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15 Places to Get Off The Beaten Path in Puerto Vallarta

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Looking to get off the beaten path in Puerto Vallarta? Let me help you! I live in Puerto Vallarta and love to explore, so I’ve ventured far off the tourist trail to discover these unique places.

From secluded beaches to hidden speakeasies in the city, these hidden gems in Puerto Vallarta Mexico will take you off the beaten path.

Puerto Vallarta is well-known for its all-inclusive resorts, and most travelers who come here head straight for popular attractions like the Malecon and Los Arcos.

While its popular spots have their allure, an entire world of hidden wonders is waiting to be explored by the intrepid traveler.

If you’re seeking a more authentic and unique experience in this coastal gem, venture off the main tourist trail and immerse yourself in the lesser-known delights of Puerto Vallarta. Here’s a curated list of non-touristy things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Unique Things to do in Puerto Vallarta

1. Soak in hot springs

lora sitting with her feet on a hot spring while getting off the beaten path in puerto vallarta

Tucked away in the Sierra Madre Mountains, you’ll find a series of rejuvenating hot springs that offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. I didn’t know there were hot springs until my third year living in Puerto Vallarta!

The hot springs I visited are here, at the river behind La Dulce Vista Hotel. We took an Uber there, which I wouldn’t recommend, as there’s no service and we had to walk to a nearby town to get one back.

The hotel has some hot springs you can pay to use, but there’s a natural free one about a 10-minute walk along the river.

Another option to visit hot springs in Puerto Vallarta is this highly-rated tour that takes you on a peaceful tour to a shaded hot spring at Nuevo Ixtlan.

These naturally heated mineral springs are believed to have therapeutic properties and have been used for relaxation and healing for centuries. It’s one of Puerto Vallarta’s best-kept secrets!

2. Visit the Butterfly Sanctuary

close up shot of a butterfly on a white flower.

Amidst the natural wonders of Puerto Vallarta lies a delightful haven for butterfly enthusiasts – the Butterfly Sanctuary ‘Jardin Magico.’ This sanctuary provides a unique opportunity to learn about these captivating creatures up close.

Knowledgeable guides will walk you through the life cycle, behaviors, and ecological significance of these delicate insects. Stroll through lush gardens designed to attract various butterfly species and witness their graceful flight and vibrant colors.

As part of the experience, you participate in a butterfly release event, gently releasing newly emerged butterflies into their natural habitat. This awe-inspiring moment allows you to be part of their life cycle, symbolizing growth, freedom, and connection with nature.

Visiting a butterfly sanctuary is not only an enjoyable experience but also an opportunity to support conservation efforts. By learning about the importance of these pollinators, you contribute to preserving their habitats and protecting these precious creatures.

Another great place to see butterflies and tropical birds up close is the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.

3. Puerto Vallarta Art Walk

street art in puerto valarta

Puerto Vallarta has a fantastic art gallery scene, and one of the best ways to experience it is by joining the Puerto Vallarta Art Walk every Wednesday night from 6-10 pm in Centro.

It will take you around the city’s best galleries, where you’ll have a chance to see

4. Visit a medium

One of the craziest experiences I’ve had was during my first week in Puerto Vallarta.

We went to Mystic Circle Cafe in Zona Romantica, and as it turns out, the man working there was a medium who was hosting an event the next day (which so happened to be the day before my dad’s anniversary).

I didn’t know how I felt about mediums before this experience, but I’m so grateful I went because it allowed me to connect with my dad again in a way I never thought possible. The whole experience was very intense and powerful for everyone in the room.

Puerto Vallarta is a very spiritual place with indescribable energy, so if you’ve never been to a medium before, this is an ideal place to do it.

5. La Cruz Sunday Market

musicians performing at the La Cruz Sunday Market. boats in the marina are in the backdrop.
La Cruz Sunday Market

There are local farmers’ markets in the city, but one of my favorite markets in Mexico is just outside of it in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

The La Cruz Sunday Market, or the Mercado Domingo, is a favorite among travelers in the Riviera Nayarit.

Set right on the water in the Marina, the vibe here is so lovely. They have live music, fresh farm-to-table products you can take home, artisan crafts, and a great food truck area at the back full of delicious Mexican and non-Mexfoodo eat.

6. Grab a Cocktail at El Colibri

If you’re looking for one of the best cocktails in the city in a speakeasy-esque-vibe, El Colibri is the place to go.

It’s got a fantastic vibe inside, with plants everywhere, big tables for lounging with friends, and a live DJ on the weekends.

7. Join a Temazcal Ceremony

Temazcal Ceremony in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

One of my favorite places in Puerto Vallarta for yoga is Terra Noble which has the most breathtaking panoramic views over the city. It’s one of Puerto Vallarta’s hidden gems!

They also offer Temazcal Ceremonies, a traditional Mayan healing and purification ceremony that promotes physical and mental well-being and healing.

I did the ceremony in May, which was extremely intense as it was already sweltering outside, and the ritual involved being in a small cave packed full of people and fire.

There are four rounds of chanting, and in between each round, they let air into the cave.

They ask that you don’t leave during the ceremony, so be prepared and drink lots of water beforehand (don’t make my mistake and come hungover).

Even though it was challenging to get through, I did feel amazing afterward. It’s one of the most unique experiences you can have in Mexico, so give it a try!

8. Eat tacos in a car garage

three tacos on a red table in mexico

There are endless taco stands to enjoy in Puerto Vallarta, but one of the most unique places to go is Machuk2 Tacos y Mas, which is a car wash during the day.

The stand is located in Versalles, which is becoming well known as the foodie hub of Puerto Vallarta, with some of the city’s top restaurants.

9. Go swimming with bioluminescence plankton

Los Arcos in puerto vallarta mexico
Los Arcos

There are few places in the world where you can experience the unique sensation of swimming among thousands of bioluminescence planktons that light up as you touch them, and Puerto Vallarta is one of them!

This is a nighttime tour since the bioluminescence can only be seen in the dark. My friend arranged one for a large group of us from Playa Mismaloya, which involved cliff diving beforehand and only cost us 200 pesos each.

Afterward, we took the boat to Los Arcos, where we got to swim in the water for about 15 minutes and see the glowing bioluminescence.

Jet’s Boat Tours also organizes trips, but the cheaper way would be to talk to a boat driver in Mismaloya.

Off the beaten path Puerto Vallarta day trips

It’s no secret that Puerto Vallarta has amazing beaches, but most are jam-packed with tourists and locals.

However, the northern shores of Puerto Vallarta along Banderas Bay are dotted with secluded beaches only accessible by boat or hiking trails.

Most tourists go as far as Colomitos or Las Animas, but if you go a little further, you’ll be rewarded with far fewer crowds.

10. Quimixto

aerial shot of beach in quimixto mexico

One of my favorite unique places to visit in Puerto Vallarta is Quimixto, a small Mexican town with miles of golden sand and low-key beach bars that serve up some of the best seafood in Puerto Vallarta.

Aside from the beach, there’s also a lovely waterfall that you can hike to from town. It plunges into a natural pool and has a restaurant by the falls.

Quimixto is the perfect Puerto Vallarta day trip. Plan to leave the city by 10 am to make the most of your day, as the last boat back goes at 6 pm, and it’s about an hour of travel time from the city center. You can get a water taxi from the pier at Boca de Tomatlan.


11. Yelapa

lora swimming under a waterfall in yelapa mexico

Another Puerto Vallarta hidden gem, Yelapa, is often referred to as Mexico’s last authentic beach town.

While it can be visited as a day trip, I recommend spending the weekend here as there are several things you can do. It’s also the perfect place to relax.

Aside from the beach, Yelapa is one of the best places to go waterfall chasing in Puerto Vallarta. There are several waterfalls; one is just a 15-minute walk from where the boat drops you off.

The other waterfall is an hour’s hike inland, and there’s an even more secluded one four hours inland – but you’ll definitely want a guide to get there as it involves several river crossings.

Check out this guide about getting to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta.


12. Hidden Beach

Puerto Vallarta Hidden Beach
Puerto Vallarta Hidden Beach

One of Mexico’s most unique beaches is Islas Marietas (Marietas Islands), a beautiful nature reserve two hours away from Puerto Vallarta.

The beach has a cove over it and looks like something straight out of a movie, making it one of the most unique places to visit in Puerto Vallarta.

The beach is actually named Playa del Amor, and to protect it from overtourism, the Mexican government restricts the number of visitors to 105 a day.

So if you’re planning to visit, you’ll need to organize a permit in advance through a tour company, especially during the high season.

While this isn’t exactly Puerto Vallarta off the beaten path, it’s one of the most unique beaches in Mexico so I had to mention it!


13. Playa Mayto

aerial photo of playa photo. half is turquoise ocean and half is golden sand beach. lora is walking alone on it.

If you’re looking for secret things to do in Puerto Vallarta, take a road trip to the beach town of Mayto, which is about a two-hour drive from the city. I recently got the chance to visit, and it now ranks as one of the best overnight trips from Puerto Vallarta in my mind.

There are a few modest hotels and guesthouses to spend the night, but otherwise, this is the perfect place to disconnect from the world and connect with nature. The stretch of beach goes on for miles – I even turtles coming up to give birth!

14. San Sebasian Del Oeste

lora looking over la bufa viewpoint in san sebastian del oeste

The best places to visit in Jalisco are the Pueblos Magicos (Magic Towns), and one happens to be just over an hour away from Puerto Vallarta!

San Sebastian Del Oeste is a historic mining town in the mountains that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time.

While the town is worth spending a few hours walking around, my favorite thing to do here is rent AVTs and ride up the mountain to La Bufa.

La Bufa is an incredible viewpoint where you can see as far as Puerto Vallarta across Banderas Bay on a clear day. We went on a cloudy day, but it was still mesmerizing with the clouds rolling in and out of the mountains.

Plus, the climate is entirely different than what you get in PV, with fresh, crisp mountain air that makes for a nice break from the humidity. It’s one of the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta by car!


15. San Pancho (San Francisco)

aerial photo of beach in san pancho mexico. half is ocean and half is golden sand beach with umbrellas.

Another hidden gem near Puerto Vallarta is the quaint town of San Pancho, often referred to as San Francisco. While most people head to Sayulita, I prefer San Pancho. They are just five minutes away from each other, and you can even hike between the two.

This artsy community exudes a relaxed vibe and offers a chance to connect with nature and culture. Explore the local galleries and handicraft shops, enjoy the beautiful San Pancho beach, and witness breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

Final thoughts: Puerto Vallarta off the beaten path

Puerto Vallarta has an abundance of unique experiences to offer beyond its famous attractions. From artsy surf towns to secluded beaches, these hidden gems in Puerto Vallarta are waiting to be discovered.

So, venture off the beaten path in Puerto Vallarta and immerse yourself in the charm and diversity that make this city and surrounding area a truly extraordinary destination.

Planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta? Check out these other things to do!

quimixto beach with overlay text that reads hidden gems in puerto vallarta


  • Lora Pope

    Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. In 2021, she moved to Puerto Vallarta and fell in love at first sight. After visiting 70+ countries, she decided to make it her base and now helps travelers like you make the most of your time in PV.

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