Why Puerto Vallarta Is Worth Visiting More Than Once
Just as the title of this post suggests, Puerto Vallarta is the first destination in Mexico that I’ve visited twice. This beach town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast in the state of Jalisco has everything you could want in a getaway: amazingly warm weather, beautiful blue skies and beaches, great food and drinks, and wonderfully “chill” west coast vibe.
I ended up booking two weekends in Puerto Vallarta, one in December 2018 and another in January 2019. It was so nice to be familiar with the town and be able to explore even more during my second trip!
So what distinguishes Puerto Vallarta from other beach destinations in Mexico like Cancun or Los Cabos? Well, although Puerto Vallarta is definitely a well-known destination, it’s just not as saturated with resorts or chain restaurants and hotels. To me, it felt like the perfect balance of tourist infrastructure and authentic Mexican culture.
Those of you who’ve read my post on Los Cabos can probably already guess that I’d recommend Puerto Vallarta if I had to choose. Comparing Cancun and PV is a bit harder; the two towns have pretty different atmospheres. To be honest, the waters of the Mexican Caribbean are some of the most stunning I’ve ever seen, and Isla Mujeres deserves a spot on everyone’s bucket list. With that said, Puerto Vallarta’s beauty lies in the lush green hills further inland from the beach and the quaint cobblestone streets lined with traditional architecture.
Where to Stay - Zona Romántica
The part of Puerto Vallarta where you’ll most likely stay is called the Zona Romántica. Although the city is much bigger than this small district, the “Romantic Zone” is where most of the things you’ll need are located. Restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs, the beach, and shops are all within a few minutes’ walk no matter where you wander in the neighborhood. It’s also very safe because of the crowds meandering through it all day long.
Playa de los Muertos
The most prominent part of the Romantic Zone is the huge Playa de los Muertos on its western side. This beach is fully public access, and although there are a number of private clubs along its shores, none of them reserve the beach exclusively for their patrons. This means everyone can fully enjoy it without having to pay a single peso!
You may have seen pictures of the famous Muelle de Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Beach Dock), which takes the shape of a sailboat and looks a little bit like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Although it does serve as a dock for small fishing boats and water taxis, the Muelle also has a 360-degree boardwalk which is a great place to watch the sunset or sit and relax.
Be sure to check out the very south end of the beach as well! Climb up onto the rocks to get the best view this beach has to offer.
Lastly, the northern half of Playa De Los Muertos has a walkway (El Malecón) which extends beyond the Zona Romántica. Be sure to take an hour or so to check out the interested pieces of art along the waterfront.
The town adjacent to Los Muertos Beach is pretty standard as far as seaside tourist towns go, but it has a nice mix of new luxury condos and traditional architecture. My favorite part is definitely the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, a prominent church with a fascinating tower that almost looks Russian. The back of the church also has yellow spires, which makes it one of the most unique works of architecture in the entire city.
If you are looking for the best scenic view in the city, take a walk (hike) up Calle Hortensias in the Alta Vista neighborhood. This area is a bit more adventurous as there aren’t really hotels or restaurants up here, but it’s well worth the effort to make the climb!
As you can probably guess, the city blocks of the Zona Romántica are also home to dozens if not hundreds of restaurants. Continue reading to learn more…
One of the reasons I really like Puerto Vallarta is the perfect mix of Mexican cuisine as well as high-quality international restaurants. Restaurants, especially the ones close to the water, obviously cater to tourists and are expensive (by local standards), but in general the food is very flavorful, fresh, and enjoyable.
This restaurant located here had great Mexican food if you find yourself on the north side of the Zona Romántica. I especially liked the spiced coffee they served.
A pretty standard tourist restaurant with balcony seating and ocean views. The breakfast I had here was simple but good. They also had a live band playing reggae in the morning which was a nice touch.
This popular brunch spot isn’t on the beach, but the almost retro diner vibe still makes it a fun place to eat. They had a two-for-one mimosa deal going on when I visited, and the steak breakfast I had was as filling as it was tasty.
La Palapa Restaurant
This upscale restaurant with a view of the beach was one of the touristy ones, but I really enjoyed both the view as well the food. Just look at how fancy that fruit plate looks!
For my main course, I had softshell crab eggs benedict, which ended up being a fraction of the cost that a dish like that would cost anywhere in the US (about 7 USD). If you’re looking for a classy brunch with good mimosas, this is the place for you!
Kaiser Maximilian Restaurant & Café
You’re likely to pass Kaiser Maximilian since it’s located on the main street in the Zona Romántica. It claims to be an Austrian restaurant, and although I can’t say whether the food I had here was authentically Austrian, it was delicious nonetheless.
I ordered a duck breast and lobster bisque and enjoyed both very much.
Sapori Di Sicilia
This fancy Italian place is the one restaurant I returned to on my second trip because it was just that good! Normally, Italian food in Mexico tastes pretty Americanized (at best), so I was pleasantly surprised by how deliciously authentic the food was here. If you’re in the mood for pasta and a glass or two of wine, this is the place to go!
If I had to summarize this post in one sentence, it would be: the Zona Romántica has enough to do that you’ll want to come back for a second (or third) visit! You won’t ever need to take a taxi or Uber unless you want to venture further away for a day trip or other excursion.
Even though the city is easy to explore over the course of a few days, it’s clear that PV would also be perfect for anyone looking for a weeklong vacation. The fact that there’s something here for everyone is evident by the diverse crowds of tourists, which include people from all over Mexico, young crowds, as well as families and older couples.
In terms of upcoming plans, I have half a dozen trips planned over the next few months! It’s a great mix of places including at least one or two more beach destinations, namely Isla Holbox in the state of Quintana Roo. I am so excited to discover the beauty of this relatively unheard-of island.
But for next week: Dallas! I can’t wait to try the BBQ, indulge in Tex-Mex again, and explore a little piece of Northern Texas! Until then, have a good one!