Note: Some tour providers on this list may have ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
These guided tours in Puerto Vallarta, which earn high marks from experts and travelers alike, afford visitors plenty of opportunities to explore the area’s scenic landscape and its ample animal and plant life. Whether travelers are hoping to zip line over trees and rivers, swim with dolphins or indulge in local cuisine, these experiences offer something for everyone craving an immersive adventure beyond their resort.
Estigo Tours – Sierra Madre – ATV Mountain Adventure
If exploring the landscape, vistas and villages outside the touristy areas of Puerto Vallarta appeals to you, this four-hour ride atop all-terrain vehicles may be the tour for you. The route follows the Malecón, trails alongside the Cuale River and jungle areas in the Sierra Madre mountains. Along the way, you’ll zip by villages just outside of the city. The majority of the riding takes place off-road, but portions of the trip will be on cobblestone paths. Tour-takers describe this excursion as lots of fun thanks to adept guides. Travelers also give the mountain vistas rave reviews. Tickets cost around $95 for a single rider (who must have a valid driver’s license) and about $140 for a rider with a passenger (who must be at least 6 years old). The price does not include food or drinks. This tour typically takes place twice every day except Sunday starting at 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The company also offers an ATV tour combined with a zip line experience, among other options.
Wildlife Connection – Whale and Dolphin Watching
Humpback whales, several varieties of dolphins and other marine life can be seen in Puerto Vallarta’s waters from early December to late March, which is when Wildlife Connection conducts its biologist-led tours. During the 4 1/2-hour boat tour, your guide will teach you all about the animals and share some of the research Wildlife Connection conducts. Travelers typically find the trips both educational and highly enjoyable. They also value the opportunity to see the various sea creatures up close. These seasonal outings occur twice daily beginning at 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (Dolphin lovers might want to opt for the morning tour, when sightings are more likely.) Tickets cost approximately $85 for participants 12 and older and $55 for children 4 to 11; there’s no charge for accompanied infants. Light breakfast or lunch is provided. Wildlife Connection runs a variety of other wildlife tours, including one that allows tourgoers to swim with wild dolphins.
Xiutla Riders – Beginner, Rio Cuale
Guides regularly earn plaudits for their knowledge and navigational skills during this private tour for novice ATV riders. After some instruction, Xiutla Riders lead participants through the city to rivers and into the mountains. The ride also stops at a bar in the jungle for food and drinks (at your own cost) and a swim. Tours are offered twice daily at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and last about three hours. Tickets cost approximately 1,580 pesos (around $80) for individual riders and 1,820 pesos (about $92) for a driver with a passenger. A valid driver’s license is required. Xiutla Riders also offers longer tours for intermediate and advanced ATV drivers, and surf lessons.
Vallarta Eats Food Tours – Tacos After Dark
Spend an evening sampling Mexico’s lauded street food on this 3 1/2-hour walking tour. While groups of up to 10 foodies stroll from one food cart or restaurant to the next, guides offer insights into the county’s cuisine and other cultural traditions. Taco lovers consistently give high marks to the enthusiastic guides and describe the food as ample and excellent. Tours depart from Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town at 6:30 and 7 p.m. each evening except Saturday. The approximately $55 fee covers food and nonalcoholic beverages. (Alcohol can be purchased separately.) Hungry for more? The company also offers a daytime version of this tour, as well as a tour that explores the “gourmet” side of Puerto Vallarta’s food scene.
Vallarta Adventures – Islas Marietas Eco Discovery
Snorkel, swim, kayak or paddleboard in the waters surrounding the Marieta Islands on this daylong cruise. Though you won’t set foot on the islands themselves, you’ll see their breathtaking beauty from the water and aboard Vallarta Adventures’ catamaran. Guides provide information about the sea life in the Bay of Banderas (which includes dolphins and, during winter, whales), and tour-takers find their commentary entertaining. Tickets cost approximately $90 for participants 12 and older and $60 for children 4 to 11. Lunch and use of snorkeling gear and paddleboards are covered in the price. Reviewers report seeing lots of wildlife while snorkeling. The seven-hour tours are offered every day except Monday starting at 8 a.m. Vallarta Adventures also offers sails around Banderas Bay, as well as daytrips to Las Caletas nature reserve.
Whale watching is a popular wintertime activity in Puerto Vallarta.Getty Images
Ocean Friendly Tours – Banderas Bay Ocean Safari
Guides earn top marks from travelers for providing ample information regarding humpback whales and the Banderas Bay ecosystem throughout this 4 1/2-hour sailing. The tour allows ample time to see whales and snap incredible photos, according to reviewers. In addition, the company provides a bird-watching guide onboard to help passengers identify the bay’s various sea bird species. Tours are typically available beginning at the end of February week of December into late March, when humpback whales are frequently spotted in the area. Boats depart from Muelle Los Peines pier at 9 a.m. daily. Tickets cost around 3,340 pesos (around $170), which includes lunch. Ocean Friendly Tours offers a three-hour version of this tour as well as private charters.
In addition to rides on zip lines as high as 500 feet above the ground, this approximately five-hour expedition includes a tequila tasting and a visit to an animal sanctuary housing iguanas, turtles, exotic birds and more. Weather permitting, you’ll also have the chance to swim or kayak in Los Horcones River. For many travelers, the highlight of this tour is the professional, welcoming staff. Tickets cost around $100 with discounts for children and anyone opting out of the zip line portion of the tour. The price includes round-trip transportation from hotels and cruise ship ports; it doesn’t include food. There are multiple start times every day.
Vallarta Food Tours – Taste of Pitillal
Travel to El Pitillal, a small town not far from downtown Puerto Vallarta, to sample a varied array of regional cuisine. The approximately 3 1/2-hour walking tour visits both family-owned restaurants and street stands for a total of seven stops. You may sample birria, a meat stew that originated in the state of Jalisco; carnitas, slow-cooked pork; and seafood tostadas. Along the way, guides share information about the local cuisine along with the area’s history and folklore. Foodies typically award high marks to both the insightful guides and the tasty food. Tours depart from the gazebo in Pitillal’s main plaza on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The price for the mile-long guided walk and the tastings is approximately $50 for adults, $45 for teens and about $40 for participants ages 5 to 12. Vallarta Food Tours also runs a food tour in downtown Puerto Vallarta, as well as a cocktail and tacos tour, among other options.
EcoTours de Mexico – Wild Dolphins & Snorkeling at Los Arcos Combo
An ideal outing for wildlife lovers, this boat tour starts with an informal lecture detailing the biology and ecology of dolphins before heading out to Los Arcos Marine Park to spot these creatures (and other colorful fish) in the wild. If conditions allow, tourgoers may even be able to swim with the dolphins. Guides are considered exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful. The 3 1/2-hour tour begins in Marina Vallarta at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday year-round. Trips cost around $90 for adults and $75 for children 4 to 11. (Children 3 and younger, as well as pregnant women, may not join the tour.) The price covers use of snorkeling gear as well as a light lunch. EcoTours de Mexico also operates a series of bird-watching tours.
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