Why All Ages Will Love a Puerto Vallarta Family Vacation
A Puerto Vallarta family vacation can work for all ages. Families can choose from a variety of activities, from cruising the Bay of Banderas to relaxing on the beach, or even fishing and whale watching. A welcoming and lively atmosphere makes Puerto Vallarta an easy place to spend a vacation, even if you only know a few words of Spanish. The city is also a great place to learn about Mexican cultural traditions, from music to dance, as well as food.
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Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk, known as the Malecon, is easy for travelers of all ages to stroll and explore. And the many restaurant options along the Malecon, as well as other parts of the city, are appealing for even the pickiest of eaters. The city of Puerto Vallarta is truly a family-friendly destination for all ages.
Where is Puerto Vallarta?
The main airport into Puerto Vallarta is Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR), which services local and international destinations. Airlines that fly into the Puerto Vallarta airport include American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and WestJet. Mexican airlines flying into Puerto Vallarta include Interjet, Aeromar, and Aeromexico.
The nearest lodging to Puerto Vallarta airport is in Nuevo Vallarta, which is outside the city proper. For lodging within the city, you’ll need to drive around 8 km (around 5 miles).
Puerto Vallarta airport transportation
Travelers have several options for getting into and out of Puerto Vallarta. Most independent travelers arrive by airplane into the airport. The airport is very easy to navigate, and official taxi stands are located just outside the baggage claim area. A taxi will cost between 340 to 1,160 pesos (roughly $17-58), depending on the distance and size of the taxi. The public bus stop is located on the street right in front of the airport, and is just a five minute walk from the arrivals area.
Puerto Vallarta is also accessible by intercity bus. ETN and Premera Plus are the best bus companies that service this part of Mexico. The bus terminal is located in the northern part of the city, near Marina Vallarta.
Getting around Puerto Vallarta
For getting around Puerto Vallarta, taxis are the best option for families. However, they are not necessarily the cheapest transportation option. Taxi rates range from 80 to 180 pesos for a standard four person taxi, depending on the distance, time of day, and the mood of the taxi driver. Larger taxis will often charge more.
Public buses are a more affordable option for families. Most buses drive along the main highway, which travels into the city center, and are pretty frequent. Major stops along the route are listed on the front window of the bus. Getting around the city by bus, however, may not be ideal for travelers with mobility issues or travelers with young kids.
A final option for getting around Puerto Vallarta is to rent a car. The airport has several car rental options that travelers can choose from. Rental cars will cost between $4 and $16 per day for a five seater car, depending on the size of car. Seven seater cars range from $22 to $100. American citizens won’t need an International Driver’s License, but citizens of other countries may need one. Take note that Mexican roads can be bumpy and narrow at times, especially in the historical centers. Cars drive on the right side of the road.
Puerto Vallarta cruise port
Puerto Vallarta is also a port destination for cruise ships, often docking one or two cruise ships per day. The main terminal is located in front of the Galerias Vallarta Mall, along the main road, on Route 200. It is about 6 km (roughly 3-4 miles) away from the city center. Travelers can take taxis or public buses into the city center during their port stops.
Puerto Vallarta – Know Before You Go
Traveling to Mexico may raise concerns for families due to the country’s high homicide rate from drug cartel activities. However, tourists who come to Mexico are not targets. And in fact, Puerto Vallarta is safe for families to visit.
The currency used in Mexico is the Mexican peso. Currently, the exchange rate is around 20 pesos per $1. Travelers can find money exchange bureaus throughout the city. And there are also ATMs located throughout the city.
Weather in Puerto Vallarta ranges from a low of 60 degrees Farenheit in the winter to a high of 90 degrees Farenheit in the summer.
Puerto Vallarta accessibility
Puerto Vallarta is a very walkable city. However, the city’s cobblestone streets may not make it ideal for strollers or wheelchairs. There are still parts of Puerto Vallarta that are accessible, such as the Malecon and Marina Vallarta.
Healthcare in Puerto Vallarta
As with any kind of international travel, having travel insurance that covers medical care is highly recommended. With that said, healthcare in Mexico is relatively inexpensive, so if you do require minor medical attention and don’t have medical coverage, it’s likely you won’t have to spend a lot of money out of pocket.
Hospital San Javier Marina, Vallarta Medical Center, and CMQ Premiere Hospital are the three hospitals most recommended for travelers. These hospitals are located near the hotel zone and Zona Romantica, and have equipment that can handle trauma care and CT scans.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Vallarta
The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is from April to June, when the weather is pleasant and not too hot. December through April is the busiest tourist season in Puerto Vallarta, so try to avoid visiting the city during those months if you don’t enjoy being around large groups of people. The city’s low season runs from July to September.
What to Bring to Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is a beach destination, so be sure to pack your swimsuit, along with sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. If you plan to do any fishing while you’re in Puerto Vallarta, pack along a windbreaker. The wind can get very cold out on the Bay of Banderas, especially in the early morning.
You can also pack flippers and snorkeling gear, if you have them, for dolphin watching excursions. If you’re traveling to Puerto Vallarta between the months of July and September, you may want to pack along an umbrella or a raincoat, as it is the rainiest time of year. Here’s our beach packing list to help with your Puerto Vallarta family vacation.
What to Do on a Puerto Vallarta family vacation
There are so many things to do in Puerto Vallarta with kids. Families visiting Puerto Vallarta can take their pick of entertaining activities, from pirate-themed excursions to cooking traditional meals. There’s something for every member of the family in Puerto Vallarta.
Day cruise on a pirate ship
A popular activity for travelers is a day cruise on the Marigalante Pirate Ship. This pirate-themed cruise takes families around the Bay of Banderas, while entertaining them aboard with a fun pirate show. The tour takes them to Majahuitas Island, where kid-friendly activities like treasure hunts, games, and a banana boat ride are offered. Adults can enjoy beverages as they relax on the beach.
Whale watching or snorkeling tours
For families wanting a more laid back tour, they can join the tours offered by Ecotours de Mexico. This company leads whale watching tours as well as snorkeling tours. They even offer a tour where families can swim with wild dolphins. Families have a chance to see these animals in their natural environment. Young kids or older travelers who are not as agile in the water may not be able to do the swimming portion of these activities, but they can still enjoy the whale and dolphin watching.
Sport fishing excursion
Puerto Vallarta also offers plenty of opportunities for sport fishing. Fishing enthusiasts can charter boats for a half day, one day, or multi-day outing. Costs for chartering a boat range from $350 to $800, depending on the length of the outing and the company. This activity may not be suitable for young kids or people who are prone to seasickness, as the water can get choppy at times.
Paddle boarding in Puerto Vallarta
Another fun water-based activity that families can do is paddle boarding. Companies like Xiutla Riders offer paddle boarding lessons to beginners. This is a fun way for kids and parents to learn a new skill together. If your kids can stand up on their own, they’ll be able to share a paddle board with a parent and enjoy being out on the water.
Puerto Vallarta Cooking Classes
For those who prefer land-based activities, Puerto Vallarta also offers families a chance to immerse in the culture with cooking lessons and market tours. Cookin’ Vallarta is a locally-owned company that offers cooking classes for budding chefs of all ages.
Kids, their parents, and their grandparents can participate in a cooking class and learn about the traditions of Mexican cooking. The cooking class also involves a market tour with some walking, but the majority of the cooking activity takes place in a kitchen with ample opportunities for sitting and resting.
Explore the local markets
Another low key activity for families to do is visit the local markets. The Pueblo Viejo Mercado de Artesanias, and the nearby Cuale Island Flea Market, sell artisan goods for travelers looking for souvenirs to buy. Further south of the River Cuale is the Olas Altas Saturday Market, a local farmer’s market selling local artisan food and goods. And on Thursday evenings, Marina Vallarta, in the northern part of the city, hosts a night market with local vendors, artists, and performers.
The abundance of activity options for families to do in Puerto Vallarta make it a suitable city for families members of all ages.
Where to Eat in Puerto Vallarta
A Puerto Vallarta institution is Pancho’s Takos, which sells tacos al pastor, a staple Mexican dish made with spit-grilled pork topped with a pineapple. This restaurant is located in Puerto Vallarta’s old town, known as Zona Romantica. There is always a line, so be sure to come early.
Another good spot for eating is along the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk. There are dozens of options for food, but one that is excellent for families is Restaurant Bar La Chata. This restaurant is a great place for sampling Mexico’s diverse array of dishes, from mole to grilled meats. The view of the ocean from the second level is an added bonus.
For a fun, albeit slightly touristy restaurant experience, head to Pipi’s. Nightly mariachi bands entertain restaurant guests, while servers make fresh guacamole right at the table. The menu has a decent selection of Mexican dishes, but the ambience of Pipi’s is its real draw.
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta
There is a large selection of all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta. (Here’s why all-inclusive resorts are perfect for a multigen family trip). However, if you are looking for a more local experience, head to Centro. Hotel Porto Allegre is popular among travelers due to its central location and proximity to the beach. There is a small pool for guests, and breakfast is included.
A bit farther from Centro, to the south, is Pinnacles Resort 220. Although on the higher end of hotels in Puerto Vallarta, travelers enjoy this hotel for its rooftop pool.
Still further from Centro, this time to the north, is Marina Vallarta. There are a large number of vacation rentals available in Marina Vallarta, many of them can be found on VRBO. This is a great option for families looking for a local experience.
Suggested Puerto Vallarta itineraries
Puerto Vallarta Family Vacation Weekend itinerary
For families who only have a weekend to explore Puerto Vallarta, start off the first day with a visit to Playa Los Muertos. Spend the morning playing on the beach, and then explore Zona Romantica for lunch time. After lunch, take a walk through the Isla Cuale Flea Market, located on Isla Cuale, and squeeze in some souvenir shopping. Make your way to Plaza de Armas, and then continue on to the Malecon. Have dinner along the Malecon, as you watch the sunset.
The next day, take a day trip to Yelapa to relax on the beach and explore this artisan town. Upon returning to Puerto Vallarta, head to Marina Vallarta for dinner at one of the many restaurants along the marina.
Week in Puerto Vallarta Itinerary with family
If you have a week to explore Puerto Vallarta, spend your third day doing a market tour and cooking class. End your day with dinner at Zona Romantica, perhaps at Pancho’s Takos.
On your fourth day, take a boat tour around Banderas Bay to see whales, dolphins, or marine life. Book a boat tour that also includes snorkeling, so that you can really experience the underwater life in the bay. Most tours leave from Marina Vallarta, so after coming back from the tour, feel free to stick around the area for dinner.
For day number five, take some time to explore Centro and Isla Cuale more. The Naval Museum, on the Malecon, is a fun place for kids to learn about Puerto Vallarta’s naval history. The Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a Puerto Vallarta landmark, and worth a visit. Afterward, take a stroll through the Mercado Municipale and continue onto Isla Cuale Market across the bridge. On Isla Cuale, the Museo del Cuale offers small exhibits showcasing Puerto Vallarta’s history. Also on Isla Cuale is Oscar’s Tequila Distillery, where parents and grandparents can sample locally distilled tequila.
On the sixth day, spend the day being entertained with the Marigalante Pirate Ship cruise. This day will be action packed with activities, games, food, and an abundance of entertainment. Play it low key in the evening with dinner along the Malecon.
Spend your final day in Puerto Vallarta visiting your favorite neighborhoods: Centro, Zona Romantica, the Malecon. Or you can spend the day at one of the city’s beaches – Olas Altas, Playa Los Muertos, Rosita Beach, Playa Tranquila, or Playa Camarones.
If you are looking for other multigen family vacation ideas, don’t miss our suggestions for multigen family trips to Europe, family vacation ideas in the US, and destinations for large family groups around the world.
About the author: Astrid Vinje is a mother of three and the talented woman behind The Wandering Daughter, a website created to make travel more accessible and approachable for families. With her stories and tips, she hopes to inspire families to go out into the world and start exploring.