Puerto Vallarta sits in the center of the Bay of Banderas, and, while the city is full of interesting things to do, the surrounding area offers fascinating day trips and excursions.
You definitely want to visit Punta Mita, on the northern tip of the bay. This is where most high-end hotels and luxury villas are situated, but it also has gorgeous beaches and craggy rock formations.
The fishing town of Bucerias, a fashionable place to stay outside of PV, offers good beaches, some excellent markets, and a really good cooking school.
Sayulita appeals to former hippies, those who admire hippy culture and style, and those who love to surf. Beaches lure serious surfers, hence the pretty big annual surf competition. You’ll find plenty of good shops, markets, and cafes. The less developed village of San Francisco, known familiarly as San Pancho, is small and interesting.
Day cruises help you explore Banderas Bay’s beauty — my favorite is the trip to the Marieta Islands, but other excursions head to Los Arcos and several other beaches and coastal villages.
Riviera Nayarit is close by and worth an exploration. San Sebastian in the mountains offers a different glimpse of Mexican culture. A trip to Mismaloya includes the zoo, and then travel a bit further, to Boca de Tomatlan, for a great lunch on the beach while watching the water action. Many excursions leave from here. Yelapa makes for a great beach day, inclusive of a horseback ride to a waterfall and enjoying famous pie ladies.
More Day Trip Ideas
The Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is worth an afternoon visit. Its small restaurant is quite good and there’s a little stream for a cool down.
Truly off-piste travelers venture to Cabo Corrientes on the southern coast beyond the Bay of Banderas. Miles of untouched beaches, small uninhabited coves, and the absence of tourism development (at least till now) leave this area pristine.
Stay tuned for more details about each day.