This colonial port city has long welcomed cruisers, including pirates seeking repose in the picturesque bays. It was also put on the map by Hollywood couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who relished the town’s golden shores and intimate feel. The port is a quick and cheap cab ride from the Old Town, the best area for strolling, eating, and beaching.
What We Love
Whale Watches: There’s nothing quite like an excursion to see the giants of the ocean up close and personal. Tiny boats leave from off the coast of Punta Mita, a resort about 40 minutes from port, from December to March.
Tacos: For a tasting tour of the town’s many taquerias (taco restaurants), hop on the Vallarta Food Tours Taco Adventure that stops at multiple outposts, including some that are off the tourist radar.
Best Known For
Old Town: Stroll along the art-studded malecón (beach boardwalk) that’s framed by the ocean and the colonial city. Take in the original artwork and street performers before touring the main plaza, picturesque church, and shops and eateries.
Tequila Tours: Puerto Vallarta is loaded with opportunities to taste the local spirit. Shops and bars offer a wide variety of the agave-based liquor. For a more in-depth experience head to Hacienda Doña Engracia, a local family-owned distillery with a gorgeous garden.
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Who It's Best For
Beach Lovers: Twenty-six miles of sand extend along the coast of Banderas Bay. You’ll also find street performers on the boardwalk, handicraft peddlers, sea-facing bars, and sand statues scattered among the towels and loungers. Jet Ski and kayak rentals are available, as are dolphin outings and just kicking back in the sun.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
No Bargaining: Shopping here is a little different from other parts of Mexico in that shopkeepers aren’t as willing to haggle. If stores post “fixed prices,” don’t try to get a better deal. Keep the back and forth for the tiagnus (open-air market) of Old Town.
Jenna Mahoney is a Brooklyn-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Allure.