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Puerto Vallarta is a super touristy place, but if you are coming to Mexico for the first time, it’s a nice starting point. If you are looking for something else than just laying on a beach and drinking margaritas, this is for you. Even though the place is very touristy, I’ve actually found it quite nice. I love the small historical center and view of the hills meeting the ocean so you don’t get to enjoy just the ocean, but you can also go for a hike or camping.

Sea turtle camp

By walking from Marina Vallarta you will pass by a beach that is right at the end of the international airport, which is also a pretty cool experience to walk under planes that just took off. If you walk a bit further you will get to Boca de Tomates or Sea Turtle Camp. You will need to arrive just before sunset. They will tell you more about the turtles and let you release a turtle into the ocean. It’s a wonderful experience.

Volunteering in Casa Cultural Mixtli

While staying with my Couchsurfing host, I got the chance to volunteer at his community center. We went from Puerto Vallarta to Nuevo Vallarta where a small community lives. The workers don’t get paid much and since the community lives farther from the tourist center, they struggle with money and education. Every Tuesday the community center cooks for them so women can come with their kids to have a nice lunch together.

Mirador Punto Muerto

I discovered this place at the end of my walk from Galeria Vallarta all the way down to Playa Los Muertos which was around 8 km. The viewpoint is nothing like a hidden place, but I really liked the surrounding area, the houses on the hill, the cliff, and the small beaches behind the viewpoint. There are many people who go to the viewpoint to watch the sunrise and it’s spectacular. But If you have time, I would recommend you to walk a bit more and you will pass by small, tranquil beaches laying out of the busy tourist area.

Plaza de Armas and historical centre

I love historical buildings and I was surprised that Puerto Vallarta has a small historic area around Plaza de Armas. If you just walk a bit farther from the beach you will see lovely houses and cafeterias. There was public salsa dancing in this charming Plaza one night and I remember dancing in a gazebo with some stranger teaching me Cuban salsa.

Hill of the cross viewpoint

I would say this is one of the best places to watch the sunset in the city. You will need to start walking a bit earlier since you have to take some steeper steps, but once you’re there it will feel rewarding. I met many local people rather than tourists. It takes just around 30 minutes from Malecón and you will walk next to an old cable car. Don’t wear sandals like me, take good walking shoes!

Street food at Malecón

After a good walk up to the hill, I went straight to the street food stands right on Malecón. That’s where many tourists gather at night. I would recommend you try grilled corn, grilled fish, and fried bananas with strawberries. If you are worried about food poisoning, it might happen, of course. But trust me, if the food contained many bacteria I would’ve already gotten bad in the first couple of days. Btw, did you know that Puerto Vallarta’s water system is one of the best in Mexico?

Hike from Boca de Tomatlán to Quimixto

My favourite thing about the whole trip to Puerto Vallarta was this beautiful hike. I took a bus from C. Constitución & Basilio Badillo in Zona Romantica. The bus leaves every 10 minutes and takes you all the way down to a small village called Boca de Tomatlán. The journey takes around 30 minutes. From there you will need to head down to a river and turn left to cross a bridge. On the other side of the bridge, you will pass pretty close houses so don’t get confused, you are on the right path.

From there, the hike continues along the coast and there are many gorgeous beaches you can enjoy on the way. The hike takes you all the way to Los Animales beach which is quite small but already pretty touristy. But I found a nice and quiet spot under a palm at the end of the beach and enjoyed a tamal I grabbed from a street vendor when leaving Puerto Vallarta. Just watch out for hungry dogs. One of them almost ate my lunch.

The hike to Los Animales takes around 2 hours from Boca de Tomatlán, but it would be a shame not to continue to another beach in Quimixto which is about an hour from Los Animales. That beach was actually one of my favourites. There are just two beach bars and the place was quieter.

If you want to head back to Boca de Tomatlán, the last boat from Quimixto leaves at 6 pm. To get to a small port, you will need to walk a bit more, cross a soccer field and walk back to the beach through the village. The village is actually really tiny and it has a feeling of a very local jungle community. Don’t forget to say “Hola” to the locals, they are super nice. The boat also stops at Los Animales and in total it will cost you 100 MXN.

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