Access your account

5 Things To Do In Puerto Vallarta That Are Worth Your Time (And Free!)

The Matamoros Lighthouse

One of the very few remodeled sailing beacons in the city, the Matamoros Lighthouse is located on the mountainside, overlooking the roof tiles and offering a breathtaking view of the city center and the Banderas Bay.

The lighthouse itself was built and inaugurated on August 15th of the year 1932 by the Port Captian, Roberto Alcazar. It did its job for 46 years, guiding ships until the year 1978, when it stopped working due to difficulties with the weather. In 2006, the local authorities spruced it up again and made it available to the public, with a new terrace for the enjoyment of its wonderful vistas.

This location makes a great spot for photography enthusiasts and anyone looking for a great view and a little bit of exercise. From the terrace you can photograph many of the Bay’s main attractions. This spot is often overlooked in Puerto Vallarta tours so it’s a nice stop to make if you’re exploring the city.

To reach the lighthouse, you can start off in the Malecon on the corner of Galeana and Morelos, near the smaller decorative lighthouse. From here, it’s a short walk up Galeana, across the streets Juarez and Hidalgo, until you start climbing some steps. There are beautiful colored houses and a sculpture around this point. The next street will be Matamoros, which you can follow (turning right) about 30 meters down to the lighthouse.

The La Cruz Overlook

Thanks to its slow rise in popularity during 2016, the government decided to make an investment to improve the climb to this viewpoint and make it more accessible to the public. Now, it’s a great place to enjoy a beautiful view of the entire bay and city center.

In spite of the recent work done on the steps and roads, some elderly or handicapped people might find it a very difficult climb. Some areas are very inclined, and the steps can be exhausting to climb, but the view and feeling of achievement are well worth this 20 minute uphill walk. Most “Things To Do” lists or sightseeing tours do not visit this place because the climb is hard and tends to take up more time than they would like.

Sunsets and early mornings are the best moments to enjoy the wonderful vista of the city, and the weather tends to be more forgiving around these times as well. We would recommend aspiring visitors to take some snacks and water for the road as there are no nearby stores once you’re up on the lonesome top. Most of Puerto Vallarta’s attractions are distantly visible from the top.

To find the way up, you have to take Morelos street until you reach Abasolo, where you will turn left and begin the upward climb toward La Cruz. It’s straight up from there on out.

Saucedo Theater

This charming building, reminiscent of the Belle Epoque, can be found on the corner of the streets Juarez and Iturbide. It was built for Sr. Juan Saucedo by the Italian engineer Angel Corsi in 1922. On the lower floor there were once a variety of shows, like theater, musicals, boxing, and even movies. On the second floor, once reachable through a stairwell on Iturbide street, there were three separate levels that gave the building an air of elegance. In these levels there used to be a casino for the younger crowds to gather and host parties and wedding receptions.

During the Revolucion Cristera (Christian Revolution) the army used it as their quarters and stables. Later on, the first floor was taken over by the Gutierrez Bros. shop, and the top floor used as a hotel. Currently, it’s a fabric shop full of vibrant colors.

Boca de Tomatlán

A short 11 mile drive away from downtown Puerto Vallarta, you can find the small traditional fishing village of Boca de Tomatlán. The bustling little seaside town is best known for being the landing and departure site for water taxis which can take you to the beautiful isolated beaches in the south of Banderas Bay, like Las Ánimas, Quimixto, Majahuitas and Yelapa, as well as the popular beach club Casitas Maraika.

To reach Boca, as it is known among locals, you can take a public bus which will be labeled Boca and Mismaloya. The bus must be taken heading south from downtown PV. It’s important not to confuse this town with Boca de Tomates, an entirely different place sitting next to the airport on the beginning of the highway heading north to Nuevo Vallarta.

The Horcones river falls into the little bay of Boca de Tomatlán, meeting the ocean and ending its long trip from the Sierra Madre mountains. This river typically runs strongest from Summer right up until October, but should rarely ever be any kind of an obstacle for visitors.

The bay itself is charming, has parking space available most of the time, and has a couple of small convenience stores and restaurants where you can stock up for whatever trip you’re taking. Here you can sit by the sea, ordering beer and/or seafood and take a swim right on the Bay if you decide not to take a water taxi to another beach. Many of the best Puerto Vallarta beaches and beach clubs can be reached from Boca de Tomatlán, but you won’t find many guided Puerto Vallarta tours coming through the area.

The town offers a few lodging options like bed & breakfasts, villas, apartments and rentals, if you plan to stay over or want to avoid the drive back later in the afternoon. From here, you can take a bus to the Botanical Gardens which are just farther down the road, or enjoy some of the attractions like the famed Ocean Grill restaurant that sits nearby the town.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

La Cruz de Huancaxtle (The Cross of Huanacaxtle) is a tiny fishing village with a total population of 1600 inhabitants located north of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Nayarit.

It sits right between Punta de Mita and Bucerías, and is about half an hour away from downtown Puerto Vallarta. It can be reached by bus, driving, or taxi, but the latter tends to be the fastest option to get there.

Over time, La Cruz has grown in popularity and relevance as part of the touristic developments of the Nayarit Riviera. In 2008, the harbor was renovated and named Marina Rivier Nayarit, a more modern marina with 340 slips that can accommodate vessels of a size of up to 400 feet.

The town itself is named after a cross that used to be located by the entrance to the town. The cross was made of wood from the Huanacaxtle tree, also known as Elephant Ear in other parts of America. The town is renown for its sunday market, and is a common stop on any road trip that passes by the area.

La Cruz was founded in the 1930’s by the Chavez family that still inhabits the town. It’s a rustic, colorful town with more foreign inhabitants coming to live there every year. It’s popular for being a quiet place with a more Mexican look, making it somewhat less mainstream than the rest of PV. The weather is a little cooler there than on the southern side of the coast, and thanks to the Marina becoming a popular destination for boaters, many of whom end up establishing themselves and bringing their businesses with them, there is a variety of cafés, Huichol Art Galleries, international restaurants, small charity events, and many more local eateries and stores.

There are many beautiful beaches near the town, but the locally hosted beach of La Manzanilla has nice calm waters and delicious food to offer in its beachside restaurants. You won’t have to go far to have a good time under the sun. It’s also conveniently placed nearby other popular beaches, like Careyeros, Bucerías Destiladeras, Sayulita and San Pancho, among others.