What's good in Puerto Vallarta?
January 10, 2018 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Going to Puerto Vallarta next week. What should I do/see/eat?

I'll be staying at an all-inclusive south of town (the Hyatt Ziva) so this is not going to be a super-adventurous vacation and I'll be eating most meals at the resort.

But I do plan on spending at least one afternoon in the old part of town (the Zona Ronantica) so I'd love suggestions for things to see there or shops/restaurants/taco stands to visit there. I'd also like to buy some local crafts (not schlock made in China).

I'm also potentially interested in a day trip or two if it turns out I find the resort thing boring (this is my first time visiting an all inclusive). Sayulita looks interesting, as well as some of the boat trips to islands/remote beaches.

What day trips did you enjoy from PV? What's worth checking out in town?
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Whaaaat I just came back from spending NYE there! We stayed in the Old Town area, so I got tips! Absolutely one of the favorite meals I had there was at Pancho's Takos, which can get crazy busy but they also open until 2 am so it's great for a late night snack. They're known for their al pastor. Also they usually have food stalls set up on the Malecon toward the evening that sell shrimp on sticks (I don't even like shrimp that much and it's Sooo tasty), elotes, crepes, fruit, etc. Also at night in the town square close to the church they have food stalls set up with amazing burgers, sopes, quesadillas, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, cake, and the best damn churros I've ever had. Very street fair like vibe, usually also with some live music. Another taco place I like is one that's nestled under the bridge that goes from the start of malecon over into Zona romantica.

If you want breakfast spots, pancake house and Fredy toucans are hotspots, but I confess that while they are tasty, I come from brunch-crazed LA so my standards are high and they are just pretty good to me.. They have amazing fruit though.

Things to see...just walk around the malecon and streets and check out the vibe. You can take a look in the church or in some shops but there were no huge standouts to me...also it can def be tough to find unique souvenirs since it's such a touristy town. But if you are there Saturday definitely go to the Olas altas farmers market, I had the best pastries there and you can find more unique stuff.

Day trips/activities we did...if you're looking for a quiet little beach town then a day trip to Yelapa is nice...we sought that out because the beaches around old town are pretty noisy and packed and we wanted a more fancy beach day. But if you're staying at Hyatt ziva I'm sure you have a pretty nice resort beach. Definitely spend a day at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, it's such a beautiful place. You can hike down to the river and also take a lunch at their beautiful restaurant, which has some stunning views. When we ate there we had a delicious pina colada and the resident hummingbird, Panchito, sipped nectar out of a little well we held. Also say hi to Don Julio the
posted by sprezzy at 1:41 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oops I cut off the last bit. Don Julio is the resident bulldog at the gardens!

Other excursions we did included a turtle release, since Puerto Vallarta has an ongoing turtle conservation program. We booked through wildlife connection, which employs a lot of biologists. I've been wary about Eco-tourism but they were recommended, well-reviewed, and seemed to know what they were doing. Being able to help They also run whale watching tours, which you might want to check out since its whale season. Also they have a swim with wild dolphins excursion--though I didn't participate, I've heard it's amazing and they do not chase down the Dolphins but instead interact with pods that they have been interacting with/monitoring for years.
posted by sprezzy at 1:46 PM on January 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Pancho's Takos, the al pastor was so memorably good. I think about their amazing habanero mango salsa more often than I'd like to admit! (It's hot. It's worth it.)
posted by mireille at 1:49 PM on January 10, 2018

I'm sorry I'm typing on my phone so I keep posting too early and forgetting stuff, but some other excursion ideas.

You could totally charter a private boat for the day to take you out and essentially craft your own itinerary. They can take you to isolated beaches, or snorkeling around Los Arcos Marine Preserve. It's cheaper of split between a group, but it would be around 50-70 an hour with minimum 4-5 hrs...a more private tour if you're willing to splurge.

Also when we were taking a cab the driver recommended Bucerias and Quixmixto as day trips for better beaches. I think the more northerly beaches have finer sand (which is also where the turtle excursions take place because they prefer the softer sand) while old town and yelapa have rather rocky beaches.

More food stuff: if you'd like a nice dinner on the beach La Palapa is a lovely choice. There are other fancier meal places in old town like Cafe de Artistes or Trio that might also be nice.

If you'd like any more info on anything feel free to memail me!
posted by sprezzy at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

My family and I were in PV in November for a wedding and we also stayed at the Hyatt Ziva!

We mostly stuck around the resort and drank pina coladas all day (which I fully recommend), but we did do a ziplining trip with Vallarta Adventures that I can definitely recommend. It wasn't cheap, but given its length, the quality of the experience, and the fun we had I thought it was well worth the price. If ziplining isn't your thing, VA does a bunch of different trips that I would totally try next time I visit.

We did a horseback riding trip as well, which was arranged through the resort staff, and that was really good as well. It was a small, apparently woman-owned business and we rode on a dirt road up into the mountainous jungle near where Predator was apparently filmed.

At the resort, there are some neat activities, too- they have a kayak tour that you can do for free in the evenings which my son enjoyed. They may also release baby sea turtles (there's a hatchery on site) at dusk, which was really cool too.

As for the experience at the resort itself, we really liked it. However, I was surprised at how loud it could be (even in my room) during the day and evening. Don't count on sleeping from 10am-10pm, as loud music is not uncommon, especially on certain nights. I think it's quieter in the north tower, but we were in the club tower where it could be a bit noisy at times. Once we adjusted our expectations and I chilled out, it was fine.
posted by EKStickland at 1:59 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also went toward the end of last year. I quite enjoyed the day tour to San Sebastián del Oeste up in the mountains which had a nice historic feel to it. It included some side stops to a coffee grower and tequila producer which were nice also.

I know you're asking for activities to do, but in case nobody has mentioned before what not to do, please try to not get wrapped up in a sales pitch for a timeshare, etc. They are quite aggressive, and will tempt you with all kinds of goodies, but in the end they don't take No for an answer very well, and it can eat up a lot of your holiday time.
posted by Metro Gnome at 6:07 PM on January 10, 2018

Well, I spent all of one afternoon in PV, so I am a b-i-g expert. Nevertheless, here is what I found interesting:

- Walk up to Mirador de la Cruz was well worth it, both for the walk around town and through really interesting neighborhoods built right up the side of the hill, and for the view from the top. This has all the info. I'm pretty sure I didn't follow quite as direct a route they did and honestly exploring the neighborhoods and strange little alleys and walkways was half the fun.

- I had one of the most delicious meals of my life at some random food cart. I couldn't tell you that name of it or even where it was. Everybody else was crowding around to get something delicious so I did too.

- I spent a couple of hours walking the entire Puerto Vallarta beach, approximately as shown on this map. It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. One of the most amazing things about it was: I was there about this same time of year, I was walking the beach just at sunset, the weather was just gorgeous. And I had this entire stretch of beach almost entirely to myself! It's about 3 or 3.5 miles each way but of course you can go up & back as far or as little as you want.

Walking past these huge resorts and hotels, oodles of beach furniture, and so on. (The property up the beach a ways is all privately owned but beyond some certain point it is public.) And nobody but me and a few local citizens fishing and such out to enjoy it. But not one single guest from all of the many thousands of hotel rooms I walked past.

Apparently everyone thought it was too cold. It was about 65F.

posted by flug at 8:20 PM on January 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Check out, "Vallarta Eats Food Tours." They do different food tours. I've done the Signature Taco Tour twice. They to small groups and walk around. They aren't kidding about starting on a very empty stomach.

Good to do early in a trip so that you know where to go when you come back to town.
posted by ITravelMontana at 9:05 PM on January 10, 2018

There is a really amazing taco stand where you can try birria tacos or stew. It's called Tacos Robles. It's so popular that the time I went I waited about an hour for the food, and it was worth it. Plus all the customers are Mexican so it must be good.
posted by iamsuper at 12:14 AM on January 11, 2018

Take a whale-watching tour out in the bay. Seriously.
posted by jtexman1 at 5:44 AM on January 11, 2018

Vallarta Botanical Gardens is south of the city and is a complete delight -- beautiful grounds in the hills, delicious restaurant with outdoor dining overlooking everything.

Friends did the walk-up parasailing on the beach in the Zona Romantica and loved it.

This is unintuitive but is the best thing ever. Every time we go, we wind up at a gay Swedish bar and restaurant. Multiple times. The drinks and the food are so good and the views of the ZR and the beach from the balcony are great. Check out The Swedes.

I would check out Coco's Kitchen for breakfast. I thought it was a little better than some of the other places recommended. Seconding La Palapa.
posted by *s at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2018

I had a really good time as the weather is great, the people are friendly, and the beer is cheap.
having said that, you MUST accept this truth. EVERYONE you meet is going to try and hustle you. It isn't a bad thing, it isn't malicious. But time shares, trinkets, upgrades, bus passes, VIP passes, you name it. At first I was freaked out, but when you realize no one takes it personally if you say no, you get used to it.
posted by evilmonk at 12:35 PM on January 12, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice, everyone! Going tomorrow and I can't wait!
posted by lunasol at 6:09 PM on January 14, 2018

« Older Sleeping, breathing, not breathing, it's a problem...   |   seriously, shut the f up Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.