our Lady Of Gaudalupe. This Catholic spiritual center is absolutely stunning in architecture & design. You can’t miss the crown top of the building, & when you walk inside, you can expect your breath to be taken away. This church does have mass in both English & Spanish on the weekends, otherwise it’s mostly just filled w tourist taking photos.
BOCA DE TOMATLAN HIKE, BOCA DE TOMATLAN, JALISCO, MX:
Boca De Tomatlan is a small fishing village outside of Puerto Vallarta. Travel there by bus & enjoy lovely scenic views pretty much the entire way there. Once you arrive to Boca De Tomatlan, the locals will kindly help direct you to the start of the hike to Las Animas. The hike is only two-miles long but it will take you at least two hours. Las Animas Beach is the end of the hike & you can either walk the trail back to Boca or you can do what 99% of people do & take a water taxi back. Lorenzo & I never made it all the way to Las Animas. The hike is quite challenging. A lot of it is uphill, rough terrain, & you have to move very slow & careful as you could otherwise fall to your death at just about any point. This trip was in June, aka super hot, & even with lots of water, we were feeling pretty crappy from the heat. Once we got to Colomitos Beach (see more info below), we immediately jumped in the water & decided that would be the end of the journey for us that day. I REALLY hope we can do the entire trail in the future. Despite the moments of being way to hot to enjoy life, it was still a mostly good experience. The hike was challenging, but fun & with gorgeous scenery. I would highly suggest the trail just maybe not in June (& that’s coming from a Floridian).
COLOMITOS BEACH, BOCA DE TOMATLAN, JALISCO, MX:
The halfway point on the Boca to Las Animas hike is the stunning secluded beach, Colomitos. As you approach the beach from above, you look down at gorgeous turquoise water, so picturesque! The beach is quite quaint but it really is lovely. Enjoy a nice swim in the ocean, or lay out & catch some rays. Be aware that there are a bazillion (I don’t think I’m exaggerating) crabs. Just let them be & they should (hopefully) let you be. Sit on their hole & possibly get your ass pinched (just ask my husband, haha). If hiking isn’t your thing, or if I scarred you away from trying to get here in the warmer months, fear not, you can just take a water taxi directly to this beach, yay.
EL PANTEON CEMETERY, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
We took a taxi to the wrong place by accident & ended up stumbling across El Panteon Cemetery. This cemetery is lined with walls covered in calavera murals. The murals are beautiful. As I passed each one I was like, “this is my fav”, “no this is my fav”, “no this”, basically they were all my favorite. I’ve never been one to go to a cemetery for any reason other than for a loved ones funeral. I’ve also always been kind of opposed to taking photos at cemeteries. I felt a bit weird about it, but I decided since I was simply admiring the culture & sure to stay respectful at all times that I would take a few quick photos.
LOS MUERTOS BEACH, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
Of all of the beaches in & around Puerto Vallarta, Los Muertos Beach is the most famous & populated. This beach starts where the south side of The Malecon ends. You’ll find restaurants with outdoor seating just thirty or so yards from the actual ocean. The beach is great for going on a walk, getting some sun, & people watching. If you’re feeling adventurous, this location also offers parasailing. (BTW I had no idea how high parasailers went until I saw it in person on this trip. It literally gave me anxiety just to witness others doing it.) There’s a lovely pier known as Los Muertos Pier which is definitely worth a walk on. It also makes for a perfect sunset watching spot.
LAS AMAPAS BEACH, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
If you head as far South as you can on Los Muertos Beach, you’ll get to a big rock (known as El Pulpito), which kind of looks like a dead end, but it’s not! If you look closely you’ll see a concrete staircase. Take the staircase up the hill & down a dirt path to Las Amapas Beach. Although the concrete staircase is right there, I think most people think it leads to a private residence or something, because this beach stays quite uninhabited. There were a few locals when we arrived, but ninety-percent of our Las Amapas Beach visit was just Lorenzo & I – how nice! The beach is covered with colorful smooth rocks, the view is absolutely beautiful. If you are brave enough to cross more rocks in the ocean, then you can get to another beach called Conchas China. It was high tide during our time at Las Amapas, so we stayed there. It was a great romantic time though, that’s for sure.
SHOP HANDCRAFTED ITEMS, PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MX:
Everyone loves a good souvenir (or two or a dozen) & there are so many beautiful handcrafted pieces available for purchase at local markets & shops. My favorite market is the River Cuale Island Market. There are so many gorgeous pieces of pottery, jewelry, clothing, & more. I think it’s an unwritten rule that everyone who visits Mexico purchase a serape. I am kind of obsessed with throws, I have more than I even want to count, & my new fav is my beautiful serape. It is the traditional style, but in neon colors, so cool! One of my favorite stores aside from the markets is a store called Mundo de Azulejos. It’s a store selling Mexican tiles & other pottery pieces. The works are sooo stunning. I started visualizing my dream home with Mexican tiles everywhere, my dream courtyard, complete with fountain, it’s so incredible in my brain, trust me!
VALLARTA BOTANICAL GARDENS, CABO CORRIENTES, JALISCO, MX:
When I was researching for our trip, I repeatedly read that the Vallarta Botanical Gardens is PV’s most underrated attraction & that it’s a “can’t miss” place. I looked at photos online & while there were some beautiful photos, I wasn’t that impressed, I was honestly kind of scarred it was going to be a waste of our time. We decided to trust the reviews I read & made the bus journey to the gardens. We are SO glad that we did! Vallarta Botanical Gardens was probably both of our favorite parts of our entire trip! The property is twenty-acres, & every square inch of those acres is out-of-this-world beautiful. There are several short trails to hike & gorgeous flowers & plants all around. Many species of birds can be seen at the garden. I saw some of the most colorful & unique looking birds I’ve ever seen. The gardens are home to many species of hummingbirds, some fly all the way from Alaska each year (that’s insane!!). One of the highlights from our visit was having the opportunity to hand-feed the hummingbirds. My eyes literally filled w happy tears & do again just thinking about it. A river, where swimming is allowed is also on site, but we didn’t partake. There’s also a restaurant on site, we did partake, yummy, as well as a gift shop with so many great pieces, you could easily go bankrupt in there. The entrance fee for the gardens is just $150 pesos (approx. $8.50 UDS) – an absolute steal!
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE ANIMALS, EVERYWHERE, LITERALLY LIKE ON THE PLANET:
Puerto Vallarta, like many places has a decent number of stray dogs & cats roaming around. Luckily most of them appeared to be well taken care of so while it was sad, it wasn’t as sad as it could’ve been. If I see an animal, I have to love on it regardless of where I am & who the animal is. Many websites with safety precautions will say, “Don’t drink from the tap, don’t carry a lot of cash on you, don’t touch any animals, etc”, but as Aristotle said, “It is better to have lived & died by rabies than to have never pet a wild animal at all” (*insert wink face*). Spending time with animals is literally my number one favorite thing to do & thus was a definite highlight of our trip.
This was one of those “life-changing” trips for us. We loved Puerto Vallarta so much. There is no doubt that we will go back soon. If PV wasn’t on your “wishlist” before this post, I hope it is now!