With zip-line tours over the rainforest, swimming with dolphins and deep sea fishing, shore excursions in Puerto Vallarta lean heavily toward adventure. While most major cruise lines offer varying versions of these tours while in port, visitors can also book directly from tour companies, often for less.
“Puerto Vallarta has an exciting mix of adventure opportunities,” says Marilyn Green, a cruise industry business writer who’s traveled to almost all of Mexico’s ports-of-call. With its location on Banderas Bay, natural attractions and great beaches, she says, Puerto Vallarta offers many active daily excursions. Its cosmopolitan side also means there’s something for the more sedentary. “There’s an international flavor to Puerto Vallarta,” says Green. “You’ll find interesting arts and crafts, shopping and dining here as well.”
Below is a sampling of Puerto Vallarta’s unique shore excursions. Variations on these are offered by most major cruise lines calling on Puerto Vallarta.
Best for the fit and bold, jungle canopy tours give a bird’s-eye view of the tropical rainforest. Travelers who take this journey with Puerto Vallarta Tours zip over the treetops on a network of cables suspended from 10 to 70 feet above the ground. Observation platforms allow for stops to take in the scenery along the way. Tours take place in several locations, including Los Veranos, Rio Cuale and an ecological reserve in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Puerto Vallarta is home to many dolphin encounter excursions. The best, and usually more expensive, tours allow for plenty of swim time directly in the water with the mammals. The Dolphin Extreme Swim offered by Vallarta Adventures goes a step further in equipping swimmers with a mask, snorkel and fins for underwater swimming, riding and playing with the curious and engaging creatures.
Puerto Vallarta offers plenty of big-game sport fishing opportunities on the city’s 20-mile-long Banderas Bay. With the help of Puerto Vallarta Cruise Excursions, try your hand at catching Pacific sailfish, mahi-mahi, dorado, blue and black marlin, yellowfin tuna and red snapper on excursions held aboard a 38-foot long sport fishing vessel accommodating 12 passengers and 8 anglers. All gear, bate and lures, plus snorkeling equipment, are included.
Within walking distance of the Marina Vallarta Maritime Terminal, visitors can experience a traditional bullfight at La Paloma Plaza de Toros from November through April, organized by Puerto Vallarta Tours. With plenty of pageantry, the spectacle includes costumed matadors who take to the center ring to battle bulls to their deaths. Music and beer enhance the experience. The bullfight runs roughly 2 hours -- and is not for the squeamish.
When a less active excursion is called for, take a closer look at the local distilled spirit. Authentic tequila is made only in and around the city of Tequila, a mile high in the Sierra Madre Mountains about 80 miles southeast of Puerto Vallarta. Typical tour excursions offered by cruise lines include a bus to the factory, tastings and discounts on purchases. Tequila factory stops are also included in many longer tours of the Sierra Madre area. For instance, the full-day Sierra Madre del Sur excursion by Amigo Tours Vallarta includes a guided nature walk, a visit to the traditional town of El Tuito, lunch in a botanical garden and a tequila tour. There’s also an open bar on the trip back to Puerto Vallarta.
Certainly not unique to Puerto Vallarta, but one of the more exciting ways to explore its countryside and villages, ATV tours equip guests with semi-automatic, 4-wheeled all-terrain vehicles for traversing the mountainside. Riders skirt the edges of the Bay of Banderas, power up the Sierra Madre, splash through small rivers and kick up plenty of mud and dirt in their wake. On the way, there are plenty of stellar views. Unique ATV Tours, which also offers off-road tours using dune buggies and jeeps, provides a 15-mile, 3-and-a-half-hour ATV tour near Rio Cuale that includes a tequila tasting at tour’s end.
Thrill-seekers have plenty to choose from when they dock in Puerto Vallarta, but less active sorts won’t be disappointed by the variety of options, either.
Donna Marino Wilkins is a veteran travel writer who has explored and written about destinations throughout the world, including Mexico.