Is it possible to Slow Travel in Puerto Vallarta? As one of Mexico’s busiest tourist cities on the Pacific Coast, it would seem difficult, right? Read on to find out!
While technically you can Slow Travel just about anywhere (it’s more dependent on your mindset than the destination), the more touristy a place is, the harder it gets to find the cultural authenticity you seek and to travel sustainably.
Puerto Vallarta is one of those places. Cruise ships are docking in the marina every few days. The coastline is dotted with massive resorts and new construction is being built all the time.
The Malecon, Centro, and Zona Romantica are full of restaurants and bars that cater to… a certain type of tourist – ones I would assume are not seeking a very authentic cultural experience in Mexico.
Even before we arrived, I was a little hesitant. I was hoping for the best but bracing myself for the worst. When it comes to these kinds of situations, I love it when I’m wrong!
After three weeks in Puerto Vallarta, I was able to discover things that would make slow, sustainable, eco-friendly travel possible. Read on to learn how I found the experience of Slow Traveling in Puerto Vallarta and how you can do it, too!
Things to Do
Finding things to do in Puerto Vallarta is easy! Finding things to do that aren’t tourist traps? Okay, that’s a little harder. Luckily for you, I’ve curated a list that will help you:
- contribute to local economies
- be more eco-friendly
- have better, more authentic cultural experiences
- more thoroughly enjoy your time in Puerto Vallarta
- save money
If that all sounds good to you, let’s get going so you can start to plan your next Slow Travel trip to Puerto Vallarta!
Visit the Cora Crocodile Sanctuary
The El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary is not a zoo but a wildlife conservation and rescue center run by Alfredo (a veterinarian) and Cesar (a marine biologist). These two are extremely passionate about the well-being of all their guests - whether they have scales, feathers, or fur.
Together they run an incredible facility to rehabilitate injured and vulnerable wild animals so they can eventually be released. If they are not able to return to the wild they will live out the rest of their lives in comfort and with top notch 24/7 care!
You can find El Cora just a 30-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta and for $250 MXN you can take a tour with Alfredo or Cesar and learn all about these amazing creatures.
Watch my reel on Instagram here to get a sneak peek at this incredible place. You can also donate directly to support the sanctuary from afar by visiting their funding site.
Walk the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
The Vallarta Botanical Garden was one of those things my boyfriend and I had our doubts about before we arrived. It seemed pretty from the photos but there were some sour reviews that gave us pause. Maybe this would be one of those touristy things we would regret? Nope!
While it does have a pretty sizeable gift shop, I was super impressed by the gardens, the trails, and how well-maintained everything seemed. My hairdresser recommended the food so we even had a quick bite at the restaurant and it was pretty tasty!
In the main part of the gardens, you will find huge greenhouses to explore with some beautiful and exotic-looking plants and flowers. Though I wouldn’t try to smuggle anything home with you, there’s also a shop where you can buy your own plants!
Along with the greenhouses, there are four or five different trails you can explore which are fairly easy to trek but you definitely need close-toed shoes.
There’s also a small river with a natural pool where you can swim! The water was at the perfect temperature and no dangerous wild animals that we could see.
It was 200 MXN per person for entry into the gardens and it was heavily recommended to bring and use bug repellant. With the number of bugs we saw, I think it’s safe to say the bug repellant saved us!
Hang Out at Boca de Tomatlan
This place reminded me a lot of Positano or Cinque Terre for some reason! It’s super colorful, there are tons of buildings built into the hillsides, boats floating in the bay, and restaurants lining the beach. Also everyone there was super friendly!
The area is very scenic and seems to have remained more undiscovered than other places in Puerto Vallarta simply because it’s not easy to get to without a car and it’s about 30-40 minutes south of the city depending on traffic.
Get a Workout at Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz
Easily reached from the city center of Puerto Vallarta and totally free to do, the Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz is a great way to get a workout and you’re rewarded with awesome views at the end!
My boyfriend and I hiked the hill through 5 de Diciembre and then made our way up the six or seven flights to the top. The Mirador has several different levels so there’s plenty of room for everyone to take photos and enjoy the view with relatively little jostling of elbows.
However, this was in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday so your experience may vary if you go at sunrise or sunset!
Peek in at Galeria Colectika
After our hike and a quick bite to eat, we decided to stop in at Galeria Colectika. The murals outside were enough to draw us in!
Inside the gallery, they have amazing art and jewelry, all made by artists in Oaxaca or other parts of Mexico! Take a look at their Etsy shop here.
Hike to the Secret Beach Playa Malpaso
Tons of Puerto Vallarta travel guides will tell you to go to Sayulita. I will talk more about my experience there in another blog but I’ll put it briefly here: I would not recommend going to Sayulita if you are into authentic, mindful, and culturally conscious travel experiences.
As an alternative, I do suggest you go to Playa Malpaso, a secret beach you can find not more than seven minutes north of Sayulita.
I call this place “secret” mostly because the entrance is blocked by gates that say “Propiedad Privado” or “private property”. Supposedly, you can just ignore all these signs and take the well-worn trail around the gates and down the road… which is exactly what we did after asking a couple of locals that were parked at the entrance.
The road to the beach is a little confusing since you’re not actually supposed to be there, it’s not well-labeled. So don’t get lost and go off on some of the smaller trails.
Follow the paths that go west towards the beach and listen for the waves! You’ll eventually come to a lookout and can choose one of two very steep trails down, labeled 20 and 21.
Take a Tour With Ecotours Vallarta
While I did not personally take a tour with this company, I definitely wish I had had the time to!
Ecotours has been leading nature tours since 1996 in Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera. The company takes small groups out lead by biologists and naturalist guides. They actively support different associations, campaigns, and conservation projects, both local and national.
Some of these contributions include projects related to whales, sea turtles, and birds and they are the founding members of AMTAVE (Mexican Association of Adventure Travel and Ecotourism)!
Ecotours offers snorkeling tours, scuba diving excursions, animal encounters, and bird watching tours. Sounds like a blast!
If these activities pique your interest why not give Slow Travel in Puerto Vallarta a try? You never know what experiences you may find when you take the time to travel more mindfully and authentically.
Know of any other slow travel friendly activities I may have missed? Drop a comment below and let me know!