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Puerto Vallarta (Photo:Diego Grandi/Shutterstock)
2018 Top-Rated Mexican Riviera Destinations
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Puerto Vallarta

Once a small fishing community, Puerto Vallarta has emerged as one of Mexico's most popular destinations. With cobblestoned streets that climb straight up to the jungle, the town was largely unknown to the rest of the world until Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor embarked on a love affair while filming "Night of the Iguana" in 1963.

Now, the colonial "old town" is a favorite of history buffs, photographers and bargain hunters, while areas such as Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta attract beachgoers, boaters and those looking for all-inclusive resorts. The southern coastal areas of Mismaloya, Yelapa and Las Animas Quimixto are scenic wonders of coves and gullies, ideal for snorkeling; the latter two are reachable only by boat.

Because of its warm waters, the Bay of Banderas is a breeding ground for hundreds of humpback whales during the winter months (as well as expat Americans and Canadians). Pacific dolphins can be seen year-round, jumping alongside the bow wake of the many cruise ships that call in Puerto Vallarta. Many tour operators offer eco-tours and photo safaris to take advantage of the abundance of marine life in the region; jungle tours, horseback treks and visits to tequila factories are some of the other excursions offered.

But for those who choose to just wander around the city during a day in port, Puerto Vallarta offers a rich, rewarding experience. The downtown area is crowded with shops, restaurants and lots of traffic. The main street along the water, the Malecon, has a seawall walkway that is flat and easily negotiable by wheelchair-bound visitors and those with difficulty walking and is notable for the many sculptures that line the path. The streets a few blocks off of the main throughway, though, are steep and cobblestoned; wear comfortable shoes. And it gets hot and humid in Puerto Vallarta, especially in the summer, so dress accordingly for your day in town.

About Puerto Vallarta


This artsy Mexican port is full of vendors who are happy to haggle if you ask for a lower price


Many shops sell similar items, and vendors can be pushy if you don't seem interested in their wares

Bottom Line

Venture farther afield for local flavor. (Try Wal-Mart for Mexican snacks and drinks -- seriously)

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Where You're Docked

Ships dock at the Marina Vallarta Maritime Terminal, about three miles north of downtown. The terminal has ATMs, shops, a currency exchange and kiosks for tours.

Good to Know

As you walk through the streets, some vendors may offer you free tequila tastings if you come inside. Be warned that unless it's an official liquor store, you might be subject to an annoying timeshare presentation in exchange for a few sips. Not worth it.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The peso is the currency used in Mexico. Almost all shops, vendors and taxis take U.S. dollars, but that can raise the cost of your purchase. ATMs are available everywhere. For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

It's important to note that the symbol for pesos is the same as the symbol for dollars ($), so pay close attention to how items are priced.


Spanish is the official language of Mexico, but almost everyone associated with the tourism industry in Puerto Vallarta speaks English.


Talavera pottery is distinctive because of its intricate patterns and bright colors. You can purchase single tiles or enough to make a mural, single bowls as gifts, or serving sets for four. There are also less expensive designs that make great gifts and souvenirs -- painted flower pots or fruit bowls, for example -- in most of the pottery shops around the city.

Best Cocktail

Puerto Vallarta is in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which also contains the town of Tequila. So naturally, the spirit is at the heart of all drinks. If you want to sip like a local, avoid the margaritas and order your tequila bandera style, which means three sipping glasses: one with lime juice, one with white tequila and one with sangrita, a sour and spicy drink made from orange juice and tomato juice. Drink them in that order.

Puerto Vallarta Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards

2018 Top-Rated Mexican Riviera Destinations
2016 Top-Rated Mexican Riviera & South America Destinations