Heading to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on a cruise? We spent two days in Puerto Vallarta on our Carnival cruise, and we loved this city. We loved the activities and excursions we chose and are sharing the details here.
This isn't a list of everything you could do in Puerto Vallarta, but we did a lot of research before our trip and narrowed the list down to a few favorites. I include the best resources for more activity ideas at the end of this article.
El Malecon is a boardwalk where we found shops, restaurants, landmarks and public art on one side and the beach on the other. We spent several hours here. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon in Puerto Vallarta.
This street is mostly closed to traffic. We felt safe walking El Malecon with our children (ages 12 and 14) during the day. We did not visit at night, but this is where you'll find clubs and other nightlife as well.
Take a shuttle or taxi between the cruise ship pier and El Malecon. It's a short ride and fairly inexpensive. Bring cash to pay your drivers. They will probably accept U.S. dollars, but I exchanged Mexican pesos at my bank about a week before our trip to cover transportation and tips. You can also get there by bus.
El Malecon is a fun, budget-friendly alternative to more expensive excursions. We felt like we found the best of Puerto Vallarta here.
I wanted to do a food tour in Puerto Vallarta, and chocolate was the one food that everyone in my picky family would eat. We booked a class at ChocoMuseo on El Malecon.
We learned all about chocolate and made two chocolate drinks from cacao beans. Making molded chocolates with a choice of mix-ins was also included, and we brought these back to the ship with us.
You don't need to book a class to visit ChocoMuseo. There is a (very) small free museum where you can learn about chocolate and how it is made. There is a cafe on the top floor and a gift shop on the first floor where you can buy chocolate treats and products.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful old church, located one block from El Malecon. It's one of Puerto Vallarta's most significant cultural and architectural landmarks.
The church was open and we were able to walk in and look around. The building is old, but well maintained with a white and purple interior and several stained glass windows. We kept our voices down so we wouldn't disturb others who were praying inside the church. We dropped some pesos into the donation box on our way out.
Tour Marietas Islands
We booked a boat tour to Marietas Islands for our second day in Puerto Vallarta. We booked directly through Carnival because they have a low price guarantee and we wouldn't be left behind if our full-day tour came back late. However, you can book the same tour directly through Vallarta Adventures.
The Marietas Islands are a national park, and visitors are not allowed to set foot on them. Our boat drove around the islands and we learned about and saw birds and nature, which was fun.
I thought that the highlight of this tour would be snorkeling and kayaking near Marietas Islands, but the water was much too cloudy for snorkeling that day, and we only got a short turn on the kayak. This part of the tour was a big disappointment.
The fun part was the return trip to Puerto Vallarta. Our tour guides spotted humpback whales in the bay and we spent a lot of time whale watching. We also saw dolphins. Whales are commonly seen in Puerto Vallarta from December-March. We were there in early April.
Finally, our guides turned on the party music and started serving margaritas and pina coladas, with and without alcohol. My daughter and I found a sunny spot on the front of the boat to lay out our towels and I felt like like I was truly on vacation.
Don't forget to bring a cash tip for your guides in pesos or dollars. Our guides worked hard and earned every penny.
Go to the Beach
There are lots of good beaches in Puerto Vallarta. We didn't visit the beach on on our trip, but these beaches are consistently listed as best in Puerto Vallarta.
- Los Muertos
- Las Gemeles
- Conchas Chinas
- Yelapa – accessible by boat tour only
A beach day is a fun, affordable option if you want to experience Puerto Vallarta on your own – without a guided tour or excursion.
Stock up at Walmart
SuperWalmart is across the street from the cruise ship pier. Save a little time at the end of your day to walk across and pick up souvenirs and supplies. We bought inexpensive souvenir t-shirts, hats, Mexican candy and soda. There are other shopping malls across the street from the cruise ship pier too.
For more ideas for things to do in Puerto Vallarta on a cruise, check out the official visitor website at https://visitpuertovallarta.com/. You can also get ideas and book activities from your cruise line's excursion page or Viator.com.
I hope that our experience helps your family plan a great trip to Puerto Vallarta on a cruise.