In fact, it’s one of the most astonishingly beautiful places in the country.
Young backpackers in search of adventure – as well as relaxed foreigners who’ve settled for a life in the sun – roam the pretty streets, and though the nightlife is plentiful, it’s entertaining without being raucous.
However, as is the way with many colonial centers in Latin America, there’s so much more than meets the eye in the surrounding areas.
From breathtaking mountain ranges to impossibly charming fishing villages – as well as beautiful, historic towns – the area surrounding Puerto Vallarta is bursting with day trips.
Here are the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta:
Nestled into the picturesque Banderas Bay, Yelapa is a favorite getaway for people looking to take a quick escape from the urban atmosphere of Puerto Vallarta and unwind.
The fact that you can only get there by boat makes it feel even more remote, and you won’t be disappointed when you arrive.
The gorgeous white sand beach has forested mountains on one side and a palm tree-lined lagoon on the other.
Relax in the sun drinking cocktails and swim in the warm water to your heart’s content.
If you’re in search of something a little more adventurous, you can take a mild half-hour hike to a well-known waterfall that’s well worth the walk; just ask a local for directions.
Suggested Activity: Puerto Vallarta: Yelapa and Majahuitas Beach Adventure
2. Islas Marietas
With preservation of nature in mind, the Islas Marietas are a group of incredibly well-protected islands that can be explored in the space of a day from Puerto Vallarta.
Unlike some national parks in Thailand that are sadly no longer accessible because of overcrowding, the Islas Marietas enforce laws – such as limited numbers of visitors at a time, or even outright prohibiting access to some of the islands.
One that is open to the public is Playa Escondida, a hidden paradise in the form of a beach surrounded by a circle of rock walls.
The waters around these islands are teeming with tropical marine life thanks to these laws, so be sure to bring snorkeling gear and keep an eye out for dolphins and turtles.
One of the best sunset spots near Puerto Vallarta, Majahuitas is a secluded beach just south of town.
Like Yelapa, it can only be accessed by boat.
The homely beach huts serving fresh seafood and the smiling fisherman going about their day make for an irresistibly charming atmosphere.
Many people visit each year to get back to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
4. Las Caletas
Without a doubt one of the most unbelievably flawless beaches on the Pacific coast of Mexico, Las Caletas is the stuff of Instagram travel pages.
It is easily reachable from Puerto Vallarta.
Hammocks strung up in the shallows let you while away the day in the sun with the water lapping underneath you, whilst the more actively-inclined can embark on snorkeling trips, diving excursions and trek around the neighboring jungle.
Astonishing flora and fauna are never far away in Las Caletas, so be sure to bring your camera.
Recommended tour: Las Caletas Beach 7-Hour Tour from Puerto Vallarta
What would a Pacific coastal destination be without at least one good surf spot? Sayulita has long been a haven for surfers of all levels, thanks to the river mouth break that varies in difficulty depending on the season.
As a result, its sleepy town has a charming bohemian atmosphere without being overly party-oriented.
When you’re not surfing or sunning yourself on the gorgeous beaches, you can wander the pretty streets browsing souvenirs or grab a bite from delicious taco stands, washed down with a cold beer at one of the many inviting bars.
Available tour: Sayulita Beach: 6-Hour Trip from Puerto Vallarta
Venturing away from the coast, allow yourself the simple pleasures of one of the Sierra Madre’s most popular mountain destinations – the town of Mascota.
The small town offers a fascinating insight into what life is like for local people, away from the glitz of the beaches and palm trees; the local community is incredibly welcoming to visitors.
Boasting beautiful churches like the Preciosa Sangre Church, and intriguing points of interest like the Anthropology Museum, Mascota is a great place to wander around for the day if you’re looking for a change of scenery.
Named so because of the beautiful agave fields that surround it, Tequila is a magical little town steeped in colonial history and architecture.
Walls draped with vines and vibrantly colored flowers line the little cobblestone streets, and beautiful churches are to be found around every corner.
It would be criminal to miss out on the town’s namesake, so be sure to embark on a tequila tasting tour or two at the numerous world-famous distilleries like La Rojeña de José Cuervo.
8. Barra De Navidad
With a rocky seafront lined with a grove of palm trees, wooded hills rising gently in the background and its fair share of unspoiled beaches, Barra de Navidad is a paradise getaway with all the offerings of an authentic Mexican fishing and farming community.
Nestled in the Bahia de Navidad, the town is small but beautiful and is a hotspot for people who want to go on fishing trips.
If you prefer dry land, however, you’ll find yourself immediately charmed by the friendly locals and world-class restaurants scattered throughout town.
9. Sierra Madre
The Sierra Madre Mountains consist of low-lying jungle that gradually turns into drier woodland as you head further up.
A day trip here is the perfect way to take a break from the coast and experience the diverse landscapes found in this part of Mexico.
From iguanas and snakes to all manner of tropical birds, you’re sure to see some fauna you’ve never laid eyes upon before.
Between off-road jeep tours, hikes, and places to stop and eat, there’s more than enough to keep the intrepid traveler entertained for a day in the Sierra Madre.
Suggested tour: Sierra Madre Jeep Safari with Lunch
The proud capital of the state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is vast by global standards, but bursting at the seams with culture, colonial beauty and an irresistible zest for life.
Intersected by wide, pedestrianized avenues, gorgeous plazas, and palm tree-lined streets, it’s everything you could want from a Mexican urban hub and more.
The food – it goes without saying – is world class, whether found at a street stall or upmarket restaurant.
The nightlife is flavourful and seductive, while the architecture of the various UNESCO sites – like Guadalajara Cathedral – is enough to keep any visitor spellbound for the day.
11. San Sebastian
From mining town to popular tourist destination, San Sebastian is a designated Pueblo Magico – recognized as a destination full of historical character and charm by the Mexican government.
Nestled high in the Sierra Madre, the town is remote but gorgeous.
Surrounded by hills and forests, San Sebastian is home to agave and coffee farmers, as well as attractive 18th Century architecture and churches that’ll make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
12. Jorullo Bridge
Suspended above the Cuale River is one of the most scenic day trips you can take close to Puerto Vallarta, as well as being a record-breaking one! The Jorullo Bridge is the longest hanging bridge on the planet; from its lofty height, you can catch breathtaking views of the Sierra Madre mountains and the river below.
Nearby, El Salto waterfall will provide a welcome cool-off after the long walk across the bridge.
Reminiscent of Quito and other Latin American mountain hubs, Talpa is less than two hours away from Puerto Vallarta and offers an entirely new world to explore.
With breathtaking views of the Esmerelda Valley – complete with rolling hills and majestic volcanoes – the town’s location is an inspiration for many of the artists who live there.
Whether you’re enjoying a meal cooked for you by a local family or browsing the small, sometimes secretive art galleries, there’s always a sense of magic in the air at Talpa.
14. Los Arcos
Named after the geological formations found there, Los Arcos is a picture-perfect beach near Puerto Vallarta that attracts hundreds of visitors every year to explore its rocky arches.
The enormous rocks are covered in vegetation and have been bleached by the sun, making for an impressive backdrop to marvel at from the beach.
If you want a closer look, you can either go on a guided snorkel tour or paddle out by yourself to explore the waters around the rock’s base.
15. Mirador Cerro La Cruz
Though it’s still technically within the city limits, we couldn’t miss out one of our favorite viewpoints in Puerto Vallarta.
The Mirador de la Cruz is a moderate hike that takes you up onto a hill overlooking the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other, with the city in between.
The isolated peak gives unobstructed and truly mind-blowing views of the landscape around you – don’t forget to bring your camera.