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As a touristy city, you might think that everything in Puerto Vallarta comes with a price tag attached to it. But that’s not true at all! There are many free things to do in Puerto Vallarta, from gorgeous coastal hikes to guided city walks.
Mexico is already an affordable country to visit, but you can save even more money when you take advantage of these free activities in Puerto Vallarta.
If you’re looking to save some cash on your next trip to Puerto Vallarta, check out these fun and affordable things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
Things to do in Puerto Vallarta for free
Stroll the Malecon
This is a Puerto Vallarta activity that never gets old. The Malecon (oceanfront promenade) is the stretch of boardwalk which runs for about 1 mile along the water. It’s always busy and entertaining for people watching.
Along the Malecon, you’ll pass by shops, art installations, statues, street performances, restaurants, beaches, and more.
On the boardwalk’s north end, you can catch the free Voladores de Papantla show.
Every half-hour, they perform a pre-Hispanic ritual that involves four men attached by ropes swinging upside down from a 20m pole. It’s impressive to watch! While the show is free to watch, they do welcome tips.
On the other end (south), you can often catch free concerts and performances at the Los Arcos amphitheater.
If you get hungry (or thirsty) while walking along the Malecon, stop at one of the many food vendors selling tacos and margaritas for $1.
Tip: If you plan to do a lot of walking around Puerto Vallarta, the best time to visit is during the winter or shoulder seasons. Otherwise, the heat will be too unbearable!
Hike the Cerro de la Cruz Lookout
If you’re looking to get some exercise while in Puerto Vallarta, take a walk up the Cerro De La Cruz lookout for what is easily one of the city’s best views. It’s completely free to visit – you just pay in sweat.
To get there, walk from the Malecon uphill along Calle Abasolo. You’ll reach a series of stairs which you climb up to the top, where there’s an observation deck with stunning panoramic views of downtown Vallarta and the surrounding Banderas Bay.
Tip: Go at sunrise or sunset for an even more incredible view. It’s also much cooler at these times – if you go during the day, you’ll be drenched in sweat.
Watch the sunset
Mother nature puts on one of the best shows in Puerto Vallarta every night, and it’s completely free to watch!
The sunsets on the Pacific Coast of Mexico are fantastic, and Puerto Vallarta is no exception.
There are many places to watch the sunset in Puerto Vallarta.
Head to any of the beaches to see the sunset over the pacific ocean. Playa Los Muertos is always buzzing with life, and you can enjoy a delicious cocktail while watching the sun go down. For something quieter, head further south down the coast towards Conchas Chinas.
While the beaches are great for sun set, there’s also something special about taking it from higher above and seeing the entire city.
The Cerro de la Cruz Lookout mentioned above is a great choice, as are any of the many rooftop restaurants. I love the sunsets from Barcelona Tapas while enjoying a glass of red wine!
Take a coastal hike
One of my favorite free Puerto Vallarta activities is hiking along the gorgeous coastline. There are several secluded (and not-so-secluded beaches) that you can hike to from Boca Del Tomaltan.
To get to Boca Del Tomaltan, you can get a bus from Zona Romantica at the corner of Constitución and Basilio Badillo for $1 or take an Uber. It shouldn’t be more than $5. From Boca, there’s a trailhead that takes you to Colomitos Beach and then continues to Las Animas and Quimixto.
Pack a picnic and chill out at Colomitos for the day – it’s free but offers a million-dollar view.
If you want more of a party atmosphere, continue for another hour to Las Animas, where you’ll find restaurants and beach bars.
If you have a lot of energy, you can even continue the trail to Quimixto, which has a nice waterfall you can swim in. If you don’t feel like hiking back, you can get a water taxi for 100 pesos (5 USD).
Hit the beach
That’s probably one of the main reasons you came to Mexico anyway! While the beaches within the city limits aren’t spectacular, they still provide a place to tan, swim in the ocean, and catch up on your favorite book (or margarita). And they are 100% free to visit!
If you’re looking for finer sand and clearer water, head north or south of the city. You can get the bus to Sayulita or San Pancho for 2.50 USD, both of which offer nicer beaches and fabulous surf.a
Alternatively, you can hike to Colomitos or Las Animas, which are by far the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta.
Every Wednesday evening from 6–10 pm, there’s a free art walk you can take part in Centro Puerto Vallarta.
There you can find beautiful artwork by influential national and international artists, remarkable paintings, exceptional sculptures, fine ceramics, and jewelry.
It’s free to attend and makes for a great date night in Puerto Vallarta! This year’s event runs from October 26th to June 28th, 2023.
Take photos of the street art murals
Puerto Vallarta is home to some fantastic street art, which you can easily see while walking around on your own.
Over the last few years, dozens of colorful murals have been painted throughout Centro and Zona Romantica. Spend a few hours admiring the work and snapping some Insta-worthy pics!
Watch the fireworks
Every night you can see a show of fireworks over the ocean that comes from the Pirate Ship. While the ship is not free to get on, the fireworks they put off every night are free to watch.
The fireworks don’t happen at the same time every night but usually, go off between 9:30–10:30 pm. The fireworks happen over the water, so stop anywhere on the Malecon to admire them or from one of Puerto Vallarta’s many rooftop bars.
Explore the markets
One place you’ll want to check out while visiting Puerto Vallarta is Isla Rio Cuale, a traffic-free sand island between Centro and Zone Romantica where you can find shaded trees, riverside restaurants, cafes, and a flea market selling everything you could ever want.
The market is on every day from day to night and is a great place to buy souvenirs. It’s free to look at, and you can negotiate great deals here.
Another market worth checking out in Puerto Vallarta is the Old Town Farmer’s Market which happens every Saturday at Lázaro Cárdenas Park. There you can find local produce, handicrafts, and delicious snacks.
Free walking tour Puerto Vallarta
If you want to learn a bit more about the city of Puerto Vallarta, including its culture and history, then join a free walking tour with a knowledgeable guide!
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, you can join a 2-hour walking tour sponsored by the Municipal Tourism Office and led by a certified guide.
The tour takes you on a lively stroll through the streets of Puerto Vallarta’s historic downtown, covering information about Vallarta’s architecture, culture, history, famous people so much more.
The meeting point for the walking tour is downtown (Centro) at the Municipal Tourism Office in the Old City Hall building, across the street from the north side of the Main Square and a half-block west of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
There’s also a free Malecon Sculpture Walking Tour in downtown Puerto Vallarta every Tuesday morning from mid-November through mid-April, run by a gallery owner.
The tour begins promptly at 9:30 am at the north end of the Malecon in front of the Millennium sculpture, next to the Hotel Rosita.
Look for humpback whales from the shore
If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta during whale watching season (it usually begins in December and ends by March), don’t miss the chance to see a humpback whale!
There are many whale watching tours to take you to see these magnificent giants up close, but you can also spot them from the shore
Head to any beach or rooftop restaurant and keep your eyes peeled for breaches and tail flips. They are quite the performers!
Take a walk through the neighborhoods
As Puerto Vallarta continues to grow in popularity, so do the neighborhoods. Take some time to explore each one as they each have their own personality and unique charm.
Zona Romantica, also known as Old Town, is the official gaybourhood and heart of the LGBTQ+ scene in Puerto Vallarta. It’s always a party here, and you can find countless fun bars to dance the night away.
The Romantic Zona is also a great place to explore during the day, with many cute boutique shops and cafes. I’m a big fan of A Page In The Sun, which has extensive bookshelves of books you can read in a comfortable atmosphere.
If you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely want to check out Versalles. This neighborhood is quickly growing as one of the most liveable for digital nomads, and it seems a new restaurant is popping up each week. You can get everything from the Caribbean to Greek here!
Practice your salsa
If you’re traveling through Latin America, you may want to learn salsa because you’ll find this fun dance everywhere you go. A great place to learn and practice is La Bodeguita del Media, a colorful Cuban-style car in the city center.
They offer free salsa classes at 7 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is a fun way to meet people and burn off some of those vacation calories.
Then, once you feel confident, you can come back any night to practice your moves! There are always people there looking for dance partners.
Planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta? Don’t miss these posts!
- Best Boutique Hotels in Puerto Vallarta
- Fun Water Activities in Puerto Vallarta
- Where to go Whale Watching in Puerto Vallarta