An (Almost) Insider's Travel Guide to Vallarta

Lauren - Northern Lauren
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August 7, 2017


I’m not alone in writing Puerto Vallarta travel guides, especially given that it’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico. However, I do have a distinct advantage over many other bloggers (probably, don’t quote me on it), in that my boyfriend and his family are from Puerto Vallarta and I’m privy to a healthy stash of insider secrets and knowledge. Along with that, I’ve also been to Puerto Vallarta a lot over the years (far too much, to be honest, especially for someone as pale and sun-hating as me), buuut…I’ve never actually lived there. So, for those who were wondering why this is billed as an ‘almost’ insider travel guide to Puerto Vallarta, that should answer your question.

In this post, I’ve combined plenty of things to do and see in Puerto Vallarta (even though I’m against travel’s must-see mentality), along with tons of local tips and recommendations to get you off the well-trodden Puerto Vallarta tourist trail. Almost everything on here is something I’ve done, tried or eaten at one point or another, so you can rest assured that it’s all suitably refined, tried-and-tested and includes activities, trips and information for travellers of all ages, tastes and budgets. (Except luxury travellers who want to lounge by a five-star pool all day, ugh, get out of here with your money and your free time.)

Basically, it’s a one-stop shop of comprehensive travel advice and recommendations for fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta, plus all the spots to eat, drink and shop. Think of it as your own personal Puerto Vallarta To Do list. Oh, and don’t forget my handy tips for visiting Puerto Vallarta section at the end.

Things to see in Puerto Vallarta

A.K.A. What to See in Puerto Vallarta and the Best of Puerto Vallarta Attractions:

1. Mercado Río Cuale | Mercado Río Cuale, Puerto Vallarta

Mercado Río Cuale is not exactly a huge secret, and pretty much everyone who goes to Vallarta will surely take a stroll around what is essentially a market in the middle of a river. But why have I included this under ‘See’ and not ‘Do’? Well, mainly because the majority of the products are tacky t-shirts with cringy phrases and overpriced tat, but the saving grace is that it’s in a pretty location. There are cute fountains, dangerously wobbly rope bridges and some really awesome street art, plus a museum and a cultural centre.

The easiest way to get to Mercado Río Cuale is to head to the bridge that separates downtown Vallarta and the Zona Romántica (Gay District) and go down the stairs. You honestly can’t miss it.

2. The Cathedrals and Churches

Yes, plural. The scene stealing cathedral (UPDATE JULY 2017: Technically it’s a parish, but so many people refer to it as the cathedral, I didn’t want to cause confusion!) in Puerto Vallarta is easily the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Hidalgo 370, Downtown), which is smack in the heart of the Vallarta action and admittedly does have some gorgeous…turret toppers? I have no idea what they’re called, but the crown-like, ornate ~turret-toppers~ are really beautiful. A bonus is that just a block down from this cathedral is a cute square decorated with colourful papel picado, and a block down from that is the malecón. If you’re around in December, you’ll probably catch some of the traditional parades and celebrations that take place for El Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Dec 12th).

The second church worth a peek is actually located just before you get to the malecón itself, Parroquia Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Perú, 5 de Diciembre), and the Iglesia de la Santa Cruz (Lázaro Cárdenas, Emiliano Zapata) is just a couple of blocks from Río Cuale (towards the Zona Romántica).

3. Turtle Release | Playa Holi, Puerto Vallarta

From roughly June to September each year (the rainy season), there are tons of turtle releases going on up and down the coast of Vallarta and it’s not that tricky to stumble across one (read: there’s not much point booking a ‘turtle release tour’ in my opinion, especially if you just want to attend as a casual observer). One beach that I know does a ton of these releases is Playa Holi, so head down there at sunset and keep your eyes peeled for the baby turtle releases.

Read the rest at Northern Lauren.

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