Tips + Trends

The Best of Puerto Vallarta: What to Do and See in 48 Hours

With only 48 hours to spend in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want to make the most of every minute. Take some time to explore the different areas of town, enjoy the beaches and sunsets, and, since this is one of Mexico’s principal foodie destinations, sample some of the wonderful cuisine.

Ocean Promenade

A stroll along the Malecón offers the best introduction to Puerto Vallarta. Following the curve of the beach, this wide palm-lined promenade stretches out over some 20 blocks and will take you from downtown to Old Vallarta, known to locals as the Romantic Zone.

There are a number of sights to enjoy along the way. Bronze statues by local artists are installed at intervals, many whimsical, a few thought-provoking. Banderas Bay stretches out into the distance on one side, and along the other, shops and boutiques entice you to pause and peruse. You’ll pass the church or Our Lady of Guadalupe with its remarkable crown, a Puerto Vallarta landmark.

Have lunch at one of the many restaurants lining the Malecón, perhaps Cervecería La Union, where you can sample fresh oysters and craft beer. Then, continue on your way.

Beach Appreciation

what to do in Puerto vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s “Los Muertos” Beach is actually quite lively. (Photo: Getty Images)

When you reach Los Muertos Beach, choose a spot at an outdoor table in the shade of an umbrella, or rent a hammock and enjoy the beach for awhile, perhaps while sipping on a cool drink. Take a refreshing swim in the water or just enjoy the scene: para-sailers dip and dive overhead and the occasional sailboat makes its progress across the bay while children play in the sand.

Island Shopping

When it gets too hot on the beach, or you’re ready for a change of scene, make your way over the bridge to Isla Cuale. This small island in the Cuale River has a multitude of handcraft and souvenir stalls, as well as artists selling their work. Pick up some souvenirs or gifts for those unlucky souls who had to stay home, then make a stop at the Cuale Museum for a short history lesson on the indigenous groups that lived here in ancient times.

Sundown and Beyond

what to do in Puerto vallarta
It seems like everyone comes outside for sunset in PV. (Photo: Getty Images)

Don’t be caught inside during one of Puerto Vallarta’s spectacular sunsets. One of the best spots to enjoy it is La Palapa Restaurant, located on the beach. Order a fabulous meal, then take in the show in the sky with your toes in the sand. When evening turns to night, head to one of the vibrant local nightclubs to party the night away.

Discover the Marina

what to do in Puerto vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s marina is a hub of activity. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your second day with a walk around Puerto Vallarta’s marina. Hop on a water taxi or hire a private boat to take you to some of the best spots for swimming, snorkeling, dining and drinking. Puerto Vallarta is even more beautiful when seen from the water, and you can explore the area outside of the city. Stop for some snorkeling at Los Arcos, a pair of tiny islands with reefs, tunnels, caves, and arches teeming with marine life.

Simple Pleasures

Take your pick of one of the quiet beaches south of Puerto Vallarta. Playa las Ánimas, Boca de Tomatlán or Yelapa are all good choices. Rustic beachside huts serve delicious margaritas and micheladas, a beer-based cocktail, and the catch of the day. Mountains covered in lush greenery create a dramatic backdrop against the glittering water.

Don’t linger too long. Head back to Puerto Vallarta for an unforgettable meal at Café des Artistes to end your visit on a high note. The French-inspired menu also blends Mexican influences, and the chef’s six-course tasting menu brings guests back year after year.

After two blissful days in Puerto Vallarta, you may find yourself looking for reasons to return, and there will still be plenty of experiences left to warrant another visit.