12 + Best Activities and Day Excursions in Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit

Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit are beautiful places to visit, and to live. Tourists flock to Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit to watch the humpback whales every winter in Banderas Bay, to watch the crocodiles swim through the lagoons, or to just lounge on a beach surrounded by scenic bluffs.

Enough simply cannot be said about Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit. From spotting crocs to watching baby sea turtles, from having an adventure on zip lines to relaxing on the dozens of beautiful beaches, there are so many wonderful activities for you to experience. Here is a list of the best outdoor activities and day excursions in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. As if you needed more reasons to invest in Puerto Vallarta Real Estate, here they are!

  1. Marietas Islands & Snorkeling

For those seeking an eco-adventure, you can explore the amazing marine life of the coastal Puerto Vallarta area & Riviera Nayarit, as well as the Bay of Banderas on exciting full day tours offered out of specific locations in the area. Snorkeling & Kayaking offer an up-close and personal experience of the underwater and above water beauty that is so abundant in this coastal region. Additionally, the Marietas Islands are a great place to watch for exotic birds, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and manta rays.

  • Downtown Puerto Vallarta Food Tour

Puerto Vallarta offers a delicious food scene for even the most finicky foodie. Take a walking tour with an expert foodie on one of the food tours offered – you can eat your way through some amazing local Mexican restaurants, food trucks and cocina-kiosks. Enjoy a bit of local history with your guide as well as some fun facts about the area. It is a walking tour of the city, all while sampling a varied assortment of tasty delights. This is a fun trip for anyone and everyone because who doesn’t love sampling new tastes and treats?!


  • Crocodile spotting at the National Marshes

National Marshes (San Blas mangroves) are a haven for crocodiles, water-walking lizards, jaguars, and few migratory birds. When in Nayarit, you ought to experience this beauty. You can take a boat tour to get a close view of this region’s vast lagoons. And if you are lucky, you may be able to watch the elusive wildlife that inhabits them.

  • Watching baby sea turtles

The hatching season for sea turtles begins from June through November. So, if you are here during these months, don’t miss out on releasing baby turtles during the hatching season. Usually, a large number of hatching release events take place in November, please confirm prior to visiting.

You can also watch baby turtles at turtle camps and nurseries that are run by certain ecological groups.

  • Exploring Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta has a reputation as one of Mexico’s best destinations. Embark on a road adventure along the mountain trails. You can ride from the Vallejo valley to a local ranch. Then, enjoy a dip in a waterfall and watch the scenery. This trip will let you absorb the serenity of the rainforests. You can also enjoy the best cuisines or cocinas at the great variety Mexican eateries. Another recommendable way to see the area is to take a tour or hire a guide. There is so much to see and do from a tequila tasting at a tequila distillery, taking a street walking tour, strolling the Malecón, visiting Marina Vallarta, and the lovely Lady of Guadalupe Church….. to name a few. The sky is truly the limit when it comes to getting to know Puerto Vallarta.

  • Explore the artisanal markets

The Spanish word for market is ¨mercado¨, these mercados are a tradition that extend back to a time before the arrival of the Spanish. Mercados are a long-time tradition where town residents and local vendors & artisans would gather to trade and exchange goods. Now the area of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit offer mercados throughout the week. There are enough mercados that you can likely explore one every single day of the week while visiting the area. Below is a market and town schedule from North to South starting in La Peñita, which is close to the town of Rincón de Guayabitos:

La Peñita:                                                Thursday 8am to 1pm

San Pancho:                                            Tuesday 10am to 1:30pm

Sayulita:                                                   Friday 10am to 2pm

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle:                       Sunday 10am to 2pm

Bucerias:                                                  Wednesday 9am – 1pm

Nuevo Vallarta:                                      Tuesday 9am to 2pm

Marina Vallarta:                                     Thursday 6pm to 10pm

Old Town Puerto Vallarta:                   Saturday 9:30am to 2pm

  • Whale watching

Between November and April, several humpback whales visit Banderas Bay as part of their migration between Alaska and Hawaii. You can take whale watching trips to watch some of the spectacular whales.

These trips may also include music and dance. And a few trips will also you to go kayaking or snorkeling as part of the adventure. When in Mexico, don’t forget to splurge a little on some thrill and adventure for yourself!

  • Adventure on canopy tours and zip lines

If your wanderlust soul wants to do something exciting and equally adventurous, you should take the canopy tour. A canopy tour is the most adventurous and exciting activity you can do. You will travel to the highest treetop level in the rainforest, and then take a thrilling ride along a zip line. Pretty certain this will give you the much needed adrenaline rush you seek!

  • Relax on Banderas Bay beaches

Banderas Bay is the most popular tourist area in Nayarit. You can relax at the beach and enjoy the sun or you can try some activities like surfing, boogie-boarding, swimming, bodysurfing, and more. For a more secluded beach experience be sure to check out Playa Destiladeras. This particular beach destination restores serenity and encourages relaxation and rejuvenation with its impressive pacific beauty, the sounds of the waves, swoon worthy sunrises and sunsets, and fabulous beach walks on fine warm sand.

  1. Learn about Huichol art

A visit to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit is a wonderful opportunity to learn about Huichol art made by the artisans of the Huichol people. Huichol people are the natives who lived near Sayulita in the foothills and highlands of the Sierra Madre Mountain range. The Huichol people are known to live in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango and Zacatecas, in Mexico. They are known for their unique art of yarn painting. Colorful yarn is pressed into a surface covered with beeswax, resin, beadwork decorating objects such as miniature skulls and animal figurines. The Huichol are known for their long history with bead work, They Huichol people make their beads from clay, shells, corals, seeds and other findings. With their beads the Huichol people make jewelry and other amazing decorative objects. Most noteworthy about the Huichol art is that it is intricate, colorful,  labor intensive and very impressive!

  1. Hiking monkey mountain

From Sayulita side or Punta de Mita, the monkey mountain hike is considered one of the toughest and thrilling adventures. It’s a two hours duration trek and is really demanding. The summer time may be a little harder because of the humid weather. However, you can begin early or at sunset.

You have two options to climb this mountain – by Higuera Blanca (area of Punta de Mita) or by Patzcuaro (area of Sayulita). If you don’t fear the challenges, the latter is for you, but if you are a beginner, you should go by the Higuera Blanca side (Punta de Mita).

  1. Take a road trip

A road trip is the best way to enjoy the lush countryside of Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit. The fun never ends on a road trip, right? On a road trip, one can experience the enchanting beauty, serenity, and magnificence of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. Along the way, you can also try fresh coconut milk from roadside fruit stands or taste the Mexican cuisines at the countryside’s rural restaurants. These dishes will definitely warm your soul and spice up your life. A great little all day trip would be to drive from Puerto Vallarta heading North up to San Pancho or Lo de Marco, depending on how quickly you want to see the sights. Depending on the day of the week, stop at a market/mercado and enjoy some food and entertainment, check out the beaches and take some pictures!

  1. Discover scuba diving

If you have ever wondered what it feels like to breathe underwater but never had the chance to do so, you need to try scuba diving while in Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit. You will receive instructions on how to use scuba equipment, basic concepts, and safety. As you dive underwater, you will see a different world, and come out feeling more refreshed than ever. There are a few professional PADI diving centers in the area – best to check online for reviews and PADI diving locations.

There are so many other things that you can do in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit such as strolling the boho-chic beach town of Sayulita, visiting the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, staying in luxury resorts in Punta Mita, and much more. Hopefully these suggestions help you with your decisions on what to do and see while visiting or adjusting to living in this stunning wonderland that is Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit.

As you plan your trip, don’t forget to take some home videos and pictures because you will want to capture everything during your amazing trip. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, just waiting for you to jump in!

Mexico is waiting for you!

Contributed by our Real Estate Professional, Diana Howson (diana_howson@coldwellbanker.com.mx)

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