Looking for a way to get the most out of one day in Puerto Vallarta? This 24 hour in Puerto Vallarta itinerary is the perfect way to dip your toes into one of Mexico’s most charming and liveable cities!
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Good to Know: This guide to one day in Puerto Vallarta comes to us from Lora Pope.
Lora is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade.
She lives a nomadic lifestyle and is on a quest to visit every country in the world – always on the lookout for new adventures, hidden gems, and dogs to pet.
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These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.
Find cheap flights with CheapOair.
Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.
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Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.
Get reliable travel insurance through World Nomads.
Store your luggage safely with Radical Storage.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta During Your Trip
If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta as a day trip, you won’t need somewhere to stay. But if you love the city and decide to stay overnight, check out some of these Puerto Vallarta accommodations.
Budget (under $15 a night)
If you’re visiting on a budget, check out Oasis Hostel, which was the first hostel to open in Puerto Vallarta.
They offer affordable dorm beds or private rooms if you want more privacy while still benefiting from the social atmosphere.
The best part is the rooftop terrace where you can see the sunset over the city!
If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little more upscale, check out Capital O Hotel 522. It’s one of the most affordable boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta, and each room is given a distinctly bold theme to set it apart from the rest.
Book your stay at the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort and Spa for a truly luxurious vacation.
You’ll love lounging around the infinity pools overlooking the jungle or pampering yourself at the spa.
They also offer guided hikes and paddling excursions so you can make the most of your time here.
Visiting Puerto Vallarta
Mexico’s top destinations range from sleepy beach towns to some of the busiest cities in the world. Puerto Vallarta falls somewhere in the middle.
The population is just under 300,000, but over 5 million tourists visit a year so it always feels lively.
Puerto Vallarta is situated on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, surrounded by the gorgeous Bay of Banderas and Sierra Madra mountains, making it an ideal destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
Since the city isn’t exceptionally large, you can quickly get around to the top attractions making it an ideal destination to visit in just one day.
How to get to Puerto Vallarata
The easiest way to get to Puerto Vallarta is by flying into the international airport, just a 15-minute drive from the city center. An Uber will cost you less than $10, or you can get the public bus for just 50 cents.
If you don’t have your own car, Puerto Vallarta is easily reachable by public busses from other parts of Mexico.
The popular surf town of Sayulita is just an hour away, as well as many popular resorts in Riviera Nayarit (the neighboring state to Jalisco). If you’re staying at a resort nearby want to take a day trip to Puerto Vallarta, you can easily get there by tour, taxi, uber, or bus.
A budget for one day in Puerto Vallarta
Mexico is an extremely affordable destination, and Puerto Vallarta is no exception. If you take advantage of the many free things to do here, you can get by spending less than $20 in one day. However, if you want to do some tours and dine by the beach, you’ll need to spend more.
Street tacos cost less than a free dollar for a filling meal and should not be overlooked! An entree from a restaurant on the beach will cost you around $10, and beers are $2.
Going to the beach and swimming in the ocean is free, but organized day trips and excursions cost anywhere from $30 to 100.
Accommodation prices can be as cheap as $10 for a dorm bed in a hostel or thousands if you stay in a lavish all-inclusive resort.
The perfect one day in Puerto Vallarta Itinerary
Start your day getting to know Puerto Vallarta with a free walking tour run by the city. The meeting point is by the municipal office next to the lady of Guadaloupe church, one of the prettiest landmarks in the city.
It leaves at 9 am and noon Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday.
If you aren’t visiting one of those days, make your own walking tour by strolling along the mile-long Malecon boardwalk, which takes you past several of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular neighborhoods.
After learning about Puerto Vallarta’s history, head to The Rio Cuale Market, located in the midst of historic downtown.
The market’s history dates back to the 1950s when the “polleras” women made a living selling traditional Mexican dishes. Today, it is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts with traditional jewelry and crafts available at an affordable price.
Now, it’s time for lunch! The market is next to the Malecon, a mile-long esplanade that stretches along the coast.
Walk left towards Los Muertos beach, and you’ll find ample Mexican restaurants serving up delicious locally caught seafood specials. I recommend El Dorado, which has friendly staff, excellent margaritas, freshly made guac, and an unbeatable beach view.
For the rest of the afternoon, you can choose to chill out at the beach or go on a more active adventure. Los Muertos is one of the most popular beaches in the city for locals and tourists alike, and there you’ll be able to find beach chairs for rent where drinks can be brought to you.
Alternatively, you can head into the ocean to go snorkeling and look for local marine life or rent a jet ski and explore along the coast. Whatever you decide, be sure to stay for the spectacular sunset that happens every night.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can hike up to Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz for sunset. A half an hour steep hike from the Malecon takes you up to one of the best viewpoints in the city, where you’ll get sweeping panoramic views of the entire city and bay surrounding it.
After a day of exploring, head to one of Puerto Vallarta’s top-rated restaurants for dinner, like Barcelona Tapas. It offers a romantic roof-top open-air dining experience with breathtaking views, live jazz music, and fantastic tapas plates.
Puerto Vallarta is a party city, so if you want to make the most of your day and continue into the night, head to Zona Romantica. This is the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, and there’s always something going on. You can find drag shows, clubs, and live music going into the early mornings here.
Is one day in Puerto Vallarta enough?
Yes! 24 hours in Puerto Vallarta perfect. It isn’t a big city, so it’s possible to see many of the top attractions in just one day while still having time to relax by the beach.
Should you visit Puerto Vallarta for one day?
Absolutely! If you’re looking for a place in Mexico where you can experience amazing beaches, food, culture, and nightlife, then Puerto Vallarta is the place to go.
Puerto Vallarta has an amazing atmosphere, It’s easy to see why so many people get stuck here for months!
How to spend 2 days in Puerto Vallarta
If you have more than one day in Puerto Vallarta, use your second day to visit some of the further out attractions.
The most popular day trips from Puerto Vallarta are:
Los Arcos is the place to go if you want to dive in Puerto Vallarta. These unique rock formations are home to abundant marine life, including stingrays, manta rays, and sea turtles which you can see on snorkeling and diving tours.
Alternatively, you can spend the day on a luxury yacht or catamaran, which will make a stop at Los Arcos, and then continue to secluded beaches along the coast.
Hike to a coastal beach
While Puerto Vallarta is home to some beautiful beaches, they get even better if you leave the city limits and head down the coast. One of the best ways to visit these beaches is by hiking.
Two of the most popular day hikes are Playa Colomitos and Playa Las Animas. To get to the trailhead, you have to first go to Boca Del Tomatlan, which is a small fishing village. You can either take a bus from Zona Romantica or get a taxi/uber – it takes about half an hour.
The trailhead leaves from Boca Del Tomaltan and takes you along the coastline for about an hour before reaching Colomitos, a secluded tranquil beach with emerald green water. It’s the perfect place to bring a picnic and hang out for the day, but there aren’t any amenities here, so you need to be prepared.
Alternatively, you can continue hiking for another hour to Las Animas, where you’ll find many restaurants and beach clubs. You can get a water taxi from here back to Boca or Los Muertos pier, so you don’t have to hike back!
Visit Isla Marietas
Islas Marietas is one of Mexico’s top attractions. These stunning uninhabited islands are designated as a national marine park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, offering visitors some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities in Puerto Vallarta.
On a day tour here, you’ll get the chance to spot dolphins and whales from the boat, snorkel in crystal-clear water, go on an eco-tour to see the blue-footed booby and 90 other bird species, and relax on some of Mexico’s most spectacular beaches.
The islands are home to a hidden beach, also known as Playa del Amor, which is an underground crater beach that blew up on Instagram a few years ago, leading to thousands visiting by the day.
To protect the corals from erosion, the government now limits permits for hidden beach to 116 people, which must be booked well in advance. However, you can visit the other beaches on Isla Marietas on a regular tour, which are just as spectacular.
San Pancho and Sayulita
Two of the most popular surf towns in Mexico are just an hour away from Puerto Vallarta, and both make excellent day trips. Better yet, combine them both into one trip if you’re renting a car as they are just five minutes drive away from each other.
Sayulita is a lively surf town known for its wild party atmosphere. There are surfboard rental shops and lessons readily available on the beach, but the water tends to be packed with surfers, so this may not be the best place to go if you’re a beginner.
If you’re looking for something a little more laid back with equally good surf conditions, head to San Pancho.
With a thriving eco-conscious and creative community, great restaurants, and beautiful untouched beaches, this unassuming puebla is the perfect place to experience a local small-town Mexican vibe.
Even with just one or two days in Puerto Vallarta, you can still experience the best of this vibrant Mexican city. Be sure to add it to your itinerary when planning a trip!
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Mexico
Lonely Planet Mexico and Lonely Planet Cancun, Cozumel, & the Yucatan are available as a paper copy or in a Kindle edition. You typically won’t find major guidebooks once you land, so get yours ahead of time.
I used both of these to plan my last trip to the Yucatan, and I read them cover to cover!
Mosquito Repellant is the single most important thing you’ll want on you as soon as dusk hits. Have enough to at least get through the first night if you’re packing light.
Full-Sized Travel Towel Unless your accommodations provide them, you will want to bring your own. I always bring my own towel to Mexico.
This is the best travel towel in the world. It’s pretty enough for the beach, large enough that you forget it’s a microfibre towel, and quick-drying, which is crucial in super humid parts of Mexico.
A Go Pro for underwater and action photography. Why go all the way to Mexico and not be able to capture some of the most exciting parts of your trip?
A Dry Bag for your stuff when you go on a boat or to the beach. You can get a larger one to use for a group or if you plan on taking a larger camera.
Otherwise, I use small ones with lanyards to hold my cell phone, money, and credit cards so I could take them with me swimming when traveling solo.
You might also want a separate waterproof holder for your passport. I’ve seen people who weren’t allowed to board their flights home because their passports got water damaged.
Mexico Travel Resources
Before Your Trip to Mexico – Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road.
I use World Nomads on my last trip to Mexico, and I happily recommend them.
It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be enjoying water activities, spending time on beaches, or in towns and cities where petty theft occurs.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads as far back as 2016, and I happily recommend them.
If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.