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Situated on the Pacific Ocean with the Sierra Madra mountains as the backdrop, opportunities for outdoor adventures in Puerto Vallarta are endless.
Discover the fascinating marine life in Los Arcos, ride ATVs up the mountains, take a walk along the coast or zipline across the jungle.
Whether you’re looking for a soft adventure or something to get your heart racing, this guide will inspire you with exciting ideas for your trip to Puerto Vallarta.
Water Activities in Puerto Vallarta
Surrounded by the sea, Puerto Vallarta offers incredible water-based activities along the Bay of Banderas.
Snorkeling and Diving
If you love marine life, you need to go on a snorkeling or diving tour in Puerto Vallarta. The bay is full of incredible aquatic animals to see.
One of the best places to go is Los Arcos, a natural rock formation that is part of a protected national park called Los Arcos Marine Park.
The rock arch provides a rich habitat for marine life in the area. As you approach it, you’ll see many birds flying overhead the warm, blue waters.
When you jump in the water, you may encounter stingrays, manta rays, sea turtles, tropical fish, moray eels, trumpet fish, and more.
Thanks to the park’s protected status, this unique ecosystem is still well-preserved.
BOOK A TRIP TO LOS ARCOS
Another place to see marine life near Puerto Vallarta is Islas Marietas, a protected marine reserve about two hours away by boat. To get there, you can join a guided tour.
It’s common to see dolphins and whales on the boat ride out. At the Marietas islands, you’ll have the chance to snorkel in crystal-clear water among large schools of fish and sea turtles.
Another great thing to do here is take an eco-tour boat tour around the islands to see the 90+ bird species that call this place home!
On our tour to Isla Marietas with Vallarta Adventures, they had an open bar on the way back, which was a great way to end a day of adventure.
ISLA MARIETAS TOURS
Whale and dolphin watching
If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta from December to March, one activity you don’t want to miss is whale watching.
Every winter, northern humpback whales head south to the waters of Mexico to feed and breed, making Puerto Vallarta one of the best places in the world to see these magnificent creatures up close.
On a whale-watching tour, you’ll likely see several humpback whales playing and swimming right around your boat. There’s also a good chance that you’ll see dolphins and, if you’re lucky, orcas!
Although there are many places in Puerto Vallarta offering swimming with captive dolphins, please do not do this. These dolphins are taken from the wild and often kept in poor conditions. Instead, go with a responsible tour operator like this one to see the dolphins in the wild.
BOOK A WHALE WATCHING TOUR IN PUERTO VALLARTA HERE
Jet Ski Puerto Vallarta
For an adrenaline-soaked adventure, rent a jet ski and ride along the coastline.
This jet ski safari tour leaves Marina Vallarta and takes you along downtown Vallarta where you’ll have the chance to stop by the Malecon and admire the old town and its history.
From there, you’ll head towards Mismaloya beach along the southern shores of Banderas bay, passing by Los Arcos.
BOOK A JET SKI TOUR HERE
While there aren’t any places to surf in Puerto Vallarta, you don’t have to go far to find some of the best surf conditions in Mexico.
There are many surf spots around Puerto Vallarta, like Punta Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho. These towns make excellent day trips, and you can rent surfboards on the beach.
If you are new to surfing, you can also book a lesson that will pick you up in Puerto Vallarta and take you out to one of the nearby surf spots for a lesson to learn the basics! It also includes free pictures so you can always remember the experience.
Land Outdoor Adventures In Puerto Vallarta
Inland, adventure seekers can go zip-lining through the jungle, hike to hidden waterfalls, or ride ATVs up the mountains.
Hiking to waterfalls
One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is hiking along the coast to take in the scenic beauty.
You can hike to hidden beaches, through the botanical gardens, or up to viewpoints overlooking the city.
There are several waterfall hikes in Puerto Vallarta!
My favorite places are Quimixto and Yelapa, two secluded beach towns with waterfalls you can swim under. To reach these towns, you’ll have to take a water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan.
Palo Maria is another popular waterfall hike near the city center. It’s a beautiful hike through a sub-tropical forest where you can swim in natural river pools.
When hiking, remember to bring mosquito repellant and suntan lotion with you.
Puerto Vallarta Zip line
One of my favorite days in Puerto Vallarta was zip-lining in the jungle. There’s no better way to take in the jungle scenery than soaring over it at high speeds!
We did this canopy tour which included multiple zip lines, each more exciting than the last.
Vallarta Adventures also had a brand new roller coaster zipline tour. This zipline tour fuses the fast free-flying sensation of a zip line with the unique sensation of a roller coaster. It’s one of the most popular tours in Puerto Vallarta, winning the travelers’ choice award!
Last but not least, one of the best adventure activities in Puerto Vallarta is renting ATVs and exploring the Sierra Madre mountains on an exciting off-road expedition.
On this half-day tour, you’ll depart from the meeting point for a ride along the Malecon towards the heart of the Sierra Madre mountains to explore the river trails alongside an expert guide.
Another great place to rent ATVs is in San Sebastian Del Oeste, one of the pueblos magicos in Jalisco. This cute mountain town is about an hour away from Puerto Vallarta and makes a great day trip.
You can rent them in town and drive them up to La Bufa, a gorgeous viewpoint where you can see back all the way to Vallarta.
Combined Adventure Tours
If you’re short on time while visiting Puerto Vallarta, check out some of these combined outdoor adventure tours.
This thrilling 6.5-hour outdoor adventure tour takes you on an exhilarating speed boat ride, rappeling down rushing waterfalls, riding powerful 4×4 jeeps, and soaring over the treetops on zip lines and cross suspended rope bridges hanging high above the jungle. It doesn’t get more adrenaline-packed than this!
For an unforgettable day, check out this extreme adventure tour. Departing from central Puerto Vallarta, you’ll venture deep into the luscious jungle to an exciting ecological adventure park.
There, you’ll get the chance to soar over treetops on zip lines, rappel down jungle platforms, go off-roading on river beds, refresh in natural pools, and slide down hillside waterfalls. Make sure to bring a change of clothes to stay comfortable throughout the day.
For something a little lighter, this half-day combo tour combines an exciting ATV ride through the jungles of Puerto Vallarta, followed by soaring down 12 different zip lines.
Best Time for Outdoor Activities in Puerto Vallarta
The best time for adventure activities in Puerto Vallarta is during the dry season from November to April, as the jungle will be lush and green from the rain of the previous months, but the climate will be warm and dry.
If you want to see whales, come before March as they start to migrate after this.
If you’re looking for an amazing way to explore the natural beauty of Puerto Vallarta, look no further than its outdoor adventures.
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