Are you visiting Puerto Vallarta but might want to add some day trips to your Mexico itinerary? Check out these amazing day trips from Puerto Vallarta that are totally worth the effort!
This list of Puerto Vallarta day trips in Mexico 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.
Planning a trip to the West Coast of Mexico and wondering about the best day trips from Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is a picturesque town on Mexico’s Pacific coast. While many fun activities are within the city limits, you should also consider a day trip or two during your holiday.
Popular day trips include boat tours, hiking around the Sierra Madre Mountains, visiting Guadalajara, and much more. So, you can easily fill your vacation schedule in Puerto Vallarta with other fun activities that get you out of town.
Let’s get to the top day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
12 Easy and Fun Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Day Trips from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the capital city of Jalisco and is known as an important cultural hub in Mexico. Mariachi, Tequila, and Birria are all plentiful around Guadalajara, and it also hosts many impactful events.
Guadalajara has a beautiful historic center, great tequila-tasting bars (some say this is where Tequila was born), and other fun activities for the whole family.
Because of its historic connections and beautiful architecture, it’s a wonderful place for children to experience a more authentic piece of Mexico.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara
Distance: 205 miles
Guadalajara is in inland western Mexico, about a five-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. However, a new highway in the works should significantly reduce travel time.
However, there are several direct flights from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara. This might be the best route if you’re taking a day trip.
The flight is only about an hour, and the airport in both cities is pretty easy to get to and from.
Visiting the Sierra Madre Mountains
Puerto Vallarta sits at the foot of the incredible Sierra Madre Mountains and is one of the best starting points for hiking and adventuring around the lush mountain range.
The Sierra Madre Mountains are about 250 miles (400 kilometers) long, so there’s plenty of space for exploring.
You can explore a diverse ecosystem, waterfalls, beautiful views of the forest and surrounding region, and a nice escape from the busy city of Puerto Vallarta.
There are many ways to get out and explore Sierra Madre, including ATV tours, ziplining adventures, and simple day hikes for all levels. But no matter which you go with, you’re sure to have a blast. Especially if you and your family are adventurous travelers.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to the Sierra Madre Mountains
Distance: 10 miles
The best way to the Sierra Madre Mountains is with a guided tour. The mountain range is vast and remote, and it’s incredibly easy to get lost. With a tour guide, you can make the most of your time without worrying about getting lost.
Depending on your mood, there are several ways to visit the Sierra Madre Mountains.
The Puerto Vallarta Jungle Hike is the perfect family-friendly activity that includes roundtrip transportation and a hike to Palo Maria Waterfall and other interesting wilderness sites. Check rates here.
If you want something a little more adventurous, try an ATV tour. The ATV or RZR Bridge Experience includes a ride across Jorullo Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Latin America.
You’ll also stop for a quick swim at El Salto waterfall, deep within the jungle. The tour is recommended for those six years old and up. Check rates here.
And if you want to take it to the next level, a zipline tour is the way to go. The Outdoor Zipline Adventure is a comprehensive outdoor adventure that includes a speed boat ride, a zipline adventure, and a visit to Boca de Tomatlan and Banderas Bay.
This tour is recommended for those eight years old and up. Check rates here.
Mascota is a beautiful mountain town in the state of Jalisco, conveniently located between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara.
It’s at a high elevation, around 4,000 ft (1,200 meters) above sea level, so the climate is very cool compared to coastal cities and towns.
Mascota is a beautiful, picturesque town with old cobblestone streets and a fascinating unfinished Temple of the Precious Blood near the center. In addition, there are tons of other activities.
There are a few hiking trails nearby, and it’s a popular place for horseback riding, kayaking around the lagoon, boat tours, and fishing.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Mascota
Distance: 65 miles
It takes about two hours to drive to Mascota from Puerto Vallarta. There are few public buses, and the distance is too far for a taxi. So, the easiest way to get there is with your own car, hiring a private driver, or joining a guided tour from Puerto Vallarta.
Day Trip to Mascota and Talpa de Allende from Puerto Vallarta is a highly-rated full-day tour that takes you to Macota and Talpa de Allende, another little town nearby.
Transportation, breakfast, lunch, a bilingual tour guide, water, and travel insurance are also included. Check rates here.
Los Arcos National Park
Los Arcos National Park, a protected marine park since 1984, is located between Las Gemelas and Mismaloya Beach in Banderas Bay.
The marine reserve is known for its natural beauty, lively marine life, and beautiful coral reefs. Because of this, it’s a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, and sightseeing. You’ll even have a chance to swim with many different sea creatures, including sea turtles, tropical fish, and rays.
The national park gets its name from the granite arches that rise out of the water. There are also caves, deep tunnels, and no shortage of coral reefs.
You can see the islands from Puerto Vallarta, but taking a day trip from Puerto Vallarta is highly recommended for a better view and time for swimming.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Los Arcos National Park
Distance: 10 miles
Los Arcos was once connected to the coast of Mexico, but erosion over time has left five small, rocky islands.
If you want to get as close as possible, you can take a bus or taxi from downtown Puerto Vallarta to Mismaloya Beach. This secluded beach is right in front of the arches and has some great snorkeling.
However, I’d recommend a boat tour to Los Arcos itself because you’ll get much closer to the arches and have a better chance of seeing more ocean dwellers.
Tequila is a small pueblo magico (Magic Town) in the state of Jalisco. As you may have guessed, it’s where the drink, Tequila, comes from.
So, if you’re looking for the most authentic tequila tasting and the opportunity to learn about this beverage, Tequila is the place to go.
The little town is surrounded by agave fields, the key ingredient in tequila. It’s the best place to learn about tequila’s history and production and sample different flavors.
The town also has a small local market, where you can pick up more samples of local dishes and other foods and fruits.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Tequila
Distance: 100 miles
The town of Tequila is a little further away than other day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
Because Tequila just passed Guadalajara, you can combine this trip with the city.
If you’re driving, it takes around four hours each way. For most of the trip, you’ll drive along Highway 200 and continue for about an hour past Guadalajara. It’s best to leave early in the morning or stay overnight for plenty of time to explore and learn in Tequila.
There’s no direct bus from Puerto Vallarta to Tequila. Instead, you can take a bus to Guadalajara and another to Tequila.
Visiting Ancient Ruins Near Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is one of the few regions in Mexico that Aztecs or Mayans did not inhabit, so there are no pyramids here.
If you want to see pyramids, the Riviera Maya are highly recommended. Or, you can head over to Mexico City to visit Teotihuacan or Cholula ruins.
That being said, there’s still a lot of cultural heritage near Puerto Vallarta left by the other indigenous. The best way to learn more about this region’s cultural significance and fascinating history is by taking a day trip to the small, historic towns around Puerto Vallarta.
Punta Mita, San Sebastian, San Pancho, and Sayulita are four culturally significant towns near Puerto Vallarta. In the following sections, I’ll review each of these towns, how to get there, and popular attractions.
Punta de Mita
Punta de Mita is a small town about 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. It’s known for its secluded beaches, luxury resorts, fresh seafood, and world-class restaurants.
But Punta Mita is so much more than its beautiful beaches; it’s also home to the “shooting tomb” or “tumbo de tiro” in Spanish. When the site was first uncovered, archeologists found human remains, ceramics, and utensils that dated back to the Classic Period.
Shooting tombs are believed to be ancient burial grounds for indigenous people who lived in the region.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Punta de Mita
Distance: 20 miles
Punta Mita is just north of Puerto Vallarta. The easiest way to get there is with your own car or with a shared van.
To get there with your car, head north of Puerto Vallarta, following the main road and staying along the coast.
San Sebastian del Oeste
San Sebastion del Oeste is another must-see small town near Puerto Vallarta, especially if you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of the region while escaping the beach for a little bit.
Unlike most popular spots near Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastian del Oeste is nestled high in the Sierra Madre region.
Downtown San Sebastian is like stepping back in time, with a beautiful central square paved with cobblestone streets and lined with small shops.
There’s so much to do here, from learning about the region’s rich history to hiking to some beautiful vistas to trying local cuisine and talking with a friendly local family.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastian del Oeste
Distance: 40 miles
San Sebastian is not too far from Puerto Vallarta, making it an easy day trip.
There are several buses from Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastian, or you can even take a taxi or an Uber there. It might be more challenging to catch a ride back, as significantly fewer taxis are around, but not impossible.
The easiest way to get to San Sebastian is with a guided tour. You’ll have all the transportation taken care of and be with a designated guide who can explain the cultural significance of the town.
This San Sebastian del Oeste day trip from Puerto Vallarta is the perfect tour that includes roundtrip transportation, lunch, beverages, a stop at the colonial buildings and churches, and a trip to some scenic viewpoints. Check rates here.
San Pancho is a small town in the Mexican state of Riviera Nayarit. It has a small, beautiful beach, a quiet downtown area with rows of artisan stalls, fresh seafood, and beachside restaurants.
Although you need just a day for this little Mexican town, visiting San Pancho is easily one of the best things to do on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. It’s off the beaten path and delivers more of a local experience than anything.
A lush jungle, tropical birds, and the overall beauty of the Peninsula North surround the little town.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho
Distance: 26 miles
San Pancho is a small village close to another popular tourist destination, Sayulita.
Driving from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho takes about an hour, and a day trip to Sayulita can easily be incorporated into your itinerary.
There are local buses from Puerto Vallarta to San Pancho, or you can take a taxi or private transfer from anywhere in Puerto Vallarta.
If you’re driving from Puerto Vallarta, you can easily find Google Maps directions for this quick trip. Just make sure you save the directions for offline mode, as reception can sometimes be spotty on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
Tour to the Magical Town of Sayulita and San Pancho is an excellent way to travel to both Pueblo magicos (magic towns).
The tour includes roundtrip transportation, time to explore and shop around the cobblestone streets in both towns, and plenty of time to relax on the beach. Check rates here.
Sayulita is a small fishing village well-known for its incredible surfing, friendly local families, good street food, and much more.
This little beach town has a very laid-back vibe. Its gorgeous beaches are much less crowded than those near the Puerto Vallarta pier. This town is also an excellent spot for surfing.
With its stunning beaches, Sayulita has long been considered a hidden gem on the Pacific Coast. Still, it has become a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners in recent years.
Either way, it’s worth the trip to explore the town, eat fresh seafood, and enjoy a quiet beach.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita
Distance: 24 miles
Sayulita is only about 25 miles (38 km) from Puerto Vallarta, and it’s easy to get there.
The cheapest way to get to Sayulita is by public bus. Several local buses leave from downtown Puerto Vallarta and even the airport.
Because the trip is pretty quick, you can also take a taxi, Uber, or drive yourself. In this case, you would exit the city and pass Buscarias. There are several signs along the way pointing you in the right direction.
Just know that there are no grocery stores in Sayulita, so if you decide to stay overnight and want to bring anything, stop at one of a Chedraui, Walmart, or Mega along the way.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting there, several tour groups offer this day trip.
From Puerto Vallarta: San Pancho and Sayulita is one of the most popular day trips from Puerto Vallarta and includes a stop in Sayulita and San Pancho.
Roundtrip transportation, free time to explore the colorful streets of San Pancho, and time on the little surfer beach in Sayulita. Check rates here.
Vallarta Botanical Gardens
If you’re looking for something fun and unique in Puerto Vallarta but don’t feel like venturing too far from the city, you must check out the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
The gardens are incredible and possibly one of the best botanical gardens in Mexico. You can tour the gardens full of local plants and fauna, learn about how some plant species grow, and even dine on authentic Mexican cuisine.
This is an excellent activity for children, as they can learn more about the plants and local species while getting a short break from the sand and sun.
You only need a few hours at Vallarta Botanical Gardens, so you’ll have some extra time to explore the Cuale River near the romantic zone in Puerto Vallarta or any other activities that catch your attention near downtown and Old Town.
How To Get From Puerto Vallarta to Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Distance: 15 miles
Vallarta Botanical Gardens is only 30 minutes from Old Town Puerto Vallarta or the romantic zone.
You can take a bus, taxi, or Uber there.
It’s right off the only highway going south of Puerto Vallarta. It’s located at Km 200, Carretera Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad.
Puerto Vallarta Boat Trips
If you’re ready to leave the main beach, get off those comfortable beach chairs, and explore more of the Pacific Ocean, you must try one of the many boat trips from Puerto Vallarta.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic sunset cruise, a thrilling snorkeling tour, a whale-watching tour, or a simple boat ride around the Pacific, there’s something here for you.
Puerto Vallarta: Rhythms of the Night Cruise & Dinner Show is an enjoyable sunset trip with a delicious buffet-style dinner and an immersive show for people of all ages.
The boat trip takes you around the ocean right around sunset and continues by candlelight with an enchanting acrobatic show. Check rates here.
Vallarta: Yelapa Waterfall & Majahuitas Snorkel Adventure is a different type of adventure that’s equally fun. You’ll visit a hidden waterfall, have a few hours for snorkeling and maybe even swimming with sea turtles, and soak in the views of two picturesque coves near Puerto Vallarta.
The tour also offers paddle boarding, kayaking, and other fun water activities. Check rates here.
When you’re in Yelapa, make sure to visit the infamous Pie Lady. She’s right on the beach and known for her interesting banana cream pies.
Puerto Vallarta: Las Caletas Beach Hideaway Experience is another great boar ride, complete with a hidden beach, jungle-clad mountains backdrop, and other fun activities.
While there’s a lot to do on this tour, the hidden beach is by far the highlight. You can only access the hidden beach by boat, and it’s equipped with swaying hammocks, a row of natural palm trees, and beautiful views of the ocean and the mountains. Check rates here.
Whichever boat tour you decide on, you won’t be disappointed. After all, the incredible marine life and the beautiful ocean are really what’s making Puerto Vallarta one of the most popular destinations in all of Mexico.
Trips from Puerto Vallarta FAQs
What is the little town outside of Puerto Vallarta?
There are several little towns outside of Puerto Vallarta. Sayulita, San Sebastian, and Punta Mita are three of the most popular little towns outside of Puerto Vallarta.
How many days is enough for Puerto Vallarta?
Three to five days is enough for Puerto Vallarta, but you may want more time if you plan a few day trips and full-day activities. You really should leave time for the beach, shopping, day trips, and other adventurous activities.
Are there any Mayan ruins near Puerto Vallarta?
There are no Mayan ruins near Puerto Vallarta; those are mainly located in the Yucatan Peninsula. However, there are some interesting historic buildings, churches, and other pieces of the fascinating history around Puerto Vallarta.
What transportation options are available for day trips from Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta is a developed town with ample transportation and amenities. Local buses run through downtown Puerto Vallarta and can take you almost anywhere, but they often take much longer.
If you want to get in the water, you can take a water taxi to more secluded spots and beaches.
You can also take a taxi, Uber, or private driver to most places within driving distance.
What are some family-friendly day trips from Puerto Vallarta?
Los Arcos National Park, Sayulita, Punta Mita, and San Sebastian are some of the best family-friendly day trips from Puerto Vallarta. You’ll have a fun day no matter where you go. Each town offers something different, from outdoor adventure and hiking trails to more beach and surf time.
What should I pack for a day trip from Puerto Vallarta?
For any day trip from Puerto Vallarta, you should pack plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes, Mexican pesos, and a bathing suit.
Are there any unique or off-the-beaten-path day trips from Puerto Vallarta?
Yes, there are many off-the-beaten-path trips from Puerto Vallarta. San Sebastian is one of the best “off-grid” destinations, with few tourists and a lovely, authentic vibe.
Are there any safety concerns on day trips from Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta and the surrounding towns are considered generally safe, and hundreds and thousands of travelers are going around every week. However, you should always be cautious when traveling in any foreign country. Stay aware of your surroundings, don’t bring unnecessary valuables with you anywhere, and don’t leave things unattended at the beach.
Puerto Vallarta Day Tours Wrap-Up
Whether you grab a water taxi to explore the beautiful waters off the coast, take a family yoga class on the beach, or explore the surrounding towns and villages on a day trip, you will surely have a memorable vacation.
And there are so many day trips to choose from. Sayulita is one of the most popular tourist destinations and is especially recommended for families in world-class surfing.
Boca de Tomatlan is another excellent day trip and a popular stop on most Sierra de Madre Mountains tours. Boca de Tomatlan is a small ocean-front village on the south side of Banderas Bay.
However, there are so many fun and exciting day trips you have dozens to choose from.