With Puerto Vallarta gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, there's never been a more exciting time to visit. While plenty of luxe offerings cater to wealthy jet-setters, it’s just as easy to find exciting budget-friendly options in the Mexican resort town. Whether you’re an art lover or a taco aficionado, our roundup of free and inexpensive things to do will have you covered.
For the Culture Vultures
Puerto Vallarta is home to one of Latin America’s most vibrant gallery scenes. Many remain open year-round, with some participating in the city’s free ArtWalk, which takes place on Wednesday evenings from October through May. Visitors can stroll through the pedestrian-friendly historic center, popping into galleries at their leisure to check out the latest openings and sip complimentary cocktails.
Colectika is one gallery which deserves a visit for its impressive showcases depicting the evolution of Mexican folk art. Also noteworthy is the contemporary-heavy Galleria Dante, which includes a tranquil courtyard where many of its eye-catching artworks are on display.
For the Plant Lovers
The Vallarta Botanic Garden is just a short ride south of Old Town. Tickets are an affordable $8.30 USD and grant you entry to a stunning collection of Mexican plant species. Home to the country’s largest collection of orchids, the gardens are spread across 20 acres of both manicured grounds and rugged hiking trails. The onsite greenhouse, chapel, and reasonably priced gift shop are all worth exploring.
A current summer promotion offers next-day return entry and a complimentary refreshment at the garden’s beautiful open-air restaurant, allowing visitors to discover everything the grounds have to offer and time to relax in its various serene settings.
For the History Buffs
Unlike other popular vacation spots like Cancun and Cabo, Puerto Vallarta wasn’t a planned resort town, which means it offers a refreshing dose of history as well. A great free site to explore is the iconic crown-topped church, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
Literally the crowning jewel of the town’s cityscape, construction on this landmark began in 1903. Located next to Puerto Vallarta’s main square, the church is a stunning example of various local architectural styles. Those interested in experiencing a Mexican Catholic mass can visit for an English or bilingual service on Saturdays and Sundays.
For the Beach Bums
A trip to the Mexican Riviera wouldn’t be complete without some relaxation time on its sandy shores, and thankfully, all beaches in Mexico are free to visit. Set along the Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta’s diverse waters offer a restful setting to unwind while enjoying views of the clear blue Pacific Ocean ahead.
The most famous beaches are adjacent to the Hotel Zone and Old Town. The city’s most popular option is Playa Los Muertos, with its recently constructed pier, wide array of nearby restaurants and bars, and consistently entertaining people watching. Another great option is Playa Camarones, where you can paddleboard and parasail.
For the Foodies
Last but certainly not least, those looking for cheap eats are sure to find themselves delighted in Puerto Vallarta. Many of the city’s most authentic offerings are street foods found in Old Vallarta.
Grab a cheap volcan-style taco from Tacos Memo in the Emiliano Zapata district; it’ll only set you back $1.40 USD. Cap it off with a bag full of piping hot churros from Julio’s Churros (located at the corner of Calle Peru and Uruguay) and you can tack on just over a buck more.