Holidays to Puerto Vallarta aren't just about sandy beaches. You've also got buzzy nightlife, a mountain backdrop, and one of Mexico's best dining scenes.

Got-it-all city

Back in the 60s, Hollywood’s golden couple – Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – jetted in to Puerto Vallarta and thrust this sleepy town into the spotlight. It’s been a popular pick for holidaymakers ever since, morphing into a fully-fledged seaside city complete with boutique shops, cosmopolitan bars, and restaurants that rival those in Mexico’s capital city.

Beach scene

Puerto Vallarta hugs the centre of Banderas Bay, a scenic scoop on Mexico’s west coast. Wide, golden beaches are the norm here – Los Muertos is the big cheese, but if you fancy a bit more elbow room, there are plenty of other sandy stretches. Some of them are only accessible by boat, so they’ve got real get-away-from-it-all credentials.

Viejo Vallarta

The hub of the city is the old town – Viejo Vallarta. Also known as the Zona Romantica, it mixes up traditional and modern Mexico – upmarket restaurants and boutiques stand shoulder-to-shoulder with teensy bakeries and stalls frying up tortillas and slicing tropical fruits. Running along the waterfront is the malecón, a mile-long boardwalk that’s prime sunset-strolling territory. Keep an eye out for its quirky sculptures and street performers.

Further afield

Backing the city are the jungle-blanketed Sierra Madre mountains. Take the traditional route and visit sleepy Colonial villages, or go all action-hero with a trip that packs in waterfall rappelling and zip-lining. If you prefer water-based fun, jump on a boat to Los Arcos Marine Park. The corals and rock formations around these granite islands make for great snorkelling and scuba diving.

At a Glance

  • Try out the watersports on Playa de Oro
  • Sip margaritas at one of the bars along the malecón
  • Fly through the jungle on a zip wire