Mexico is known for its outstanding beach towns, which pull hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. But just because a destination is popular with tourists does not mean that there are no local, under-the-radar secrets to be discovered. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico's west coast beach capital, is a destination that is very much on the tourist trail, yet still provides adventures off the beaten path for those who are willing to look.
Puerto Vallarta is the jewel of Mexico’s west coast, strategically located on the Bay of Banderas. The city itself has a fabulous marina, hotel zone, and historic downtown, and is also within driving distance from some of the smaller beach communities that sit along the bay. It is a haven for luxury, fine dining, all-inclusive resorts, local culture, art, history, adventure travel, and more.
Of course there is plenty to see and do in the resort areas and on tours, but travelers looking to venture off the beaten path will find so much to discover. Adventure enthusiasts will love the many hiking opportunities available in and around Puerto Vallarta. One of the best is a coast-hugging hike that runs from the small village of Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas beach. The hike is relatively unknown to tourists and is mostly a local activity, but those who make the journey are rewarded with dramatic views over turquoise-colored water, private beaches and coves, and even a secret beach club that acts like a private party hideaway on its own stretch of sand. To access the hike, hire a taxi or take a local bus south to Boca de Tomatlan to find the trailhead. To return travelers can hire a water taxi back from Las Animas to Boca de Tomatlan.
Speaking of beaches, visitors can discover a small beach community only accessible by boat. The small fishing village of Yelapa is surrounded by jungle-blanketed mountains, offering a quiet beach escape far from the activity of Puerto Vallarta’s more central beaches. A handful of restaurants dot the shore, and there are a few basic hotel accommodations for those who wish to spend the night. One of the best things to do in Yelapa is take the hike back into the jungle to find the beautiful waterfall.
Get your cameras ready for one of Puerto Vallarta’s ‘wow’ factors: its sunsets. Epic almost any night of the year, the skies over Puerto Vallarta explode with fiery colors. While most visitors will pick their perches down along the shore, those in the know will be high above the city taking in the sunset and views below from the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. This hilltop vantage point has sweeping views over the entire city, Zona Romantica, and the bay. It’s beautiful at any time of day, but for those truly Instagrammable photos, sunset is unbeatable.
Finally, foodies will delight at the off the beaten path dining that packs the city. While the restaurant gastronomy scene is absolutely worthwhile, it’s the local spots that truly set Puerto Vallarta dining apart. Roam the taco trucks in the 5 de Diciembre neighborhood, or sink your teeth into delicious fish tacos and ceviche at El Solar Beach Club. Tip: Remain at El Solar after sunset for live music and a local party almost every night of the week.
From isolated beaches to the next undiscovered taco experience, adventures in nature, and everything in between, Puerto Vallarta might be one of the most popular destinations in Mexico but it offers a world waiting to be experienced off the beaten path.
For more information on Puerto Vallarta, please go to www.visitpuertovallarta.com.