Puerto Vallarta is one of the best sea-side destinations in Mexico. With more than a dozen beaches and spectacular sights to see, it is an excellent winter getaway. I had the chance to go for this most recent Christmas and had a blast. I arrived on 12/24 and left on 12/29.
That being said, here are a few helpful tips:
1. Stay as Close to Centro as Possible
If you are a tourist, I would opt for Centro and be as close to the beach as possible. For starters, it is the closest to all the street food, restaurants, and bars. Many of the shop-keepers and restaurant wait-staff can also speak English; whereas in Versalles and Centro Pitillal, English is non-existent.
2. Puerto Vallarta is Safe in the Morning
During the day, most of the major neighborhoods are safe. However, Centro is the only neighborhood I would go to AFTER sundown. There are plenty of amazing shops and stores in Versalles and Centro Pitillal, but I would avoid them at night because they can be pretty dangerous.
3. Cabs Might be a Better Deal
Generally, when you are traveling around in Latin America, Uber will be your cheapest option. In Puerto Vallarta, cab fares can be comparable, and sometimes, even less expensive (especially when Uber is surging).
A cab ride from the airport to Centro costs 180 MXN (or about $9 USD). Uber charges 160 to 350 MXN, depending on if fares are surging.
4. Go to the Yelapa Beach
During the high season (November to February), the most popular beaches are filled to the brim. I went to several of them during my trip in December:
(1) Playa de Oro
(2) Playa El Salado
(3) Playa Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta
(5) Playa Las Gemelas
The only one that was NOT crowded was Yelapa, which according to the locals is the most scenic beach. I went alone, and it was amazing. Not too crowded even though it was the high season.
5. Go in April
Finding the perfect travel time requires weighing a few factors.
– During the winter, the city is crowded and travel fares are astronomical.
– Summer is hot and humid.
– Autumn is affordable, but you should expect much more rain.
A good compromise is booking your stay sometime between April and June. Temperatures are around 90 F. Hotel rates and flights are also more reasonable.
6. Try the Street Food
Puerto Vallarta is renowned for its wide range of gourmet food-stands. From my experience, these food stands are 20% cheaper than the restaurants and are tastier. Let me give you the pricing:
– 5 tacos for 60 MXN ($4 USD)
– 2 scoops of ice cream for 30 MXN ($2 USD)
– Crepes for 50 MXN ($3 USD)
– 2 Mexican pastries for 20 MXN ($1.50 USD)
– Fruit cups for 40 MXN ($2 USD)
– 2 tamales for 40 MXN ($2 USD)
If you want to know how clean the food is, examine the following:
(1) Look if the salsa spoons are clean.
(2) Check if there is a hand washing area.
(3) Servers wear aprons and have their hair pulled back.
Most of the street food is concentrated one block west to the Starbucks Malecon located in the Centro neighborhood. There should be 30-40 food stands lined up along the shore.
7. Check Out the Malls While You Are Here
Clothing was surprisingly cheap in Mexico. I was able to get a leather jacket that would normally cost $750 USD at Nordstrom in Chicago for $3,500 MXN ($195 USD).