Things you must see in Puerto Vallarta

Downtown Puerto Vallarta

When you travel around the world, you want to make sure you visit the most important landmarks in a town or city, you don't want to find out you missed something when you get home.

Use this list of important landmarks in Puerto Vallarta as a guide.

Main attractions

Lesser attractions


La Cruz Hill Lookout (Mirador Cerro de la Cruz)

The video shows one of the easy routes up to The Cross Hill (Cerro La Cruz), where you'll have a unique view of the city from the La Cruz Hill Lookout (Mirador del Cerro La Cruz). You start off on the Malecon by Abasolo street and walk uphill going towards the antenna you see on the top of the hill. When you arrive at the base of the hill there's a number of steps up and a funicular (cable car) that take you to the top and the Lookout (Mirador Cerro La Cruz). A great panoramic view of downtown Puerto Vallarta, the Banderas Bay, with the Arches (Los Arcos) on the far left and the rest of the bay up to Punta Mita and the Marieta Islands on the right.

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Parish Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (click to enlarge)

Year after year, Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe welcomes thousands of Catholics, especially during a 12-day festival called the feast of Guadalupe each Dec. This is a must-visit attraction in Puerto Vallarta.

There's always activity in and around the church, where tour guides appear on a daily basis, respectfully sharing their knowledge and Mexican traditions.

It dominates the skyline of Puerto Vallarta in countless postcards, as the city's most recognizable & endearing landmark around the world.

Detailed information on Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish

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The Malecón

Malecon view

The Malecon - a paved walkway all along the shore of downtown Puerto Vallarta, it's a very popular place to go as you can enjoy both the shopping, restaurants and the local Mexican culture.

The Malecon was once again completely remodeled in 2011 and now is exclusively for pedestrians, no more dangerous and noisy taxis and cars. A safe, fun and interesting family excursion in downtown Vallarta enjoying the many attractions and the sculptures too.

El Malecon in Downtown Vallarta
The Malecon (click to enlarge)

The Malecón was rebuilt after it was badly damaged in 2002 following the unusual visit of Hurricane Kenna.

Read more on the Malecon itself.

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Sculptures and Seahorse Statue

Seahorse Statue

The walkway includes a number of sculptures by famous artists, including Bustamante, Colunga and Barquet.

The most iconic sculpture is also the oldest one in this part of town, the statue titled "The Boy on the Seahorse", commonly known as "The Seahorse Statue", which is strategically located halfway on the Malecon, by Galeana street.

Read about the statues on the boardwalk & other Downtown Puerto Vallarta attractions. Read more on the Seahorse statue too.

Sculptures on the Malecon
Sculptures on the Malecon (click to enlarge)

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Mercado Municipal Río Cuale (Flea Market)

Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale
Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale (click to enlarge)

A large flea market located on the northern shore of the Cuale river that flows through downtown Puerto Vallarta.

It's quite easy to find, if you are in the main square, you walk down Juárez street going south (that's away from City Hall, the big government building by the square) and keep going till you get to Agustín Rodríguez street, there take a left and in less than 200 yards, there's the market.

Comprising a complete city block along the north side of the banks of the Cuale River is the Mercado Municipal (Cuale River Flea Market), also known as the Mercado Municipal Río Cuale.

Artisan souvenirs

It's an indoor market with 2 stories with vendors, suppliers, and everything from pottery to jewelry, embroidered clothing and souvenirs and much more.

If you like to bargain, this is a good place to do it, especially if you're looking for crafts at affordable prices. On the second floor, you'll find food stands too. More on shopping in Vallarta.

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Cuale River Island

Isla Cuale (Cuale Island) is a natural island on the Cuale River surrounded by two arms of the river. The island has some restaurants, a museum, a cultural center, a statue of John Huston, and much more... but most people know it for its shops and stands.

The Isla Cuale was also famous for its cat population, still has some even today.

Isla Rio Cuale Market stands

The island itself was a lower class development until the residents were forced to move during a hurricane in 1971 where the whole area was flooded. After that event, the island was used for restaurants, shops, and a cultural center and at one time a children's park too. Read more on this interesting part of town.

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Los Muertos Beach

Los Muertos Beach
Los Muertos beach (click to enlarge)

Playa Los Muertos (Deadman's Beach) is the most popular, the best known and the most visited beach in Puerto Vallarta, especially now that the pier has been finished.

You'll find it south of the Malecon and the Cuale river, between the river and Venustiano Carranza (where you can find Daiquiri Dick's) in what is called Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta) the beach, is called Olas Altas beach and from Venustiano Carranza to the south it's called Los Muertos. Read more on this beach.

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El Púlpito

El Púlpito and Las Pilitas (Pulpit and Baptismal Font) are two rock formations on the South end of the Romantic zone's Los Muertos Beach.

El Púlpito is the tall headland which holds a special part in the city's history.

El Púlpito Los Muertos Beach Puerto Vallarta
El Púlpito

El Púlpito, a rock promontory, 50 or 60 feet high, stretching out into the water surrounded by rocks and boulders, the sheer face rises straight up out of the foam from the waves constantly hitting its base.

A side street on Olas Altas is named after this natural landmark too. Read more on El Púlpito.

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Las Pilitas

Las Pilitas (Baptismal Font) is a sea-level rock formation on the South end of Old Vallarta's Los Muertos Beach, close to the base of El Pulpito.

This was where the "El Caballito de Mar" sculpture (The Seahorse) was originally located, after disappearing in a storm a bigger replica was made by the artist and placed on the Malecon. The original statue was recovered and now stands there at Las Pilitas too.

A side street on Olas Altas (Old Vallarta) is named after this natural landmark. Read more on Las Pilitas.

Pilitas Los Muertos Beach Puerto Vallarta
Las Pilitas and the Seahorse

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Conchas Chinas Beach

Playa Conchas Chinas (Chinese Shells Beach), located in Fraccionamiento Las Amapas is one of the cities most secluded beaches, it is found south of El Púlpito on the south end of Los Muertos Beach in what is known as the South Zone.

Conchas Chinas
Conchas Chinas beach

Conchas Chinas Beach is one of the most beautiful locations in Puerto Vallarta. Just minutes from the city, this beach lies between forest and mountains: a superb place colored by the blue-green waters and beige sand.

Enjoy the natural pools formed by groups of rocks or a delicious fried fish, rent boats and water ski. The clarity of the water allows you to see the ocean floor and enjoy the different multicolored fish that live there. Read more on PV's many beaches.

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Los Arcos

Almost anywhere in town and south of the city you'll be able to see some small islands by the edge of the sea in the South Zone, these are what is locally know as "Los Arcos de Mismaloya", the Arches of Mismaloya, in the past also known as "Las Peñas" (the big rocks) which was when the village was founded, in 1851, the original name: "Las Peñas de Santa María de Guadalupe." Read PV's history.

Las Peñas (Los Arcos)
Los Arcos (Las Peñas)

Nowadays they are a very popular day trip destination, both snorkelers, tourists, tour operators and scuba divers visit this place day in and day out. It's both very beautiful as a scenic photo-op, but also quite impressive for its natural biodiversity above and below water. These little islands also sport tunnels that go through them, thus the name: the arches. Read more on these rocky islets.

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Las Amapas Beach

Las Amapas
Las Amapas beach

Las Amapas beach is a semi-hidden beach just south of El Púlpito, when you arrive at the end of Los Muertos Beach there is a path that climbs to the top of El Pulpito and also continues down to the beach on the other side. Las Amapas is not filled with vacationers and provides a more intimate space for a family trip or with your couple.

Don't forget to visit these memorable beaches, you won't regret it.

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Marina Vallarta

If you are not staying at one of the many luxurious resorts at the Marina area in the city, then it will be a great little day trip, it's not far from downtown (some even make the trip walking), take a taxi of a bus and visit the Marina. There's a nice boardwalk with stores, cafes, great restaurants and a nice Lighthouse restaurant/bar.

Marina Vallarta night view

There's a few shopping centers, sculptures, an 18-hole championship golf course with iguanas and occasional crocodile and there are also a few tour operators that embark in this area, so it's also a starting point for more adventures. Read more on the Marina Vallarta.

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Pier at Los Muertos Beach

After almost three years, the pier on Los Muertos Beach was finally inaugurated in January 2013.

Pier detail

The pier offers access to boats, water taxis that can take you north of the bay and mainly to the southern beaches and coves and sail trips and cruises around the bay.

Pier at Los Muertos Beach
Pier at Los Muertos Beach (click to enlarge)

Take a stroll along the 200 feet of the pier, enjoy the panoramic view and all the sea related activities you can enjoy there, you can also get some great photos at night when the multicolored lights create a beautiful backdrop for your romantic photos at Playa Los Muertos. Read more on the Vallarta Pier.

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Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Located a bit out of town, south of Boca de Tomatlán and Mismaloya on the way to El Tuito, you'll find one of the treasures of the area, a fabulous, well organized botanical garden.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Vallarta Botanical Gardens (click to enlarge)

There are a number of routes with varying degrees of difficulty, there's an orchid garden, you can enjoy a dip in the small river that runs through the property and if you are hungry you can enjoy one of the best restaurants in the area (including Puerto Vallarta) at Hacienda de Oro. Read more on the VBG article or read a VBG review.

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Plaza de Armas (Plaza de la Presidencia Municipal)

The Plaza de la Presidencia or Plaza de Armas is the city's main plaza, official center of political and cultural activities in Puerto Vallarta.

Here you'll enjoy public concerts at the bandstand (kiosk) or at the amphitheater across the street by the Arches, the amphitheater, and the Malecon.

Plaza de Armas - Zocalo
Main Plaza, Plaza de Armas (click to enlarge)

There is a large, 2 story building that houses government offices (and Vallarta tourist office) plus a large outdoor terrace with a fountain, you'll also find one of the famous local artist, Manuel Lepe's murals.

Plaza fountain

This plaza is located between the Puerto Vallarta Malecon at Los Arcos Amphitheatre & the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church ("Cathedral").

The Plaza has free Wi-Fi as well as the Malecón.

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Casa del Habano

Casa del Habano

Considering a number of cigar aficionados we can recommend La Casa del Habano on Aldama 170 in Downtown Puerto Vallarta, offers a humidor and a Cuban cigar shop. On the ground floor, there's a cigar friendly bar where you can order from cappuccinos, whiskeys to tequila.

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Tequila

Though this liquor is produced in the town of Tequila, Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta offers great stores and selection, you can also learn more about the production process and taste the varieties on a few tequila tours.

Tequila in Puerto Vallarta
Tequila in Puerto Vallarta (click to enlarge)

Buy Tequila

Costco
Av Fluvial Vallarta 134, Fracc Fluvial Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta
Tel: (322) 226-2580

Super La Playa

Olas Altas No. 246, L- 5
Col. Emiliano Zapata
Entre Venustiano Carranza Y Basilio Vadillo
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
C.P. 48380
Tel. (322) 222-5304

Pípila No. 139, Col. Centro, Entre Paseo Díaz Ordaz y Morelos, Puerto Vallarta
Tel. (322) 223-1818 / 2231852

Tequila Tours

Read more on our Tequila article.

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Art Walk

Art Walk in Puerto Vallarta
Art Walk in Puerto Vallarta (click to enlarge)

Various art galleries in the historic Puerto Vallarta downtown area work together with important national and international artists offering remarkable paintings, sculptures, fine ceramics, blown-glass and other art. Read more on this excellent initiative at http://vallartaartwalk.com/

Galeria Pacifico

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Vanilla

Mexico is the original country where vanilla, an extract from the seed pod of an orchid, was discovered and used. For centuries the country was the sole producer of this heavenly essence.

Vanilla in Vallarta
Vanilla in Vallarta

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world after saffron, there are many places in town you can buy the real thing. Read more in our Vanilla in Vallarta article.

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Lighthouse on Matamoros

Puerto Vallarta Lighthouse, Matamoros
Lighthouse lookout on Matamoros (click to enlarge)

The place is great for photography or just enjoying the panoramic view of the town. If you have a good zoom lens you can really get some great angles of the different landmarks around the bay and in downtown Vallarta. Read more and map.

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Gringo Gulch

Gringo Gulch

The Gringo Gulch is a picturesque residential area in the historical part of Downtown Puerto Vallarta, located on the hillside to the East and uphill from the main square and on the North bank of the Cuale River. Read more about this area.

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Old Farmer's Market

Old Farmer's Market Puerto Vallarta

Old Town Farmers' Market has become one of the best weekend attractions in Puerto Vallarta, locals and expats enjoy purchasing and sampling fresh local produce. The Market is a producer-only market, which means all vendors must make, bake or grow the products they sell here, no Walmart or Soriana here. Phew!

Open every Saturday from the start of November to May between 9:30 am and 2 pm. Now relocated to Lázaro Cárdenas Park.
Market FB Page for dates, news, and updates. Official site.

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Museo del Cuale

The Cuale Archaeological Museum is a small, but surprisingly engaging little museum located on the West side (toward the Ocean) of the Cuale River Island in Downtown Puerto Vallarta.

While it includes only a few galleries, the museum offers a significant collection of local and regional pre-Hispanic art of the cultures that once inhabited the area.

Museo del Cuale
Museo del Cuale

Exhibits are arranged chronologically and cover the area's earliest history. Together with a permanent collection of Pre-Hispanic pottery, artifacts plus graves.

The museum also houses a little gallery with temporary contemporary art exhibitions.

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Aquaventuras Waterpark

You'll find Aquaventuras Park on the way into Nuevo Vallarta. It's a great place to chill out, float around in the fresh water and do nothing. The family can zip down the water slides, play around in the park or just enjoy the sun too.

Aquaventuras Waterpark in Nuevo Vallarta
Aquaventuras Waterpark in Nuevo Vallarta

There are 10 waterslides of various styles, some more for adults than children, there's a special area for kids, where the water is not that deep and the games more relaxed.

Aquaventuras Water Park Nuevo Vallarta

You can enjoy the sea lion show or even swim with the dolphins at this park too. Just a 10-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta's International Airport. Check the location on a map.

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Vallarta Zoo

You'll find Puerto Vallarta Zoo in the valley that ends with Mismaloya and Mismaloya beach, an exotic lush tropical jungle, in the village surrounded by the river and mountains, a fun packed family day trip.

Zoo monkeys

Even though it may not be the most sophisticated of zoos, it has a unique take that makes it much more interesting than the normal sanitized options you'll find in other countries, you'll be able to pet and touch many of them, and you can even feed the animals with food provided there. Read more on the zoo.

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