Ah, Puerto Vallarta. Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, this is one of those cruise destinations that epitomizes sun, sand, and salty air. If you’re new to the region, you may be wondering what to do in Puerto Vallarta. But don’t worry–there’s no shortage of fun to be had. From reclining on the beach, drink in hand, to flying through the jungle on a zip line, our list of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta has you covered.
1. Enjoy the Beach
Banderas Bay is renowned for its azure tropical waters and beautiful surroundings. If you want to see it all, the Sea Safari excursion covers a lot of ground. Speed down the water to the remote villages of Quimixto and Pizota–two hidden gems accessible only via boat–and range around on foot or by horseback. You’ll have a chance to cool off in a waterfall before boating to La Bola, a prime snorkeling destination. Ultimately, you’ll land in Pizota to chow down on a delicious lunch and further enjoy activities of your choice (swim, kayak, explore or just relax by the shore).
Feel more like kicking back? The Exclusive Resort Getaway may be just your speed. Travel 25 minutes (in air-conditioned comfort) to a luxe resort with two huge swimming pools, jacuzzis, waterslides and miles of soft sandy beach, with plenty of chaise chairs and beach umbrellas to soak it all in. It’s all-inclusive, and there are organized activities, as well–but we won’t tell if you just want to lounge around. You are on vacation, after all.
2. Experience the Culture
You didn’t travel to Puerto Vallarta just to lay on the beach the whole time, did you? The Tequila Factories & Old Town Tour features several tequila distilleries where you’ll sample the goods while comparing and contrasting modern tequila-production methods along with old-fashioned ways. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit the pueblitos in the Valle de Banderas, an area conquered by Francisco Cortés de Buenaventura in 1525, as well as the Old Town area, Viejo Vallarta.
3. See the Past
For more history, the Hidden Mexico & Traditions excursion is a trip into the past. This driving tour of Puerto Vallarta’s southern region takes you up to over 2,000 feet of elevation to visit ancient petroglyphs. In addition to teaching you about the ecology of the area, the guides will share pre-Hispanic Mexican legends. Afterward, you’ll get to stop by the traditional village of El Tuito and try the unique Mexican dish called mole (pronounced “moh-lay”), a sauce comprised of fruit in addition to nuts and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and sometimes even chocolate.
4. Sample the Food
No cruise to Puerto Vallarta is complete without sampling the cuisine, and the Mexican Fiesta is another great way to squeeze in an authentic fare. Feast on a delicious buffet while enjoying a folklore show brimming with bright colors, piñatas and dance. You can try your hand in the tortilla-making contest, too!
5. See the Wildlife
Puerto Vallarta is a stellar place to get to know some of Mexico’s other residents: its wild creatures. Banderas Bay is known as a breeding ground for humpback whales and a popular place to spot dolphins as well. You can get up close and personal on the Dolphin Swim (which has unlimited food and drinks, to boot). Prefer sea lions? The Sea Lion Encounter excursion is your chance to play with a mischievous sea lion and learn all about these fascinating aquatic animals.
6. Go on an Adventure
True thrill-seekers set will enjoy Puerto Vallarta’s plethora of adventure activities in the nearby Sierra Madre Mountains. About 45 minutes into the foothills, the Mountain ATV Adventure will take you roaring across the landscape on a four-wheeler. Or try the Extreme Canopy tour: a speed boat ferries you from the pier to the beginning of an off-road adventure into the heart of the tropical forest, where you’ll rappel beside waterfalls, ride a toboggan and fly along a zip line 200 feet above the ground. Top it off by zooming down the water slide!
7. Take a Family Excursion
On a family cruise? Puerto Vallarta has plenty of excursions catered to those with kids, too. The All-Inclusive Pirate Cruise is boatloads of fun for the whole family. Aboard this swashbuckling voyage, you’ll see pirates swing from the masts, sword fight each other and perform acrobatic leaps on the water. Parents will have time to relax on the beautiful boat-accessible Majahuitas Beach while the little ones play games in the sand and hunt for a buried treasure chest.
8. See a Show
If you’re not completely tuckered out after all the daytime fun, Rhythms of the Night is a can’t-miss performance. Situated in the isolated cove of Las Caletas, the outdoor amphitheater is home to a pyramid overgrown by flora that sets the scene for an atmospheric performance. The theatrical show touches on ancient myths about the spirit world, combining music, dance, and acrobatics in this unique, star-lit setting.
If you’re planning a cruise to Mexico, there’s no question about it: Puerto Vallarta should top your list. From combing pristine beaches to roaming the pine-clad mountains above Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta is one of our favorite cruise destinations. Every Mexico cruise should feature a stop at this sun-tanned paradise.
Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.