Located along the beautiful sparkling blue Bahía de Banderas with a backdrop of gorgeous, green mountains, Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico's most visited coastal towns. The town and its surrounding areas are visited by millions of tourists each year, many of them via cruise ships along the Pacific. It boasts plenty of things to do, and is perfect for a lazy beach holiday or an active coastal adventure. I traveled to Puerto Vallarta on my Contiki Mexico Grande tour. After sightseeing the huge metropolis of Mexico City and traveling across the country via bus through colorful Guanajuato, Puerto Vallarta was the perfect next stop on our trip. I spent three days here, and it was one of the many highlights of my trip. I'm not one for the lazy beach holiday, but Puerto Vallarta is packed full of adventure and fun if you go looking for it!
Must-have Experiences in Puerto Vallarta
Ziplining across the Mexican Jungle
This was the first time I had ever done a zip-lining adventure - and I was pretty pumped up to do it. We used Vallarta Adventures for our experience through Contiki, and they were really awesome. Our guides and crew were BEYOND FUN! If you are nervous about doing any kind of zip lining like this, these guys will have you laughing so hard, you won't remember to be nervous. Our one day adventure included multiple zip lines, exploring in a UTV and getting to experience Mexico's longest and fastest zip line - The Superman - reaching speeds of 100 kph and over 1,200 m long. An exhilarating and adrenalin pumping experience to say the least!
Go Offroad exploring in a UTV
Part of our day Zip-lining with Vallarta Adventures was an optional UTV driving experience. My awesome trip manager, Abes, opted to come with me as I was a little bit nervous about doing this, but very keen to be adventurous as possible. These Polaris RZR UTVs allow you to test your driving (and adventure) skills on the jungle floor. There are some steep grades, river beds, crazy turns and insane hills to climb and test your limits on. This was a lot of fun, and I had a smile on my face the whole time!
Swim to the Marietas Island
The Marieta Islands are a group of small, uninhabited, islands an hour boat ride away from Puerto Vallarta. The islands were formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity yet were used by the Mexican government for military testing. This has created many caves and interesting rock formations that make it a tourist attraction to many visiting Puerto Vallarta. The islands are now designated as a national park area and only a few tourist companies are allowed to actually let their passengers set foot on certain islands. One of these is the "Hidden Island". A super huge tourist trap, particularly if you are going on a day when a cruise ship is in port, but well worth the fun experience. Also somewhat terrifying in my opinion! After an hour long boat ride, you swim out to this hidden island. Of course, you have to swim through the cave to get there, and if the water is rough or it is high tide, it is kind of nerve wracking. I had visions of cracking my skull open on the cave walls or being sucked in with the other 100 guests waiting to go in. The captain usually makes the decision about whether these experiences are safe on the day or not, and while no one was injured (to my knowledge), I'm not so sure that just about everyone should do this! Either way! The beach is really cool, and it is a unique experience to have. If you are going to go though, try go on a day that is not over-run by cruisers. Afterwards, you are treated to an hour or two of snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and swimming by one of the other islands in the area, and then a hearty lunch and free drink! Again, the staff were incredible and a lot of fun! And also safely dragged me through the cave to get back on the boat while the tide was turning.
Party all night in the Mandala Club
Puerto Vallarta, and Mexico in general, is well known for it's night life. And what's a trip to Mexico if you don't party it up somewhere? Along the Puerto Vallarta Malecón, a party goer can find numerous clubs and bars to enjoy after an adventurous day in this town. Around 10 or 11 pm, this sea side boardwalk, open only to pedestrians, comes alive with partiers from all around the world. One of my personal favorite spots is the Mandala Club. Other than being massive and packed, the front section of the club overlooks the Malecón and is open from floor to ceiling, allowing you to take a breather of fresh ocean air. The music is excellent, and overall, you'd be missing out if you didn't visit this club at least once on your trip to Puerto Vallarta.
DINE AT SUNSET WITH YOUR TOES IN THE SAND
Now, if night clubs, zip lines, and hairy swimming adventures are too adventurous for you, then sipping on cocktails and dining at sunset with your toes in the sand will be right up your ally. My first night in Puerto Vallarta, we had dinner on the beach while the sun went down. This was always something I had wanted to do, so it made my day. We ate at the El Barracuda/Bar Solar where they had set out tables on the beach for our entire group. Surf and turf, margaritas, deserts. Who could ask for more? Perfect first evening and introduction to Puerto Vallarta.
Go Sunset Sailing
Other than the exhilaration of the Zip lines, this had to be my favorite part of my trip in Puerto Vallarta. We boarded a sail boat in the harbor, and sailed across the coastline at sunset. Sipping on our beverages of choice (wine for me), we were also treated to little bento dinner boxes, with delicious edibles. We were visited by a small pod of dolphins that jumped through the water near our sailboat, and then watched the sun go down. The perfect ending to our three day stay in Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta offers way more than just the activities that I did above. It is a great location to unwind and relax, but adventures also await those who care to seek them out. If you are headed to Mexico, you can check the rest of my itinerary out, and also read about my experience with Contiki, where we traveled across the entire country from Mexico City, the colorful UNESCO designated town of Guanajuato, the second capital of Mexico, Guadalajara, the little town of Tequila, and to Merida, Chichen Itza and Cancun.
Have you traveled to Puerto Vallarta before? What did you think? Any activities you would add to this list? What about the rest of Mexico? Tell me in the comments below