Located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, Puerto Vallarta is one of the premier seaside destinations in the entire Western Hemisphere. With a host of awesome activities to do and spectacular sights to see, this coastal city truly has something for everyone. If you are traveling to Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want to be sure to be prepared for all that the city and surrounding area have to offer to get the most out of your stay.
Things to know about traveling to Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta Travel Tips You Need to Know
When to Travel
Though our programs run year round, we recommend booking your time with us in Puerto Vallarta in advance, and that way take advantage of discount airfare prices. Finding the perfect travel time requires weighing several factors, including the region’s weather, crowd sizes, and prices. While Puerto Vallarta is most appealing to many travelers during the winter seasons, these months also come with the year’s most astronomical travel fares, unless you can find that perfect deal. (Winter is, however, the only season to whale watch in Puerto Vallarta.) Summer in Puerto Vallarta is beautiful but hot — and fall, though affordable, can come with sporadic showers. Of course, experiencing one or more of the seasons is a great experience too.
Book Early and Save!
Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular travel destinations in all of North America. At this coastal hotspot, reservations tend to fill up fast, especially during high season. So, it is best to plan ahead and register early so that you can take advantage of discounts and deals.
Check Exchange Rates.
Weather aside, exchange rates are another important thing you should check before traveling. Like the rest of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta uses the peso as its standard currency. However, US dollars are also widely accepted in the region. A good rule of thumb is to hold on to your US dollars if the exchange rate is 10 pesos or fewer to the dollar. However, if the exchange rate is more than 10 pesos to the dollar, you’ll want to withdraw pesos from an ATM and use them instead. This is because many vendors tend to use the 10 pesos to 1 USD exchange rate when giving quotes.
Getting around in Puerto Vallarta isn’t difficult, but it can be expensive if done incorrectly. You’ll encounter the city’s rampant taxi cab population the minute you step outside the airport. Cabs are perhaps the fastest way to get to where you’re going, but they’re not always the cheapest. If you elect to take a cab, it’s worth trying to negotiate the cab fare with the driver. If you’re polite, you may be able to get a deal on the rate.
In terms of cost and convenience, riding a bus is perhaps the best way to get around Puerto Vallarta. There are plenty of stops both in the city and in many neighboring hotspots, and the fares are a fraction of taxi fares. The bus is by far the most affordable means of getting from Puerto Vallarta Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR) to the hotel zones. Renting a car is also an option but expect to pay hefty fees for the privilege. And, of course, there are plenty of Ubers.
Puerto Vallarta, as you’d expect, has a wide variety of options when it comes to eating. What you wouldn’t expect is the exceptional quality of the food you’re offered here. Vallarta is actually an important culinary destination in itself. A mix of international chefs, discerning gourmands that have made the city their home town, a long running gourmet festival, the local Mexican food traditions, that are centuries old plus quality ingredients from sea and land combine into great food, great prices and an ever expanding list of options.
Puerto Vallarta and the surroundings boast over 400 restaurants and smaller places you can eat at, seafood is a favorite, plus the local dishes are very interesting for the newcomers too, these include dishes that are part of Jalisco’s traditions (the state in which Vallarta is located), especially from Guadalajara, the state capital.
One of local dishes that best represents what is typical in the town is “pescado embarazado”, that is, pregnant fish… sounds weird? It’s mostly the name that is, it’s actually a linguistic deformation of “pescado en vara asado”, that is fish roasted on a stick. This delicious local food is prepared by grilling fish marinated in lime over coals, then served with Huichol salsa. The fish itself can be school shark (cazón) or marlin, another variant is to use shrimp instead of fish.
Another local favorite is “Pozole” that has different incarnations around Mexico, in Jalisco and Vallarta it’s a tasty broth that includes as main ingredients pork or chicken meat, seasoned with chili and includes a special popped corn. Once served you eat it with lettuce, radishes, and tostadas (sun dried tortillas) y can be “rojo” (red as in the photo above) or blanco (white, or actually translucent).
Mexico is a country that is accustomed to chili and spicy foods, when you arrive from almost any part of the world, you are not ready for it and can be quite surprised when you purchase your first sandwich or taco and find out that it includes jalapeno slices or spicy green sauce by default and you try to imitate the locals adding sauces and spices on them.
Chili has been used for centuries or maybe even Millennia here, so do not take pointers from locals when they tell you “pica poquito“, that it’s a bit spicy (literally that it “burns a bit” :-)). A “little” (poquito) is much too much for the newcomer, in most cases, at least.
Puerto Vallarta restaurants and those around the country that receive lots of “gringos” (yes, that includes any foreigner that doesn’t speak recognizable Spanish :-)) do have more consideration and sympathize with your/our lack of courage and training when it comes to surviving a chili “attack”.
We can’t forget the famous “Tortas Ahogadas” (can be translated as “drowned sandwiches”), a very typical local dish. In Guadalajara, there’s a saying that “you’ve not been to Guadalajara unless you’ve eaten tortas ahogadas”, so you’re expected and “forced” to try them. These sandwiches are made with a special local white bread called “birote” (the story behind the name is that a Frenchman whose last name was Birot, in the XIX century tried to make baguettes in Guadalajara and ended up inventing the birote, that locally is also known as “salado” or salty) that is then stuffed with pork meat in pieces (some variations include shrimp and other fillings) and then covered with a generous amount of spicy chili and tomato sauce (that’s when they are “drowned”…) which can make it completely inedible if you are not a local, many places offer a variety of sauces from “pica poquito” to stronger options.
Local hotels in Vallarta offer many times great restaurants too, local chefs and their own dishes offer a cosmopolitan flair, mixing local and world flavors into something totally new. You’ll invariably find the local bounty from the Pacific Ocean in delicious seafood and fish dishes.
Pack for the weather!
Located near the equator, Puerto Vallarta experiences warm temperatures year-round. So, along with your regular classes, there will be ample time to explore Puerto Vallarta and join in activities and attractions while you are here. When preparing to travel to Puerto Vallarta, be sure to pack lots of outdoor clothing/light clothing and gear suitable for the weather. Swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, a hat and sunscreen are essentials. An umbrella is also an excellent choice: it can double as a sun shield on clear sunny day and a rain guard when those sporadic showers show up. Be sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes along with your flip-flops, for outdoor excursions with classmates and Homestay families.
Puerto Vallarta has a subtropical climate with hot wet summers and dry warm winters. Rainy season is from June until September, which means short heavy showers at the end of the afternoon. Because of the combination of sun and rain, the relative humidity is pretty high. The average temperature is around 30 degrees Celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) year round.
- On average the temperatures stay high.
- Rainy season runs from June to September.
- Dry season runs from February to May, and November to December.
- On average, the warmest month is August.
- On average, the coolest month is February
- September is the wettest month.
- April is the driest month.