The city of Puerto Vallarta is one of the most visited destinations in Mexico, thanks to its abundance of activities for all kinds of travelers. The city is broken up into five different neighborhood zones making it a great place to visit time and time again.
But what many people don’t realize, is just how many nearby attractions are waiting to be explored. When you’re planning your next trip to this wonderful city, check out these 15 day trips that will take your vacation to the next level.
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1. The Marieta Islands
Nicknamed the Mexican Galapagos, the Marieta Islands are known for their extensive biodiversity and one-of-a-kind geological formations. As a way to protect the wildlife and the environment, the islands can only be visited by reserving a tour and certain attractions have very limited availability – so it’s important to plan ahead to ensure that you have the most fulfilling experience possible.
While you do have a few tour companies to choose from, Ally Cat Sailing Adventures is by far the best. You’ll get an all-inclusive experience, including a spacious boat ride to the island with snacks and drinks, a day filled with swimming, snorkeling, and exploring sea caves, and all the gear needed along the way.
Although the entire area is a sight to be seen, the main attraction is la Playa del Amor, aka Lover’s Beach. This hidden beach can only be accessed by swimming through a long narrow tunnel opening up to a sandy shore – which seems as if it is located underground.
It’s said that the gaping hole that created this unique beach was caused by the test bombings that occurred by the Mexican military back in the mid-1900s. Military testing came to a halt in the late 1960s when scientist Jacques Cousteau discovered nearly 100 different species of birds inhabiting the island, the most iconic of which is the Blue-footed Booby, which is commonly seen on the Galápagos Islands.
Once a small fisherman town with very little activity, Mismaloya has become a booming tourist destination thanks to its golden sandy beach.
The aqua blue waters are perfect for snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and sailing. There’s plenty of marine life to see, including frequent sightings of sea turtles, manta rays, and humpback whales.
Along the beach, street vendors are ready to serve up freshly caught grilled fish and ice-cold beer. There are also vibrant restaurants that line the strip offering tasty meals and free access to beach chairs and showers.
On the southern edge of the beach, you can take in the breathtaking views of the Mismaloya Arches across the sea. For a closer look, reserve a boat tour that’ll take you around the 5 inlet islands with an excellent opportunity to view the park’s biodiversity.
The capital city of Jalisco in western Mexico is overflowing with attractions, from its extensive collection of historic landmarks to its overwhelming amount of markets.
The cathedral is awe-inspiring for its looks, stability, and cultural significance. Its architecture dates back to the early Renaissance, and has somehow managed to survive seven earthquakes.
Enter a world of bright colors when you walk through the gates of Tlaquepaque to venture through the historic center’s shops and restaurants.
The Palacio de Gobierno is a magnificent structure of neo-colonial architecture, and the revolutionary murals that lie within it are even more beautiful.
There are four plazas to hang out, including the largest – Plaza de la Liberación. Here you can sit around the luxurious fountain, eat tamales from one of the many food vendors, and admire the monuments that surround it.
4. San Pancho
Known as the “San Francisco of Mexico”, San Pancho packs a punch considering it’s just a small beach town. With that being said, one of the best things to do in the area is to lay out your towel along the tranquil shores of Playa San Pancho. The large waves here are perfect for intermediate – expert level surfers, so if you’ve just picked up a board this isn’t the surf for you.
For an even more secluded experience, make your way over to the deserted bay of Clavelinas or venture even further to El Barro.
Although the village is on the small side, the variety of restaurants is not lacking in the slightest. Barracuda is the most popular amongst locals and tourists alike, with its tasty cuisine and vibrant atmosphere.
5. San Sebastián
Once a thriving mining town, the historic village of San Sebastián plays host to a plentiful amount of haciendas and museums.
On the outskirts of the town, you’ll find the ancient haciendas that have fallen into ruin after the Mexican Revolution. While many of the haciendas have been restored for continued use, hiking to one of the ruins and seeing what they looked like before the 19th century isa worthwhile experience.
When you first enter the town, you’ll be welcomed by the Hacienda Jalisco and its museum that educates guests about the importance of mining. Grab a coffee at the hacienda of La Quinta, where organic coffee is made on-site.
If you have access to a 4×4 vehicle, a visit to La Bufa Hill is an absolute must with its breathtaking views overlooking the village and the Pacific Ocean.
Escape to the mountains where sandy beaches and ocean views have been replaced by snowy peaks and rolling hills.
Admire the colonial architecture and stroll amongst the many shops and cafes along the Centro Histórico. Here you can sit and enjoy one of Mexico’s finest cups of coffee with wonderful views of the mountains in the distance.
The Ex Hacienda El Lencero Museum boasts a life of luxury with its lush garden, large swimming pool, and private chapel.
Spend your day sampling some of the best local eats the town has to offer in one of the 3 local markets.
Tecajetes is a jungle of a park filled with monuments, koi ponds, waterfalls, and delicious Mexican ice cream. Stop by the multi-level Parque Juarez to check out the latest events, take in the views of the mountain range, and navigate your way through the many vendors.
Known as the birthplace of the country’s most famous beverage, the town of Tequila is a historic site within itself and has seen a massive increase in tourism.
The best way to explore the town is by hopping aboard the Jose Cuervo Express for an educational tour through the distillery and fields – with tequila sampling all along the way. If you’re not interested in taking the train ride you can still visit Jose Cuervo’s La Rojeña Distillery by booking one of its 90-minute on-foot tours.
While you’re in town, head over to the central plaza to see La Parroquia Santiago Apóstol and its unique 17th-century architecture. Keep your eyes out for Tequila’s famous Voladores at the Plaza Principal for one of their occasional flying ceremony dances.
After a day of sampling the iconic liquor, visit the Museo Nacional del Tequila to learn more about the drink’s production and admire pieces of art dedicated to its history.
The hidden oasis of Yelapa can only be accessed by boat, making it one of the lesser-visited destinations and a truly thrilling experience from beginning to end. The strange tradition here is a tasty one, with beach-side vendors selling a variety of rich desserts and pie to enjoy on the sand.
The main beach tends to get crowded with locals and boaters, but is an overall exciting experience with plenty of space to take in the sun. The beach is surrounded by a lush jungle; you can spend hours walking amongst its greenery and wildlife.
If the crowded beach is not your scene, Playa Isabel is just a short hike away with a quiet setting, and relaxing and calm waters for swimming.
Wherever you decide to go, be sure to keep your eyes on the surrounding waters for a glimpse of the iconic humpback whales and the massive iguanas that inhabit the area.
Nicknamed the “Magic Town”, Sayulita has the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. You’ll see people getting from one location to another by golf cart, vibrant streamers zigzagging through the streets, and beautiful murals all around the brightly colored town.
There are vendors all over town during any day of the week but the real highlights for shoppers are the Sayulita Farmers’ Market on Fridays – perfect for foodies with a delicious selection of baked items – and the Tianguis Market on Sundays, centered around hand-crafted items like clothing.
Yah-Yah Sayulita Café has a tasty selection of organic meals, Organi-K is the go-to place for a refreshing açaí bowl, and Maria’s Fish Tacos has lines out the door for a taste of their famous seafood menu.
The sleepy fishing village of Chacala is definitely off the beaten path with less than 300 people inhabiting the island and no tourist influence to be seen. Walk the cobblestone streets and take in the culture as you admire houses of all colors of the rainbow.
Enjoy a day water-based activities including watching a local fishing tournament, snorkeling in the crystal clear waters, or laying out on the beach looking for whale sightings.
Chacala Beach never gets too busy, even on weekends, and is lined with restaurants and shops that you’ll enjoy. You can’t go wrong with buying a few cold beers from one of the beach vendors and watching the sky transform as the sun sets.
11. Las Caletas
Access to this secluded beach is only possible by booking a guided tour through Vallarta Adventures’ Las Caletas Beach Hideaway, making it known as one of the top five secluded beaches in the world.
The guided tour includes a boat ride to the beach, a buffet lunch, open bar, snorkeling, a monkey encounter, and much more. The beach is nearly 1,000 yards long and is separated into 4 beaches, so you can choose between a lively scene – an adventurous dive under the water with the sea lions – and a tranquil, relaxing day swinging in a hammock along the shore.
Have cash handy if you’re interested in getting a massage or shopping at the local boutiques. If you want to get out of the sun, sign up for a free cooking class to learn how to make authentic Mexican cuisine.
Although Bucerías catches the eye of tourists, it still manages to maintain its laid-back vibes and small-town charm.
The never-ending beach is rarely crowded, grab a towel and head over for a relaxing experience at any time of day. Start your day off right with a mouthwatering plate of huevos rancheros at Luna Luna, or drink to your heart’s content with bottomless coffee at El Cafe de Bucerias.
If you’re visiting between December and March, you’ll have the chance to see the magnificent yearly whale migration.
The Bandera Bay Preservation Program offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience by giving guests the opportunity to release baby sea turtles back into the ocean.
Pay $80.00 for an all-inclusive day at Royal Decameron filled with buffets, bars, and water-based activities including kayaking, snorkeling, and windsurfing.
Watch the sun set as you roam the sandy shores on horseback or take your horse on a trip through the mountains to see picturesque waterfalls.
Immerse yourself in the rich history of the country as you enjoy a day of cool breezes, museum hopping, and outdoor recreation. This small town is surrounded by rolling hills, towering mountains, and lush forests that seem to compliment the orange colonial buildings and cobblestone streets.
The Corrinchis Dam is a hub for outdoor activity, and you’ll find many locals enjoying a day of hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and fishing. After you’ve worked up an appetite, pop into one of the many restaurants located along the water.
Walk amongst El Malpaís’ petrified field and search for the fruit orchard that has managed to grow from the ashes of past volcanic activity.
Visit the Archaeological Museum to learn about the ancient civilization that once controlled the land and see the petroglyphs that have been discovered over the years. For an unusual experience, stop by the Rock Museum El Pedregal to check out a museum completely dedicated to creative rocks, inside and out.
14. La Cruz
Once a quiet fishing town, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle has developed a modern twist over the years as a result of the popular Riviera Nayarit Marina. With the ability to dock nearly 400 boats, the marina is a lively scene of rotating boaters and sightseers.
Even if you’re not boarding a boat, the marina is still a fun place to be with its seafood market, sky bar, restaurant, and long stretching pier. You can grab a drink at the bar and spend the day people-watching with the stunning Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. Watch the sun set over the ocean as you enjoy a freshly caught dish of seafood, whether it be at the marina or one of the many nearby restaurants.
Get in on the action by partaking in a water-based activity like snorkeling, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing.
15. Nuevo Vallarta
Nuevo Vallarta is very different from its older counterpart, with its relaxing atmosphere and location in the state of Riviera Nayarit. The entire town is based along the beach, so you’re always just steps away from the sandy shore and calm, aqua blue waters.
Nuevo Vallarta Beach is the most popular of the beaches with its soft, white sand and friendly travelling beach vendors. Take things up a notch by booking a tour that lets you swim and interact with the dolphins through Vallarta Adventures.
If you’re visiting with the whole family, Aquaventuras Water Park boasts 10 exhilarating water slides and a lazy river to unwind in.
Golfers can enjoy a day at the 18-hole Flamingos Golf Club, with access to a driving range, snack bar, and luxurious clubhouse.