2021 Comprehensive Travel Guide to Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta in Mexico is a gorgeous travel destination that is surging in popularity in 2021, and we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for singles traveling to Puerto Vallarta. We’ll cover what to pack and wear, how to get around, basic safety guidelines, and leave you with some week-long plans for different budget brackets. Beaches, martinis, and summer relaxation are on the top of your mind, and after such a stressful year- why shouldn’t they be? Let’s go!

Puerto Vallarta travel safety

Here are some common-sense best practices that we might need a refresher on as our passports have been collecting dust for the past year.

The state of Jalisco is very safe (one of the safer destinations in Mexico) however, it’s still good to exercise common sense. As long as you stick to places with people and try to limit more of your activity to the day, safety shouldn’t be an issue. Make sure you don’t fall for any petty crimes directed at tourists- use trusted resources when booking hotels, transportations, and rentals. Make sure to keep your valuables with you at all times (try not to fall asleep at the beach with your stuff scattered all around you!). 

COVID safety

To learn more about CDC COVID guidelines that you will need to be aware of traveling to and from Mexico, you can read our Puerto Vallarta COVID guidelines. You will need an approved negative COVID-19 result documentation from a test taken within three days of your departure to return to the United States.

If you’re looking for a convenient and reliable testing site for your return documentation and COVID approval, you can schedule an appointment at our new CityHealth downtown Puerto Vallarta Covid19 testing site.

Cityhealth Puerto Vallarta Biomedical Covid Testing Center

 

Low budget activities in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is one of the more reasonably-priced travel destinations in Mexico and there’s definitely plenty you can do without even having to reach for your wallet.

The three main “zones” in Puerto Vallarta- the Hotel Zone, Romantic Zone, and Downtown Zone- are all very walkable- about ten to twenty minutes on foot. In each zone, there’s plenty to explore and many colorful and local sights to see.  You can take your time walking around the city, taking gorgeous and colorful photos for your memories on social media. 

Sample travel itinerary

All things considered, a two-week trip for a single person will average about $1000.

With a lower budget, there are still many, many exciting sights (most are even free!) to explore. Puerto Vallarta is a town full of character and art, yummy food, and of course warm beaches perfect for a variety of water activities.

If you enjoy art, visit Galleria Dante, Puerto Vallarta’s largest art gallery, representing more than 60 local artists. This gallery is sure to give you an eye-opening and memorable cultural art experience.

A recommended bar for tourists is Mezcal Y Sal. They have colorful and delicious cocktails, paired with small bitesize treats at a reasonable price. This place is already becoming popular and a great stop to meet some other travelers. 

Hiking in Puerto Vallarta

Hiking is a low-budget and worthwhile activity, where you can take the journey to see some beautiful sights for free. Many hikes have different stopping points and difficulties, so there’s an option for everyone. For more experienced adventurers who are looking to climb to the top, there are plenty of more challenging options as well. 

The Mirador Dela Cruz viewpoint hike is said to be one of the prettiest in the region. You can follow Abasalo street, starting from the Malecon all the way up to see a sprawling view of Puerto Vallarta. Cerro de la Cruz is a local viewpoint on this hike that you’ll probably see as a backdrop in many photos and vlogs. This local hike takes about 40 minutes (mix a playlist and do some internal soul searching as you’re hiking up to the city viewpoint!)

The Santa Maria Waterfall Hike starts at the Palo Maria bridge, about 20 minutes from downtown. There are multiple cascades along the hike (the second cascade has a great natural pool to take a break at), increasing in difficulty as you go up. This is a beautiful and adventurous hike that is highly recommended if you enjoy hiking.

Be careful- only hike to where you’re comfortable continuing. Some of the upper paths can be steep and difficult (with ropes, cables, pipes, and other obstacles), so don’t push yourself if you’re not an experienced hiker.   

Best beaches to visit in Puerto Vallarta

Of course, beaches are one of the most obvious (and stunning!) reasons to visit Puerto Vallarta. There are plenty of beaches, some that are easy to find and popular for tourists, and some that will take a bit more navigation and traveling to get to for quieter and less crowded beach fronts.

Playa Conchas Chinas is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta, and it is around a ten-minute drive from downtown. There is a charge to visit beaches ($10), and many places will have COVID curfews (beaches close at 5 PM). 

Los Muertos Beach is another one of the popular beaches, located close to downtown and only a short walk from the Malecon beachside promenade. There are plenty of local surrounding shops, restaurants, and bars in the area. 

Playa Camarones (Camarones beach) is located in the Downtown area, also offering chairs and umbrellas for rental. There are walking vendors, bars, and restaurants all across the area, and it’s definitely somewhere fun that you can post up with new travel friends or by yourself for an afternoon. 

Beach activities

The Playa de Oro beach is located in the Hotel Zone of Puerto Vallarta, with clean waters and an array of facilities. You can find many different water activities at Playa de Oro, and it’s perfect for a day that you want to stick close to your hotel. For upwards of $50, you can enjoy a snorkeling trip as well. 

Parasailing is also a unique experience that you can check off your bucket list in Puerto Vallarta. You can experience parasailing and get an aerial view of Puerto Vallarta at prices starting from $60. 

For a few hundred dollars, you can try out some scuba diving explorations and classes. There are so many different options to choose from- some more water activity options are kayaking, scuba diving, jet-skiing, and sunset cruises. For a summary of some awesome nature experiences in Puerto Vallarta, check out our Top Ten Recommendations for Puerto Vallarta.

Higher budget activities in Puerto Vallarta

If you’re planning to travel to Puerto Vallarta on a higher budget, there are plenty of all-inclusive hotels and Airbnbs that have varying facilities to offer, as you’ll have a wider range of choices for hotels and resorts if you’re planning to travel on a larger budget. And of course, with food being another fantastic avenue of the experience, you can dine at some memorable venues. 

Once you’ve had your share of Vallarta-style ceviches, you can also explore other restaurants and dining experiences and quickly taste for yourself that the city is a melting pot of international cuisine. 

For a memorable dining experience, try a meal at the monochromatic restaurant La Leche. The super unique and gorgeous interior, mobile menu, and bartender all work together to bring focus to your dinner courses. 

la leche plate of desserts

 

Monzon is an artisanal craft brewery with amazing food and delicious drinks. They donate to local charities as well, making it a much-loved spot for socially-conscious tourists. 

Try the expensive but very delicious food served alongside tequila at the Rancho Verana Tequila Distillery, where Don Chendo tequila is made! A tour here gives you a beautiful ranch experience, an array of tequila sampling, and a crash course on tequila by enthusiastic tour guides. 

You can head over to any of Puerto Vallarta’s spas and enjoy a relaxing day of massages and self-care, often with beautiful ocean views or even directly on the beach outdoors. You can book a private whale watching tour or book out a yacht experience for your group.

Most of the nightlife is centered around the Malecon boardwalks and is a very LGBTQ-friendly community. Some hotels recommended by locals and tourists are Flamingo Vallarta, Grand Miramar (a little outside of the city, but with great views), and Hotel Mousai which will be a pricier option. You will find many more hotels spread out across the Hotel Zone. 

Booking your stay via Airbnb accommodations is also a great option and is loved by many tourists. There are mansion-style Airbnbs in Puerto Vallarta that have chef cooking and house-cleaning included in the rent fee- almost like an all-inclusive feel but a little more personal. That’s another unique experience that you can look into while planning your trip.

How to dress in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is warm and humid most of the year.

For nighttime activities on the water, you may want to bring a sweater or light jacket to be on the safe side. Bring a mix of clothes for exploring and hiking around during the day, but some dressier clothes for exploring the different dining and nightlife venues. White clothes or colorful shirts will look amazing with the colorful streets of the city. 

You can use this 10-day weather forecast to track the different weather forecasts for your vacation.

If you’re traveling to PV in the spring and summer seasons, you generally can’t go wrong with shorts, a pair of long pants, exercise clothes if you’re looking to squeeze in some quick beach-side workouts, flip flops or other sandals (Birkenstocks, anybody?), sunglasses, a handful of tank tops and shirts (tip: get short sleeves that cover your shoulders for maximum sun protection if you don’t want to be constantly reapplying sunscreen).

Pack shoes that you know are comfortable for walking long distances and on different types of surfaces. 

What to pack for Puerto Vallarta

Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen! Caring for your skin health begins with SPF, and a week of exploring the beaches of Puerto Vallarta calls for sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen.

Water shoes can be a good idea if you’re planning to do a lot of water activities or if you have sensitive feet. Having a low-maintenance day bag to carry around with you as you explore the city during the day is a good idea- bring a water bottle, some extra sunscreen, and a swimsuit.

A coin purse is good to keep your cash and change organized. You can bring multiple swimsuits if you plan on doing a lot of water activities during your trip as you might not have enough time to dry off your suit in between.  

How to get around Puerto Vallarta

Many locals will speak English, so it is relatively easy to get around and ask for directions if you need help.

By bus

Buses are cheap and fairly straightforward. The buses can take you out of Puerto Vallarta on trips to nearby regions if you want to check out some of the many beaches tucked away on the outskirts of the main city. 

On foot

Another awesome thing about this destination is that Puerto Vallarta is an extremely walkable town! Walking around and taking in all the little details of the surrounding is a great way to explore and run into new sights. 

By car

Rent a car if it’s in your budget (prices can vary by month) but keep in mind that in all of Mexico, you need 3rd party insurance (personal liability insurance). There are also Uber and taxi options available throughout the city that can also take you out of the city to nearby regions as well. 

What souvenirs to buy in Puerto Vallarta

It’s always fun to take back a piece of the exciting destinations you’ve traveled to.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, chocolate is one popular specialty of Puerto Vallarta and many tourists will buy handmade and artisan chocolates of different flavors and varieties to bring home.

If you have room in your suitcase, hand-blown glass or Talavera pottery is a good souvenir reflective of all the stunning glassware in Puerto Vallarta. Mundo de Cristal is a popular store for this. 

For a unique and wearable souvenir, consider picking some artisan jewelry from local designers. Tequila, vanilla, and coffee are all souvenirs that will instantly take you back to the flavor of this lively city. 

Sample weeklong itinerary for Puerto Vallarta

Take a few full-day excursions, and spend an afternoon or two doing water activities. 

To round out your day, try some landmark dining experiences around Puerto Vallarta for a delicious dinner.

Leave a day or two to explore by foot, walking through the different regions of Puerto Vallarta, and even trying some different hikes to get to viewpoints. 

Soak up the sun on the beautiful beaches during the daytime, and stroll through the city in the afternoon. On more relaxed days, you can explore the nightlife scene.

 

If you’re traveling with family and/or kids, here’s a family-tailored travel guide for this beautiful town! For a list of extended resources and accommodations with suggested restaurants, hotels, and activities, visit our top ten recommendations for things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Thanks so much for reading this Puerto Vallarta travel guide for 2021 travelers. Hopefully, you got some ideas and inspiration for your upcoming trip. We’d love to see pictures of any of these sites that you end up visiting. Just tag @gocityhealth or use the hashtag #cityhealthpassport. Bon voyage!

 

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Enjoy your trip to Puerto Vallarta!