Tourist guide to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Despite its spectacular setting overlooking Banderas Bay and the Sea of Cortez, Puerto Vallarta’s beaches rarely rank among the best in Mexico. That said, with a bit of effort, you’ll find turquoise coves and deserted stretches of sand a few miles south of downtown.
Before heading further, Vallarta’s famous Playa Los Muertos is worth a stroll. Plan to do it first thing in the morning when the beachfront bars and restaurants wake up for the day and happy dogs chase Frisbees in the waves. Be sure to visit Los Muertos Pier. Designed by award-winning architect José de Jesús Torres Vega and built in 2013 as part of the city’s downtown revitalization project, the pier has become an instant Puerto Vallarta icon. Afterwards, have breakfast on the leafy terrace of Coco’s Kitchen restaurant, a local favorite. Churro buns and huevos rancheros provide delicious fuel for the day’s adventures.
From Coco’s, it will take you 30 minutes by taxi or Uber to get to Boca de Tomatlán, the starting point for the multiple beaches nestled along Vallarta’s south shore. Ask your driver to take you to the small town jetty, where brightly painted pangas (motorized skiffs) await to ferry you across the water to the beach. One of the prettiest is Playa Las Animas, a long stretch of tawny sand dotted with beach bars all offering loungers, umbrellas, classic Mexican fare, and ice-cold bottles of Pacifico.
Getting around by taxi or Uber is simple and affordable. An Uber from Marina Vallarta to the Malecón costs around 115 pesos ($6), while the fare from the Malecón to Boca de Tomatlán should be around 200 pesos ($13). Renting a panga from Boca to Las Animas will cost you around 100 pesos per person each way, but you can always bargain.
Where to stay
Each of Puerto Vallarta’s neighborhoods has something unique to offer. People looking to land in the middle of the action flock to El Centro and Viejo Vallarta, where the narrow streets are lined with shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. In the Hotel Zone, large full-service resorts sit side by side on a long sandy beach near a mall, grocery stores, and even a Costco. To the north, Marina Vallarta offers an upscale coastal atmosphere just 10 minutes from the airport and a short taxi ride from the heart of the city.
Gina DeCaprio Vercesi is a New York-based journalist who contributes to National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure.
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