If you’re based in Puerto Vallarta and set on spending all your nights here, you can still get out of town for a day at a time. Your form of transportation will, in part, determine your destination. Here are a couple of great options for Puerto Vallarta day trips.

San Sebastián

This pretty little mountain town is a long haul by car for a day trip, but the second half of the drive is gorgeous, and once you’re here, it’s a memorable place for a lunch, a stroll around town, and a tour of a coffee plantation, a gold mine, or a historic hacienda. If driving is not on your agenda, there are numerous one-day tours available from Vallarta.

Hacienda Jalisco near San Sebastian. Photo © Justin Henderson.

Hacienda Jalisco near San Sebastian. Photo © Justin Henderson.

Alta Vista Sacred Site

You’ll need a rental car for this one, or go with Mexitreks, the tour company based in Sayulita. The turnoff is about two hours north of Puerto Vallarta on Highway 200; from there, it’s a 20-minute drive. The beautiful hike in along the streambed takes less than an hour, and in season you’ll find natural rock-rimmed swimming pools and waterfalls to soak in; year round, there are dozens of ancient petroglyphs to contemplate. You’ll need to bring your own food and drink.


An hour or so north of Puerto Vallarta by bus, Sayulita is just about the liveliest beach town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, great for surfing, paddleboarding, dining, beach-lounging, shopping, or just people-watching. The only issue, on a day trip, is having to leave at the end of the day—it’s too much fun.

San Francisco (San Pancho)

The next town north of Sayulita, five minutes farther up Highway 200, San Pancho is quieter than Sayulita; some say prettier as well. It’s home to a bird-filled estuary as well as a number of fine restaurants and beachfront cafés. Plus, in season, you can watch world-class polo players in action.

Beach and estuary in San Francisco, also known as San Pancho. Photo © Justin Henderson.

Beach and estuary in San Francisco, also known as San Pancho. Photo © Justin Henderson.


Take the bus from Vallarta for an hour, and spend the day on the beach or at one of the palapa restaurants drinking, dining, and taking in the scene. Take a boat ride to the Marietas. Take a surfing lesson. Learn to paddleboard. It is all right here: no hike in, no hassle.

Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

You can get here in under an hour by bus, heading south on Highway 200, or take one of many tours that come here. Spend the day admiring the hundreds of orchids, the acres of flowers, the birds, and the butterflies. You can even walk down to the river and take a swim. An on-site restaurant will cover your lunch requirements.

A bougainvillea-draped doorway at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Photo © Justin Henderson.

A bougainvillea-draped doorway at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Photo © Justin Henderson.


The don’t-miss day trip of all day trips out of Puerto Vallarta: Board a boat at the Los Muertos Pier and head to the magical little beach town of Yelapa for a day of hiking or lounging. Throw in a hang glider ride on the thermal wind, and a slice of pie from the vendors on the beach.


Under an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this town doesn’t look like much from the highway that cuts through it, but the primarily empty beach is long and pretty. You can shop the market, dine on the sand, or even consider a paddleboarding, sailboarding, or kiteboarding lesson from the folks at Pacific Paddle.

Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Puerto Vallarta.