I have been wanting to write about Puerto Vallarta for a long time and the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta that you can take.. I actually came here many years ago, perhaps on a cruise (I am terrible at remembering dates…), in 2011. Needless to say we were smitten by the beauty of this spot and we stayed for about 6 months.
We flew out from Panama City and headed for San Jose del Cabo, a lovely town. We planned on spending one night in San Jose del Cabo and then headed to the marina. Once we made it to the marina, we were a little puzzled, not many boats were there. However, we learned that the marina had close down over the winter and it was time to head south.
It is 700 miles, roughly 9 hours to Puerto Vallarta. Which isn’t long but neither of us are very good at keeping tabs on how long we have been driving, where we are, when we need to be somewhere. So we ended up driving for 8 hours, 3 of which was going through Mexico at 2am when it was still dark.
It was rough. Our knees were knocking, we could hardly open our eyes. We pulled into the hotel in Puerto Vallarta about 4 in the morning. It was about 30 degrees. It was January. We slept for almost 24 hours.
Anyway, this was my first foray to Puerto Vallarta and I remember it well. I was in a crummy hotel in January, missing my children, unable to keep up with anything. I was miserable. Looking back now, I realize that the fact that I was miserable was not my fault, it was the fault of the holiday.
I went on holidays to relax, to get away from it all, and to enjoy Mexico. To experience life and not just work. I got all of that. But it was a bit of a weird one.
So, when the opportunity came up to come back here, this time with my two young children, I knew I needed to do it differently. We booked a nice hotel, paid our cash and went to the bay for sundowners. We felt alive, we were on vacation, it was fantastic. So we booked and we have been back every year since.
The scenery is nothing short of breathtaking. Staying at this resort has been a breath of fresh, clean air. We get to enjoy the night sky out here, no one can bother you. We do not have to be on any timetables, we are not stuck to be somewhere by a certain time. We have never had such a thing before. It was freedom.
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We love this place, we like it here, in fact we love it here so much that we have booked another stay. But we wanted to bring you along to tell you about the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta you can do from here.
Table of Contents
1. Playa Majahuitas and Playa El Caballo
Your trip to Puerto Vallarta isn’t complete without checking out the spectacular beaches around. For the best beach bumming experience, you can head straight to Playa El Caballo. Take your favorite book with you and have a relaxing read under the palm trees.
For those of you who love snorkelling, go straight to the pristine waters of Playa Majahuitas, it is a protected marine reserve where you will find schools of angelfish and parrotfish as you swim deep into the ocean.
2. Sayulita and San Pancho
A perfect respite from a tiring day would be the inviting beach at Sayulita and San Pancho or also known as San Francisco. You will enjoy tons of activities here with your family. It is a perfect spot for surfing, kayaking, trekking, turtle watching, and horseback riding.
Approximately 4 miles from the coast, you will see small crowds, which compared to Sayulita offers a rather peaceful surf experience. You can make a detour at Punta de Mita, a scenic spot where you can enjoy seafoods served fresh at the restaurants near the shore.
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3. Jardín Botánico de Vallarta
With the Sierra Madre mountains as backdrop, you will come across the majestic Vallarta Botanical Gardens, it is home to several endemic plant species of Mexico and from where you will come across the best orchid collections too.
Marvel over the beauty of agaves, wild palms, and bromeliads around. After you are done strolling around the massive green spaces you can take a quick dip at the famed Rio Horcones, a river that runs through big rock formations.
Another interesting sight is the Boca de Tomatlán, a fishing village that spans toward beautiful beaches. About half a mile trail from here leads you to the fantastic Colomitos cove and farther west towards the Playa Quimixto where you will be greeted by its picturesque coastline. This day trip from Puerto Vallarta is a must!
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4. San Sebastián del Oeste
If you love cool climates, you will definitely love it at San Sebastián del Oeste. San Sebastián del Oeste is a 100-year old mining town nestled 4855 ft above sea level. Experience the winding road towards Panaderia Carmen, a local bakery offering artisanal breads and pastries. Further down the road you will see the Hacienda Don Lalín, a distillery offering raicilla or agave drink, and the old silver mining hacienda, the Hacienda Jalisco.
The total population of this town is around 5,600 which is perfect if you are wary about huge crowds and prefer social distancing. If you want to explore some more, you can check in at the Mansion Real, a colonial designed hotel with cozy rooms near the center.
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5. Islas Marietas
A UNESCO marine reserve, this island 22 miles west of Vallarta is a best day trip location where you have ample opportunities to experience the amazing wildlife found on Banderas Bay. Snorkel here and be greeted by giant mantas and old sea turtles as they swim across clear blue waters.
Lastly, head to Playa del Amor where you will come to see the scenic underground crater beach. Here, they only allow approximately 116 visitors on a daily basis to protect Islas Marietas. Get your permits first before you venture into this island, and of course, plan ahead.