Puerto Vallarta has beautiful beaches, picturesque cobblestone streets, fantastic dining, and an abundance of shopping opportunities. Still, when you're ready to explore farther afield, you'll find many fun and exciting day trip options. You can visit "magical towns," explore tranquil fishing villages, discover bohemian beaches or bask in lovely natural scenery. Whether you choose to venture into the Sierra Madre mountains or roam along the coastline, there are many delights you can discover on these Puerto Vallarta day trips.
San Sebastian del Oeste: Magical Mining Town
High in the forested Sierra Madre, San Sebastian del Oeste was once a famous mining town with over 20,000 inhabitants. Its population is now a fraction of its former size, but the serene atmosphere makes for a wonderful choice for a day trip. Tour a small coffee plantation, photograph the red-tile-roofed buildings and wonderful views, take a peek at the museum by the entrance to the church. The crisp mountain air may provide a welcome respite from Puerto Vallarta’s heat and humidity.
Getting There: There are no direct buses, but you can take the bus to Mascota, get off at La Estancia, and take a taxi from there. Alternatively, drive there in a private car or take an excursion with a tour company such as Vallarta Adventures.
Travel Tip: There are a few good restaurants in town, including Montebello, which serves delicious Italian food, and Jardín Nebulosa, which offers fine Mexican fusion cuisine in a lovely patio setting.
Jorullo Bridge: Amazing Sights and Adrenaline Rushes
Travel three miles from Puerto Vallarta into the Sierra Madre, where you’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery and have the opportunity to get some adrenaline rushes. The 1,550 foot-long Jorullo Bridge is suspended some 500 feet above the Cuale River. Cross on foot or ATV, and enjoy being surrounded by incredible mountain scenery. El Salto waterfall nearby has crystal clear waters, and there’s a spot where you can jump into the falls. There are also opportunities to zip-line or tube down a river. Have lunch at Los Coapinoles open-air restaurant, or go on the weekend for the breakfast buffet.
Getting There: Purchase a tour package through Canopy River for a full day’s worth of activities, or arrange transportation (also through Canopy River) and decide what to do when you get there. Alternatively, you can rent a car and get there on your own.
Travel Tip: There's no shade on the bridge, so don’t forget to bring sunscreen and a hat! Once you get across, continue along the path to your right, and you’ll get to a spot where you can enjoy a complimentary drink and more amazing views.
Yelapa: Quiet Fishing Village
Yelapa is a small town that has a lovely beach with warm water, gentle waves, and golden sand. Southwest of Puerto Vallarta, it’s accessible only by sea, which adds to its charm. Many visitors don’t explore beyond the beach, but the town itself is fun to explore, with a church and some restaurants and a few handicraft stalls. Enjoy a walk on the beach, take the short hike to Cola de Caballo waterfall, and enjoy a freshly prepared meal at one of the beachside or village restaurants.
Getting There: Take a water taxi from the Puerto Vallarta Marina or the pier on Los Muertos beach. Alternatively, get to Boca de Tomatlan by bus or car, and take a water taxi from there.
Travel Tip: There’s a second waterfall located about an hour’s hike from the beach, that is much less visited. Take note that if you visit towards the end of the dry season, in late winter or spring, the waterfalls may be mostly dry.
Spend the day exploring cultivated gardens and conservatories surrounded by lush tropical forests. You’ll see and learn about orchids, rhododendrons, bromeliads, magnolias, and some Mexican plants of worldwide culinary importance such as vanilla and chocolate. You’ll also get to see many interesting butterflies and birds. Take a break from your explorations to enjoy lunch at the Hacienda de Oro restaurant, which has beautiful views and excellent margaritas.
Getting There: Located 15 miles south of downtown Puerto Vallarta, you can get to the botanical garden by private car, taxi or city bus. Catch the bus on the corner of Aguacate and Carranza streets in the Zona Romantica; the bus sign should say “El Tuito." Buses usually run every thirty minutes.
Travel Tip: Take a swimsuit and towel, and you can go for a refreshing swim in the Horcones River after hiking mountain paths.
Las Caletas: Private Beach Paradise
Las Caletas is a beach in a secluded cove on Banderas Bay, south of Puerto Vallarta. Once the home of film director John Huston, Las Caletas is now exclusively run by Vallarta Adventures. Board a boat and enjoy some coffee and a muffin as you make your way south. Once at Las Caletas, take your choice of a number of activities: snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, walking nature paths, a cooking class, spa treatments, and more—or just grab a hammock or lounge chair and relax by the beach, and take a refreshing dip when you need to cool off. This is a fun and relaxed day trip for families that have different ages as all will find something to do.
Getting There: This is a private location, and the only way to get there is by boat on an excursion with Vallarta Adventures: Las Caletas Beach Hideaway.
Travel Tip: There are many activities to choose from, so decide what your priorities are, and do them first if there’s time left over, you can lounge on the beach or in one of the available hammocks.
Sayulita, Nayarit: Bohemian Beach Town
A laid-back surfing town north of Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit state, Sayulita is popular among artists, surfers, and hippie types. Shops selling surfing gear, silver jewelry, and leather purses as well as handcrafted items and traditional souvenirs line the streets. Wander around the small town and check out the shops and restaurants. Take the obligatory Instagram pic on Delfines street, which is decorated with strands of colorful papel picado. Rent some surfing gear and ride some waves, or just lay back and enjoy the bohemian scene.
Getting There: Sayulita is located 22 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. You can catch a bus in front of Walmart. It takes about an hour and will leave you at the bus terminal in Sayulita.
Travel Tip: Sayulita’s main beach has a strong surf and tends to get crowded. Take a ten-minute walk west of the main beach along a well-worn path past the cemetery, and you’ll get to Los Muertos Beach. Sheltered between protective rocks, it has gentler waves and fewer people.
El Tuito: Laid-back Pueblo
The capital of Cabo Corrientes municipality, El Tuito, is located in pine-covered hills 30 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. Its elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level means that the climate here is some 10 degrees cooler than Puerto Vallarta. Wander around the town and have a look in the church dedicated to Saint Peter the Apostle (the main altar is a boulder), enjoy the bustling central plaza, and peek into some of the small shops selling local products like artisanal cheese and organic coffee as well as the local spirit, raicilla. Then find a spot at a restaurant on the plaza and enjoy the surroundings, the traditional architecture, lush vegetation, and take the opportunity to practice your Spanish with the friendly locals.
Getting There: If you’re an adventurous and experienced cyclist, you could bike there with Puerto Vallarta Cycling, but most visitors go by bus, which you can catch on the corner of Aguacate and Carranza streets in the Zona Romantica. The ride takes about an hour, and buses usually run every thirty minutes. Don’t miss the last bus of the day to Puerto Vallarta! It leaves around 6 p.m.
Travel Tip: Grab a taxi in El Tuito's main square to Hacienda El Divisadero, where you can see how raicilla is made.
Mascota and Talpa: Quiet Mountain Towns
Get some insight into Mexican rural life by visiting two traditional Mexican towns tucked in the Sierra Madre mountains. Mascota has cobblestone streets lined with colonial buildings and adobe homes. Visit the town’s monumental main church, dedicated to the Our Lady of Sorrows that was built between 1780 and 1880, and the unfinished but magnificent Templo de la Sangre de Cristo. Sample some hand-made tortillas fresh off the comal, locally produced sweets and raicilla; the local spirit distilled from the green agave. Nearby Talpa de Allende is another small village, and also a Catholic pilgrimage site, home to one of Mexico’s most revered icons, the Virgin of Rosario Talpa, who is believed to grant miracles. Thousands of pilgrims from throughout Mexico make the journey to the Gothic church to receive the Virgin's blessing. Enjoy panoramic views of the surroundings, including the Volcano de Molcajete.
Getting There: Take a tour with Vallarta Adventures, rent a car, or go by bus. Mascota is located 60 miles southeast from Puerto Vallarta, and Talpa is just a bit farther. Get a bus at the ATM bus terminal on the corner of Lucerna and Havre in Colonia Versalles, the morning departure is at 9 a.m., and return bus leaves from Mascota at 6 p.m.
Travel Tip: Visit La Casa de Piedra, located on the main street in downtown Mascota. Some visitors refer to it as the "Fred Flintstone house” because everything in it is carved out of river rock by its proud owner, Francisco Rodriguez Pena,