5 Things to Expect When You Visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Visit Puerto Vallarta sign and seahorse on the Malecon

If you are considering taking a vacation to Mexico for the first time, I recommend you visit Puerto Vallarta. If it’s not already on your list of options, it should be.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular, safest, friendliest, beautiful resort cities in Mexico. It was even voted as the friendliest city in Mexico by Travel & Leisure.

I have been to several resort towns in Mexico, including Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, and Loreto and Puerto Vallarta still remains my favorite. That’s why I chose to spend over 2 years of my life living there.

The beaches are amazing, the food is excellent, the town is traditional, and the service is excellent. Plus, you can actually have a very affordable vacation (and life) here.

Read more: How to Plan a Trip to Puerto Vallarta

There are a lot of myths about Mexico, some might be true, but most are probably not true. I want to show you why I fell in love with this place, and what you can expect when you visit Puerto Vallarta.

5 Things to Expect When You Visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Perfect blue water in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

1. Life is more casual here.

The lifestyle here is different, and you may notice this while visiting Puerto Vallarta even for the first time. People are more casual, laid back, and relaxed.

They don’t seem to worry about things so much. They might even move a little slower than you are used to. I consider it a little bit “hippie”. You might feel a little freer while visiting Puerto Vallarta. It’s a place you can let go and really have fun.

Accept it, let it flow, take it easy, and learn to move at a slower pace. You are on vacation anyways, so there’s no need to rush or be impatient. Embrace it and have fun!

Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta

2. The locals are super-friendly.

In 2015 Travel & Leisure named Puerto Vallarta one of the top 30 friendliest cities in the world and I can see why.

I made some really good friends while living in Puerto Vallarta, and some of those people will probably be life-long friends. I don’t think I would have been able to move there so easily if it wasn’t for some of those friends (number one being my husband), so I am very grateful for them!

Puerto Vallarta thrives on its tourism, so they want you to visit year after year. Most people will do whatever they can to make sure you are having a good time in their city. They have so much pride and love for Vallarta and are accepting of all visitors.

Michelada in Puerto Vallarta

3. Street food is the best food.

Did anyone ever tell you that you shouldn’t eat any food outside of your resort?

This is totally crazy and ridiculous to me! This is the very first thing I do once I step off that plane in Vallarta- get some street tacos and a Michelada! In all of my experiences, food from the street is the best, plus it’s so cheap!! This is an absolute MUST during a trip to Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta also has many high-quality, top-rated restaurants, and a wide variety of options. A lot of those options are directly on the beach where you can literally have your feet in the sand while eating, or even high up on the hills with the most amazing ocean view.

Definitely make sure you at least try some of Puerto Vallarta’s amazing street tacos and have dinner on the beach watching the sunset. I miss those days!

Los Muertos Beach and Pier in Puerto Vallarta

4. The water is safe for swimming. But it’s not turquoise.

When I used to sell vacation packages for a resort in Puerto Vallarta, this was one of the topics that came up frequently. Clients would ask me “How is the water?”

Well, the water is not turquoise like other areas of Mexico, but it is a pretty shade of blue. There are some beaches in Puerto Vallarta that have very clear spots that are a shade of turquoise but don’t go to Puerto Vallarta expecting to see something like the Caribbean.

The water is definitely safe for swimming though, unlike some beaches in Cabo and Cancun. Here you will rarely come across a “rough water” beach, or a beach that has severe drop-offs. None of the beaches I have ever swum at had any concerns at all.

Read more: Where to Find the Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Olas Altas neighborhood in Puerto Vallarta

5. Puerto Vallarta is a mecca for expats.

I shouldn’t really be surprised by this, but it does still amaze me that so many expats live in this city. I swear Puerto Vallarta must be the gold standard for Canadian folks looking to retire, or just escape from their brutal winters.

Many of those expats end up making a life in PV and just staying! A tourist visa is only valid for 6 months, but it’s totally possible to get a resident visa to extend your stay and make a life here! I did it, so could you!

Check out this Facebook Group for everything you need to know about Puerto Vallarta

If you are visiting Puerto Vallarta for the first time, you should definitely check out “Old Town”, or also called, the “Romantic Zone”. This is where you will find so many super chill bars and restaurants, many of them packed with Americans and Canadians. You might feel a little at home here and meet some new friends.

Los Arcos on the Puerto Vallarta Boardwalk

I hope this helped convince you to visit Puerto Vallarta! As I said, I LOVE this place, it is my second home and I can almost guarantee you will fall in love with it too.

For even more information about visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, you can head over to the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board.

Is there anything that you would like to know more about? Let me know by commenting below! I love talking about Vallarta, so don’t be afraid to ask me anything!


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20 thoughts on “5 Things to Expect When You Visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico”

  • I haven’t been to Mexico but I’ve been to Cuba twice. Definitely want to visit though. You make Puerto Vallarta sound amazing! I’m concerned for safety as well. But sometimes you just have to go!

    • Hi Lulu! I would LOVE to go to Cuba, any specific hotel or area you recommend? And I LOVE Puerto Vallarta! It’s so traditional, not over-touristy like some other areas. There you really get the feeling of being in Mexico. From what I’ve seen from Cuba it kind of reminds me of that same vibe. I understand there’s safety concerns about travelling to Mexico, but this is happening in other areas. I still felt completely safe being there during my last trip! You should go!

    • Hi Evelyn, Most people/areas do still drink bottled water, but I have never experienced unsafe drinking water, and water that made me sick in any way. There is one place near Puerto Vallarta called Yelapa…it’s a little fishing village that does not have most of the things a regular city has, including safe drinking water. In that town they do specifically tell you not to drink the water. I think the “don’t drink the water” phase is going to continue for many years to come, it’s just what people are used to thinking 🙂

  • Puerto Vallarta looks absolutely beautiful! What time of year do you recommend visiting or is it super busy year round? I’m actually quite surprised you can drink the water, you always here about how you shouldn’t in Mexico, what a nice surprise!

    • Haha I know a lot of people seem to think the water is not good. It is probably true in some remote places, but not in major resort cities. The slow season is in the summer, because it is hot and rainy. If you don’t mind that kind of weather it’s a good time to go because it will be less crowded and you might be able to get a good deal on a hotel. The best weather is from December to May!

  • Sounds like a lovely place to visit 🙂 we love a place that’s traditional and not overly touristy!
    My husband and I visited Mexico in the early years of our relationship and we stayed on the Riviera Maya. We did love it and ventured out of our resort on excursions. Those were the days before we became more adventurous and had an all inclusive resort! Nowadays we wouldn’t even consider booking a trip like that as we would get itchy feet being in the same hotel for 2 weeks!! Haha!

    • That’s what I love about Puerto Vallarta, it still has it’s traditional charm! And there are many hotel options in the middle of town, but if you want to escape there are plenty of all inclusive resorts a little further out of town, but still close enough that you can easily get back to the city. It’s a great option if you like to explore because there are a lot of places to go for a day trip like Yelapa, Marietas, San Sebastian, Sayulita, Punta de Mita….

  • It looks so beautiful! I’ve only been to Puerto Nuevo but since it’s right on the water, it actually smelled like portapotties. Unappetizing but the food WAS good! I’ve heard many people comment about the water in Mexico even at the resorts, but I’ve never heard anybody say not to eat food! Unless it was something that had a lot of water in it.

  • I’ve lived in Vallarta for over 4 years now and I have to say that there are rip tides and undertows that people should be aware of, along Los Muertos beach. Also, we have a crocodile problem in the Marina now, due to their habitat being dug up for Cirque de Soleil.

    Not all water is safe for drinking, either. I found out the hard way when I got an intestinal parasite. Always check. Maybe hotels and condos have reliable water for drinking, but not places out in the neighbourhoods – where I live, just on the other side of the bridge from E. Zapata, in Las Canoas.

    • Hi! I’m a little jealous you live there, I miss it so much! I have been hearing of the crocodile problem, that’s a shame!! I have heard some were found in the ocean and even walking in a neighborhood!!! Wow! I’ve seen one once, but it was in the river, never thought it would become a problem. I agree with the water, there are some very old/maybe not well-maintained areas that may not have good tap water, getting a parasite does not sound good! Enjoy your beautiful paradise, and be safe with those crocs!

  • That last photo is superb! I think the water is lovely, even if it isn’t aqua. I live in San Diego, and we often have a deep blue water (on a sunny day) on the ocean and bays. Still beautiful!

  • I’ve heard wonderful things about Puerto Vallarta, including how many Canadiens stay there in the winter. I guess I’ll have to put it on my list on places to visit.

    • Lots and lots of Canadians! One of my good friends while I was there is Canadian, and my old boss too! It is a wonderful place to visit, hope you get there soon 🙂

  • This makes me want to go to Puerto Vallarta! Cancun has always been on my list, but this post is swaying me otherwise! I love the culture you can see in your photos and friendly people is also a plus! It is always nice to interact with the locals! Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi! Cancun definitely has some gorgeous beaches, but if you are looking for culture…hands down it’s Puerto Vallarta! Even though I’ve been away for 4 years, I still consider it my second home and love going back to visit. I hope you get to experience it one day!

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