Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant city with tons of activities to do for the laid-back or the adventurer. It has it all you can ask for in a city, and then even more things to do in the surrounding area! If you’re interested in getting out of the city and exploring some other parts of Mexico, here are the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta to inspire your travel plans.
The city has quick access to both the beach and the mountains, making the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta all about nature. Some of these activities require a few hour’s drive, and some are just outside the city’s limits. This post will show you what the whole Banderas Bay, the state of Jalisco, and the neighboring state of Nayarit has to offer.
Most tour operators in Puerto Vallarta are still running during Covid-19 with enhanced precautions for your safety. These include smaller groups to support social distancing, hand sanitizer and or handwashing stations where available, and the mandatory use of face masks.
Best Puerto Vallarta Day Trips
1. San Sebastián del Oeste
For a change of scenery from the beach, head inland to San Sebastián del Oeste. It’s a charming centuries-old mining town 4855ft (1480m) above sea level in the mountains that you’re sure to fall in love with. It’s actually unbelievable to think that a place so different in landscape can be so close to Puerto Vallarta! The weather is much cooler, and the trees change from palms to pines.
It only takes 90 minutes of driving to get to this gorgeous village of 5,000 people that’s frozen in time. The town was first conquered by the Spaniards in 1524 and quickly became one of the most important mining centers of the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain. I can only think it looked exactly the same almost 500 years ago than it does now because it’s amazingly well preserved. Spend the night there, and you’ll get to see the most incredible star show in the sky since it’s away from all the light pollution.
Here’s a great day tour to San Sebastian. It includes transportation from Puerto Vallarta, a stroll through the historic town, a visit to a traditional coffee hacienda, and a tequila tasting made from the region’s blue agave plants! The day ends with a delicious Mexican meal at a family-owned restaurant before a scenic ride back to Vallarta through the mountains.
2. Los Acros National Marine Park
If a day on the water sounds like your vibe, then don’t miss the chance to explore the majestic arches of Los Arcos National Park in Mismaloya via a super stylish catamaran! You’ll get to explore the Southern beaches, snorkel, and paddleboard around the beautiful arches and their marine life. Not to mention the unlimited bar! This is easily one of the most fun Puerto Vallarta day trips you can join.
This Luxury Catamaran Trip is a great way to get to know the natural beauties of the Southside of Puerto Vallarta in a glamorous way that you’ll never forget. You’ll even get access to the exclusive Majahuitas Beach Club. Also, if you do this tour during the winter season, you may be lucky enough to watch humpback whales from the comfort of your luxury yacht. Now, this is what I call a day trip with style!
3. Sierra Madre ATV Adventure
This ATV adventure tour is perfect for all the adventurers out there that love adrenaline and nature. It’ll take you deep into the beloved mountains of the Sierra Madre after a fun ride along the Malecón and the downtown streets of Puerto Vallarta. Once you cross the city limit, you’ll discover phenomenal scenery through the rivers and the jungle while feeling the wind on your neck and the warm sun on your skin. You’ll also pass the famous Casa Kimberly, Elizabeth Taylor’s glamorous 1960s home!
Don’t worry much about your outfit because the bandana, the helmet, and the goggles are included – you’ll be asked just for a driver’s license and the best attitude to go wild!
4. Nuevo Vallarta
Although Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta are right next to each other, they each have their own personality. Puerto Vallarta is a vibrant, historic city with lots of Mexican charm, while Nuevo Vallarta is a laid-back, relaxed city with more of an American feel.
Nuevo Vallarta is easy to reach from Puerto Vallarta; you can grab an Uber or bus from Centro and be there in just half an hour! Better yet, spend the weekend enjoying the 5-star resorts, renowned restaurants, and beautiful streets filled with giant palm trees. The beach clubs here are exceptional, as are the beaches.
If you want to arrive in Nuevo Vallarta in style, check out this luxury sunset sailing tour. You’ll get the chance to sail on a luxury catamaran while enjoying the stunning views of the coast with a drink in hand as you move across the Bay of Banderas.
5. La Cruz Huanacaxtle Sunday Market
If you’re got a free day on a Sunday in Puerto Vallarta, take the time to visit the La Cruz Sunday Market in Huanacaxtle – close by in the neighboring state of Nayarit, not far from Nuevo Vallarta. It’s easily one of the best markets in the region, full of local vendors selling high-quality crafts and locally made food and drinks.
The market has a fantastic atmosphere, set right along the pier with water on all sides. There’s live music you can sit down and enjoy, which really adds to the atmosphere as you walk around. At the end of the market, there’s a selection of food vendors selling everything from Mexican to greek! It’s the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.
6. Zip-lining in the jungle
If you’re looking for a bit of adrenaline on your vacation to Puerto Vallarta, then be sure to check out this Extreme Zip Line Adventure Tour. This action-packed trip takes you into the wildness of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, where you’ll embark on a fun-filled day combining zip-lining, an off-road UTV jungle tour, hiking, and other outdoor activities.
Eight lines are nestled in the treetops in one of the most beautiful areas in Puerto Vallarta, ready for you to tame them and soar through the sky and the jungle. The zip line course also includes Mexico’s longest and fastest “Superman” zip line!
Just an hour away from Puerto Vallarta, you’ll first find the town of Sayulita. It’s a paradise for surfers, foodies, and art lovers that’s becoming one of the hottest beach destinations in all of Mexico.
Sayulita is becoming more popular by the day, meaning the main beach is very crowded. It’s a popular destination for surfers, but I wouldn’t recommend going as a beginner as the waves are pretty packed.
That said, it’s an enjoyable place to be around if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere. The town itself is pretty tiny but full of colorful streets, tasty restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great place to party for the day and into the night!
You can take the bus from Puerto Vallarta for 50 pesos or get an Uber there for around 400, depending on how busy they are. A taxi will cost you 850 pesos. There’s also this tour that takes you to both Sayulita and San Pancho.
The guide will show you around the two towns, sharing the history and folklore as you walk around the main attractions. You’ll visit traditional fruit markets, enjoy a tequila demonstration with a tasting, hang at the beach and even take an optional surf class!
8. San Pancho
5 minutes farther from Sayulita and you’ll get to San Pancho, another gorgeous beach and surf town with a much more laid-back vibe.
Don’t try to choose between the two of them and spend a little time in both. You’ll enjoy amazing food and drinks, discover the coolest shops, and admire the finest art and crafts. If you prefer to have a quieter day trip from Puerto Vallarta, skip Sayulita and go directly to San Pancho since the beach and the ocean is much less crowded.
9. Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta: Islas Marietas
Designated as a national marine park and Unesco biosphere reserve, Islas Marietas is home to some of the best wildlife-watching experiences near Puerto Vallarta.
It’s also home to Playa del Amor, aka Puerto Vallarta’s secret beach. It’s become so popular only 116 people are allowed on the beach per day – so make sure to secure your permit in advance.
But even if you can’t get on the beach, Isla Marietas is still worth a day trip from Puerto Vallarta. There are other beaches you can visit there which are just as pristine. You can also do an eco-tour of the island, where a boat will take you around to see the various rock formations and 90+ bird species that live there. It actually made me feel although I’d been transported back to the Galapagos Islands!
Then there’s snorkeling! The water is crystal-clear, so jump in and look out for giant mantas and sea turtles. During the boat ride, you’ll likely see dolphins and whales too. If you’re a marine lover, do not miss the chance to visit Isla Marietas as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta.
10. Puerto Vallarta Day Trips: Yelapa
If you’re looking for a relaxing day trip to a beautiful beach destination, then be sure to visit the small coastal village of Yelapa. It’s nestled in a natural cove away and free of any roads, making this the perfect destination for a relaxing day trip or weekend getaway. There you can do several activities, including snorkeling, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding. Or you can simply relax on the beach and soak in the surrounding beauty!
This tour takes you to both Majahuitas and Yelapa! The first stop is at Majahuitas Cove, where you can enjoy snorkeling in the pristine water with provided equipment. From there, you’ll head over to Yelapa to relax on the beach and explore the surrounding area. There’s a waterfall just minutes from the shore! As you cruise back to Puerto Vallarta, an open bar and onboard fiesta awaits you. The perfect way to end the day!
There you have it, the 10 best day trips from Puerto Vallarta! Did I miss any amazing places you can visit near Puerto Vallarta? Let me know!
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