The best day trips from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The best day trips from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Casey Siemasko

It doesn’t take long to see why the charming town of Puerto Vallarta has blossomed into one of Mexico’s prime tourist hot spots. Located on the Pacific Coast, this burgeoning town enthrals visitors with its cobblestone streets, authentic ambience, riveting nightlife, and lively boardwalk along the Bay of Banderas.

But even though Puerto Vallarta is an excellent locale to base yourself in Mexico, that’s not to say you have to stay there for the entirety of your vacation. The region surrounding Puerto Vallarta is overflowing with things to see and do. Whether you’re only working with 24 hours or you want to add on a couple of days of exploration, here are three fantastic gems worth the trip from Puerto Vallarta.

San Pancho

If you like the idea of a pristine beach encompassed by verdant jungle and lush mountains, then you can’t go wrong with San Pancho. A quiet village of only around 2,000 residents, at first, San Pancho can seem a bit sleepy (especially during low season.) But as soon as you see one of the town’s legendary sunsets, it’s clear that there is something magical about San Pancho.

You’ll find a lively mix of locals, expats and artists who call San Pancho home. This means there are also plenty of eclectic art galleries, live music events and unique performances going on at any given time. Maria’s Restaurant is a great place to start for live events and mouthwatering food.

Surprising to many, San Pancho also boasts a golf course and polo club. Las Huertas, the golf course, was once an orchard. Today it remains a lush oasis with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. La Patrona Polo Club is one of the best places in town to grab a mimosa and enjoy a leisurely morning watching one of the practice matches.

Stay Longer: If the magic of San Pancho draws you in, then the best place to stay is Casa San Pancho. Close to the beach yet surrounded by jungle, the beautiful Balinese-fusion design is the classiest option in town.

San Pancho sunset | Photo: Dan Moore

San Pancho sunset | Photo: Dan Moore

Sayulita

Just ten minutes from San Pancho, Sayulita first gained popularity from the surfers who flocked to its beach for the consistent waves. The town remains popular with surfers but has since grown to attract a wide array of travellers, including everyone from hippies to families to luxe lovers.

The beach at Sayulita isn’t as nice as what you’ll find at San Pancho, but there are plenty of lounge chairs and oceanfront restaurants to ensure ultimate relaxation. Sure, the occasional hawker passes by, but the legendary surfing and pleasant strips of sand make up for it.

To best explore Sayulita, rent a golf cart or ATV and drive around the village. Leave plenty of time to check out the relaxing spas and growing art scene. A quick drive just outside of town will reveal scenic vistas and quiet coves.

When hunger strikes, take your pick of any of the fantastic restaurants around town. Sayulita is a bonafide haven for foodies; you likely can’t go wrong with whatever it is you choose. That said, La Terrazola or Don Pedro’s Restaurant (both on the beach) are romantic options for enjoying the sunset and a cocktail or two. El Itacate has some of the best fish tacos. ChocoBanana is the obvious choice for desert (and surprisingly breakfast as well.)

Stay Longer: Hotel Vogue is conveniently located in the centre of Sayulita (and just moments from the beach) making it an excellent base for a quick stopover. Large rooms, authentic Mexican design, and lovely hosts complete the oasis.

Humpback whale and calf | Photo: Dan Moore

Humpback whale and calf | Photo: Dan Moore

Punta de Mita

Surrounded by sparkling Caribbean-like water, Punta de Mita is somewhat of a contradiction. Part sleepy fishing village, part luxury resort destination, the magical town is not necessarily a hidden gem—though it certainly still feels like one.

Punta de Mita’s attractions and adventures rival that of any other renowned destination in Mexico. And while you might bump into an A-list celebrity while you’re there, you’ll be too busy enjoying the natural beauty of the area to even notice.

Perhaps one of Punta de Mita’s top attractions are the famed Marietas Islands. This small group of uninhabited islands lie just 15 minutes off the coast, and have earned the nickname of “the Mexican Galapagos.” Here you’ll find an abundant amount of marine life, snorkelling and diving spots, and The Hidden Beach.

Time your visit to the Marietas Islands during whale watching season (December through March), and you might get the chance for an up-close encounter with Humpback whales. Often the mesmerising creatures will come quite close to the boats, providing unparalleled opportunities to observe the whales in their natural habitat. Typically you’ll spot the mother whales with their calves, gracefully swimming alongside one another.

There are countless beaches to explore in Punta de Mita, though, depending on where you’re staying; you might be tempted to lounge away the afternoon with bar service in the pool. Both Four Seasons and St. Regent have resorts in Punta de Mita. There’s also a famed golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus. If you can, pull yourself away from the hotel for a visit to Playa Anclote, a great spot to mingle with locals and watch the sunset.

Stay Longer: While there are a handful of ultra-luxurious resorts to choose from, Casa de Mita is one of the best. This elegant, all-inclusive beachfront resort boasts only eight rooms, promising personalised service on a whole new level. The tequila tasting lounge and five-star cuisine will satiate your taste buds. The area attractions will keep you coming back for more.

On your next vacation to Mexico, skip Cabo and Cancun and head to Puerto Vallarta instead. Then, leave plenty of time to explore these magical gems that are a quick and easy trip away.

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