Downtown Puerto Vallarta is a great and colourful place to walk around, but it also provides a number of options for getting around, especially when you have to move around and distances are longer (if the weather is too hot). There is an efficient and conveniently priced public transport system, there are taxis and ridesharing options and renting a vehicle too. If you are going to some of the more isolated areas in the bay area, say the South Zone beaches, then you’ll also use the water taxis (pangas), boats, and sea tours. Here are some more details on the available options:

In general, there are 4 main options in Vallarta –> On foot – Taxis / Über – Buses – Rental carsWater taxis


On foot

View from the La Cruz Hill Lookout in downtown Puerto Vallarta

A great way to soak it all in, it’s my favorite way to move around, you never know what you’ll see or find. Take in all the sights and get some great photos while working up an appetite for the next meal. You’ll find the hidden stores, small side streets, fun paths winding up the hill, small restaurants or cafes, it’s discovery time. The PV downtown streets are charming and the hills make it all very picturesque and rewarding for those that enjoy and can walk them. The Malecón and its car/bus free area is a wonderful experience for a long and beautiful stroll, same goes for the Cuale River Island or a trip up the hills by the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish (the one with the crown) into the Gringo Gulch area or a demanding but rewarding trip to the Cerro La Cruz Lookout.

There are sidewalks all over town and you won’t need to be worried when crossing bridges or parks, there’ll always be some way to walk through. If you stay at the Marina area or further north, walking into town will be more of a hike and is not recommended unless you are into really looong walks.

If you stay in the downtown area, you’ll be within walking distance of it all, so if you are planning to get to know the city (which we recommend) it’s best to choose a lodging option within downtown Vallarta and the Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta).

Do be careful when crossing the streets, cars, taxis, and buses always feel like they have the right of way and you should always treat them as a threat, it’s strange, but that’s just how it is. They are supposed to give way when they turn, but even there, be sure to make eye contact before crossing, just to be on the safe side.


Taxis / Uber

Airport transfers and taxis

Puerto Vallarta International Airport 2020

Puerto Vallarta International Airport 2020, parking lot

Check with your hotel if they offer airport transfers, if not, once you get out of immigration and the baggage claim (through the timeshare shark tank, read more in the airport section) and into the airport hall you can reserve a taxi with one of the two companies there. The fees are fixed by area and you don’t need to haggle or worry. Read more about the rates.

Taxi

Taxis are all over town at any time of the day or night. Just step outside your hotel or onto any street curb and wave as they approach. Taxis are really very convenient and cheap to use, and you won’t have any problem using them.

taxi

All hotels can hail one for you and many have regular taxis parked in front waiting to take you wherever you want to go. If in doubt ask your hotel concierge what the going rate is for your destination.

Taxis are a great option to move around town, you’ll find them everywhere in town, they aren’t very expensive and charge based on zones, just make sure you are happy with the price before you drive off in one. Typically a trip from downtown PV to the Hotel Zone (Zone Hotelera) and Marina Vallarta is around $100 or $120 Mexican pesos (5-6 USA dollars) and a trip from PV’s “Centro” to the airport or interregional bus terminal will be around $200 pesos ($10 USD). Trips from downtown PV south to Mismaloya and Boca run around $8 to $10 USD. A short trip in the downtown area will cost around $3.50 USD. It’s very safe to hail a cab on the street in Puerto Vallarta. The minimum rate is around $3.50 (US dollar) and a set fee of around $1.50 (US dollar) per zone. Tips are included in the fare, but if you wish, you can tip around 10%. They are easily identified by their yellow-white color and signs.

If you are going to a specific restaurant or a tour provider, do not let the taxi driver talk you into going to some other “better” place, he’s probably taking you to his buddy’s restaurant or one he’ll receive a commission from.

Über

As with many other places around the world, ride-hailing services arrived to disrupt the monolithic taxi market that (not surprisingly was rife with corruption and stagnation). Taxis were accustomed to applying the Mexican saying “depending on the toad, the size of the stone you throw at it”, meaning if you were a tourist the price would magically go up. Airport taxi rates are fixed, though quite expensive based on the distances. Uber and similar can’t pick you up there, but if you leave the federal area, for example, over the highway using the pedestrian bridge, you can get one on the streets around the Airport area.

Regarding Über, I mostly used their services around town on my last trip, things work smoothly, with no incidents with the local taxi service (things seem to be sorting themselves out among them).

Anyway, I tried to be discreet and did not expect them to leave or pick me up in Federal zones, like the harbor area or the airport. I would also not request them from taxi zones, nor did I walk into the back seats of the car, I would act as if I knew them and they were a friend (don’t know if this is necessary, but I did it that was just the same).

The app works without a hitch and the drivers were all very calm, friendly and it was, all in all, a great experience, plus prices were roughly half those I’d pay in taxis, it’s a combination that’s very hard to beat.


Local Buses

The buses are a very convenient way to get around town, they may be a bit scary to start off on, but you get the hang of them in a breeze. Buses here are privately owned, and some look a bit funky, but they do get you where you want to go and you’ll experience the true Mexican lifestyle during your journey as this is how most the local population moves around town, when not on foot. Even so, there are newer buses being added to the mix and very soon the old “picturesque” buses will be a thing of the past, so hurry up! (If that’s your thing).

It is a bit awkward when you try it for the first time, but you soon get a hang of it it’s liberating, plus the price is hard to beat at around $0.55-0.60 (US dollars), $10 Mexican pesos (2021). They drive from around 6 AM till around 10:30-11 PM all week.

You can identify them by color, blue buses go to the Marina Vallarta from downtown, the orange & white ones travel from the Romantic Zone to the south zone, and so on.

They’ll help you get to the neighbourhoods outside the centro (downtown area).

bus in vallarta

On my most recent trips in the local buses down south, there weren’t any, but don’t be surprised if entertainers leaps on board to belt out a song about lost love and overdue rent. Mexicans tend to tip a few pesos whether the entertainment is Vegas caliber or not. And, if you’re really lucky, you can get some bubblegum, chocolate, or garlic shopping done during your journey too (you’ll understand when it happens to you).

Bus signs are blue with a picture of a bus and the word “parada” means bus stop.

Pino Suarez Street and Plaza Lázaro Cárdenas in the Romantic Zone (south of the Cuale River) is an important departure hub. Local “camiones” (buses) stop on Insurgentes near the corner of Madero Street. Those that have signs saying Aeropuerto (airport), Hotelera (Hotel Zone), Mojoneras, and Juntas (Las Juntas), go through Puerto Vallarta northward passing the Marina Vallarta area and the PV International Airport. The bus marked ‘Mojoneras’ will also stop at Puerto Vallarta’s bus terminal where you can catch buses to surrounding cities near and far.

If you want to visit the beaches south of Puerto Vallarta all the way to Boca de Tomatlán, you’ll need to grab a white-and-orange ‘Boca de Tomatlán’ bus ($10 MX pesos) you’ll go south along the Federal Coastal Highway 200 passing through Mismaloya (some 20 minutes) to Boca de Tomatlán (25 minutes). They start off from the corner of Constitución Street & Basilio Badillo Street in the Romantic Zone every 15 minutes. The bus that’ll take you to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens and El Tuito further south costs $35 Mexican pesos ($1.75 USD) start off on the corner of Carranza Street and Aguacate Street in the Romantic Zone too.

A bus that takes you northward, say to beaches in Sayulita and San Pancho (San Francisco, Nayarit)  cost around $2.5 USD ($50 Mexican pesos) start off from the bus stop in front of SAM’s Club and Walmart right across from the API Harbor area where cruise ships arrive. You can also catch them under the pedestrian bridge that helps you cross the highway when you are arriving or going to the PVR Airport.

Remember to bring change to pay for the fare, don’t arrive with a 200-peso bill!

More information on local buses and longer trips in the bay.

The fare to go anywhere in town is around 60 cents (2018 Nov 2, the fare has changed to $10.00 pesos – approx. $0.50 dollars, still is in 2021).

  • Buses marked “Centro” go to downtown and on to Olas Altas
  • Buses marked “Tunel” take the bypass to Olas Altas (thus avoiding most of downtown Puerto Vallarta)
  • Buses to the Airport are marked “Ixtapa,” “Juntas”, or “Las Palmas.”
  • Buses to the Marina, El Pitillal, Mismaloya, Nuevo Vallarta, and Punta de Mita are marked accordingly.
  • Buses to Nuevo Vallarta charge around 2 dollars.
  • You can read and see all the bus lines here.

You can take local buses to places north and south of Puerto Vallarta, among these Punta de Mita, El Tuito and others.

  1. Autotransportes Medina (ATM) starts off at Brazil 1410 (south of the sports stadium) to Punta Mita (every 7 minutes) and to Nuevo Vallarta (every 10 minutes). Fares: Bucerías around $1.00 USD, Nuevo Vallarta $1.10 USD, Punta Mita $1.90 USD.
  2. Compostela-Pacífico (white and green) go to Sayulita for a bit over $3.00 USD travels by San Pancho and Rincón de Guayabitos but leaves you on the highway, not in the town itself.
  3. El Tuito, the bus starts from Venustiano Carranza and Aguacate streets in the Romantic Zone, the fare is 2-3 dollars and takes around 50 minutes.
  4. Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán around $0.60 USD. Buses going south depart from Constitucion St. and Basilio Badillo St. (photo above).

 


Rental cars

Rental vehicles can be rather expensive in Puerto Vallarta yet you can not beat the comfort and ease, specifically when taking a trip with kids. They’re especially useful for day trips to locations north like Sayulita, Chacala, Punta de Mita, and also San Francisco (aka San Pancho), a collection of laid-back villages more or less an hour or so north of Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit. Car rentals will also help you add more destinations to your trip, including the colonial mountain getaways like to the neighboring mining towns of San Sebastián del Oeste, Talpa de Allende, and Mascota, you’ll be able to make interesting stops along the way at small family-run shops or eateries and maybe even pick up some Raicilla (an until recently illegal distilled agave liquor) – BTW, don’t drink and drive!

Some rentals are located in and around the flight terminal, plus many can be found along Avenida Francisco Medina Ascencio. Rental prices for a budget automobile with responsibility coverage insurance range from $1200 to $1600 Mexican pesos per day, depending on if it’s high or low season.

You can also rent a car and have the freedom of moving around at will and whenever you want, read more on requirements and find a company in our car rentals section.


Water Taxis

Boca de Tomatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Boca de Tomatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

If you are going to visit the beautiful paradise-like beaches south of Boca de Tomatlán (we can’t recommend them enough) you’ll need to take a water taxi, mainly from the Los Muertos Pier, Marina Vallarta, or from Boca de Tomatlan. Here’s the schedule. Prices will vary depending on where you take the boat and how long the trip is, which will normally fall between 50 and 100 pesos each way south from Boca. Pangas stop along the way depending on each passenger’s needs and if they need to pick someone up. From Boca going south after Colomitos Beach the next stop is Las Ánimas Beach (20 minutes approx.) then Quimixto (30 minutes approx.) and Yelapa (40 minutes approx.) The prices are here.

Another popular option is to charter a motorboat privately, you can also do this with sailboats, fishing boats, and yachts. There are a number of tour operators including Ecotours Vallarta and Vallarta Adventures that offer a number of activities like scuba diving and snorkeling to popular and breathtaking locations like the unique and now world-famous Marietas Islands and Las Peñas (Los Arcos).