Now that people are getting vaccinated and travel locations are opening up to tourists, you might be considering planning some memorable family travel to Puerto Vallarta.
Located in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is a popular spot in 2021 for solo travelers, groups, and families – there’s a bit of something for everyone!
In this article, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide of how to get the full Puerto Vallarta experience if you’re traveling as a family. Alongside the best activities to do with your family in this beautiful destination, we’ll also cover details for traveling during COVID, safety warnings and guidelines, and basic budgets and expenses for your trip to Puerto Vallarta. Are you ready? Let’s start by looking at some top activities during your trip.
Things to do in Puerto Vallarta with kids and family
Puerto Vallarta is a culture-infused city where you can taste cuisine from all around the world, see small lizards on the cobblestone streets, walk easily from one colorful region to another, see beautiful scenic beaches, and even catch a glimpse of humpback whales during the right season.
One of the most visited destinations in this tropical city is of course the warm, bright beaches. Beaches are a great spot to relax while keeping an eye on the little ones.
Make sure you bring a camera or phone to get some photo keepsakes, plus plenty of sunscreen for the whole family. Many beaches will be packed with children.
Mexico has very lenient COVID travel regulations, and no vaccine requirements for tourists (as of September 2021). If you’re concerned, getting fully vaccinated before your trip may help to ease some of your concerns.
Bring swimsuits and plenty of sunscreen for the whole family, and a book for yourself as you lounge under the shade of umbrellas. Most of the popular beaches for tourists will have umbrellas and/or towels for rent- if you’re visiting during hot months it’s recommended as the sand and beaches will get very hot without any shade.
One fun day’s agenda is to picnic on the beach. You can pack a colorful picnic or pick up some food along the way for a day out on the beach with your family that will cover your lunch in an effortless yet memorable way.
Exploring the regions of Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a small, but diverse seaside city, divided into different zones. If you leave the airport and go south, you’ll find the Marina Vallarta, the Hotel Zone, Downtown, Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta), and finally the South Zone.
The Hotel Zone, Downtown, and Romantic zone are popular regions for tourists and there are many local sights to enjoy in each distinct area. These three main regions of Puerto Vallarta are easy to get to by foot and easy to explore together as a family. You definitely want to visit the downtown area and spend some time walking around to get a sense of the area, plus check out some local stores and eats.
Popular landmarks that are perfect for families
The Malecon Boardwalk is one of the central sights and landmarks of Puerto Vallarta. You definitely want to drop by here, as this lively beachside promenade is the central point for many local activities and trails. There are lots of food options (even for picky eaters!), sculptures and shops, artwork, and even street performers. If you’re not looking to buy anything though, you might want to be wary of local vendors trying to sell you souvenirs in the area.
Lazaro Cardenas Park (Tile Park) Lazaro Cardenas is a small park full of colorful mosaics located by the Malecon bridge that is a great resting and relaxing spot. Mixing cement with lush greenery, this is a great midday pit stop for a rest as you adventure through PV with the kids. You can walk around this area overlooking the boats, and buy souvenirs or food at the cluster of stores.
On Saturday mornings there’s a farmers market set up in the park that will make this little urban gem hard to miss. If you have young ones who love boats, take them by the Marina.
The Olas Atlas Farmers Market (in Plaza Lazarro Cardenas) is set up every Saturday- this is a lively and family-friendly experience that engages all five senses! Organic fruits, veggies, artisan crafts, homemade products are all present in stands by local artisans and farmers.
Lix Ice Cream is an all homemade ice cream chain with locations all over town- perfect to stop by with the family for a cold treat on a hot afternoon!
There are delicious restaurants making dishes from all over the world in Puerto Vallarta. We’ve compiled a longer list of recommended restaurants and food places in this Puerto Vallarta top ten resources guide.
For a slow-paced night with a gorgeous sunset view, dine at La Traviata. This restaurant not only serves delicious Italian food, but it also sits on a rooftop with an amazing ocean view (and the dishes are extremely affordable!) Enjoy a moment of downtime with your loved ones as you take in all the scenes and senses at this much-loved restaurant.
Full-day adventures for family travel in Puerto Vallarta
Rhythms of the Night is a highly recommended adventure tour- many say it’s the absolute best tour of the Puerto Vallarta experience! It’s a one-of-a-kind guided adventure tour ending with a night-time acrobatics show over a beach shore dinner. This dinner show is described to be an excursion unlike any other- and you’d be hard-pressed to find an experience like this where the evening begins with a sunset cruise to Las Caletas Island, with picture-perfect details of palm trees, tiki torches, and ocean. The show is written and directed by the co-creator of Cirque du Soleil and celebrates the Aztec creation story.
The Majahuitas Island Pirate Ship experience is bound to be an unforgettable experience for the whole family. Spend the whole day aboard the 700-ton Galleon, exploring the different beach and sea activities during the day and watching the nighttime Pirate show with the whole day of meals included.
If you’re planning on hiking, the Palo Maria (Waterfall) Hike 20 minutes south of downtown will bring you to the first waterfall view in forty minutes to an hour, and there’s a place to swim and take in the sights that the kids will enjoy on a hot day.
Drop by the famous Puerto Vallarta souvenir shop called Mundo de Cristal and take in (or take home!) some of the classic artwork, tiles, and crystals- this is a great place to pick up souvenirs for the relatives back at home.
The Botanical Gardens are another popular attraction, and you can round out the experience by taking the family to Mismolaya Zoo. It’s an interactive zoo, where children can enjoy petting and feeding the animals.
For more adventurous families and older kids, try a ziplining experience at the Zipline Canopy (Canopy River). You can book a whole-family ziplining experience (starting around $89 for adults and $70 for children) featuring 11 zipline circuits, the chance to ride a mule, and a newly built infinity pool. This will definitely be an engaging and exciting way for the family to spend a day and isn’t an experience you can get just anywhere.
ChocoMuseo (Chocolate Museum) is a free museum in Puerto Vallarta dedicated to chocolate! Here, you and your family can learn more about the chocolate history and experience of producing chocolate. They even have workshops on preparing traditional chocolate recipes like mole and hot cocoa.
Outdoor excursions for families
Depending on when you visit PV, expect beaches to be busy in the high season (not sure when the high season is? Check out How to Travel to Puerto Vallarta in 2021 for everything you need to know about this oceanside city). If you want to avoid the more crowded beaches, there are many smaller, beautiful beaches that are slightly more tucked away.
Quimixto is a small fishing town south of Puerto Vallarta.
El Tuito is an authentic colonial village south of Puerto Vallarta with lots of historic buildings and cobblestone streets.
Some of these tropical destinations are only accessible by boat (like Yelapa village or Las Caletas beach.) But for a taxi or even a bus ride, you can also easily get to many scenic and less crowded places if your family wants a break from the hustle and bustle of tourist season.
COVID precautions in Puerto Vallarta
When you’re traveling with family, safety is a top concern and a priority to ensure great memories of the trip for years to come.
CDC breaks down all the comprehensive safety guidelines for travelers going to Mexico here. In regards to COVID-19 safety precautions, Puerto Vallarta is practicing responsible hospitality, with hotel and common areas operating at 66% capacity.
Masks are mandatory for every person in any enclosed premise and also in the general public space. Maintaining six feet of distance is recommended at beaches, and it is also recommended to limit your time to less than three hours in crowded spaces.
Anyone in your family who is over two years old will need to provide documentation of an approved negative COVID test to return back to the United States via air flight.
CityHealth COVID testing site in Downtown Puerto Vallarta will save you hours of time and energy searching for a valid testing site when you’re in Mexico (and save you waiting in line at the airport for your test). You can review the comprehensive CDC order (effective January 26th, 2021) here or read our breakdown of it in Puerto Vallarta COVID Travel Guidelines.
How much does a one-week family vacation to Puerto Vallarta cost?
Family travel to Puerto Vallarta can be surprisingly affordable, especially in comparison to destinations like Cancun or Mexico City.
For a full one-week family trip to Puerto Vallarta (with an average cost for 4 people), you’re looking at a range anywhere from $2,800 to $6,700. This breaks down to about $400 to $1000 per day.
You can definitely find options for a budget vacation that will average out to the $1900 to $4,500 range, where you’d be spending $250 to $650 per day.
Of course, a higher budget vacation will give you more luxury hotel and resort options, and you can expect a higher range, anywhere from $7,500 to $30,000 depending on where you stay and the activities you plan.
Puerto Vallarta itself is a cheap and fun city to spend time in (you definitely don’t need to spend a lot to have a great amount of fun!), but a lot of your vacation budget will be going to flights and rooms. There is a huge range of overnight accommodations for any budget, as low as $20 or under a night for basic budget hostels to $400 and above for 4 or 5-star hotel rooms.
On average, you can expect to spend around $80 to 200 a night for a medium-priced hotel room or vacation rental.
Keep in mind that all these prices will fluctuate depending on the time of year that you travel to Puerto Vallarta. You can refer to our 2021 Puerto Vallarta Directory to take a closer look at different hotel recommendations and popular options. We also have a 25-page digital travel magazine (Puerto Vallarta edition) with all the best (where to eat, where to stay, where to visit…and more!).
Safe family travels!
We hope you enjoyed this 2021 family travel Puerto Vallarta travel guide, created with families in mind! There are so many exciting and one-of-a-kind things to do in this vibrant town, and it will be a trip to remember for years to come. Safe travels and bon voyage.