Cobblestone roads, warm sandy beaches, boutique shops, lively bar scene and a wide range of delicious restaurants makes Puerto Vallarta a hot tourism destination. That being said, I was personally leery of visiting because I do not enjoy large beach resorts and crowds. However, I was proven otherwise, outside of the hotel zone my eyes were opened to quaint and charming beach towns full of culture.

Readers Note, Traveling to Puerto Vallarta during Covid:

I traveled to Puerto Vallarta during the Covid-19 pandemic. The entire tourism industry in Puerto Vallarta and surrounding towns did a phenomenal job in sanitation protocols. Most importantly, all Covid safety rules were mandatory and enforced. We felt safe and healthy the entire time. Check out some of my favorite travel sanitation products to help you feel more at ease and to stay clean while traveling.

Rent a Car in Puerto Vallarta

Rent a car from Gecko. Gecko car rental has insurance built in their price and they offer free pickup and drop off from the airport. Therefore, offering you a huge cost savings.

Driving in Mexico is fairly easy, the agent at Gecko car rental goes into great detail about the rules of the road and highway. You never are going too fast either, making it easy to get around.

First Stop: Bucerias {2 Nights}

Bucerias means “place of divers.” This petite beach town felt so welcoming. I recommend making this your first stop, I made the mistake of staying in Nuevo Vallarta, which was nice but too “resorty.” The minute I parked the car in Bucerias I felt at ease in the laid back surfer vibe.

  • As I said before, we regrettably did not stay in Bucerias. Check out Airbnb or TripAdvisor for good deals in the Bucerias area.
  • Stroll the cobblestone roads
  • Bucerias Flea Market
  • Go Wine, Beer & Food tasting via bicycle with Bibi Bucerias
    • I cannot say enough great things about this tour. Jillian and Joel were exceptional! It was such a fun way to see the colorful town through the eyes of two locals. Book on Airbnb experiences or through their direct website Bibi Bucerias.
  • Karen’s Place
  • Cervecería Bahia de Banderas Brewery
    • Order the Jimica Shrimp Tacos
  • Culi’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Night cap at La Negra
Visiting Bucerias Mexico on a road trip in Puerto Vallarta
Bucerias Main Street

Second Stop: Sayulita {2-3 Nights}

Sayulita is the epitome of a beach bum town. Suffers and beach bums fill the energetic streets. Since I was traveling there on a holiday weekend, it was a fun place to go out and experience the lively nightlife.

  • OZ Sayulita Hotel Boutique
    • OZ Hotel is located in the middle of the action, walking distance to bars, restaurants and the beach. They also offer free parking, which is very desirable in the small streets of Sayulita. If you prefer a more quiet area, I recommend staying on the outskirts of town, it can get quite loud in the evenings.
  • Stroll through the beach town
    • Open Air Market
    • The Iguana Tree
  • Beaches:
    • Sayulita Beach. The main beach in Sayulita.
    • Playa de Los Muertos
    • Playa Carrictos
      • The trek to to Playa Carrictos is well worth the seclusion. Pack lunch/drinks and spend a whole day here!
    • Playa Escondida
  • Hike Monkey Mountain
  • Miscelanea Cafe
  • La Rustica
  • Don Patos
  • Wakiki or Mexicolate for ice cream
    • Atico Swing Bar
    • Rooftop El Conejo

Third Stop: San Pancho {1-2 Nights}

This quaint beach town was a much needed break from the buzzing energetic town of Sayulita. Roaming the streets, I fell in love with the serene homey atmosphere San Pancho offered. Cute note: All the cobblestone roads in San Pancho are named after different countries.

  • San Pancho is about a 10 – 15 min drive from Sayulita, that being said, I did a day trip to visit. If you prefer a more tranquil setting, I recommend staying in San Pancho for at least one night!
  • San Pancho Beach
    • Walk all the way to the rocky tip for beautiful sea views.
  • As always, walk the streets and soak in the serenity of San Pancho.
  • Grill Dogs Food Truck
  • Bistro Cielo Rojo
  • Loncheria Uno Mas
  • Kokonati for Coffee & Treats
  • Street Churros! These piping hot fresh churros are usually sold on the side of the road with a “churro-gun” being shot into boiling oil waiting to be covered in cinnamon sugar.
  • DRINK:
    • Cerveceria Artesenal San Pancho
      • The Mezcal drinks and beer were delicious
    • La Baba Del Diablo

Fourth Stop: Punta Mita {2-3 Nights}

A short drive from Sayulita, Punta Mita is its own world of luxury. Punta Mita was my splurge location and I do not regret it!

  • Hotel Basalto
    • Pure relaxational bliss. Hotel Basalto is a small boutique hotel on a dramatic cliff that offers extensive views of the bay. After check in, lay by the pool in a hammock and sip on refreshing cocktails. This place will not disappoint.

It was honestly hard to leave the beauty of Hotel Basalto, therefore I mainly enjoyed all of the luxuries the hotel offered, but when I did venture out it was worth it!

  • Whale Watching
    • Depending on the time of year, this is a must! {December through March is breading season for humpback whales}
  • Marietas Islands
  • Ally Cat Sailing Adventures
    • They offer many different varieties of sailing adventures. If you are there to for a fun time, I suggest renting the Fat Cat or Ally Cat boat tours. The boats have slides and fun water toys!
  • Naef. I still dream about the dinner I had at Naef. “It’s all about good vibes and great food!” their slogan perfectly describes the restaurant.
  • Eat in at Hotel Basalto
  • Make reservations to have drinks or dinner in Imanta Resort
Whale watching in punta mita mexico
Private Sunset Whale Watching Boat Tour

Fifth Stop: Conchas Chinas, Puerto Vallarta {3 Nights}

Described as the most romantic area in Puerto Vallarta, Conchas Chinas is a gem hidden from tourists. The vast views of the jungle meeting the ocean will have your jaw will drop in the astonishing beauty.

  • Budget Friendly Option: Mondavi Resort. I stayed at the Mondavi Resort, this resort has so much potential and the staff is so kind, unfortunately the hotel seemed dated and not well kept. For the price paid I cannot complain, but if you are looking for something more luxurious this is not the place for you.
  • There are many options in this area, for the most dramatic view make sure you are higher up the hill. Casa Del Quetzal, Castillo Encantado, and Patio Azul all looked very nice.
Best hotels with a view in Puerto Vallarta
View from Mondavi Resort Balcony
  • Walk around the romantic zone in Puerto Vallarta
    • Tequila Tasting. Airbnb Experiences is such a fun way to meet fellow travelers while doing something fun!
  • Drive South down the coast stopping in the little towns of Mismaloya & Boca de Tomatlan. I drove all the way down to Playa Punta Perula.
  • Mismaloya
    • Take a boat from Mismaloya to see Los Arcos. It is a lot cheaper and faster than leaving out of Puerto Vallarta. Also, you are able to have your own private boat for about $10 per person after haggling a deal.
  • Beaches:
    • Conchas Chinas
    • Boca
    • Mismaloya
  • Waterfall Hikes:
    • Nogalito Ecopark
    • Palo Maria
  • Vallarta Botanical Garden
    • On the last day, since I had a late evening flight, I decided to check out the Botanical Gardens. There are many nicely planted gardens and buildings scattered throughout the grounds. In addition, there are lots hiking paths that allow you to see the dense jungle. A few hiking paths even lead to a river. Enjoy lunch at the restaurant on site! When I first arrived, I had a tasty lunch over looking the jungle view, then after hiking and touring, I indulged in desert and drinks on the deck! It was a perfect ending to an incredible trip.
  • Romantic Restaurants with stunning views:
    • Le Kliff
    • Restaurante Barcelona Tapas Puerto Vallarta
  • Pipis
  • Hacienda de Oro inside the Botanical Gardens
    • Andale’s

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