Estrella Mar Recommended Adventures
Everyone wants to know “What is there to do and see in Puerto Vallarta?” The area offers an endless list of possibilities, so to help you decide, here is a list of our favorites. If you try something new and think we need to have it on the list be sure to tell us.
Mama Lucia Tequila Tour in Mismaloya: If you are really into the full discovery of the tequila process, just ten minutes south of the Villa, near the zoo is Mama’s. You can take a local bus south to Boca de Tomatlan and get off at the Mismaloya Bridge and it is just a five minute walk from the main highway. Not a bad idea to just stop by on the way back from the zoo. Mama Lucia’s Tequila Distillery Tour is a friendly place where family members of Mama (the grandma who started it all) still work.
Phone: (329) 296 5189
Address: 5 de May 542, Col. Guadalupe Victoria Mismaloy
Hours: 10-4 pm or after 5 by appointment
From 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays there are two markets, one at Lazero Cardenas Park (walking distance from the Villa) and the other at the Paradise Community center on Pulpito. You will find freshly baked breads and pastries, quality organic produce, prepared-fresh dishes from around the world, gorgeous flowers, crafts galore and so much more. There is live music and it gets crowded so get there on the early side and plan on coming hungry!
Cinepolis Puerto Vallarta
This theatre offers movies in English (with Spanish subtitles). Grab a tub of popcorn and enjoy some time out of the sun. Check online or in the paper for movie times.
Phone: (322) 293-6763
Address: Av.Francisco Villa #1642-A
Home Tours of Puerto Vallarta
IFC offers home tours to the public for a charitable donation of $450 pesos (approx $36 - $40). You travel by charter bus and view four different properties in the local area. Properties are shown on a rotating basis so you may see one of 200 different villas or condominiums. Offered just Wednesdays and Thursdays each week during peak season, you will need an appointment. See online for booking information. The proceeds from the tours fund a number of Puerto Vallarta charities, primarily the Cleft Palate Surgical Program and other in house Educational and Community Service Programs. Just don't forget good shoes, a bottle of water and your camera! These homes are generally not handicapped accessible and a lot of walking is involved.
Phone: (322) 222-5466 From USA or Canada:1(514) 418 2123
Address: Edificio Parian del Puente #13 Calle Libertad Corner Miramar, Colonia El Centro
Just one block up from the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s original gallery that opened in 1971, represents contemporary artists living and working in Mexico. Open Monday thru Saturday 10 am to 8 pm with extended hours on Wednesday until 10 pm to accommodate the Art Walk.
Phone: (322) 223-2853
Address: 5 Morelos 561, El Centro
Galleria Pacifico opened its doors in 1987 and is an amazing gallery featuring contemporary sculptures and paintings various media from both up and coming artists as well as those who are established. It is located a couple blocks off the Malecon. And if you attend the public sculpture walking tour, the owner of this gallery, Gary Thompson, is your guide. Say hi to his dog when you visit!
Phone: (322) 222-1928
Address: Aldama 174, 2nd Floor
A newer gallery in the area, Galería Contempo, was opened in 2010 by the charming Rodolfo Choperena Tiemann. It features paintings and sculptures by a new generation of Mexican contemporary artists, many of whom have not previously exhibited their work in Puerto Vallarta. Open 10am to 2pm and 4pm to 8pm Mondays to Fridays. Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm. Closed Sunday.
Phone: (322) 223-1925
Address: Basilio Badillo 252, Emiliano Zapata
Long time gallery owners Claire, Joe & Gena Guarniere have over 6,000 square feet of gallery space in the heart of old town. From contemporary, to the abstract, small scale to large, bronze sculptures to acrylic paintings, this place has it all. There are hundreds of pieces of artwork lining the walls from over 50 artists Mexican artists. Plan to spend a couple of hours to really take it all in. Open 10 am to 5 pm Mondays thru Friday.
Phone: (322) 222-2477
Address: Basilio Badillo 269, Puerto Vallarta
Hours: Mon to Fri 10am - 5pm, closed Sat. and Sun
Within walking distance of the villa, this is a fun place to shop for all those Mexican Souvenirs and trinkets. Located at the upper bridge on the North side of the Rio Cuale River in Old Town, on the corner of Insurgentes and A. Rodriquex this flea market is a true Mexican experience. Wander thru on your own and make sure to negotiate with the locals. It is a bit of a maze once you are in there so if you see something you like….buy it now, you may not find it again….or you may find it in every stall.
Hours Open 9 am to 6 pm daily.
Outdoor Active Adventures
Yelapa Day Trip
Yelapa is an old charming Mexican fishing village set in its own secluded cove. However, since there are no roads in this tropical paradise, it is only accessible by boat. Take a panga (water taxi) boat from Los Muertos pier. There are many excursions but it is best to hire your own driver by the hour so you can stay as long (or as little) as you like. Usually this can be arranged for $25 to $30 an hour with a four hour minimum plus tip. This tiny village is a true escape from civilization. Bring cash as they don’t take credit cards and there are no ATM’s. If you love the outdoors and want to spend time exploring nature, this idyllic spot is perfect for you. Hike or rent a horse to travel through the jungle to the Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail Waterfall) waterfall. Beyond that, Yelapa is, for the most part, a place to just kick back in the beach chair and sip something cold or swim and snorkel in the cove's protected waters. Don’t forget to have your picture taken with an Iguana!
Address: On the banks of the Yelapa River an hour south of PV
Public tennis courts are few and far between in Vallarta but some of the hotels will let you play even if you are not a guest. Make sure to call and confirm prior to arrival. You will need to confirm prices as they change with the season. They range from $8 to $20 per hour for the court. Let us know which ones are your favorite and if any should be excluded for any reason. We have used Club De Tenis Canto del Sol, Sheraton Buganvillias, The Holiday Inn and The Westin.
The main surfing areas are about an hour or more north, in Sayulita, Punta Mita and San Pancho. Waves are the largest and most consistent between June and December and luckily the water is the warmest during that time. Boogie boarding and body surfing are especially fun for beginners. Equipment is often available at the beach for rent, but just to be safe, you may want to get it in town if you haven’t brought your own. Lessons are available right on the beach and rarely require a reservation. Let us know your favorite beaches, rental shops and instructors so we can update our activities page for this sport. Just saying, we aren’t surfers.
The best areas for these activities are Los Arcos (just south of the Villa – the rock formation in the water to the left as you look out the Villa balconies) and the Marietas Islands (north of PV) near Punta Mita. June through September is the best times as the water is at its warmest and is much clearer. If you are lucky you might even spot a humpback whale on your way out to the sites! Charter a private panga boat on the beach near Los Muertos pier for snorkeling, just check to make sure they have the equipment you need before taking off.
Although the Pacific waters here aren’t nearly as clear as those in the Caribbean, they are warm and attract a variety of sea creatures. If you are lucky you will see not only colorful fish but manta rays, eel and sea turtles.PV Sea Dive is one of our favorite companies. With hilarious and knowledgeable PADI-certified English speaking instructors, this is the company to use. A simple lunch and bottled water is provided but feel free to bring anything along. You can use your own equipment or theirs for no additional cost. Suitable for all levels, snorkeling, PADI dive courses, fun dives, whale watching tours available at multiple sites. They even offer free babysitting for two hours! Prices are reasonable and depend on site and service, look online for more info and to book.
Address: Calle Ecuador 1210 dept#1, 5 de Dicembre, El Centro
Sailing, Catamaran & Motor Yachts
Full day or ½ day packages and a variety of other pleasure boating options are available by making arrangements with Paco in the Villa or the concierge Toni Gonzalez.
Phone: (322)221-0438 or (322)145-2972
Quimixto Boat Excursion & Day Trip
One of the most charming and secluded corners of Puerto Vallarta is Quimixto, a tiny beach village of about 250 families is only accessible by boat. You can take a panga (water taxi) boat from Los Muertos pier or hire one from Boca de Tomatlan after a 20 minute ride south on the
local bus. Closer than Yelapa, the highlight here is a visit to the waterfall which has a lagoon that is a great swimming hole. Gentle, but a little sad looking horses, can take you to the waterfall for ($10-$15 per horse) or it is an easy hike. Local restaurants are available for simple Mexican and Seafood fare, but bring cash as no one takes visa and there is no ATM. Be sure to try one of the delicious homemade coconut, pecan, banana or corn pies made by locals. Tourism is their only income source so try to buy trinkets from the locals too.
Address: Southern Banderas Bay
Para Sailing on the Beach
Rides are available just from the beach as you walk to Old Town. Just look for a parasail in the sky and you will find a man on the beach. Always good to negotiate a bit, especially if more than one person wants the experience.
Because Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains there is some great fun to be had mountain biking. Eco Ride is one of the best tour companies. This mountain biking/hiking tour company boasts guides that have lived, ridden and guided the Banderas Bay area for more than 20 years. Expect at least 4 hours depending on the tour. There are trips available for all skill levels.
Address: Miramar #382, Colonia Centro
Expect to be taken up into the jungle as horseback riding on the beach is not permitted in Vallarta. Don't forget bug spray and longer shorts/pants! We typically ride with Rancho Manolo. It is a three to four hour trip to the shooting location of the movie Predator! This ranch is family owned and has been around for years so they know what they are doing. There is a meal available for purchase at a small restaurant.
Address: Km 12, Carretera 200, at Mismaloya Bridge, Mismaloya
Puerto Vallarta offers a nice variety of courses from well known designers that offer first-class services including driving ranges and putting greens, lessons, clinics, pro shops and clubhouses. Most offer spectacular views or abundant water features. Don’t be surprised if you see alligators on the course. There are many great options such as: Marina Vallarta, Vista Vallarta Club de Golf, El Tigre, Four Seasons Punta Mita, Los Flamingos Country Club, Nayar Golf Course at Mayan Palace, El Tamarindo, Isla Navidad.
Enjoy a wide variety of fishing including Snapper, Dorado, Sea Bass and more in Banderas Bay. Hire out a panga boat off Los Muertos Pier (old town Puerto Vallarta) or the beach at Mismaloya (south) for a more authentic trip. Walk down to the pier and you can negotiate on the spot or make a plan for the next day at a specific time. These are not luxury boats and usually don’t have bathrooms on board. Look for one with shade awning overhead and you will thank yourself as the day goes on. Expect about $175-$250 for four hours on a panga boat with a local and you bring your own food and beverages. Don’t forget to tip the driver and his assistant if you had a good day. We really like the Mismloya Divers. One of two brothers Chato or Chipol will guide, entertain and help you catch fish as they have been doing for the last thirty years. They supply the cooler but not what is inside.
Address: The beach at Mismaloya
Dolphins are abundant in the bay regardless of the time of year. There are numerous companies that offer boat based dolphin watching tours and of course swimming with the dolphins. Although not an inexpensive activity, it will be memorable for children and adults alike. Call ahead for reservations (even booking before you arrive or early in your stay) as dolphin encounters limit the number of humans per encounter and usually allow just two visits a day. This adventure is about 35 minutes north by car or taxi. Options range from 30 to 45 minutes encounter and the price depends on what you choose. Note that you are not able to take your own photos so count on spending more for professional photos. For an additional cost kids can water slides and the playground on site while parents can relax around the pool
Phone: (322) 297 0724 Phone from US or Canada 1 (866) 793 1905
Address: Aquaventures Park, Carretera a Tepic, Km 155, Nuevo Vallarta
Hours: 10-5 pm Tuesday to Sunday
Deep Sea Fishing
Sportfishing is excellent off Puerto Vallarta! The fishing seems to be the best in the summer and fall, but you can catch Sailfish, Dorado and Sierra all year round. Yachts are best for big-game fishing: yellowfin tuna; blue, striped, and black marlin or dorado. Hire a boat for 4 to 10 hours, or overnight. If you don’t want to charter a boat, you can also join an excursion. The best fishing is usually off Isla Corbetena about 30 miles out, so it pays to take a fast boat! There are a number of boats available at Marina Vallarta which is about 45 minutes north. Licenses are required but you can leave it to the captains to make the necessary arrangements. Rule of thumb is that the prices are about $100 per hour per person on the larger boats. Check to make sure if water, sodas or beverages of your choice are included or can be bought on board. Paco & Lupe can pack you a lunch of your choice and a cooler of beverages if the charter allows. Reservations required. We really enjoy "Fishing with Carolina" It is perfect for the small group of two or four. This Canadian expat has been sending out anglers for 25 years. Charter your own boat and you determine if you want a four, six, eight or 12 hour tour. This is a first class, full service charter who can not only take you fishing, but whale watching or touring.
Phone: (322) 224 7250
Address: Terminal Maritima, Los Peines Pier Marina Vallarta, 7 minutes south of the airport
Hours: Hours are 10-4 pm or after 5 by appointment
Canopy Zip Line Tours
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Soar from treetop to treetop hundreds of feet off the ground in the jungles of Puerto Vallarta. The following company has an excellent safety record so you will be in good hands. Note there are weight limits and minimum ages! Canapay Tour de Los Veranos is the place you want to be. Home to the longest (1,300 ft), the highest (500 ft), and the most zip lines (14) in the area! Tours depart every hour between 9am and 2pm in high season. With gorgeous scenery and plenty of time after zip lining to enjoy lunch or play in the river, you won't be disappointed.
Phone: (322) 223 0504
Address: Calle Francisca Rodriguez 336, Col. E. Zapata.
Hours: Hours are 10-4 pm or after 5 by appointment
ATV and Dune Buggy Tours
This is just too much fun. Guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush and a reason to do laundry, teenagers often find this is the highlight of their trip. You will need to be 16 and have a valid driver’s license to drive. Most places take credit cards. Don't forget proper shoes, sunglasses, and long pants. Consider doubling up to save money! The two best companies are Adventure ATV Jungle Treks and Wild Vallarta. The contact information for Adventure ATV Jungle Treks is below.
Phone: (322) 222 8933
Address: Pick up at Base Basilio Badillo #400, Col. E. Zapata.
Most companies that offer snorkeling or diving will also offer whale watching. To increase your odds, the months of December through March are best. During this time it is not unusual to see whales in the Bay from the terrace of your villa. Many companies will take you on the water to watch the whales close up. If you choose a larger boat to join they may have equipment that can monitor whale sounds and communicate with other boats about locations. Humpbacks and killer whales are most common. We like Ocean Friendly Tours. It includes lunch with Oscar Frey, a marine biologist, a whale photographer, and is a consultant for the Department of Oceanography and Eco-Tourism. Oscar lives and breathes with the whales and gives small intimate tours for up to 8 people. He will also take his equipment on private yacht tours. He recently won the Trip Advisor Award for top 10 Wildlife Tours in the World!
Phone: (322)225-3774 or 011-52-322-225-3774
Address: Los Peines Pie
Just a short 15 minute bus or taxi ride from Villa Estrella Mar, the Vallarta Zoo is home to hundreds of animals. It offers the unique experience of feeding hippos, monkeys and a wide variety of animals with purchase of a bag of food for them as well as playing with baby tigers. The zoo is transitioning to provide quality enclosures Americans come to expect, so there are still some areas that need improvement. They are one of the largest breeders of large cats and supply zoos all over the world. $10 for admission ($5 for kids) – If they have baby tigers, lions or panthers at the time of your visit, feeding and playing with animals is a little pricey but a once in a life time experience. There is a small snack bar on site. Open 10 am to 6 pm daily. Definitely bring bug spray, you are in the jungle! Again, this is not an activity for someone who isn’t able to physically walk up and down hills for long distances.
Address: Camino al Eden 700 Mismaloya
In August thru mid December, adult sea turtles return to the shores of Vallarta to lay their eggs. As these are a protected species in Puerto Vallarta, several organizations and many local hotels join in by protecting nesting sites on their beaches. You can call have Paco call the reception desk of one of many neighboring hotels and see if you can participate in the release of the hatchlings. For a more in depth tour you will want to visit Turtle Camp where professional biologists share their knowledge, let you search the beach for turtle eggs and then let you help release baby turtles on the beach. This unforgettable experience is appropriate for any age and is especially a delight to share with young children. Pick up in old town is at 4:30 pm and you will be back by 9:00 pm.
Address: Nuevo Vallarta
There are two great voyages to chose from.
Pirate Land: A seven hour, all inclusive voyage out to sea, with activities for the whole family. Cannons will be blasting; swords will be swinging, dancing, games, contests, including water sports and beach activities. This adventure includes breakfast, lunch, and open bar all day long. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Pirates of the Bay: Head out to sea for a four hour sunset cruise with dinner and drinks included. Beginning at 7 pm this adult only cruise includes dancing, a pirate show, sword fights and culminates with a fireworks show.
Address: Marina Terminal
Dinner Theatre: Rhythms of the Night
Enjoy a boat ride across the bay to a torch lit, private beach hideaway. Once on shore, you will be dining under the stars until the show begins. Stories of ancient civilizations are told though live music and modern dance. Drinks included with your buffet dinner on this five hour adventure. Wine upgrades available for the discerning patron. Minimum age is six years old but this is really more of a romantic evening than a family event. Not accessible by wheel chair or those that have trouble walking on uneven surfaces.
Address: Departs from the Maritime Terminal
Just 45 minutes North from the Villa, (back toward the airport), you can learn and experience about these impressive reptiles at the “Cipactli” at the University of Guadalajara-Vallarta campus. They need at least 4 people to make the tour so call for an appointment. The cost depends on the season but is normally between $25 and $35 with a discount for children plus the cab ride there. Open 9 am to 3 pm and 5 pm to 7 pm. Closed for the months of July and August.
Address: Ave. Universidad #203, delegacion Ixtapa
One of Vallarta’s hottest hideaways, Chico’s Paradise, is a great place to enjoy a meal or a drink in the middle of the jungle next to a scenic river. About a 20 minute drive through the Sierra Madres Mountains south of the Villa, this jungle paradise often has the local youth diving for pesos which is highly entertaining. We would suggest going for lunch or early happy hour while the children are still there. Make a day of it and walk along the river and relax in the calm, rock, pools. Bring plenty of bug spray and coins for the kids.
Address: East of the PV-Manzanillo Highway at KM 20
Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens is an educational research center and 24 acres of pleasure gardens high in the glorious Sierra Madre Mountains. The botanical collection features over 3,000 different species of plants and includes Agave Gardens, Mexican Wildflowers and the Carnivorous Plant Collection. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm.
Phone: (322) 223 6182
Address: Carretra Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad Km.24
Davannayoga is a traditional-style yoga school that claims to be “The Happiest Yoga Studio on Earth”. Classes are held the heart of “Old Town”in a renovated historic home and offer all-level group classes as well as private instruction. The main studio has an ocean view and the roof top has a 360 degree view from the ocean to the mountain tops.
Address: Calle Matamoros #542, Centro
Volunteering- Children of the Dump
Guaranteed to be a memory you won't forget. Give back to the local community by providing food, clothing, shelter and education to families of the dump communities. There are countless opportunities and the need is great for people willing to help. Jorge at Andale’s on Ollas Altas takes willing participants every Monday at 2 pm. He provides transportation for you and you can help serve a meal he has prepared. You can also look online to find opportunities and give back to the city we love so much!
Address: Meet at Andale’s at Olas Altas 425 Emiliano Zapata