Aerial view of the city and bay of Puerto Vallarta. Mexico
Aerial view of the city and bay of Puerto Vallarta. Mexico

7 Perfect Puerto Vallarta Day Trips

How to Enjoy 8 Hours in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

By Mary Luz Mejia | Published on July 29, 2022

If you have only eight hours to explore this Pacific gem on your Puerto Vallarta cruise, get on your comfiest shoes, layer on sunblock, grab your sunglasses, and discover the best Puerto Vallarta day trip vacation ideas. Plus, if you have room be sure to remember your camera for capturing the best moments of your adventures from sunsets to vista views in this Bandera Bay-lined city. They are, as the locals say, espectacular!

1. Wander The Mexican Miracle Mile

There's no better place to start your day trip from Puerto Vallarta than the Hotel Rosita, one of the most traditional and oldest in town dating back to 1948. From there, head to the Downtown/Old Town areas along the mile-long Malecón (or boardwalk in English), and get your camera ready for Insta-worthy sights.

Mix and mingle with locals along this iconic seaside walkway and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and scents of Puerto Vallarta. Explore the hip bars, cafés, art galleries, and shops.

Peppered throughout your walk, you'll notice impressive bronze sculptures with their weather-aged green-hued patina. You'll come across one of my favorites, "Boy on Seahorse," which is as iconic as the boardwalk and the very first of all the sculptures to grace the walkway in 1976 by artist Francisco Rafael Zamarripa Castañeda. He was a mere 18 years old when the sculpture was first commissioned, and it sits on Las Pilitas, at the southern end of Los Muertos Beach, which is a great spot to sink your feet into the sand and take a dip if you're a water lover.

2. Tour The Baroque-crowned Church

If unique, local architecture appeals to you, look for the Baroque crown-topped spire of the city's most famous church: Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. You can't miss it, as it stands as a proud fixture of the city. This neoclassical, baroque and Mexican folk art wonder is brimming with fascinating history, which you can learn all about on a tour.

 3. Watch The Performers At Los Arcos

At night, watch as street performers descend upon the boardwalk and entertain crowds with their fire dances, feats of balance, musical prowess and more. Then, head to Los Arcos Amphitheater, with its four famed decorative stone arches that came from a colonial hacienda, to enjoy free music, folkloric festivals, shows and entertainment.

4. Have An Art-Filled Day

Once you've had your fill of the city's boardwalk, make the most of your Puerto Vallarta day trips and head downtown to take in the impressive murals dotting city buildings. I really like the dark-eyed Catrina with her face painted, complete with roses, a Mexican monarch butterfly, and indigenous face markings, found at the corner of Calles Abasolo and Juarez. Downtown, most everyone stops at Calles Aldama y Morelos to photograph a double-aspect mural of one of the country's most famous artists, Frida Kahlo.

The first time I planned a vacation trip to Puerto Vallarta, this was still a quiet "resort" town. Today, the number of artistic events and exhibitions have helped put the city on the international artistic map — you won't have to search long for fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta. There's even a weekly Art Walk on offer every Wednesday starting in October through the end of May. Join other art lovers on a walking tour of some of the city's best galleries, highlighting international and local talent. And don't forget to pick up a piece of indigenous, hand-crafted Huichol art from several galleries around town.

5. Beat The Heat With Banderas Bay Breeze

If you're a water sports lover, head to Banderas Bay for an adventure. Those looking to get an aerial view of North America's second-largest natural bay can parasail high above it — up to 165 feet high. Your bird's eye view will include Puerto Vallarta, surrounding towns like Nuevo Vallarta, perhaps a school of dolphins, or maybe even a pod of whales. All of this while you drift through a tropical breeze, harnessed into a tandem parasail while your captain-helmed motorboat handles the waves below. Bon voyage!

6. Enjoy The Serene Park Life

Head to the Lázaro Cardenas Park (aka The Tile Park) for the stunning mosaics that adorn the park's planters, walls, columns, and benches. It's certainly Instagram worthy but also worthy of a picnic in the park. And if, like me, you like to travel on your taste buds, dig into some traditional Puerto Vallarta food at the open-air Saturday morning Olas Altas Farmers Market, held at the park. Bite into goods that local artisans and farmers sell, ranging from fresh, homemade baked treats, pastries, tortillas, just-churned ice cream and tropical fruit to non-edibles like soap, textiles, pottery and more!

7. Plan A Romantic Getaway Near Cuale River

Visiting Mexico for a couple’s vacation in Puerto Vallarta? You can't miss the other side of the Cuale River, known as the Romantic Zone or Olas Altas (tall waves), popular for its hip cafés, plazas, shops, more art galleries and nightlife. Known as the LGBTQ+ area, this part of town beckons with authentic, cobblestone-lined streets and pretty buildings.

Plan a romantic getaway for the day filled with lunch or dinner, as well as mixologists creating cutting-edge cocktails for you and your partner. The local restaurants in this area are truly serving some of the best food in Puerto Vallarta; everything from traditional Mexican fare to Japanese, Argentine and European dishes. You can even head to the Food Truck Park in the city's Hotel Zone to enjoy fresh seafood, oysters, tacos, customizable desserts, and more. Then, end the day at Los Muertos Pier and watch the sun set over the bay in its full burnt orange and gold glory.

Can't get enough of Puerto Vallarta and want to discover more of its wonders? Cruise to Puerto Vallarta and explore the magnetism of this waterfront Pacific city.


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