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What Is Puerto Vallarta Known for & Famous For

If you’re looking for top tourist attractions in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta is the perfect, once-in-a-lifetime destination. Hundreds of tourists flock to this resort town in Mexico’s Jalisco State every year. But what is Puerto Vallarta known and famous for?

Puerto Vallarta is known and famous for its hotels and resorts, a wide range of water activities, historical attractions, and breathtaking beaches. These make it one of the most popular resort towns in the world and worth visiting all year round.

Are you ready to explore everything this popular resort town in Mexico has to offer? Keep reading because I’ll go through a lengthy list of Puerto Vallarta’s top-rated attractions and enjoyable things to do while you’re there.

1. Islas Marietas National Park

One of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular attractions, Islas Marietas National Park brings thousands of tourists annually. It encompasses a group of small uninhabited islands and is home to various wildlife, such as dolphins, whales, manta rays, tropical fish species, and sea birds. The islands are government-protected from fishing and hunting to preserve the rare native wildlife. 

However, the hidden beach within one of the rocky islands is arguably the standout attraction for the thousands of people who make the trip to Isla Marietas. The hidden beach is only accessible when the tide is low, and you’ll enjoy walking on the white sands or swimming in the crystal blue waters.

2. Old Town (Romantic Zone)

If you love the nightlife while traveling or on vacation, Old Town (a.k.a. Romantic Zone) is the best part of the city to visit since it has plenty of restaurants and bars. You’ll also enjoy walking through the cobblestone streets lined with beautiful art galleries, eateries, and traditional markets.

The Romantic Zone has a lively atmosphere for couples looking to rekindle their love since it offers cozy apartments and Airbnbs for that much-need intimate experience. Also, it’s home to one of the largest LGBTQ communities in Puerto Vallarta.

3. Downtown Puerto Vallarta

Another part of the city you’ll want to visit is Downtown Puerto Vallarta. It’s a tourist hotspot where you’ll find historic landmarks and a handful of resorts.

The following are just a few of the well-known places you can explore.

  • Malecon
  • Camarones Beach
  • Isla Rio Cuale
  • Los Arcos
  • Naval Museum
  • Gringo Gulch

Aside from the above, Downtown Puerto Vallarta offers other outdoor attractions that attract tourists and locals all year round. 

4. Hotel Zone Puerto Vallarta

As its name suggests, Hotel Zone Puerto Vallarta has hotels ranging from luxurious 5-star ones to modest two-star hotels or resorts.

The following are the best hotels in Hotel Zone Puerto Vallarta.

  • Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort
  • Hotel Mio Vallarta
  • Krystal Puerto Vallarta

You’ll also find malls like the Local Walmart and Galerias Vallarta in this area. These can give you easier access to banks, especially when you run out of cash from all the souvenirs you can’t help but buy.

Hotel Zone is famous for its daytime activities because there aren’t a lot of nightlife options compared to other places in Puerto Vallarta. Additionally, you can explore small attractive beaches while staying at hotels or after visiting the malls.

5. Water Activities

With water temperatures between 70°F (21.1 ºC) and 80°F (26.7ºC) all year round, Puerto Vallarta draws in tourists who love playing in and around the ocean. Swimming with dolphins is one of the most popular water activities among locals and visitors alike. It’s a water adventure the whole family or friends can enjoy during their visit to Puerto Vallarta. You can also swim and play with the friendly sea lions.

In the next six sections, I’ll go into more detail on the famous water activities you can enjoy in Puerto Vallarta.

6. Whale Watching

A visit to Puerto Vallarta around December to April isn’t complete without seeing two main types of cetaceans: orcas (killer whales) and humpback whales. It’s also the best time to go on a boat trip through the crystal-clear oceans and see spinner and rough-toothed dolphins.

Banderas Bay is the most famous spot for whale watching in Puerto Vallarta, where you can get a close-up view of these magnificent marine mammals. However, you’ll need to book a tour company because it’s unlikely you’ll see whales or dolphins from the shore.

7. Surfing

Considering the many beaches surrounding Puerto Vallarta, it’s no surprise that surfing is a popular water sport in the area. The good news is that there are plenty of places with amazing waves and ideal temperatures for novice and experienced surfers.

The following are the best surfing places in Puerto Vallarta.

  • Sayulita
  • San Pancho
  • Punta del Burro
  • El Anclote
  • La Lancha

8. Snorkeling

If you’re hydrophilic (meaning you love water), you can try a snorkeling adventure where you can dive deep and keep an eye out for colorful fish and turtles. The best part is you don’t have to bother packing any snorkeling gear because these will be provided as part of the package when you hire a tour company to take you out on the ocean for a snorkeling cruise.

9. Diving

Another popular underwater activity is scuba diving, which allows you to explore the depths of the sea and discover underwater caves, shipwreck remains, natural reserves, and coral reefs brimming with marine life. You’ll see a picturesque underwater view that will stay in your memory for a long time. You can also rent the diving equipment from reputable, certified scuba diving companies that train beginners.

10. Sailing

Even though, when you’re sailing, the chances of spotting marine life are less than when diving or snorkeling, it’s still the perfect water sport that allows you to get pampered on a spacious boat while taking in the lovely warm weather. You can ask your family or friends to go on a sunset sail cruise with you to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

In addition, you can go parasailing, where you sail through the air and admire the gorgeous ocean water without getting (too) wet.

11. Fishing

You’re only allowed to fish in certain areas as most of the waters are protected by the local government. This is to ensure endangered fish species and other wildlife have a chance to thrive and recover their populations in their natural habitat.

Puerto Vallarta invites anglers from all over the world to keep their catches as souvenirs or release them back into the water. You can also try to catch something for dinner as there are plenty of edible fish species in the area.

If you don’t want to fish by your lonesome, go on a fishing tour to bring out your inner angler at any fishing village in Puerto Vallarta. These tours are often available as private charters that allow up to four people.

12. El-Tuito

El-Tuito, which translates to “small beautiful valley,” is one vibrant area to check out in Downtown Puerto Vallarta. You can visit St. Peter the Apostle Parish and Botanical Gardens, eat at several restaurants, and explore many local stores. There’s always something for the whole family to enjoy, whether it’s art workshops or local dances.

In addition, a walking tour of the resort town will teach you its history while eating traditional Mexican dishes like tacos de guisado and quesadillas.

13. San Sebastián Del Oeste

Once known for its silver mines, San Sebastian Del Oeste is one of the magic towns near Puerto Vallarta. You can visit several beaches and walk the cobblestone streets to experience Mexican culture and history through its old mines, ranches, and preserved churches.

A trip to Sebastian Del Oeste will give you a completely different experience from the other towns in Puerto Vallarta because you’ll see old architecture, colonial culture, and a colorful village square. You can also visit the silversmith workshop and an organic coffee farm.

14. Talpa and Mascota

Talpa and Mascota are the other two magical towns in Puerto Vallarta where you can experience real Mexican heritage away from the beaches and resorts. You can explore churches that took more than a century to build. 

In Talpa, you can visit the central church. In Mascota, on the other hand, you can pay a visit to the unfinished Temple Inconcluso de la Preciosa Sangre.

You can also fly over Talpa and Mascota to see the breathtaking splendor of Puerto Vallarta’s mountains and forests as you wind down your journey there.

15. Los Arcos

Los Arcos, a town in Banderas Bay, Mexico, is nicknamed “the Arches” because of its granite islands with arch formations on the ocean. However, it’s most famous for being home to the Los Arcos National Marine Park, a protected region with rare fish and other sea creatures.

For that reason, tourists from around the world flock to Los Arcos to see marine life and participate in various water sports, including scuba diving and snorkeling.

16. Festivals

You might get lucky and catch a few street festivals while touring Puerto Vallarta. You can treat yourself to dancing, music, food, and more!

Here are some of the most anticipated festivals occurring annually near Puerto Vallarta.

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival in December
  • Puerto Vallarta International Gourmet Festival in November
  • May Cultural Festival Puerto Vallarta

The most famous festival event is Our Lady of Guadalupe, where you can climb the bell tower to experience a bird’s-eye view of the city.

17. Food

Many people believe that authentic Mexican cuisine only consists of tacos and quesadillas. However, Puerto Vallarta is the ideal location for food lovers who wish to sample various Mexican dishes you may not have heard of.

You can join one of the many walking tours that teach the town’s history. You can also feast on dishes from street food vendors or dine at incredible restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

18. Beaches

Puerto Vallarta is the best place to hit the beach during the daytime. You can choose to stay at an all-inclusive resort with a small sandy beach for breathtaking night views or go to the public ones that are easily accessible. At the beaches, you can sunbathe, dine on various Mexican cuisines, and drink at restaurants or bars that line the area. The best part is participating in watersports with your family, friends, or locals.

I’ll talk about five of Puerto Vallarta’s top beaches in the next five sections.

19. Bucerías

Bucerias, which translates to “place of dives,” is a soft-sand beach with calm waves that stretches 18 miles (29 km) along the north and south of Puerto Vallarta, making it perfect for people of all ages. There, you can stop by several charming local eateries, shops, and art galleries. You can also find spots to drive all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and ride horses along the beach.

20. Boca Beach

Located 11 miles (18 km) south of downtown Puerto Vallarta, Boca Beach (also known as Boca de Tomatlan) is a small beach village where you can sample tasty Mexican cuisine, surf in the ocean, and interact with friendly locals. If you’re looking for a fantastic day trip with your family or friends, Boca Beach is a protected bay area where you can swim or sunbathe. 

Also, you can enjoy fresh, local seafood and sipping drinks to help you chill out on warm sunny days.

21. Conchas Chinas Beach

Situated in the southern part of Puerto Vallarta, Conchas Chinas Beach is one of the best beaches for water sports and other outdoor activities. You can practice scuba diving and snorkeling, among other water activities. Conchas Chinas beach is ideal for couples because it’s easily accessible from the Romantic Zone or Downtown Puerto Vallarta via taxi or public buses.

22. Los Muertos Beach

One of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular beaches and a must-see for beach lovers, Los Muertos Beach offers numerous water sports, such as parasailing, boating, swimming, and surfing. The beach usually attracts families, especially on weekends. You’ll find vendors selling food and beverages in the area, and you can see the beach lit up with colorful lights at night.

23. Malecon

Located in Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Malecon is a lively beachfront walkway that attracts tourists from all over the globe. You can walk through the boardwalk or the pathway along the edge of the sea — and you don’t have to pay for the experience!

Malecon is the ideal spot for bike riding while taking in the resort town’s best attractions, including high-end restaurants, street food, live music, and other exciting family-friendly activities.

24. Jungle-Clad Mountain

Once you’ve had your fair share of resorts and beaches, you can explore Puerto Vallarta’s jungle-clad mountains to immerse yourself in nature and see various wild animals and plant life. The mountains and jungles are also excellent spots for hiking and mountain biking. 

If you want to connect with nature or go on eco-adventures with friends, family, or your significant other, you can start by exploring the Sierra Madre mountains.

25.  Isla Río Cuale

Isla Rio Cuale is an island in the center of Puerta Vallarta connected to the mainland by a bridge that runs just past the Malecon in the downtown area. The island is nestled between the two arms of the Cuale River. There’s a colorful market where you can buy hand-made crafts and traditional Mexican clothing to take home as souvenirs. You can also check out a few museums, a cultural center, restaurants, and stores to spice up your visit.

26. Culture

The best way to discover the different cultures in Puerto Vallarta is to participate in annual festivals like the Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival in December, which covers everything from history, art, galleries, traditions, music, and dancing. 

You can also join free walking tours like the Puerto Vallarta Art Walk to immerse yourself in the different cultures of several neighborhoods. You’ll see a map with the exact dates and times when the art walk will be held for the 15 cultural sites in Puerto Vallarta.

27. History

The 1964 movie The Night of the Iguana helped cement Puerto Vallarta as a popular tourist destination in Mexico. Since then, the resort town has developed into one of the top vacation spots for visitors from all walks of life.

You can learn more about Puerto Vallarta’s history through many museums and historical sites across the area.

The following are some of the historical museums in Puerto Vallarta.

  • The Naval Museum
  • Galeria Pacifico
  • The Manuel Lepe House

28. Both Adult and Family Vibes

Puerto Vallarta offers adult and family vibes because of its wonderful weather, laid-back beach spots, all-inclusive resorts, delicious Mexican food, and exciting nightlife. The resort town attracts visitors from all over the world since there’s always something going on for everyone.

Start by looking through maps and guides to find the ideal destination spot. Alternatively, you can hire a tour company to take you to Puerto Vallarta’s top tourist attractions.

29. Sunsets

Enjoy magical sunset views in Puerto Vallarta from the top of the Mirador de la Cruz while you walk through the Malecon and any other fabulous beach around the area. Create an unforgettable experience by setting at least one evening for watching the sunset as you enjoy a margarita or beer. It’s the perfect thing to do when you’re traveling solo and want to get lost in your thoughts.


There’s always something for everyone in Puerto Vallarta, known for having a wide range of hotels, resorts, and beaches. That’s why it’s one of Mexico’s most popular resort towns. You can always find things to see and do no matter when you drop by the area.