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10 Best Tours & Excursions from Puerto Vallarta

Written by Meagan Drillinger
Mar 4, 2021

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Mexico's pearl of the Pacific Ocean is none other than the bustling resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Among its many bragging rights is its idyllic location - perfectly positioned at the crook of the stunning Bay of Banderas and backed by lush, jungle-covered mountains. As such, the surrounding area is a veritable treasure trove of tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta's history dates back centuries, but it was put on the tourist trail back in the 1950s and 1960s, when celebrities like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor sang the praises of this tropical paradise on the sea.

Today it is made up of many different neighborhoods, each with its own distinct feel and attitude, and is primed with sightseeing opportunities. Whether you're exploring the cobblestone colonial streets of the historic and protected Zona Romantica, or you're strolling from taco stand to taco stand in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood, or you're venturing out on the bay to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or whale, the best tours and excursion from Puerto Vallarta are appealing to a wide variety of travel styles and tastes.

If you're ready to break away from your hotel and explore the city beyond the beach, here are the best tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Zipline through the Jungle

Ziplining over the Mexican jungle
Ziplining over the Mexican jungle

It may be difficult to pluck yourself from your perfect beach lounger, but there is a whole world of jungle adventure waiting to be had behind you in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Ziplining through the jungle canopy is one of the best tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta. It will give travelers a completely different perspective on the destination.

This canopy zipline tour at Nogalito Ecopark takes travelers deep into the Sierra Madre Occidental, along the banks of the Nogalito River. The tour offers even different pickup points across the city, making it convenient for visitors no matter where they are staying in Puerto Vallarta.

After pickup, travelers are taken to the eco park, where they are outfitted with safety equipment and an explanation before embarking on the jungle course of speedy ziplines that weave in and out of the jungle canopy. Don't forget to bring your bathing suit and a towel for a refreshing dip in the river following the tour. After the four-hour experience, guests are taken back to the original point of departure.

Then there is this zipline tour and speedboat ride, which combines a little bit of jungle with a little bit of beach. Travelers are picked up in a speedboat and taken to the small, secluded fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan. Here, a 4x4 jeep continues the journey off-road into the jungle, climbing 2,000 feet above sea level to a base camp deep in the heart of the mountains.

The adventure keeps going, now on mule back as travelers trek even higher into the forest to the zipline park - some of Mexico's highest and longest tracks, to be exact, spanning a distance of 1,000 feet at a height of 250 feet. The entire adrenaline-packed experience finishes with a rappelling adventure down a waterfall, where travelers can plunge into the natural pools below for a refreshing afternoon swim.

2. ATV Jungle Tour

ATVs ready for adventure in Puerto Vallarta
ATVs ready for adventure in Puerto Vallarta

For those who prefer to stay firmly on the ground, an ATV jungle adventure may be the best route. This Sierra Madre ATV Adventure combines a jungle ride with a dose of culture.

The ride begins along the famous Malecon sea path that hugs the Bay of Banderas. The Malecon is the heart and soul of Puerto Vallarta, lined with restaurants and entertainment, traveling from the center of town down through the cobblestoned colonial city.

From the Malecon, the tour turns up into the back streets of Puerto Vallarta and climbs into the Sierra Madre Mountains. The first stop is for a quick refreshment before continuing down to a riverside restaurant for an authentic Mexican meal. This tour is a great option for travelers who want to experience the jungle and see a side of local life, as well.

3. Swim with Dolphins

Dolphins swimming off Puerto Vallarta
Dolphins swimming off Puerto Vallarta

The Bay of Banderas is one of the largest bays in the world and is filled with all sorts of magnificent wildlife. Dolphins, for one, live in the bay year-round, and it's more than common that a trip out on the bay will reward visitors with some sort of sighting. Why not take it a notch higher and treat yourself to a swim in the wild with these gentle, beautiful creatures?

The species that live in the bay include Pacific bottlenose dolphins, spotted dolphins, and spinner dolphins. This wild dolphin tour is an eco-friendly, safe, and humanitarian way to get up close and personal with dolphins in the wild.

Travel with Wildlife Connection, a group that works to conserve and protect the environments and lives of wild dolphins in Puerto Vallarta. The tour allows travelers to interact with a pod of bottlenose dolphins. Led by professional biologists, this unique experience includes educational talks, the opportunity to participate in the research, and, of course, a swimming interaction.

Note: Dolphins are wild creatures, so it is not guaranteed that the pod will be up for swimming. If that is the case, the tour guarantees 100 percent of your money will be returned.

4. Explore Hidden Beach Towns

Yelapa
Yelapa

Puerto Vallarta has lovely beaches right in the heart of the city, but the beauty of this tourist hot spot is that it is surrounded by smaller, lesser-known beaches tucked into coves and inlets. Exploring these beaches and the surrounding villages and jungle behind them can be some of the best tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta.

The Yelapa Waterfall & Majahuitas Snorkeling Tour is a great way to get out on the water and see Puerto Vallarta's secret side. Start with a cruise through the Bay of Banderas, zipping past the famed Malecon. You'll be able to see the main artery of Puerto Vallarta from a unique vantage point, and have a front row seat to the best view in town. It's an unforgettable experience to look at the surrounding jade-colored peaks of the Sierra Madre with the red-tile-roofed homes climbing up the jungly hillsides.

The first stop is at Yelapa, a remote fishing village about an hour from Puerto Vallarta. This small, crescent-shaped bay is the gateway to a hiking trail that leads up to a stunning waterfall. This tour includes a hike to the majestic spot, followed by some downtime on the beach to splash around in the warm, tranquil waters.

The tour is finished at Majahuitas Beach, another secluded beach fringed in palm trees. Here, guests are treated to a fabulous lunch at Majahuitas Beach Club and unlimited non-alcoholic refreshments.

5. Enjoy a Sunset Cruise and Dinner Show

Sunset cruise on the Bay of Banderas
Sunset cruise on the Bay of Banderas

There is no better way to get a sense of place in Puerto Vallarta than by venturing out on the Bay of Banderas. And there is no better time to experience the Bay of Banderas than at sunset. Puerto Vallarta has some of the most explosive sunsets in the world at anytime of year. It is awe-inspiring to watch the sky explode in a blaze of bright oranges, purples, and reds as the sun dips into the sea.

This Puerto Vallarta cruise tour combines a sunset cruise with one of Puerto Vallarta's other beloved pastimes - the Rhythms of the Night dinner show, which is one of the most popular tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta.

The tour starts just before sunset at the Puerto Vallarta Marina, where guests embark out to the Bay of Banderas and cruise along the shimmering waters to Las Caletas cove.

After reaching the sandy banks of Las Caletas, guests are greeted with a path of flickering torches and the sound of music. The path leads to a beachside dining venue, awash in candlelight. Here, guests dine on a three-course meal, while a mesmerizing performance takes to the stage, telling the story of the ancient civilizations that have inhabited Mexico, and the art and culture they have left behind.

6. Bike and Snack across the City

Fresh tacos in Puerto Vallarta
Fresh tacos in Puerto Vallarta

If you're going to Puerto Vallarta, it's best to arrive hungry. This coastal, colonial city is chock-full of hole-in-the-wall restaurants, taco stands, and fine dining. One of the best ways to experience Puerto Vallarta is to dig into its culinary richness, and this Bikes and Bites tour allows you to do so, while exploring the city on two wheels.

The three-hour foodie bike tour takes travelers to taste the best tacos Puerto Vallarta has to offer. It also covers about 4.5 miles of city and takes visitors through some of the most important neighborhoods in the city. The tour cruises down the Malecon, stopping at iconic symbols in Puerto Vallarta, like the Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe church. Stop at taquerias and beachfront restaurants to taste the very best that the city has to offer, from seafood jalapeño tacos to carne asada and more.

7. Dive the Bay of Banderas

Los Arcos, a popular diving spot in the Bay of Banderas
Los Arcos, a popular diving spot in the Bay of Banderas

The tropical waters surrounding Puerto Vallarta are absolutely teeming with wildlife, from tropical fish and dolphins, to massive humpback whales (depending on the time of year). Not only that, the landscape underneath the water's surface is a veritable paradise of tunnels, caves, and colorful reefs. Not far from the main pier in Puerto Vallarta is Los Arcos National Marine Park, which is a must for diving enthusiasts.

A scuba diving tour from Puerto Vallarta is a must for divers. This diving tour works with a PADI 5-Star Dive Center in Puerto Vallarta to take divers on a full-day tour out in the bay. It includes a PADI-certified divemaster, equipment, wetsuit and fins, and two scuba tanks. Lunch is also provided with the tour.

8. Swim to a Hidden Beach

Hidden beach in the Marietas Islands
Hidden beach in the Marietas Islands

Not far from the coast of Puerto Vallarta is Islas Marietas, an archipelago made up of two islands and islets that are known for their wildlife and preserved ecosystem. Protected by the Mexican government, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a breeding ground for several endangered species, particularly birds like the brown booby and the laughing gull.

But there's more to Islas Marietas than meets the eye. When the tide is just right, a narrow, dark tunnel emerges in the rock face of one of the islands. A short swim through black leads adventurous travelers to a remarkable, pristine hidden beach that is open to the sun through a massive eroded opening at the top. It is known, unsurprisingly, as Hidden Beach, and it is a must when looking for tours and excursions from Puerto Vallarta.

It's best to book a Hidden Beach tour, since the islands only permit a certain number of visitors per day, and only authorized companies can visit. This tour takes travelers to the islands, where guides teach them a little bit about the protected area from the boat. Then it's time to strap on your snorkel gear and head into the sea. A guide will direct you to the Hidden Beach, where you will be able to snorkel and marvel at this truly spectacular secret spot.

9. Visit a Magical Town

San Sebastian del Oeste
San Sebastian del Oeste

The heart of the action may be close to the shore in Puerto Vallarta, but up in the mountains and down the other side, there is a host of magic waiting to be found - specifically in the Magical Towns outside of Puerto Vallarta.

Magical Towns are a special government designation given to certain villages and towns in Mexico that exemplify historic significance or authenticity. Mexico has more than 100 of these towns scattered across the country, and three are within reach of Puerto Vallarta.

Perhaps the best-known is San Sebastian del Oeste, which was one of the first towns in Mexico to be named a Magical Town. It sits at the foot of the Western Sierra Madre, about an hour and a half from Puerto Vallarta. Originally it was a mining city with more than 20,000 residents. Today that number has been whittled down to 600, leaving it almost eerily quiet and shrouded in mist that creeps over the green peaks around it.

Not far from San Sebastian sits Mascota, which is another colonial town in the mountains, known for its terra-cotta roofs, winding streets, small restaurants, and surrounding adventure. It's a popular jumping-off point for horseback riding, kayaking, and rock climbing. Be sure to stop at La Iglesia de la Preciosa Sangre, which is an unfinished church in the center of town.

Finally, visit Talpa de Allende, another mining town that dates back to the 16th century. It is also home to the cathedral, Our Lady of the Rosary, which is a deeply sacred spot for pilgrims traveling around Mexico.

10. Explore the Botanical Garden

Water lily in the Vallarta Botanical Garden
Water lily in the Vallarta Botanical Garden

Just south of the city is the sprawling, lush Jardin Botanico de Vallarta (Vallarta Botanical Garden). The garden sits like an explosion of color surrounded by rolling, green peaks in every direction.

Wander the paths to discover a kaleidoscope of wildflowers, including one of the best collections of orchids in Mexico. Get lost among the fragrant fields of vanilla, magnolias, and agave. Bring your camera in case you spot a parrot or hummingbirds. Within the gardens are hiking trails, a restaurant, and a river that is open for swimming, as well.

Official site: https://www.vbgardens.org/

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