Puerto Vallarta is the seaside gem of the Mexican state of Jalisco. Often described as magical, this place is one bustling with life, romance, and color, making it the perfect place to spend your vacation. From incredible eateries and eccentric theater performances, to historic sites and outdoor adventures, downtown Puerto Vallarta truly has something for everyone.
Does Puerto Vallarta have a Downtown?
Over the years Puerto Vallarta has drastically grown, expanding along the waters of the Banderas Bay. The parts of the city are divided into several “zones” or “districts” and while these districts do effortlessly flow from one to the next, downtown Puerto Vallarta is indeed its own. Located in the southern half of the city (just north of the famous Romantic Zone), here you’ll find Vallarta’s most historic sights, the iconic Puerto Vallarta letters, and the beautiful boardwalk called the Malecon.
Best Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta’s Downtown Area
Visit the Malecon
Stretching for about a mile along the water, the Malecon features incredible street vendors, delicious food, and an iconic collection of statues. Since the 1980s the collection has continued to grow, attesting to Puerto Vallarta’s love for the arts and expression. You’ll find some depicting mythical creatures, others more realistic in nature, and some made of ladders and chairs, inviting the viewer to interact with the piece. To better understand the history and significance of each, sign up for a walking tour with a local guide or through one of the local art galleries.
Try the Downtown Puerto Vallarta Restaurants
In 1963 the famous film Night of the Iguana was filmed in Puerto Vallarta, drawing big names such as Richard Burton to the region for the first time. Burton fell in love with the city, eventually purchasing a home there for himself and gifting the one next door to his lover, Elizabeth Taylor. The iconic bridge was built between the two homes and to this day Casa Kimberly now houses one of the best restaurants in the city, the Iguana. Serving contemporary Mexican cuisine in a stunning, open-air setting, take in the stunning ocean views and delicious eats from one of downtown Puerto Vallarta’s most iconic spots.
Just a short walk from the Iguana is Café des Artistes. This is also one of the best spots in town for delicious food with an incredible ambiance. Feeling refined yet informal, be sure to grab a table outside in the garden. Between the pristine, white tablecloths, lush foliage, twinkling lights, and live music, the whole experience is quite picturesque.
Go on a Food Tour
If you really want to explore Mexican cuisine, which is so delicious and diverse it has made the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the best way to do this is by going on a food tour. You will stop at various places throughout the tour and will have the opportunity to try regional cuisine from several parts of Mexico. The Original Downtown Tour from Vallarta Food Tours is a 3-hour culinary adventure where you will stop at 8 different places where the locals eat to try authentic Mexican cuisine and learn about its history.
Barhop Around Puerto Vallarta’s Downtown Bars
Downtown Puerto Vallarta also features a vibrant night scene, with the largest nightclubs in the area located right along the beach in the Malecon. Places like Mandala and Zoo feature multiple levels, ocean views, and all the bells and whistles to keep the party going. While entrance fees gradually increase throughout the night, get there early for free entry and enjoy the space as they tend to fill up fast.
If nightclubs aren’t your scene, there are several other places nearby that come highly recommended. El Colibrí Cocktail Bar is a favorite in downtown, known for their delicious drinks and intimate atmosphere. DJs take the stage on the weekends making Colibrí both a great spot to talk as well as to dance to some great music. Finally, having only recently opened, Yambak Puerto Vallarta is one of the best breweries in town. Located on Abasolo Street, Yambak’s three levels are chic and modern, serving delicious pizza and artisanal beer, you will have an overall great time.
Visit the Puerto Vallarta Church Downtown
There is so much rich history in Puerto Vallarta. As you may have seen in photos, the incredible Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe ¨La Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe¨ is truly a spectacle to behold. Located in downtown Puerto Vallarta, only a block from the main plaza, it is distinguished by its beautiful golden crown that was added in 1965. The original chapel that was built dates all the way back to 1883, inspired by Father Sabino Virute, but the building you see today has been rebuilt or added to several times over the last century. The church becomes the focal point of celebration during the Festival of the Virgin Guadalupe that takes place every year in December.
Puerto Vallarta Tours
From Puerto Vallarta’s downtown district and the Los Muertos Pier in Zona Romantica, you will also be able to book a number of exciting tours and outdoor adventures. Take a snorkeling trip to the Marietas Islands and Hidden Beach, go scuba diving near Los Arcos, or catch a water taxi to explore the remote beaches in Banderas Bay.
Downtown Puerto Vallarta Shopping
If you are looking for things to do in downtown Puerto Vallarta, shopping is definitely one of the things you need to add to your bucket list. Downtown you will find many unique boutiques selling anything from clothing to artisanal goods and souvenirs. Make sure to check out the Isla Cuale Flea Market. From the downtown main square just walk south on Calle Juárez towards the Cuale River which flows through downtown, and turn left on Agustín Rodríguez Street. There is a two-story indoor market with food stands on the second floor where you can stop for a meal or light snack before your shopping spree. You will also find several vendors on the north side of the river banks. There you can purchase items such as clothing, pottery, jewelry, Huichol art, and much more! The Cuale Island Flea Market is open daily from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, with the exception of Saturdays, when it closes at 8:00 pm.
Go to a Chocolate Making Class
Visit the ChocoMuseo in the city center for the Total Chocolate Experience Workshop and learn about the chocolate making process and the history of the cacao tree. You will make your own chocolate truffles and chocolate drinks from ground cacao beans. The workshop is offered Monday to Saturday at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm and lasts 3 hours.
Watch the Sunset
If you are on a couple’s holiday, take a romantic stroll along the Malecon to watch the sunset.
The sunsets here are spectacular and you can watch the sky turn crimson before the sun seemingly dips down into the sea. Another option is to stop at the beach bar El Barracuda and enjoy some cool cocktails on the beach while having a front row seat to this fantastical display of color.
Get some Ice Cream
And last on our list of the best things to do in downtown Puerto Vallarta is get some ice cream. This will cool you down on hot days. Lix serves homemade ice cream and is located along the Malecon on 128 Morelos street. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. Choose from a selection of flavors including Belgian fudge brownie, passionfruit sorbet, berry cheesecake, or try one of their delicious choco·bananas.
Now that you know what to do in downtown Puerto Vallarta, it’s time to plan your trip! Whatever you decide to do, with gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, the lush Sierra Madre mountains, the fabulous restaurants and bars, and stunning sunsets, you are sure to have a great time!