Puerto Vallarta is a mix of the old town and a shiny new parts swarming with tourists. Besides having one of the most beautiful Pacific beaches, it also has a vivacious nightlife. Every year, this town of 250,000 people hosts over 2 million tourists mostly from Canada and the United States. Its infrastructure is not quite fit to support all the visitors but locals do their best with what they have, offering a lot of activities on the water and on land. Little taverns in cobblestone streets are true jams that attract people in the evening hours. The nightlife starts as early as 8 pm and can go on until the early morning hours. Parties are everywhere, on the streets, in the restaurants, and in the night clubs.
The beaches are gorgeous, especially if you have the means to go outside of the city a bit. There you can find hidden spots that are free of the crowds and you can truly enjoy the sunrises and sunsets.
Here are some guidelines when visiting and the things you shouldn’t miss in Puerto Vallarta.
When is the best time to visit Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is situated in the Banderas Bay on the west coast of Mexico, surrounded by the massive Sierra Madre on the east. The mountain keeps the town protected from the hurricanes that are so frequent in the Gulf of Mexico. In the summertime, quick and intense showers are common several times per day, but there is a flip side to it. Due to the changing weather in the summer, prices are cut in half for lodging and food. So, if you don’t mind a little rain, this is the best time for you to visit. Summer temperatures are all year long, however, the mildest weather in between January and April. If you don’t like crowds of overexcited tourists and wild college parties avoid going during the New Year’s and Easter.
Five districts of Puerto Vallarta
The first sight you’ll see when coming from the airport is fancy Marina, packed with yachts, luxurious condos, high-end shopping stores, and 5-star restaurants. Take a glimpse and move on, unless you’re one of the lucky ones that can afford it.
The next neighborhood you’ll come across is the Hotel Zone. It’s pretty self-explanatory – all-inclusive hotels, shopping malls, and ritzy restaurants are the trademarks of this part of the town. This is where most tourists go, due to the convenience of the really fancy hotels offering 24/7 buffets, free drinks, stunning swimming pools, massages, and many other activities. Just outside of the hotels you can find plenty of interesting stuff to do like surfing, snorkeling, swimming with the dolphins, sailing lessons, and so on. If you desire an active vacation check out dolphindiscovery.com.
Cinco de Diciembre and Centro are a mix of locals and tourists who are, either on the budget, or want to see and feel the true Puerto Vallarta outside of the fancy hotels. Streets are filled with restaurants, street performers, and nonstop parties for no reason at all. Every night around 9:30 pm there is a firework, for no apparent reason either, just for fun. Weekends and especially holidays can be overcrowded causing one big hot mess on the streets with all the bars and visitors looking to have the time of their life.
Zona Romantica is an LGBT spot in the city, but you don’t have to necessarily be any of the letters to have fun. The Romantic zone has the best and the most active nightlife in all the city, with bars and restaurants packed along the historic streets.
The best beaches of Puerto Vallarta
North of Puerto Vallarta is the state of Nayarit. This mostly quiet community features some of the best getaways in this part of the country. This peaceful area is full of yoga retreats and boutique hotels located along the Pacific coastline. Besides ex-pats, you’ll find a true, authentic Mexican culture in restaurants and small mom-and-pop stores.
If you’re looking for wild parties, hustle and bustle of the big city bars and restaurants, and all of this along the beach – visit Las Animas. The beach is situated south of Puerto Vallarta and is accessible only by boat. Despite the isolated location, it’s crowded with tourists looking to spend a day partying and basting in the sun. If you want something more adventurous, you can hike to Las Animas along the Pacific shores passing by some luxurious private coves.
Where to eat, drink, and party?
Puerto Vallarta is actually boasting a large international community; thus, you’ll be able to taste cuisines from around the world all in one stretch of a street. However, you are in Mexico, so the most authentic meals are Mexican specialties like quesadillas, fish tacos, shrimp burgers, burritos, and tortas. Almost all restaurants, bars, and food trucks are open until the wee hours with the worst crowds being after the bars close down. Be ready to wait in long lines for a taco with the rest of the tipsy tourists.
The parties start at sundown. Everywhere, not just in bars and night clubs. Seeing crowds of people dancing on the streets with the cocktails in their hands is a pretty normal and usual sight. Music comes from trattorias, taverns, whole-in-the-wall food joints, restaurants, bars, and private homes. Singing and dancing until the sunrise is part of daily life for locals and tourists alike. To enter any of the clubs you’ll have to be 18 or over so that you’re solely responsible for bad life choices. LGBT community is widespread and rainbow clubs are everywhere, so feel free to visit even if you don’t recognize yourself in any of the letters, just for the good music, awesome DJ parties, and delish food.
Puerto Vallarta is another city that never sleeps. Everything is open nonstop, even in the early morning hours. Depending on what you prefer, you can find loud, vivacious parts that host parties or go to secluded spots to enjoy peace and quiet. Whatever you decide, you’ll be remembering that vacation for a long time.