10 Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips to Not Look Like a Tourist in Mexico | The Invisible Tourist

“Somewhere between living and dreaming, there’s Puerto Vallarta” – Javier Vela.

Ever wondered what the secret is to having the most enjoyable trip possible? Welcome to my “Be Invisible” series – your ultimate guide for how to avoid looking like a tourist on your next adventure and guaranteed to boost your entire travel experience.

Bursting with helpful tips and tricks, I’ve asked locals from particular cities around the world to share their insider knowledge on the best ways travellers can become “invisible” when visiting their city and enjoy it like a local. If you’re ready to challenge travel stereotypes, overcome language barriers and embrace what I like to call invisible tourism, you’ve come to the right place!

These do’s and don’ts for Puerto Vallarta were written by Lora from Explore With Lora. I’m very excited to share her top travel tips for Puerto Vallarta and advice for how to best blend in amongst locals. These insider tips also provide a great insight to values and culture in Mexico.

If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta, these suggestions from a local’s perspective will help you have a more enjoyable experience and know what to expect before you go. Read on for more! 

This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

10 Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips to Not Look Like a Tourist in Mexico | The Invisible Tourist
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10 Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips to Not Look Like a Tourist

Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, welcoming over 5 million people a year who come to enjoy the beautiful beaches, fun water activities, rich culture, incredible cuisine, and lively nightlife.

Puerto Vallarta is a great addition if you’re planning an itinerary for Mexico or just looking for a relaxing beach getaway. But there are a few things you should know before visiting to make the most of your trip. Use these tips to blend in with the locals and be an invisible tourist!

Do leave the resort

While Puerto Vallarta is home to some fantastic all-inclusive resorts to stay in, it would be a shame to come here and not see the city.

Mexico has a bad reputation, but Puerto Vallarta is a very safe place to visit. If you’re staying at a resort, be sure to get out and explore the city sights.

The Malecon, a mile-long stretch of boardwalk, is the perfect place to go for a stroll. It takes you along the beach from Centro to Zona Romantica, the gay neighbourhood which is a fantastic place for nightlife.

If you aren’t sure where to go, you can also join a free walking tour sponsored by the municipal tourism office every Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 am and noon and Saturday at 9 am. The meeting point is the Municipal Tourism Office in the Old City Hall building in Centro.

Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips: Do Leave the Resort

Do use coral reef sunscreen when snorkelling or diving 

One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is joining a snorkelling or diving tour for a chance to see the abundant marine life that live in the surrounding Bay of Banderas.

Los Arcos is one of the best spots to go. It’s a marine ecological reserve where you can see stingrays, sea turtles, manta rays, moray eels, and more.

If you are snorkelling and diving in the ocean, make sure that the sunscreen you are using is certified reef safe.

The UV blocking chemicals from regular sunscreen, oxybenzone and octinoxate, cause coral bleaching which can lead to devastating impacts on the marine ecosystem. By using reef-safe sunscreen you’ll be helping to preserve the coral reefs!

Do eat the street food

Here’s one of the best Puerto Vallarta travel tips: Mexico is home to one of the world’s best cuisines and if you skip out on the street food, you’ll be missing out on some of the best eats in the city.

The street food in Puerto Vallarta is safe to eat, so don’t be afraid to try it! You can find taco stands on almost every corner and a meal costs less than a few dollars, so it’s a great way to save money if you’re visiting Puerto Vallarta on a budget.

If you’re unsure where to go just look for a stand with a crowd of locals gathered around where it’s hard to snag a chair, then you know it’s good.

TIP: Alternatively, you can join a guided street food tour where a local guide will take you to several food stalls, sharing information about each dish and its origin along the way.

Do get a permit if you want to visit Hidden Beach

Playa Del Amor, commonly referred to as the Hidden Beach of Puerto Vallarta, blew up in popularity a few years ago because of a photo on Instagram, leading to thousands of tourists visiting a day which causes the coral to deteriorate quickly. To protect the environment, the government now limits the number of people that can visit each day using a permit system.

If you want to visit Hidden Beach, secure your permit well in advance as it’s one of the most popular things to see here. However you can still visit Isla Marietas, the islands where the beach is, without a permit. They are 22 miles west off the shore of Puerto Vallarta, so the best way to get there is on a guided boat tour.

Tours leave from the cruise port, taking you across the beautiful Bay of Banderas where it’s common to see dolphins and humpback whales during the whale-watching season.

Once you arrive on the islands, you’ll have the chance to snorkel in pristine crystal-clear water and relax on white-sand beaches. If you arranged a permit for Hidden Beach, you’ll be given half an hour to spend there.


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Don’t leave your garbage on the beach

Puerto Vallarta is home to some beautiful beaches that you are sure to enjoy during your visit. There are several beaches in the city and even more secluded ones that you can access by hiking or taking a boat from Los Muertos Pier.

If you’re visiting the beaches, be sure to take back everything that you bring. The ocean surrounding the beaches is full of incredible marine life, and any garbage that ends up in the sea can have devastating impacts on the coral reefs and ecosystem.

TIP: If you want to do more, you can also look for organised beach clean-ups that you can join while visiting!

Don’t assume everyone speaks English

Puerto Vallarta is a popular tourist destination so many locals here can speak English, but that doesn’t mean everyone does. The accents in Mexico are easy to understand, so use this as an opportunity to learn a bit of basic Spanish.

TIP: The locals will appreciate your effort and knowing a few phrases like hola (hello), adios (goodbye), and gracias (thank you) can help you blend in a little more compared to the tourists that don’t try at all.

If you’re planning to spend a long time in Puerto Vallarta, you can also take Spanish classes with a local, which is a great way to integrate yourself and support the local economy.

Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips to Not Look Like a Tourist

Do carry pesos 

Not everywhere in Puerto Vallarta accepts debit and credit cards, so it’s a good idea to always make sure you have some cash on you, especially if you are visiting the local markets.

Mexico has its own currency, the Mexican Peso, which you can get out at any ATM. Don’t assume that vendors will exchange USD for you – this is often a hassle for them.

When using cash you will be getting a lot of small coins and bills back, so it’s a good idea to have a small coin purse to put it in. If you don’t have one, you can pick them up from the markets in Puerto Vallarta for just a few dollars. They make a great souvenir!

Do watch what you drink

It’s no secret Mexico has a party culture and Puerto Vallarta is among the destinations known for its nightlife, especially during the spring break season. While it’s fun to go out here, it’s important that you watch how much you’re drinking.

The sun is powerful in Mexico, so if you’re drinking during the day it’s easy to consume more than you would at home without realising, and many of the local drinks like margaritas are quite strong.

Puerto Vallarta is generally a safe place to visit but you don’t want to end up in a situation when you’re too intoxicated, especially if you’re traveling solo. Pay attention to how much you’re consuming and drink plenty of water too – your body will thank you for it the next day!

Don’t pay to swim with dolphins

One of the amazing marine animals you can see in Puerto Vallarta is dolphins, and throughout town you’ll see many signs advertising dolphin swimming. Please do not pay to do this – these dolphins are kept in small enclosures under stressful conditions of forced interaction. Any tour that guarantees dolphin touching or kissing is unethical.

If you want to see dolphins, the best way to do this is in the wild. You can join a dolphin/whale-watching boat tour to see them jumping around in the bay, or go with Wildlife Connections for a chance to see them in their natural habitat while participating in a research project that helps to understand and protect these magnificent creatures.

Do take a day trip

While there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Puerto Vallarta, it also makes a great base to explore other parts of Mexico as day trips!

Sayulita and San Pancho are two small beach towns about an hour away that are perfect for surfing. Sayulita has a party atmosphere, while San Pancho is more laid back.

If you prefer the mountains, head to the charming town of San Sebastian. It’s a certified Pueblo Magico, which means it’s recognised for its cultural and historic heritage and preservation. It’s an ideal place to cool off from the sun and go hiking!

Another great option for a day or weekend trip from Puerto Vallarta is Yelapa. This small beach town is only accessible by boat, and some say it’s Mexico’s last authentic beach town. You can hike to secluded waterfalls, go paragliding, or simply relax on the gorgeous beach. 

By following these do’s and don’t in Puerto Vallarta, you’ll impress the locals and have a more safe and enjoyable time! 

Lora Pope is a travel content creator who’s been wandering solo for over a decade. She lives a nomadic lifestyle and is on a quest to visit every country in the world – always on the lookout for new adventures, hidden gems, and dogs to pet. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook.

Puerto Vallarta travel tips: Do Do visit Beach Sayulita as a day trip

 Cultural experiences in Puerto Vallarta to book in advance

 Here are some cultural things to do in Puerto Vallarta you can book in advance to be prepared for your trip:

Ready to ‘be invisible’ in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?

Now you’ve discovered the best secrets for how to act like a local with these Puerto Vallarta travel tips, perhaps you’re ready to make the trip! Why not compare hotels here?

If you’d like some more travel ideas, learn how to “blend in” at more destinations around the globe by reading my #1 Amazon New Release Book!

Do you have any extra tips to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below. If you found this helpful, please share it or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok or Instagram for more!

Until next time, 

The Invisible Tourist

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10 Travel Tips for Puerto Vallarta to Not Look Like a Tourist in Mexico | The Invisible Tourist


Second pin image credit: Unsplash; Remaining images copyright to Explore With Lora. This guide to Puerto Vallarta travel tips contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!

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