The Ultimate Road Trip through Puerto Vallarta

Cobblestone roads, warm sandy beaches, boutique shops, a lively bar scene, and a wide range of delicious restaurants make 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. This easy-to-follow itinerary guide takes you on a road trip through Puerto Vallarta and surrounding towns. We did the road trip in one week, but you can easily tailor it to longer or shorter!


Rent a Car in Puerto Vallarta

Rent a car from Gecko. Gecko car rental has insurance built in their price and they offer free pick up and drop off from the airport. Therefore, offering you 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. Now that you have picked up your car, you are ready to embark on your road trip through Puerto Vallarta!


First Stop: Bucerias {1 to 2 Nights}

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

STAY:

  • As I said before, we regrettably did not stay in Bucerias. Check out my hotel list for good deals in the Bucerias area.

SEE:

  • 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.

TASTE:

  • Karen’s Place
  • Cervecería Bahia de Banderas Brewery
    • Order the Jimica Shrimp Tacos
  • Culi’s Restaurant & Bar
  • Night cap at La Negra

Second Stop: Sayulita {1-2 Nights}

The second stop on your road trip through Puerto Vallarta is Sayulita. Sayulita is the epitome of a beach bum town. Suffers and beach bums fill the energetic streets. Since we were traveling there on a holiday weekend, it was a fun place to go out and experience the lively nightlife.

STAY:

  • OZ Sayulita Hotel Boutique
    • OZ Hotel is located in the middle of the action, within walking distance of bars, restaurants, and the beach. They also offer free parking, which is very desirable in the small streets of Sayulita. If you prefer a quiet area, I recommend staying on the outskirts of town, it can get quite loud in the evenings.

Check out even more hotel options in Sayulita.

SEE:

  • 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 Playa Carrictos is well worth the seclusion. Pack lunch/drinks and spend a whole day here!
    • Playa Escondida
  • Hike Monkey Mountain

TASTE:

  • Miscelanea Cafe
  • La Rustica
  • Don Patos
  • Wakiki or Mexicolate for ice cream
  • DRINKS:
    • Atico Swing Bar
    • Rooftop El Conejo

Third Stop: San Pancho {1-2 Nights or Day Trip}

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.

STAY:

  • San Pancho is about a 10 – 15 min drive from Sayulita, that being said, we did a day trip to visit. If you prefer a more tranquil setting, I recommend staying in San Pancho for at least one night!

SEE:

  • 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.

TASTE:

  • 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 our splurge location and I do not regret it!

STAY:

  • Hotel Basalto
    • Pure relaxational bliss. Hotel Basalto is a small boutique hotel perched 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 we mainly enjoyed all of the luxuries the hotel offered, but when we did venture out it was worth it!

SEE:

  • Whale Watching
    • Depending on the time of year, this is a must! {December through March is breeding season for humpback whales}
  • Marietas Islands
  • Ally Cat Sailing Adventures
    • They offer many different varieties of sailing adventures. If you are there for a fun time, I suggest renting the Fat Cat or Ally Cat boat tours. The boats have slides and fun water toys!

TASTE:

  • 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

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.

STAY:

  • Budget-Friendly Option: Mondavi Resort. We stayed in the Mondavi Resort, this resort has so much potential and the staff is so kind, unfortunately, the hotel was a little dated. For the price paid, we 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. Click here to see all hotel options in Conchas Chinas.

SEE:

  • 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. We 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 we had a late evening flight, we decided to check out the Botanical Gardens. There are many nicely planted gardens and buildings scattered throughout the grounds. In addition, there are lots of 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 we first arrived, we enjoyed a tasty lunch overlooking the jungle view, then after hiking and touring, we indulged in dessert and drinks on the deck! It was a perfect ending to an incredible trip.

TASTE:


I hope this guide helps prepare you for your own road trip through Puerto Vallarta! If you need any help planning or have any questions, please reach out or message me on my contact page! I would love to hear about how your trip went as well. Tell me in the comments below!

Meet Mel

I started Mel’s Scene to showcase my trips and offer my personalized itineraries to other global wanderers. I have never cared for material things, I care more so for the experiences and memories that each travel destination has given me.

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1 Comments

  1. 9.7.22
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