Puerto Vallarta is one of those places you'll end up visiting again and again. The city is packed with endless things to do, and its location in the middle of Banderas Bay gives you access to countless more options. Follow the coast north and visit a town famous for surfing or head south and step into what looks like a movie set. Whatever your fancy, you'll find a perfect day-long getaway from Puerto Vallarta. You may even want to stay a little longer!
Enjoy A Fun Day Trip In These 7 Places Near Puerto Vallarta
1. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Veva Gomez/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
By far one of the most magical places in the Banderas Bay, Yelapa is a small beach town south of Puerto Vallarta that is only accessible by boat or horse. Water taxis depart from different locations in Puerto Vallarta daily, and after a forty minute ride, you'll be transported into another world. There is a Yelapa office located at the end of Los Muertos Pier that can help you plan your trip. The price is 160 pesos one way or 320 pesos round trip. Once you get there, you'll be helped off of the taxi by the friendly workers of the beachside palapa restaurants. If all you want to do is relax, take a seat on one of their lounge chairs and let them bring you pina coladas all day long. Town locals will come by with trays of souvenirs to browse or their pet iguana to take pictures with. Keep an eye out for the pie lady who brings freshly baked slices of pie each day. If you're up for some adventure, Yelapa is the perfect place for parasailing, and there is a hike to a small waterfall that's definitely not to be missed. The hike is an hour and a half one way, but you can take a horse if you're in a hurry. Wander through the town on your way back to see quaint restaurants and tiny houses carved into the mountain. It won't be like anything you've ever seen before.
2. Islas Marietas
Photo credit: Christian Frausto Bernal/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Visiting the Marieta Islands takes a little bit of planning, but it will be worth it. This small group of uninhabited islands is protected from fishing and hunting by the Mexican government and is therefore teeming with marine life. The islands are now a national park, so even humans aren't allowed to step foot on land, but it's perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Boats leave from all over the bay, but the distance from Punta de Mita is the shortest so you'll get the best price. Stroll down the main street in Punta de Mita and you'll find plenty of people offering tour excursions. Shop around because prices do vary. Keep an eye out because you're sure to spot turtles, dolphins, whales and multiples species of birds, and listen to your guide because they always know the best places to spot wildlife. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera because you won't want to forget Playa Escondida. Also known as "love beach" or "hidden beach" this short stretch of beach is completely surrounded by a wall of rocks. Only a limited amount of people are allowed in at one time so soak it in!
3. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Gus/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Sayulita is a small village about 25 miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Often called the " crown jewel " of the Riviera Nayarit, people flock to this sleepy surfer town for its beautiful beaches, Mexican culture, shopping, and more. Because it's become such a popular tourist destination, most people speak English, so don't worry if you can't remember your high school Spanish. You'll even find a lot of expats living in the area. Sayulita has always been a popular surf destination because of its consistent river mouth surf break, but the town's popularity exploded in the late 1960's thanks to the construction of the Mexican Highway 200. Sayulita is perfect for surfers of all different levels, but if surfing isn't your thing, you can always go horseback riding, hiking, jungle canopy tours, snorkeling or fishing. Don't forget to take a stroll through town for some unique souvenirs. You'll find colorful crafts by the Huichol people, chic clothing, and a number of art galleries. Down past the hilly graveyard, there’s a small stretch of sand that's not to be missed. It's called Los Muertos, or "Dead Beach," and is where the spirits of those nearby dead perhaps have gathered. It's probably the opposite of what you'd consider "dead." The sea is calm offering great swimming and snorkeling.
4. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Mario Chavez/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
In the next bay over, Bahía de Navidad, lies the sleepy farming and fishing community of Barra de Navidad. There's plenty to do and see in Barra de Navidad but its laidback community is perfect for experiencing true Mexican culture. Everyone is welcoming and friendly, and with fabulous restaurants lining the beautiful spoiled beach, you might just want to spend an extra day here doing absolutely nothing. Maybe call it a boys' getaway because Barra is also perfect for sport fishing and golf. Charter a boat and catch Marlin, Dorado, Sail fish or Tuna bigger than your torso, or golf at Isla Navidad Golf Course, one the most lush golf resorts in the world.
5. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Kevin Jaako/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
It's hard to imagine getting sick of the beach, but you definitely want to travel inland to see Guadalajara. This city is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco and the second largest city in Mexico, and a new toll road connecting it to Puerto Vallarta is currently being built making travel between the two cities even faster and easier. Considered the home of mariachi music, Guadalajara is a major cultural center of Mexico. It's also sometimes referred to as Mexico's Silicon Valley as its one of the country’s main industrial and business centers. In the 1950's, Guadalajara underwent a major facelift and many of the older buildings were demolished to make room for wider streets and beautiful plazas. Fortunately, the most iconic and historic buildings were left untouched including the cathedral at the heart of the city. Nearby, you'll find the Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Americas.
6. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Rajesh_India/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Santiago de Tequila, better known just as "Tequila," is the famous birthplace of Mexico's favorite liquor of the same name. In 2006, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thanks to its contribution to a rich Mexican flavor and history. During the colonial area, locals used the abundantly growing blue agave plants for anything and everything, ranging from roofing materials to detergent. The mescal, the heart of the agave plant, was sometimes eaten as candy or fermented into a sweet liquor. When the Spanish arrived, they began distilling that beverage into what we know as tequila. Remember that tequila isn't just a drink, it's a village, a region, a culture and a tradition. Learn all about the history of tequila and also the people who make it. As soon as you enter town, be prepared to see people running after your car to sell you cheap tequila. Don't be fooled because it's definitely not the good stuff.
7. Puerto Vallarta
Photo credit: Blake Maybank/Flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Deep in the Sierra Madre lies one of Mexico's best kept secrets, the remote village of San Sebastian. On the 90 minute drive you'll see breathtaking view of Mexico that get even better once you arrive. You can also reach San Sebastian by air, landing on the small airstrip located just outside the town allowing you to see the hills and forests of the Sierra Madre from above. Settled in 1605, San Sebastian was originally a mining town. The gold rush is over, and the town is now cultivating coffee and agave, but the rest of the town hasn't changed. You can enjoy the 18th century church, haciendas, and charming cobblestone plaza because it's one of the designated Pueblos Mágicos, a town maintaining its historical character and promoted as a tourist destination.
This article was written by Lauren Gaw.