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Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta: Which is the Better Vacation City?

Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta: Which is the Better Vacation City?

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Are you debating between a Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco vacation? Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about choosing a trip to Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta.
This comparison of Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta Mexico, co-was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Guest post by Layla Pond

Torn between vacationing in Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta in Mexico? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are two coastal cities with rich cultural histories, breathtaking landscapes, delicious cuisine, and exciting nightlife. However, they vary quite widely when it comes to what to do in each city. 

To put it briefly, Acapulco is the ideal vacation for you if you’re looking for a laid-back vacation and prefer observing the city’s historical attractions and natural beauty.

In contrast, Puerto Vallarta is the best vacation for those who prioritize swimming, snorkeling, jungle tours, ziplining, and more active tourist activities. 

But that’s just scratching the surface. 

In this article, we’ll cover all of the key distinctions between the two cities to help you decide which destination is best suited for you! 

Keep scrolling as we cover the key differences in beaches, tourist attractions, cuisine, cost, nightlife, and more. 

A Brief Comparison of Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta At A Glance

Located on the west coast in the State of Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta is a charming city in Mexico.i It’s centered between the Sierra Madre mountains and the breathtaking beaches of the Pacific Ocean. 

Puerto Vallarta is prized for its cultural richness, charming cobblestone buildings, delicious authentic Mexican cuisine, and magnificent beaches. 

The coastline of Puerto Vallarta stretches 25 miles and its landscape is characterized by steep mountains, rocky bays, jungles, and lush rainforests.

Puerto Vallarta is also loved for its stunning beaches. The beaches in Puerto Vallarta have calm, clear turquoise waters so they’re excellent for swimming and snorkeling. One of the most well-known beaches is Los Muertos Beach.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico-20 December, 2019: Playa De Los Muertos beach and pier close to famous Puerto Vallarta Malecon, the city largest public beach
Playa De Los Muertos beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Named after pirate raids in a nearby village, Los Muertos Beach or “Deadmen’s Beach” is home to watersport activities, beach volleyball, bars, and some of the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.

A popular snorkeling destination in Puerto Vallarta is the Los Arcos Marine Park. This is a beautiful marine park with tunnels, caves, and abundant marine life.  

There are a variety of snorkeling excursions in Puerto Vallarta, whereas they’re less common in Acapulco. 

If you want to try local street tacos or sip on a margarita, the Malecon beach is the place to go. 

This is a popular beach with a boardwalk surrounded by street food vendors, bars, desserts, and more. For dessert, you’ll find plenty of vendors and cafes alongside the shore selling churros, crepes, and paletas. 

Similar to Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta has an exciting nightlife and numerous clubs. There are many popular clubs along the Malecon boardwalk, Zona Romantica, and Los Muertos beach. 

Famous Puerto Vallarta Arches (Los arcos) on the sea promenade
Los Arcos on the Malecon Boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta.

From bustling beach bars on Malecon Beach to sophisticated rooftop lounges in Zona Romantica, there’s something for everyone.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture, walk around Zona Romantic to view charming old colonial buildings, visit art galleries, and get traditional Mexican cuisine at small family-run restaurants. 

If you are looking to shop on vacation, Puerto Vallarta has everything from upscale boutiques to traditional markets. The Old Atlas Farmers Market is a popular weekend market in the Zona Romantica that offers a wide variety of local goods, artisan products, and delicious food. 

If you’re looking to take the perfect panoramic picture, head over to the Mirador de La Cruz. This is a popular hilltop lookout that’ll give you an immaculate view of the city and bay. 

In a nutshell, Puerto Vallarta is full of culture, immaculate beaches, delicious cuisine, and lively nightlife. 

Overview of Acapulco, Mexico

Located on the southwest coast of Mexico, Acapulco is a small city that’s nestled in a semicircular bay surrounded by mountains. 

Acapulco is known for its relaxing beaches, culturally rich history, magnificent cliffs, and budget-friendly tourist attractions. 

One feature of Acapulco that stands out is its cultural and historical attractions. It’s home to magnificent churches and cathedrals like the Capilla de la Paz  (Chapel of Peace), and Catedral Nuestra Señora.

In addition, there are museums, ancient ruins, and the famous Fort of San Diego. 

The entrance to San Diego historic fort in Acapulco city,
San Diego Fort in Acapulco.

One of Acapulco’s most popular tourist attractions is the La Quebrada cliffs, where you can watch stunt devils dive off of 40 and 80-foot tall cliffs! 

The Coyuca Lagoon is another must-see attraction. This is a freshwater lagoon with a bird sanctuary, restaurants, and bars. Take a boat tour through the lagoon to visit a coconut plantation and try a coconut with gin (Cocos Locos) at the Coyuca bar. 

If you want to immerse yourself in the city’s culture, view the Diego Rivera Mural, or visit the ancient port town Zocalo where you can buy souvenirs, watch street performers, and get food at a sidewalk cafe. 

Just a 15-minute boat drive from the coast of Acapulco is Roqueta Island where you can go to spend the day. There is a zoo, lighthouse, and beaches perfect for snorkeling. Or, you can hike to the top of the island to get a perfect picture of Acapulco’s bay!

Like Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco is an excellent place to try authentic Mexican food. There are many small family-owned restaurants, especially in Old Town. Alongside the coast, you’ll find fine-dining seafood options as well.

The nightlife in Acapulco is exciting and there are tons of nightclubs and bars on the strip of Costera street. From sunset bars to dance clubs and discos, Acapulco has something for everyone.

All in all, Acapulco has beautiful beaches, fascinating tourist attractions, a culturally rich atmosphere, and exciting nightlife.

Which City Has the Best Beaches?

Both Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta have stunning beaches. But, Puerto Vallarta has more well-known beaches than Acapulco.

Image of Banderas Bay Pacific Ocean coast. South of Puerto Vallarta
Make sure to check out Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta.

In addition, the beaches in Puerto Vallarta have clearer waters and are cleaner in general. Puerto Vallarta has white-sand beaches, beaches with boardwalks, and more opportunities for watersports when compared to Acapulco. 

Popular Beaches in Acapulco

  • Playa Icacos (The most popular public beach)
  • Playa de Barra Vieja (Beach with horseback riding and ATVs)
  • Playa Revolcadero (Beach with upscale hotels)
  • Playas Caleta y Caletilla (Kid-friendly beach with good food vendors)
  • Playa Pie de La Cuesta (Beach with beautiful sunsets)

Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

  • Playa del Amor (Hidden beach in Islas Marietas)
  • Plays de Los Muertos (Beach with pier)
  • El Malecón (Beach with boardwalk)
  • Playa Boca De Tomates (Peaceful family-friendly beach)
  • Playa Palmares (Beautiful beach with crystal clear waters)
  • Playa Amapas (Hidden gem beach in the Zona Romantica) 

Tourist Attractions In Acapulco Vs Puerto Vallarta

Both Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are good destinations if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture of each city. But, they have key differences when it comes to their tourist attractions. 

Acapulco’s most notable tourist attractions include the La Quebrada cliff divers, Roqueta Island, Coyuca Lagoon, and San Diego Fort. If you’re looking to go on a boat ride through a lagoon, visit historical landmarks, and watch divers jump off steep 80-foot cliffs, Acapulco’s for you. 

Image of Area view of the cathedral in the central square of Acapulco
Catedral de Acapulco.

On the other hand, Puerto Vallarta is known for its romantic zone, waterfalls, jungle tours, and great snorkeling opportunities. If you’re wanting to snorkel, shop, and stroll down a beach pier, Puerto Vallarta’s for you. 

Puerto Vallarta offers a blend of culturally rich experiences and lively tourist attractions. Acapulco’s tourist attractions are more laid-back and centered around the city’s history and natural beauty. 

Tourist Attractions in Acapulco

Here are some of Acapulco’s top tourist attractions. 

Attractions in Puerto Vallarta

These are some popular tourist attractions in Puerto Vallarta.

How Does the Weather Compare? 

Acapulco has a tropical climate with warm temperatures and slight humidity all year. The average temperature range in Acapulco is 71 to 89 F. The hottest months are from May to October (89 F), and the coldest months are in February and March (71 F)

Image of a beach in Acapulco Mexico
Beaches in Acapulco are great year-round.

Puerto Vallarta also has a tropical climate with humidity and warm temperatures year-round. The average temperature ranges from 62 F to 90 F. The hottest months are from July to September (90 F), and the coldest months are in January and February (62 F). 

What Languages Are Spoken?

The primary language spoken in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta is Spanish.  

Only around 6% of the population speaks English fluently in Acapulco, and English is widely spoken around Puerto Vallarta. 

What Currency is Used in Each City?

The official currency in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta is the Peso so you should exchange your dollars to pesos if you plan on visiting. The current exchange rate for US dollars to Pesos: 1 USD = 16.75 Mexican Peso. 

Acapulco Nightlife vs Puerto Vallarta Nightlife

Both Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta have lively nightlife. Costera Street is Acapulco’s nightlife strip, which is the perfect place for an evening of bar hopping. There are also famous high-energy clubs like Palladium that feature live DJs and dance parties.

Puerto Vallarta has numerous bars and clubs around the Zona Romantica, Los Muertos Pier, and Malecon boardwalk. From laid-back beach bars, to lively nightclubs, there’s something for everyone. 

Here are some of the most popular nightclubs and bars in Acapulco.

  • Barbarroja Acapulco
  • Terraza Sunset Bar
  • Baby`O Acapulco
  • Palladium
  • London English Pub

Here are some of the most note-worthy clubs and bars in Puerto Vallarta.

  • Mandala Puerto Vallarta
  • Rakata Puerto Vallarta
  • Devil’s Bar
  • Roxy Rock House
  • El Soñador

Which Place is Safer?

Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco are both generally safe around the hotels and tourist areas. However, Puerto Vallarta is considered safer in more areas and has a lower crime rate than Acapulco. 

Based on the US Department of State’s travel advisory, Puerto Vallarta has a travel advisory level of 3 while Acapulco has a level of 4. A level of 3 indicates that you should reconsider traveling, and a level of 4 indicates that you shouldn’t travel to the place. 

That being said, both cities are relatively safe in tourist areas. 

Which City is Easier to Get Around?

Puerto Vallarta is known for being a walkable city, and it’s generally easier to travel around than Acapulco. If you need transportation, there are taxis, Ubers, and public buses available as well.

Traveling around Acapulco is relatively easy to travel around, but the tourist attractions are situated around 30 to 40 minutes away from the hotel zone.

If you plan on visiting, you’ll need to rely on taxis, buses, or a rental car to get to most of the tourist attractions. Unlike Puerto Vallarta, Uber does not operate in Acapulco.

When’s the Best Time to Visit Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta?

The best time to visit Acapulco is from April through November when the weather is sunny. Acapulco has a wet season from June to September where you can expect more rainfall and humidity.

The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is from April to June. During these months, the weather is nicest and hotels have the cheapest rates.

Acapulco vs Puerto Vallarta: Which is more affordable?

Acapulco is slightly cheaper than Puerto Vallarta. The average daily cost in Acapulco is $79, whereas the daily cost in Puerto Vallarta is $112

A week’s trip for a couple in Acapulco costs $1,099 on average whereas a week’s trip for two in Puerto Vallarta costs an average of $1,564

Is Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta more family-friendly?

Overall, Puerto Vallarta offers more tourist attractions for the whole family to enjoy. There is ziplining, horseback riding, snorkeling, whale watching, pirate ship rides, and more.

Acapulco has zoos and kid-friendly beaches, but the majority of tourist attractions center around the city’s natural beauty. 

Things to do in Acapulco with Kids

Things to do in Puerto Vallarta with Kids

  • Aquaventures park
  • Los Veranos Canopy and Adventure Park
  • Dolphin and whale watching
  • Marigalante pirate ship
  • Puerto Vallarta zoo

Best Places to Stay in Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco

Puerto Vallarta’s town center is a popular spot among tourists because of its beautiful beaches and vibrant culture. In Acapulco, the scenic coastal area is known for being a favorite destination for tourists visiting Mexico.

Both towns offer unique experiences, from lively markets in Puerto Vallarta to stunning cliffs in Acapulco, making them must-visit places in Mexico.

Acapulco Hotels

Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués

Tourists love staying at Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués for its breathtaking ocean views and private villas. The hotel’s exceptional service and serene atmosphere make it a perfect getaway spot in Acapulco.

Quinta Real Acapulco

Visitors are drawn to Quinta Real Acapulco for its luxurious rooms and stunning beachfront location. Guests praise the hotel’s tranquil pools and delicious dining options, making it a top choice for a relaxing vacation.

Puerto Vallarta Hotels

Hotel Mousai (Adults-only)

Tourists rave about Hotel Mousai for its modern, luxurious accommodations and stunning rooftop pool with panoramic views. Guests love the hotel’s attentive service and the variety of gourmet dining options available, making it a favorite in Puerto Vallarta.

Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa

Visitors are drawn to Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa for its beautiful beachfront location and lush, tropical surroundings. The resort’s spacious suites, exceptional service, and range of activities for all ages make it a popular choice for families and couples alike.

Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco FAQs

Is Cancun or Acapulco better?

Whether Cancun or Acapulco is better depends on what you’re looking for. Cancun is known for its stunning Caribbean beaches and vibrant nightlife, while Acapulco is famous for its beautiful bay, cliff divers, and a more laid-back atmosphere.

Is Puerto Vallarta or Cabo better?

Choosing between Puerto Vallarta and Cabo depends on your preferences. Puerto Vallarta is popular for its charming old town and rich cultural scene, while Cabo is famous for luxury resorts, desert landscapes, and exciting outdoor activities.

How far apart are Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco?

Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco are quite far apart, approximately 800 miles if you’re traveling by road, so it’s quite a journey between the two cities.

Why is Puerto Vallarta so popular?

Puerto Vallarta is popular because of its beautiful beaches, friendly locals, rich culture, and the charming old town area filled with shops and restaurants.

Is there an archeological site near Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta?

Near Puerto Vallarta, you can visit the archeological site of Ixtapa, which has ancient petroglyphs. Near Acapulco, you can find the Palma Sola archeological site, known for its rock engravings.

How far are the resorts from Acapulco Airport?

Most resorts in Acapulco are about 20-30 minutes away from Acapulco Airport, depending on traffic and the exact location of the resort.

Do you need travel insurance?

I recommend getting travel insurance for flights and hotels because you just never know what will happen.

Which City is Better for Mexico Vacations Wrap-Up

Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta are both lovely coastal cities in Mexico that have breathtaking beaches, delectable traditional Mexican cuisine, and vibrant nightlife. 

Put briefly, Acapulco is the ideal destination for you if you prefer a laid-back vacation, enjoy nature, and want to immerse yourself in the city’s rich culture and history. Acapulco is also cheaper than Puerto Vallarta in general, and many of the tourist attractions are free. 

Puerto Vallarta is the best destination for you if you prefer active tourist activities such as swimming, snorkeling, hiking, ziplining, and walking around the city to explore. From whale watching to getting street tacos on the boardwalk, there’s something for everyone in Puerto Vallarta.

Regardless of where you plan to visit, both places will leave you with a culturally rich experience, and lovely photos!

About Layla

Layla is an American and full-time travel blogger who’s been traveling the world full-time for 7 years. She currently runs the travel blog Leisure Trip Guide.

Looking for more Mexico travel resources? Check out Cancun or Puerto Vallarta: Which is the Ultimate Family Vacation Destination?, 12 Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta Mexico, 20 Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta with Kids, 10 Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Puerto Vallarta for Families, and 15 Mexico Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts Worth Booking!

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