While most of us think of Puerto Vallarta as a city of all-inclusive resorts and beaches, there is way more to this charming seaside destination. Whether you crave adventure, want to shop till you drop, live like a local or just explore, there are plenty of free things to check out during your stay.
Stretching more than a mile along Bahia de Banderas, El Malecon is a great place for visitors to enjoy a stroll and experience the art and culture that Puerto Vallarta has to offer. From sculptures to free musical performances and the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Since the 2000’s, the Zona Romantica, also know as Old Town, has become one of Latin Americas biggest LGBT escapes. This area is frequented by locals, tourists, and expats alike because of its ambiance and amenities If you are looking to experience Mexico in all of its glory, I recommend checking out some of the hotels and hostels in the area as the Zona Romantica is bustling with cultural flavor and endless things to do. Be sure to check out some of the nightclubs, unique shops, the flea market and delicious restaurants whether you’re staying in the area or just passing through.
Isla Cuale Flea Market
Located in one of the busiest and most beautiful areas of Puerto Vallarta, the market of the island of Cuale is home to beautiful, handcrafted items of all kinds. In 2020, I think most of us have realized how important supporting the local economy is and by buying your handmade products at this market you are doing just that.
Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is a city icon in Puerto Vallarta that dominates the city skyline. It is not only a great place to snap a picture, but to experience one of the most important city monuments. If you are visiting between December 1st and 12th, be sure to check out the activities in and around the church in celebration of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival ( also know as Feast of Guadalupe).
Cerro de La Cruz Lookout
One of my favorite things to do in a new place is check out the best viewpoint in the city. Although this one comes with quite a steep climb, it is absolutely worth it in my opinion. From downtown, if you look up on the hill you will see a tower and that is where you want to be. You will have to walk through town, up some stairs, up some steep hills and then some more stairs, so I suggest bringing water and comfortable shoes (although I did it in my flip flops). The best time to visit the lookout is either first thing in the morning when the sun beings to peek through the mountains, or when the sun is starting to set.
Best known for its elegant resorts, Marina Vallarta is a must see. Built in the 1980’s, Marina Vallarta drew a lot of attention from Canadian and American tourists and has become a hotspot for tourists. The Marina offers shops, spas, bakeries, restaurants a boardwalk, and a famous Jack Nicklaus golf course. A great way to spend a day!
Find Street Art
The streets of Puerto Vallarta are full of murals and art around every corner. Set out on foot and explore the alleyways and small streets in Centro and Zona Romantica and you're sure to be amazed. You'll even come across this cute umbrella filled street!
Mismaloya is the beach where it all started. Once just a small fisherman’s village, its future was changed with the arrival of Hollywood stars and media. Offering some of the most crystal-clear waters in the Puerto Vallarta area, this beach is a favorite to enjoy watersports such as paddle boarding, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, and sailing. Half a mile north in the sea, you will be able to see Los Arcos, a set of granite rocks that are home to a variety of colorful sea creatures, making it a favorite for snorkelers and divers. If you are looking for a day of adventure, this is the spot for you.