One of Mexico’s most enchanting coastal destinations, Puerto Vallarta has been a jet-setter’s destination since the 1960s — thanks in part to John Huston’s sultry drama Night of the Iguana, which helped put the then-sleepy region on the map. It’s easy to see why so many fall under the spell: Beautiful beaches, a thriving culinary scene, and great nightlife are a few reasons to book a getaway. You’ll also find appealing outdoor activities from kayaking and surfing to horseback riding and mountain biking.
The options are all-encompassing in Puerto Vallarta, with top-notch boutique hotels, beachside resorts, and budget-friendly guesthouses. Prices are highest from December through April.
Best Resort: Marriott Puerto Vallarta
Set on a lovely stretch of beachfront the Marriott has all the features you’d expect from one of Puerto Vallarta’s top resorts. Lush grounds, an ocean-view infinity pool, a luxurious full-service spa (the largest in town at 22,000 square fee), a swim-up bar where you can sip cocktails poolside are just a few of the noted features. Fresh from a $20 million renovation, the 433 rooms boast an inviting, contemporary style, and most have ocean or pool views. There are four restaurants here, two bars, and loads of activities on offer — from tequila tastings to guided visits to the hotels sea turtle sanctuary.
Best Location: Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta
Perched between golden sands and the picturesque marina, the Westin has an enviable location and handsomely landscaped grounds where guests can feel immersed in the tropical setting. Two massive palm-fringed pools (one with a swim-up bar), a spa, fitness center, and three tennis courts mean you’ll have plenty of distractions right at your fingertips. The Westin is popular with families and has an indoor kids’ club with craft activities. The modern airy rooms are well-equipped, all with balconies and separate tubs and showers.
Best Budget Option: Hotel Galería Belmar
One of Puerto Vallarta’s best budget options the Hotel Galería Belmar has 30 rooms, each uniquely set with paintings and other artwork by different artists. The best rooms have small balconies and several are equipped with kitchenettes. The staff earns high marks for their friendliness, though the location is the Belmar’s best feature. Lying in the heart of the vibrant Zona Romántica neighborhood, the hotel is a short stroll to restaurants, cafes, and bars. The beach is also nearby (a ten-minute walk to the west).
You don’t need to go far to find Mexican cuisine in Puerto Vallarta. The city that loves to eat, whether munching street tacos in the Zona Centro or lingering over a multi-course meal while taking in the views at a seaside dining room. The densest concentration of restaurants lies in the Zona Romántica.
Best street food: Tacos Revolución
There’s stiff competition when it comes to Puerto Vallarta’s top tacos, but this revolutionary-themed place one block from the Malecón is a strong contender. You’ll find all the classic options: Tender asada (grilled beef), al pastor (pork) and chorizo (spicy sausage) as well as fish and shrimp tacos, plus half a dozen vegetarian options — try the Revolución Veggie, with mushrooms, roasted onions, nopalitos (cactus strips) and griddled cheese.
Best for Classic Mexican: El Mole de Jovita
A long-time favorite among foodies in the know is El Mole de Jovita, an unfussy, family-run restaurant in the Zona Romántica. The art-filled interior is a great setting for tucking into grilled chicken, enchiladas or chiles rellenos, covered in mole (a rich sauce with spices and notes of chocolate). There’s also outdoor seating on the sidewalk, perfect for taking in the passing street scene.
Best fine dining: Tintoque
On the edge of the Río Cuale, Tintoque has been ranked one of Mexico’s top restaurants for three years by the Guía de México Gastronómico. The young Puerto Vallarta–born chef Joel Ornelas worked at renowned restaurants around the globe (including the three Michelin–starred Martín Berasategui’s in San Sebastián, Spain) before returning to his hometown to open this celebrated dining space in 2016. You’ll find regional recipes given a creative twist, with menu options changing daily. The tasting menu is the way to go — and is best enjoyed at a table on the terrace overlooking the river.
Puerto Vallarta has lots of options for beach-going. The centrally located Playa de los Muertos, just south of the Zona Romántica, is a convenient spot for some seaside action, but you’ll find the best beaches a bit out of town. Playa Palmares, about four miles south of the center, has white sand and calm waters that are ideal for swimming. While more remote beaches like Playa Las Animas and Yelapa can be reached only by water taxi. Another way to experience the water is to go diving and snorkeling amid the stingrays, tropical fish and brightly hued coral. You can also take sunset cruises, explore the picturesque Islas Marietas on a boating excursion or go whale watching.
Jardín Botánico Vallarta
When you need a break from the beach, head to Puerto Vallarta’s botanical gardens. On a hillside, some 16 miles south of the city, this 64-acre expanse is full of orchids, bromeliads, wild palms, cacti, and ponds of water lilies. You can often spy hummingbirds and other avian species along the nature trails. You can also go swimming in the river here (don’t forget your suit).
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