Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s most exciting cities to visit. Situated on the west coast on the Bay of Banderas with the Sierra Madre mountains as the backdrop, it’s a hub for outdoor adventure and water-based activities. This post will show you the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta, so you can not only enjoy the city itself but everything that the surrounding area has to offer.
While there are plenty of things to see and do in the city, as you can see in this Puerto Vallarta itinerary, the city is also an excellent base to go on day trips to surrounding towns and natural attractions in Jalisco and the neighboring state of Nayarit.
This post will go over eight fantastic day trips from Puerto Vallarta. From diving to surfing, relaxing on beaches to riding ATVs up mountains, you’ll be planning a trip back after experiencing all that this area has to offer.
The Best Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta
1- Yelapa – Best Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta
Yelapa is one of the most authentic beach towns in Mexico. With no paved roads, it’s only accessible by boat making it the perfect place to escape for an eco-friendly day trip from Puerto Vallarta.
To visit Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta you’ll have to get a boat from Boca Del Tomatlan, a small fishing village about half an hour away drive from town.
To get there, you can either take a bus from Zona Romantica or get a taxi/uber. Once at the pier in Boca, you can hop in any of the water taxis and tell them you’re going to Yelapa.
One of the best things to do in Yelapa is the hike to the waterfalls. There is a small one you can visit just twenty minutes from the beach, but the better waterfalls are further inland. As the trailheads inland are not well marked, it’s best to hire a guide to take you there.
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Aside from waterfall hikes, Yelapa is a popular place to go paragliding, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Or you simply relax on the beautiful beaches.
If you want to extend your stay in Yelapa past a day, there are several places to stay overnight. You won’t find any big-name hotels here, just small locally owned eco-friendly accommodations.
Quimixto is another beach town near Puerto Vallarta that offers a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Boats leave from the same pier at Boca Del Tomatlan and take about twenty minutes to get there. If you’re visiting Quimixto for a day, plan to leave by 9 in the morning to make the most of your time.
Spend the first part of your day hiking to the Quimixto waterfall, about half an hour’s hike inland. The waterfall flows down into a large pool which is so refreshing to swim in after the hike. There’s also a restaurant there that serves food and overlooks the waterfall.
Afterward, hike back to the town and enjoy lunch at one of the restaurants on the beach. They offer affordable, authentic Mexican cuisine with fresh ceviche for just a few dollars.
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Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the pristine beaches and swimming in the turquoise water. Unlike most beaches in Puerto Vallarta, you won’t be bothered here by people trying to sell you things. Instead, you’ll likely have a whole stretch of beach to yourself!
3- Los Arcos – Puerto Vallarta Day Trips
If you’re interested in seeing the marine life around Puerto Vallarta, one of the best places to go is Los Arcos. It’s a natural rock formation that is part of a protected national park called Los Arcos Marine Park, founded in 1984.
This fascinating natural rock arch is an easy day trip from Puerto Vallarta and provides a rich habitat for marine life in the Bay of Banderas. It’s the ideal place to go scuba diving and snorkeling. As you approach the arch, you’ll see many birds flying overhead the warm, blue waters.
Some of the marine life you may see are stingrays, manta rays, sea turtles, tropical fish, moray eels, and trumpet fish. Along with the sea creatures, you’ll find caves, deep tunnels, and a beautiful coral reef. Thanks to the park’s protected status, this unique ecosystem is still well-preserved.
Click here to see transport options to/from Puerto Vallarta
4- Hike To a Coastal Beach
While Puerto Vallarta is home to some beautiful beaches, they get even better if you leave the city limits. The coastline along the Bay of Banderas is full of secluded beaches to explore, and one of the best ways to visit them is by hiking.
Two of the most popular day hikes are Playa Colomitos and Playa Las Animas, and the two are often combined into one hike. The trailhead leaves from Boca Del Tomatlan, the same village where you get boats to Quimxto and Yelapa.
The trail takes you along the coastline for about an hour before reaching Playa Colomitos, a secluded beach with emerald green water. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the area’s natural beauty, but there aren’t any amenities here, so be sure to bring enough food and water.
If you prefer more amenities, you can continue hiking for another hour to Las Animas, where you’ll find several restaurants and beach clubs. Water taxis are available to take you back from here to Boca or Los Muertos pier, so you don’t have to worry about hiking back.
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5- Islas Marietas, a Great Day Tour From Puerto Vallarta
A tour of Islas Marietas offers some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities in the area. They were designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserved and national marine park and are considered one of Mexico’s top attractions and must-do day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
Marietas Islands are about two hours away by boat, so you’ll need to join a day tour from Puerto Vallarta to get there. On the ride out, dolphin sightings are common and whales during the season (December to March).
Once you reach the islands, you’ll have the opportunity to go snorkeling in crystal-clear water and take an eco-tour around the island to see the blue-footed booby and 90 other bird species.
The islands are also home to a hidden beach, which is an underground crater beach that blew up on Instagram a few years ago, leading to thousands of tourists visiting each day.
To protect the reefs from erosion, the government had to limit the permits for the beach to 116 people which must be booked well in advance. But even if you don’t get the chance to see the hidden beach, the other beaches of Islas Mariertas are also spectacular.
Book your tour of the Islas Marietas here.
6- San Pancho and Sayulita
If you’re looking to go surfing during your time in Puerto Vallarta, then you’ll want to head North to Sayulita or San Pancho. The former has become one of Mexico’s most popular surf towns, known for its lively party atmosphere and consistent waves.
Surfboard rentals are available on the main beach of each town, but if you are a beginner surfer, San Pancho is a better option as the ocean tends to have fewer people in it.
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Even if you’re not a surfer, both towns are worth visiting as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta to enjoy the beaches, restaurants, and shops. Better yet, combine them both into one trip if you’re renting a car as they are just five minutes drive away from each other.
7- Go Whale-Watching
If you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta from December to March, then don’t miss the chance to go on a whale-watching day trip and see these magnificent mammals close up.
Every winter, northern humpback whales head south to the warm waters of the Mexican coast to feed and breed, making Puerto Vallarta one of the best places in the world to go whale-watching.
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On a tour, you’ll likely see several humpback whales playing and swimming right around your boat. Along with humpbacks, there’s also a good chance that you’ll see dolphins, and if you’re lucky, orcas! Be sure to choose a responsible whale-watching tour operator that respects the animal’s space.
8- San Sebastian Del Oeste
To experience something completely different than the beaches, head up to the mountains of San Sebastian Del Oeste.
This charming historic town is one of nine Pueblos Magicos (magical towns) in Jalisco, a designation awarded to communities that have maintained their original architecture, traditions, history, and culture over time.
And indeed, visiting San Sebastian Del Oeste is like stepping back in time. In the 1700s, it was a prosperous and self-sustaining silver mining town with over four times the population it has now, which stands around 5,000.
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One of the best things to do while visiting San Sebastian is drive up to La Bufa, a gorgeous viewpoint 45 minutes up the mountain. If you don’t have an AWD car, you can rent ATVs from town.
The views at the top are breathtaking; on a clear day, you can see all the way to Vallarta! It’s a beautiful area to go for hiking, just remember to bring a sweater as the temperatures here are much cooler.
San Sebastian is 47 miles from Puerto Vallarta and takes about an hour to drive. If you don’t have your own car, you can join a guided tour.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of fun adventures and day trips from Puerto Vallarta. While planning your trip, be sure to add some room to your itinerary for a few of these day tours.
About the Author: Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. She lives a nomadic lifestyle and is on a quest to visit every country in the world – always on the lookout for new adventures, hidden gems, and dogs to pet. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Explore with Lora.
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