Showstopping Mexican haute cuisine, featuring organic produce, fresh-caught fish, and seasonal dishes. Owned by rock star chef Thierry Blouet, their rich menu features contemporary recipes highlighting local ingredients alongside elevated versions of traditional fare. Try their Shrimp Temazcal served with flaming raicilla or their octopus ceviche! Bold flavors and French inspiration are paired with dramatic presentation, a curated selection of Mexican and international wines, and creative cocktails. Meals are usually served outdoors under the palapa roof, toes-in-the-sand optional, though their indoor dining room is gorgeous with artistic, sea-inspired décor. Reservations strongly recommended.
Cheery restaurant with stellar breakfast, lunch, and desserts served in a whimsical garden courtyard. Their menu features Mexican and European favorites using local ingredients and free-range eggs gathered from their own chickens, some of which share the garden space. Everything from the kitchen is outstanding, but they are best known for their homemade ice creams, fresh bread and egg dishes (their quiche and French toast are not to be missed!), and the best coffee in the village. The ice cream shop is open year-round, but the café closes during the summer months.
Open for dinner only, Norma’s is the single best spot in Punta de Mita for authentic tacos, pozole, and sopes. This family-owned restaurant runs out of the front porch of their home, tucked in the residential Emiliano Zapato neighborhood of Punta de Mita. Atmosphere is warm and casual. Guests are invited to bring their own beer, which they can buy from the minimart on the corner, or try the house special agua de avena, a sweet oatmeal drink that tastes similar to horchata. Pozole is only served on Saturdays and Sundays; the restaurant closes on Wednesdays.
Upscale food and impeccable service in a relaxed setting, with an extensive wine list, amazing tequila selection, and wood fired oven. The menu fuses Italian and Argentine flavors with local veggies and seafood. Food is decadent, from their hot rock starters (premium beef or tuna served over a hot rock, which sears it at your table) to their wildly popular lobster pizza. Beachfront tables are perfect for a couple’s sunset dinner or for families, as the kids can play in the gentle waves while meals are being prepared.
Family-run Italian restaurant with an indulgent menu, grotto-style bar, and opulent décor. Food here celebrates the flavors of Sicily, using family-recipes and traditional methods paired with local, market-fresh herbs, vegetables, and meats. The menu changes daily, but their famous lasagna and focaccia are always featured. Italian wines are prominently featured, and each table gets their own fun “push for wine” button. This intimate, atmospheric gem is ideal for romantic dinners and special occasions.
• When to Visit Puerto Vallarta: PV is at its best mid-April to June and October. April through June has the best weather; May and June have the best hotel deals, and October has the best water for snorkeling and diving.
• The best beach for partying is Playa de los Muertos near Downtown PV. The best beaches for quiet and solitude are Playa Conchas Chinas and Playa Palito Verde. For watersports, make for Las Caletas or Las Ánimas.
• Arrival: Puerto Vallarta’s airport lies 10 km north of the Old Town on the coastal highway (Hwy-200). Pay for taxis at the kiosk before leaving the terminal – rates are tied to a zone system: US$17 (roughly 380 pesos) for Marina Vallarta; US$18 (400 pesos) for the Old Town/Zona Romántica; US$25 (550 pesos) for Nuevo Vallarta; and US$30 (670 pesos) for Mismaloya and Bucerías. All the major car rental firms have desks at the airport.
• TIP: Travelers with not much luggage can save money by walking out of the terminal onto the main highway. From here buses (marked “Punta de Mita” going north, and “Olas Altas” or “Centro” going south) run up and down the coast for a few pesos, while normal city taxis charge roughly 50 to 75 percent less than the airport taxis – always set the price before getting in.
• Time Zones: Puerto Vallarta is officially part of the Zona Central (US Central) time zone (GMT-5). Though Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, and Punta de Mita officially lie within the Zona Pacífico (Pacific Zone), the equivalent of Canadian and US Mountain Time (1hr behind PV), in practice all of Banderas Bay now uses Central Time.
• Water Taxis: Beaches south of Boca de Tomátlan can only be accessed by boat (or stiff hikes through the jungle). Water Taxis from Boca run to Las Ánimas (around 50 pesos; 10 minutes) and Yelapa (around 80 pesos; 30 minutes), but always check current schedules at the dock. More expensive water taxis depart Playa Los Muertos pier in the Zona Romántica, usually hourly in high season, for the same destinations. Private boats are also available, but these cost a lot more.
• Buses to Mismaloya (20–25 minutes) and Boca de Tomátlan (another 10 minutes) depart from the Zona Romántica every 10–15 minutes.
• Tours: Several companies organize boat tours or “booze cruises” to the southern beaches, which are convenient but pricey. Puerto Vallarta Tours runs trips to Las Ánimas and Yelapa (US$43–64), while Vallarta Adventures runs to Las Caletas for US$149.
• Best beach near PV for surfing: Sayulita is a hip surfing town with good beginner and moderate waves – and a great place for surf lessons. It’s not covered in this post but Sayulita is an easy 50-minute bus or taxi ride from central Puerto Vallarta.
• Cash is king: Most locally run beach restaurants and bars take cash only – take a wad of pesos to be safe (some places will accept US dollars but invariably at bad exchange rates). You’ll need cash to rent beach chairs and umbrellas.
• Note that beaches – even the remote ones – can get mobbed on weekends, so visit on a weekday for a quieter experience.
• Theft of personal items from beaches does happen – never leave anything of value unattended, even on seemingly empty stretches of sand.
The 17 Best Beaches in and around Puerto Vallarta
The enticing beaches of Banderas Bay, backed by the jungle-covered slopes of the Sierra Madre, stretch for more than 40 km (25 miles) north and south of Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town, Viejo Vallarta. There’s plenty of variety, from fun beaches backed by condos and hotels, to wilder locations accessible only by boat.
Our personal favorite is Playa Caballo, a short water taxi ride from Boca de Tomatlán. A tranquil setting with great sand, palm trees, and wonderful swimming. Playa de los Muertos has a deserved reputation for partying and a vibrant nightlife. While Playa Conchas Chinas (south) and Playa Palito Verde (north) are great for beach lovers looking for a quieter, more relaxed experience.
SOUTH OF PUERTO VALLARTA
Note that beyond Boca de Tomatlán, beaches are accessible only by water taxi and private boats.
1. Playa Caballo (10 minutes by boat from Boca)
Gorgeous and often empty beach backed by shady palm trees. Other than two boutique hotels, there are no facilities or activities, and nowhere to eat or drink, but bustling Las Ánimas (see below) is a short walk around the headland. Water taxis and boats only.
Tiny, sheltered cove with a small beach of soft, white sand, and a snacks and drinks kiosk. Great for swimming and snorkeling. Has a real “hidden beach” feel, but because of its size, can get packed if a couple of tour boats come in. Note also that high tides can sometimes flood the whole beach. Water taxis and boats only – or an energetic 30–40 minute hike from Boca. The nearby Ocean Grill restaurant offers tasty meals and sea views.
3. Playa Conchas Chinas (2 km south of Old Town PV)
The most scenic city beach, easily accessible by bus or taxi (or an easy 30 minute walk from Zona Romántica). A series of small sandy coves, backed by condos but rarely busy (there are no restaurants or bars). Good for swimming but rip tides can be strong here. The shallow tide pools along the rocky sections of shore are crammed with marine life. Recommended Hotels: Quinta Maria Cortez (B&B) • Casa Villa Verde (mid-range) • Marboka Hotel & Suites (budget)
4. Playa Palmares (7 km south of Old Town PV)
Fine white-sand beach just below the coastal highway, popular with locals. Calm and perfect for swimming (it’s warm and relatively shallow), though there are very few places to eat and drink. There is a rare public bathroom here with showers (around 10 pesos), and it’s possible to rent umbrellas with table and chairs. Accessible by bus or taxi.
5. Las Caletas (15 minutes by boat from Boca)
Tiny and isolated beach, run as a watersports hub by Vallarta Adventures. Great for swimming and snorkeling. Water taxis and boats only.
6. Yelapa (30 minutes by boat from Boca)
Hemmed in by jungle-smothered hills and coconut palms, this beach and tiny village has a rustic, laidback vibe, despite the steady stream of day-trippers. The white-sand beach is good for swimming and is lined with palapa restaurants. From here it’s a pleasant stroll up the Rio del Tuito to cascading waterfalls. Accessible by boat only – it’s the final water taxi stop.
The primary (and most fun) city beach lies just south of the old town. It’s crowded, is lined with hotels, features mostly coarser, brown sand and is fairly narrow but it’s by far the best beach for eating, drinking, and partying – swimming is good too. The stylish Playa Los Muertos pier divides the beach in two, with the LGBT section lying at the southern end, opposite the Blue Chairs Resort.
The best-known and most accessible southern beach (take a bus or taxi), made famous by John Huston’s film “The Night of the Iguana”. Today it’s a small, sandy strip dominated by the Barceló hotel, but with a handful of cheap palapa restaurants and local vendors. Good for watersports and wonderful snorkeling trips to Los Arcos, tiny islets just offshore rich in marine life.
Relatively quiet and empty beach backed by a small village. Just a couple of beach restaurants and not much else. Trails lead up river to a refreshing waterfall and swimming hole. Water taxis and boats only.
Long, sandy, but narrow beach crammed with restaurants and bars, just around the headland from Playa Caballo. Haven for fun activities – jet skiing, banana boats and parasailing – but can get very busy. Water taxis and boats only – or a strenuous 2hr-hike from Boca.
NORTH OF PUERTO VALLARTA
All the beaches north of Old Town PV are accessible by taxi/car and bus.
11. Playa Palito Verde (34 km north of Old Town PV)
First of the northern beaches free of all development – it’s a gorgeous, shallow bay a short walk off the main road, with no facilities, no shade, and no food. Best place to escape the crowds and great for swimming.
12. Bucerías (25 km north of Old Town PV)
Wonderful sand and calm waters for people who like to swim. Bucerías is a busy town but its chalk-white beach is rarely packed and there are plenty of low-key beach restaurants.
15. Playa Camarones (Zona Hotelera, 1 km north of Old Town PV)
“Shrimp Beach” is at the heart of PV’s hotel zone for good reason, with a gorgeous swath of sand (always very clean), plenty of activities, vendors, and relatively pricey dining options. Good for swimming and it’s big enough absorb visitors without feeling busy.
16. Playa la Manzanilla (32 km north of Old Town PV)
Small white-sand beach in a sheltered bay perfect for swimming, with several cheap (and excellent) seafood restaurants and beach bars. Always busy at weekends.
17. Punta de Mita (49 km north of Old Town PV)
Right at the very northern tip of Banderas Bay, the pristine, empty beaches along this headland are mostly reserved for the private “Club Punta Mita” development and its associated properties, but are stunning nonetheless. Day passes available but expensive.
Creative French fine dining with Mexican flair, using fresh, local ingredients. The decadent menu features popular mainstays like duck confit with mole or pork belly in a hibiscus merlot sauce, as well as an ever-changing selection of seasonal dishes. Ambiance is romantic and celebratory. Diners may choose a table on their jungle garden patio or in their white and crystal dining salon. Their extensive wine list showcases varieties from ten countries as well as several regions in Mexico, though their cocktail menu is equally tempting with regional spirits and fresh fruits. Reservations are strongly recommended, especially if requesting outdoor seating in the winter months. Children eight years and over are allowed. Located in El Centro, three blocks from the Malecon in a gorgeous hundred-year-old house.
Casual, local seafood diner with cheerful décor and a friendly vibe. The restaurant keeps a taco truck in front for a quick lunch, though the main restaurant has a larger menu and more seating – indoors, or in their backyard patio. Local favorites include the aguachile ceviche and manta ray tacos, while travelers rave about their shrimp burritos and strong margaritas. This simple, family-friendly restaurant is incredibly popular, so arrive early to avoid a wait. During peak lunch and dinner times, the line gets long enough to wrap around the building, especially during the high season when the food tours stop here.
Upscale, Austrian bistro, with a casual, sidewalk café in front and an intimate, fine-dining restaurant inside, all with white table-cloths, fresh flowers, and candles. The menu features authentic Austrian and European recipes, along with Mexican favorites, and some of the best espresso in the city. Expect rich flavors, warm hospitality, and great people watching from its central perch in Zona Romantica no matter what time you visit. The restaurant is open all day but is most popular for breakfast (pastries, large portions, great mimosas, and liquor-spiked coffees) and dinner (succulent meats, chocolate, and fruit desserts, over one hundred wines).
Trendy spot for tapas and cocktails with a lively atmosphere. Cocktails are super refreshing, using fresh-squeezed or pureed fruits and local spirits. Contemporary spins on classic drinks include cucumber margaritas and chili-mango mojitos. Their tapas menu is seafood-heavy with Mexican favorites, alongside Spanish and international flavors; octopus and calamari dishes are the most popular, closely followed by their thin, crispy pizzas. This is a small spot with a few bar stools and mostly two-seat tables. Reserve in advance for larger groups or if you prefer outdoor seating, otherwise the wait during happy hour and dinner is usually around 45 minutes.
Contemporary and classic Mexican dishes, with dashes of Asian and French flavors, are served in casual, elegant style here. Diners may choose al fresco tables under their main thatched roof or in their beach club section under shady thatched umbrellas with their toes in the sand. This family-owned, four-diamond restaurant, open since 1957, is one of the oldest and best-known spots in the city and remains especially popular for Sunday brunches, romantic sunset dinners, and special occasions. Seafood dishes are most raved about here, especially the ceviche trio. The Mexican coffee comes with a fun fire show.
This hidden gem is a local favorite, best known for its seafood tacos; choose shrimp, octopus, or fish, all of which come wrapped in bacon. Their chile en nogada, though, offers a truly outstanding blend of savory, rich, and sweet flavors with picadillo, poblano, pomegranate seeds, and walnut sauce. Great margaritas are a staple, as are aguas frescas with different flavors every day. The humble restaurant features a small sidewalk bar in front, covered dining inside, and tables on their garden patio in back. Tucked away on a residential street in El Centro, Pajaritos is open seven days a week from 1:00-7:00 pm.
An excellent restaurant for fresh, authentic flavors and a warm atmosphere. Fire-roasted salsas and fresh guacamoles are made tableside with a customized level of spice. Their carnitas Michoacán, barbacoa de res, and shrimp molcajete are the stand-out dishes, a change from the usual fish-based menus in Puerto Vallarta (though they do have amazing green ceviche here, too!) Nightly live music usually features a two-piece band or mariachis. The restaurant is across from Guadalupe Church, so expect lots of tourists. In spite of this, recipes remain traditionally Mexican, rather than Americanized versions.
Fantastic, little street restaurant specializing in tacos al pastor: pork cooked over charcoal, sliced to order, served on fresh, soft, piping hot corn tortillas, with roasted pineapple and cilantro. Though al pastor is the star, their queso fundido (with chorizo or mushrooms) and quesadillas are not to be missed. Be sure to top your meal with some of their house-made salsas, ranging from a mild green to spicy red to an atomic orange (mango habanero for a sweet and fiery treat!) This casual hole-in-the-wall offers just a couple of tables inside, with the rest spilling off the sidewalk and into the street. There is usually a wait, but the line moves quickly.
A beloved local restaurant known for its stuffed fish dishes. The Brujo Negro is the recipe that got them started, a fish fillet stuffed with shrimp and huitlacoche with a squid ink sauce on a bed of corn and rice. Their Santa Cruz, stuffed with crab and cheese and served with a crab enchilada, is another local favorite, along with the Pirey, stuffed with shrimp and octopus with a tomatillo sauce. Most of the recipes are prepared mild; do ask for a spicy preparation or request salsa on the side if you prefer more heat. This family-friendly restaurant is great for younger kids; they have a kids menu and a playroom with lots of toys for preschoolers.
Upscale restaurant on Cuale Island serving a range of international fare all day. Regional Mexican food feature more prominently at breakfast and lunch, while Italian-inspired options are most popular during dinner service, especially their lamb lasagna. The ambiance is romantic and service is friendly and attentive, perfect for a date night or special occasion. Nightly live music and exceptional cocktails complete the experience. Reservations are recommended, especially for their Sunday brunch or if you prefer seats in the gazebo overlooking the river.
What is the best time of year to visit Puerto Vallarta?
The best time to visit Puerto Vallarta is from mid-April to June, and October. These months all offer excellent weather and affordable rates. April through June has the best weather; May and June have the best hotel deals; and October has the best water for snorkeling and diving. Avoid Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter – this is peak time for local, Mexican family vacations (a fun atmosphere but very busy and hotels are fully booked well in advance).
Best Time for Good Weather: December through May are the best months to visit for good weather. Average highs are below 30°C in the afternoons, with cool evenings in the high teens. Sea temperatures are cooler this time of year than in the summer, though they still average in the mid-20s°C, quite comfortable for surfing and swimming. Vallarta sits on the edge of a rainforest, but precipitation is much less likely during the winter and spring months than in the summer. February through May are particularly dry months with mostly clear skies; July through September are the rainiest. The city is protected by the Banderas Bay, so hurricanes here are rare; the last hit came in 2002 and was the first major storm to land in Vallarta in 35 years.
Best Time for Families and Kids: The best times for family travel are from April through June and from mid-October through mid-November. April and May are particularly excellent months to visit, right after the Spring Break crowds leave and before the summer rains and Mexican vacation season begin. Travelers during these months should expect sunny, warm days that are not too hot, affordable room rates, and fewer crowds than in the previous five months. May and June offer the warmest water temperatures for late spring family travel, with June offering greater visibility for snorkeling. Since May and June are so popular with visiting families, there will be plenty of kids around to keep each other entertained at the kids clubs or poolside at the resorts. October and November are also great times to visit, though the days are typically a little hotter and room rates, especially in November, are just beginning to rise after the summer low season. Ocean temperatures are still warm this late in the year, with October offering great underwater visibility.
Best Time for Avoiding Crowds: Puerto Vallarta’s low season is getting shorter and shorter, but typically the best time to avoid the large crowds is from July through September, just after Mexican vacation season and before the foreign travel high season. With fewer people traveling, hotels and flights are often deeply discounted. However, this also means that it can be harder to schedule excursions, as fewer travelers visiting leads tour companies to reduce their number of daily or weekly outings. This is the rainiest season in Puerto Vallarta, with about half of the days experiencing at least a little rain, especially in the late afternoons or early evenings from late August through early September.
Best Time for Great Deals: The best time to find great deals for Puerto Vallarta travel is near the low season, but not exactly in the middle of it. Flights are usually cheaper during the low season from July through September, but many hotels close or reduce their room inventory for annual repairs during July and August. So, though there are fewer travelers, room rates don’t necessarily drop. Travel in May, June, September, and October for the best rates on rooms, plus affordable flights and excursions.
Best Time for Surfing: Surfing is great almost year round, especially in Sayulita, but the best time for riding the waves is from December through April, when the north swells hit. Waves are large enough for beginners to maintain enough speed on their boards to not tip over, while not being too intimidating. More experienced surfers will find faster and larger waves on the north end of Sayulita Beach, plus at several other nearby breaks. It is possible to surf outside of these months, but the waves just aren’t as good, especially from June through September, when the waves are particularly flat and short. Water is warm here year round, but the warmest times during the surf season are December, January, and April.
Best Time for Whale Watching: Humpback whales begin arriving in November and leave again by early April. The best time to see them in large numbers is from mid-December through mid-March. December will have the most active viewing of adult whales, as males compete for female attention in the hopes of mating. The first babies will be born in January, but become more active in February and March as they become stronger swimmers. Most whales leave toward the end of March, with the last few stragglers in the area until mid-April. Waves are calmer in the mornings, so earlier tours are better for people who tend to get seasick.
Best Time for Snorkeling and Diving: For snorkeling and diving, June through October offers better water conditions, while December through February offers more likely encounters with manta rays and whale sharks. Water temps are warm and waves are fairly calm year-round. Diving and snorkeling are possible anytime, though there are definite differences in the seasons. Water is warmest and visibility is clearest in the summer months from June through October. August and September are particularly warm with surface temperatures averaging 30°C. From November through May, the water is cooler and visibility is obscured by plankton blooms; however, plankton attracts more manta rays to the surface, making this a great time for snorkelers to see them up close. During the winter months, from December through February, divers and snorkelers may even encounter migrating whale sharks.
Best Time for Exploring the Jungle: December through March is the best time for visiting the Mismaloya jungle, whether hiking the Botanical Gardens or ziplining through the canopy. These are the coolest months of the year, with temperatures topping out around 27°C. Most days offer clear skies, even in the rainforest, especially in February and March. The worst time for jungle adventures is from July through September when the summer rains bring out hordes of mosquitoes. Even during the winter months, it’s a good idea to wear insect repellant or long pants that cover the ankles.
Best Time for Sportfishing: Fish bite year-round in Puerto Vallarta, but different seasons attract different types. The biggest variety of fish is found from September through December, when blue, black, and striped marlin are most abundant, along with mahi-mahi, sailfish, and wahoo. Generally, the warmer months of June through September attract more tuna and grouper.
Puerto Vallarta Travel Seasons
High Season: December through mid-April is the busiest travel time in Puerto Vallarta, as crowds flock to enjoy the city’s best weather. Average daily highs are usually below 29°C. Skies are the clearest they’ll be all year, though even in the driest months, days can be overcast. The cooler months from December through February bring migrating humpback whales and great fishing, and the north swells make for excellent surfing. This is when the city truly shines! As the weather warms up in March and April, throngs of students from north of the border descend on the city for Spring Break; most hotels that host Spring Breakers are in the North Hotel Zone. Holy Week (Semana Santa), the week leading up to Easter, is the peak travel time for local families. If visiting Puerto Vallarta in winter or early spring, be prepared to pay top dollar for flights and hotels and to contend with the crowds.
Low Season: July through September is the low season in Puerto Vallarta. Days are typically hot and humid with highs around 33°C and at least a little rain on more than half of the days. Skies are mostly grey, and surf is generally poor. However, there are lots of great deals on flights and hotels during the summer months. Those who venture to PV during the rainy season will be rewarded with the warmest ocean temperatures and the best underwater visibility. This is the perfect time for snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving, especially near the reef islands, Marietas and Los Arcos.
Shoulder Season: The late spring (May and June) and fall months (October and November) are considered Vallarta’s shoulder season. These months feature good weather, with much less rain and fewer clouds than in the summer months, albeit hotter and more humid than in the winter and early spring. High temperatures hover around 31°C during these months. Rooms and flights are affordable, especially in May and June, when many hotels offer sales after high season officially ends. Room rates are still fairly low in October through mid-November, with prices beginning to creep up at the end of November in preparation for the holiday season.
Puerto Vallarta Weather by Month
Weather in Puerto Vallarta is warm and humid most of the year, with temperatures ranging from winter lows of 16°C to summer highs of 33°C. End of July and beginning of August are the hottest times of the year, while January is the coolest. March through May are the driest, sunniest months. Late August and early September are the rainiest and cloudiest. September is the most humid. Ocean surface temperatures are highest in August and lowest in March.
Puerto Vallarta Weather in January: January is one of the coolest months of the year, though still quite balmy. Afternoon highs are in the upper 20s°C, and skies are mostly clear, especially toward the end of the month. Januarys average about 2 rainy days per month, usually occurring toward the middle. Ocean temperatures are on the low side for Puerto Vallarta, attracting humpbacks, their newborns, and whale sharks, but the water remains comfortable for swimming and surfing. It’s a good idea to bring a jacket, as nightly temperatures tend to drop to the mid-teens. (Average High 28°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 23mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in February: Temperatures remain steady in February with warm days and cooler evenings; highs average 28°C and lows average 16°C. Skies begin to clear up now, with most days sunny or only partly cloudy. There is usually only one rainy day in February, with rainfall becoming less likely toward the end of the month as Puerto Vallarta moves toward the dry season. Sea temperatures drop just a hair from the previous month but stay well within a comfortable range. Surf is great this month. Baby humpbacks are most active now; this is the best opportunity to see them in the open. (Average High 28°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 24°C, Rainfall 12mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in March: Temperatures begin a slow rise in March, with days often hitting 30°C. Nights can still get cooler, so a light jacket or sweater is good to have, especially on a sunset sail or if visiting the mountains. Rain is uncommon in this first dry month of the season; bring your sunscreen! Ocean temperatures are at their coldest, though still comfortable for all water activities. Surf is great throughout the month. Baby humpbacks are still active, though whales begin to leave the area toward month’s end. (Average High 29°C, Average Low 17°C, Sea Temperature 24°C, Rainfall 5mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in April: April is warm throughout with a few hot days at the end of the month. This is the driest month of the year, usually with no rainy days, but the humidity increases as the weeks go by. Be sure to pack sunscreen. Nights are still cool, as in preceding months. Ocean temperatures begin to rise and waves are still steady, making this an excellent month for surfing. Most of the humpbacks are leaving the area for cooler waters. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 18°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 4mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in May: May is hot and muggy with temperatures regularly topping 32°C. As humidity rises toward the last couple of weeks, so does the chance of rain, though only one rainy day in the month is the norm. Ocean temperatures rise to a very comfortable range. Surf is less consistent, but there are still plenty of great waves in Sayulita, San Pancho, and Lo De Marcos. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 19°C, Sea Temperature 27°C, Rainfall 12mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in June: Heat and humidity run high in June, growing as the month goes by. Days are usually cloudy or overcast, and rainfall comes more regularly – expect about 10 rainy days throughout the month. Ocean conditions are excellent for swimming, snorkeling, and diving, with warm waters and great visibility. Surf has died down in most of the usual spots, but Quimixto to the south of PV offers great waves throughout the summer. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 28°C, Rainfall 159mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in July: Summer is the start of the rainy season. July sees rain about half of the days and overcast skies almost every day. It’s a good idea to bring an umbrella and to plan some rainy day activities, just in case. (Check out a chocolate making class, or dash from bar to bar in the Old Town.) Temperatures are hot and sticky. Ocean temps continue to rise, and visibility is excellent for divers and snorkelers, especially near the reefs. Surf is almost completely gone in the areas north of Vallarta, but Quimixto still has consistent surf. (Average High 33°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 29°C, Rainfall 285mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in August: August is the peak of the rainy summer season, with highs frequently above 33° and rain occurring half of all days. Pack an umbrella, and plan for a few rainy day activities. Skies are overcast and humidity is oppressive every day. Ocean temperatures reach their peak warmth, hovering around 30°C. Water is calm and visibility is excellent, ideal for snorkeling and diving. Surfers can still find waves to the south of the city. (Average High 33°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 300mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in September: Temperatures fall just a bit in September, though days continue to be hot and humid. Skies are the greyest this month, with almost every day either overcast or cloudy. Rain is common, though a little less frequent than in the previous months. Travelers will still want to carry an umbrella, and plan ahead for rainy days. Ocean conditions are consistent as they were in August, with warm water, flat waves, and great visibility. Surf conditions are still better in the south than in the north of Puerto Vallarta. (Average High 32°C, Average Low 23°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 288mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in October: October begins much like September, with heat, humidity, and rain. But by the second half of the month, skies clear and rain becomes less frequent, with only 5 rainy days spread over the month. Ocean temperatures and conditions remain similar to September, with warm, clear water. Surf should good in the popular beaches of Sayulita and San Pancho. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 22°C, Sea Temperature 30°C, Rainfall 117mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in November: Great weather returns to Vallarta in November. Daytime temperatures are warm, often rising above 31°C for a few hours in the afternoons. Humidity is high early in the month, but lessens as the weeks go by. Rain is possible once or twice in November, but most days are very dry. Ocean temperatures are still very warm and surf is becoming more consistent throughout the region. The first adult humpbacks should arrive at the end of the month. (Average High 31°C, Average Low 21°C, Sea Temperature 28°C, Rainfall 24mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Weather in December: December is gorgeous in PV, with warm comfortable days and cooler evenings. A jacket is recommended for nights out, especially for sunset cruises. Rain showers may hit a couple of days, but the majority of days are dry and humidity is relatively low (though it’s always a little humid). More than half the days are sunny or only partly cloudy. Sea temperatures drop down to 25°C, still comfortable for all water activities. Surfing is excellent this time of year, and Banderas Bay is filled with whales. (Average High 29°C, Average Low 16°C, Sea Temperature 25°C, Rainfall 21mm.)
Puerto Vallarta Festivals and Events
Puerto Vallarta in January
Vallarta Cup – Every Saturday in January, the Vallarta Yacht Club hosts a race in Banderas Bay. Courses may be as far south as Puerto Vallarta and as far north as La Cruz. Each day of racing finishes with a party at VYC in Nuevo Vallarta.
Festival of Our Lady of Peace (La Virgen de la Paz) – Nine-day, annual festival in Bucerías, celebrating the village’s patron saint, also considered the mother and protector of fisherman. The festival begins with fishermen sailing from La Cruz to Bucerías with the Peace Torch to make an offering at the church. This is followed by eight days of carnival rides, food vendors, cultural activities, daily processions, and nightly entertainment. The final night of the festival closes with the lighting of the Castillo, a rotating, three-story framework stuffed with fireworks.
Puerto Vallarta in February
Sayulita Festival – Five day festival in the little surfer town, filled with music, movies, Mexican wine and spirits. Events take place all over town; tastings, concerts, surfing, and yoga workshops. Hotels fill up fast, so book early! Camping is popular during this event in designated areas.
Charro National Championship – Charros are Mexican cowboys, and this five-day competition is similar to a rodeo. Charros show off their skills riding bucking broncos and roping bulls. Plus live music, dance, lasso demos, and cultural shows. Competitions are held at Arena Vallarta; music and cultural events take place at the Los Arcos Amphitheater on the Malecon.
Mardi Gras and Carnaval Parade (sometimes in March) – Huge celebration marking the last party day before the austere season of Lent. Festivities begin with an evening parade that stretches from the North Hotel Zone down along the Malecon through El Centro and finishes just shy of Los Muertos Pier. Floats, beads, and big parties follow, especially in Zona Romantica. Plan ahead for this – the parade draws crowds upwards of 30,000. This event is popular with the LGBT crowd, and many hotels and clubs host special events.
Puerto Vallarta in March
Banderas Bay Regatta – Five-day event featuring three full days of sailboat races and four nights of parties. Races are open to both cruisers and race boats. Nights end with parties at the Vallarta Yacht Club, with food, live music, and dancing.
Dama Juana Raicilla Festival – Celebration of raicilla, aka Mexican moonshine, a sister liquor to tequila and mezcal. Events include raicilla and food tastings, talks with distillers, mariachi music, and more. This two-day festival takes place at the cultural center on Cuale River Island.
Puerto Vallarta in April
Puerto Vallarta Taco Festival – The city’s best taco restaurants, whether street vendors or fine dining, get together to offer a wide range of styles and flavors of this signature Mexican dish. Tequila and beer share the spotlight, along with lucha libre, music, dance, and more entertainment. In the North Hotel Zone, near La Isla Mall.
Bucerías Oyster Festival(Feria de Ostiones) – Annual celebration of local oyster divers, marking the end of the oyster season in Bucerías. The main event is a competition among divers to see who can snag the largest oyster. Tons of oysters and ceviche to eat, plus live music, and the crowning of the Oyster Queen. Events take place on El Punto Beach.
Children’s Day (El Día del Niño) – A holiday filled with fun, gifts, and special activities just for kids. Though not an official holiday, most schools don’t hold classes this day. Zoos, amusement parks, and attractions often offer special discounts on April 30. Travelers can also participate by handing out toys or candy to street kids.
Vallarta Azteca International Folklore Festival (late April through early May) – Celebration of traditional dance from Mexico and Latin America. Dance troupes from all over Mexico plus Central and South America perform folkloric dance every evening from 6:00 p.m. at venues around town. Over 600 dancers participate annually, representing around 15 unique cultures.
Puerto Vallarta in May
Vallarta Pride – Vallarta is the premiere LGBT destination in Mexico, and Zona Romantica is the central hub for the city’s Pride events. This nine-day festival features tons of activities, including a huge parade, drag derby, beach parties, film festivals, live music, dancing, and much more. Book hotels ahead of time, as many of the closest ones are small boutiques that fill up fast.
MayoFest Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta’s anniversary celebration. This is a five-day long festival with concerts (traditional, rock, and pop), sports, activities, and entertainment, much of it at the lighthouse (faro) and the Los Arcos Amphitheater on the Malecon. Food vendors abound, and the closing event is a huge fireworks show.
Restaurant Week – A two-week late May gastronomy event in Mexico’s top foodie destination. During this celebration, restaurants offer creative, three-course meals with three mix-and-match options for each course, all at a deeply discounted rate, making this an affordable time to explore PV’s cutting edge gourmet scene. Participating restaurants are scattered throughout the city.
Puerto Vallarta in June
Navy Day (El Día de la Marina) – June 1st is celebrated in all of Mexico’s port towns; commemorating the launch of the first all-Mexican crewed ship, and honoring past and present naval service men and women. Boats are launched in a morning opening ceremony into Banderas Bay to lay flower wreaths on the water. The ceremony is followed by festivities and tournaments at sea, along with celebrations on the beaches and docks, with dancing into the night.
RHA Festival – Two-day electronic music festival in Punta Mita, northwest of Puerto Vallarta. The main RHA Festival runs for two-days with DJs spinning and dancing on the beach all night. The “RHA Experience” adds two more days of more intimate concerts and pool parties.
Puerto Vallarta in July
Banderas Bay Fishing Tournament – International marlin and tuna fishing competition. This two-day event leaves from the Paradise Village Marina and is hosted by the Bahía de Banderas Fishing Club. Record-setting fish have been caught here in the past, including a 322 kg marlin.
Puerto Vallarta in August
Cristo de los Brazos Caidos (Christ of the Fallen Arms or Christ of the Cyclone) – Local celebration in Barra de Navidad south of Puerto Vallarta. This festival commemorates a local miracle. As a huge storm approached in 1971, town residents sought refuge in the church, certain that the storm would devastate the village. As they were deep in prayer, the arms of the crucified Christ above the altar fell off. At the same moment, the storm ended. Since then, the town has celebrated yearly with rosaries, processions, fireworks, street food, and live entertainment.
Punta Mita Beach Festival – Two-day festival at Kupuri Beach Club with tons of activities, including an underwater treasure hunt, windsurfing, paddleboarding, and more beach fun. Chefs from Punta Mita’s luxury resorts serve upscale beach bites and creative cocktails. A family-friendly event held from 9a-8p.
Puerto Vallarta in September
National Charro Day – Charros, the Mexican cowboys, are celebrated every year on September 14. Festivities begin in Puerto Vallarta with charros riding through the downtown streets, decked out in their finest. At night, there is a charro parade down the Malecon, ending at Los Arcos Amphitheater. Here, the festivities continue with a street party, lasso demo, mariachi music, and dancing.
Mexican Independence Day – A two-day festival with music, fireworks, food, and parades. Beginning on the afternoon of September 15, people gather in the main square for non-stop mariachi and traditional foods. At 11pm, the grito, or cry for independence, is called with ringing bells and fireworks. The country’s biggest party begins immediately after and goes well into the night. On September 16, there is huge military parade through town and more food and festivities.
San Pancho Days – Nine-day festival for the patron saint of San Francisco (aka San Pancho), a small surfing village northeast of Sayulita. This celebration of St. Francis of Assisi is filled with parades, food, rodeos, live music, dancing, and carnival rides. Each day and night of the festival is held in a different neighborhood in town. The celebration ends with a wild day of parties, the final rodeo, and the lighting of the castillo, a tall rotating structure of fireworks, at midnight. Dancing continues until the wee hours. From September 25-October 4.
Puerto Vallarta in October
Vallarta Nayarit Gastronómica – High-end culinary conference featuring renowned chefs and sommeliers. Four days of cooking demos, food and wine tastings, workshops, and special dinners. Creative, contemporary, and traditional cooking styles feature regional and international flavors.
Halloween – In PV Halloween celebrations merged with Day of the Dead events, creating a huge festival lasting several days from October 29-November 2. As of now, Halloween on October 31 is still the smaller holiday, celebrated with costume contests and parties at local bars and restaurants. Kids will be dressed up in the streets, saying “Queremos Halloween,” the local version of “trick or treat,” and carrying bags to be filled with candy.
Puerto Vallarta in November
All Saints’ Day(Día de Todos Santos) – All Saints Day gets wrapped into Day of the Dead Celebrations, much like Halloween. On this day, Mexicans honor deceased children, leaving offerings to them on custom-designed altars in cemeteries or in their homes, with sugar skulls, toys, and treats. Altars are set up by local businesses, as well as the Cuale River Island cultural center and City Hall. City streets in all neighborhoods will be decorated in orange and purple, with public altars on the Malecon, and Catrinas (skeletons dressed as fancy, rich ladies).
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, All Souls Day) – Mexican celebrations for Day of the Dead include decorating altars in their homes or in cemeteries, some keeping vigils and others leaving offerings, usually tequila, cigarettes, and the deceased’s favorite foods. Candles and trails of marigold petals extend from the altars to light the way for the spirit’s return. Around town, there will be parades of Catrinas, folkloric dance, mariachi, street foods, and special sweet pastries and treats. Hotspots for celebrations include the Malecon, Municipal Cemetery, Hidalgo Park, and the Emiliano Zapato neighborhood in the north end of Zona Romantica.
Festival Gourmet International – Ten-day food and wine event where the best chefs from local restaurants and hotels invite celebrity chefs into their kitchens for a culinary culture exchange. Events take place at a different location each night and include, cooking demos, restaurant hopping, forum discussions, wine and liquor pairings, and a mini art festival. Travelers can reserve their spaces online.
International Fishing Tournament – Three days of competitive fishing for marlin and sailfish with a reception each night at Marina Vallarta. The tournament ends with an awards ceremony and a large cash prize.
Puerto Vallarta in December
The Guadalupe Processions – A festival over the first twelve days of December, celebrating the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego in 1531. This celebration includes hundreds of processions to Guadalupe Church by the faithful in a fusion of Aztec and Catholic traditions. Processions usually begin in the afternoon and end after midnight, though as the festival nears the end, processions can fill the streets for up to twenty hours in a day. Bells ring with the arrival of each singing procession to the church. Folk dancers, live music, traditional foods, and a final night of fireworks caps off the fiesta.
Christmas Posadas – For nine days leading up to Christmas, this celebration reenacts the journey of Mary and Joseph searching for an inn. Participants journey from house to house reenacting the story; when they are received at the final destination, a street party begins with traditional Mexican foods, piñatas, and a special punch. On Christmas Eve, the final night of Las Posadas, the procession goes to the church for a special mass and fireworks.
New Year’s Eve – Events take place all over town, with free concerts at Los Arcos on the Malecon, a street party on Olas Altas in Zona Romantica, and multiple fireworks shows over the bay. Los Muertos Pier is the most popular spot to watch the displays. Reserve early for tables at fine dining restaurants, or simply bar hop through the throngs of Old Town.
Considered the heart of the city, the Malecon is a pedestrian-only esplanade following the shore for about a kilometer from Hotel Rosita in the north to the Los Arcos Amphitheater in the south. By day its most prominent features are its sculptures; “Boy on the Seahorse” being the most iconic. (This one is a replica; the original is further south on Los Muertos Beach). Free walking tours of the sculptures are available Tuesday mornings at 9:30 from November through April. Several shops, galleries, and restaurants line the way. At night, the Malecon lights up with food stalls, buskers, and street performers. Free music and cultural shows are held almost every night at the Los Arcos Amphitheater. Though the official Malecon covers just one kilometer, an extension of the Malecon (the Malecon II), continues along Los Muertos Beach south of the Cuale River through Zona Romantica, with more sculptures, food, nightlife, and the gorgeous Los Muertos Pier lighting the night.
Discover Your New Favorite Foods
Puerto Vallarta is a foodie paradise, thanks to top-notch seafood and produce, the rich culinary traditions of Jalisco, and the hundreds of chefs who have made Vallarta their home. With throngs of restaurants and food stalls to choose from, one of the best ways to get to know the real city is on a food tour. Head off the beaten path into the neighborhoods of the Old Town to experience the variety of foods that make this city so beloved among gourmands. Several companies offer food tours; the best option is the Puerto Vallarta Food Tour of Authentic Local Cuisine (mornings, classic local flavors). The tour lasts around three to three and a half hours with a good deal of walking, so wear comfy shoes and come hungry. Beer is available for purchase at most stops, but if you have a chance, try the raicilla (aka Mexican moonshine) – it never disappoints.
One of the top surfing destinations in the world, Sayulita’s main beach offers consistent surf almost all year round. Just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, this eclectic little village has been a popular destination for surfers since the 1960s. Waves here are steady but not too wild, making this the ideal spot for beginners. There are several shops for lessons and rentals, but the best is Surf’n Sayulita. David, the owner, is a lifelong surfer and experienced instructor for all ages and abilities. Single lessons or full day trips (with or without lessons) are affordable, and available for individuals or groups. Located on Calle Gaviota, just half a block from the beach. Downtown Sayulita is walkable and filled with casual bars, lively cantinas, and fun local crafts, so plan on spending at least a day here to experience it all.
Explore Marietas Islands
Sometimes called the Mexican Galapagos, Islas Marietas Islands National Park is a small, uninhabited archipelago recognized by UNESCO as a vital breeding and shelter site for marine birds, most notably the blue footed booby. It’s also home to the most diverse population of reef fish in Banderas Bay and a wide variety of coral. But its main draw is the Hidden Beach, located in a manmade crater, the aftermath of military bombing exercises in the early half of the twentieth century. After becoming a national park in the ‘60s, the Marietas Islands and the Hidden Beach became popular camping spots. However, access to the islands was closed after too many careless tourists damaged the coral and started wildfires. The park has only just been re-opened in Spring 2017, with limited numbers of visitors allowed per day. Guests will need to book a tour to gain access to the Hidden Beach. The closest departure point is from Punta de Mita, though many tours operate from Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita. Punta Mita Adventures, Vallarta Adventures, and Sayulita Entourage are the best tour operators in each respective area.
Get Up Close to Crocodiles
El Cora is a fantastic eco-sanctuary for crocodiles and other native animals and plants. Guided tours are led by knowledgeable local biologists and are fully interactive. Guests are invited inside enclosures to handle the baby and adult crocodiles, while learning about their biology and habits. Several wild crocodiles live in the surrounding Quelele Lagoon, and the guides are usually able to call them closer for guests to observe (though visitors are not allowed to touch the wild crocs). The park is open for drop in tours from 11a-6p every day except Wednesday for a suggested donation of 200 pesos (about US$11). Night tours are offered on select dates and include a performance of the Huichol crocodile legend. For long term travelers, El Cora welcomes volunteers who want to assist in their conservation efforts. Located just north of Puerto Vallarta in Bucerías, on a long dirt road behind Flamingos Golf.
Wander the Old Town
For a true taste of Vallarta’s Old Mexico charm, travelers should spend a day exploring Old Town, just inland from the Malecon. This highly walkable downtown features several attractions within just a few minutes of each other. The most striking feature of the city is Guadalupe Church (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe), a gorgeous colonial brick church with a wrought iron crown. Services are offered three times a day on weekdays and seven times on Sundays, with bilingual masses available at certain hours, for those who want a closer look. Just to the south, travelers will find the Mercado Municipal, the flea market north of the Cuale River, with great local crafts on the main floor and an array of fantastic, cheap restaurants up above. Cross over the wooden swinging bridge to reach Cuale River Island, a tropical island with a secluded feel, offering a small archeology museum, a cultural center with art classes, and several craft vendors and restaurants. Head south across the river into Zona Romantica and duck into the several art galleries on Basilio Badillo and Lázaro Cárdenas streets. Grab a happy hour drink on Olas Atlas Street and watch the sunset from Los Muertos Pier. Walk back north along the Malecon, if you still have energy left.
Cuddle a Baby Lion
Vallarta Zoo (Zoológico de Vallarta) is unlike any other zoo, allowing guests to pet and interact with almost all of the animals. For US$10 entry plus $5 optional for a bag of food, the animals walk right up to the front of their enclosures for a handfed treat. The giraffe and hippos are especially popular for feeding. For an extra charge, visitors are allowed into a special enclosure to hold, cuddle, and play with the baby big cats, which can be lions, tigers, panthers, and/or jaguars (depending on availability), plus monkeys and lemurs. This hands-on experience costs US$85 and is inclusive of entry, a food bag, two drinks, and a souvenir from their shop. This is truly a unique experience and worth every penny. However, be advised that the zoo here is not like a typical, pristine Western zoo. Though the animals are well-fed and cared for, their habitats are smaller than guests may be used to seeing. Located south of Puerto Vallarta in Mismaloya.
Make Your Own Chocolates
Chocolate is one of Mexico’s greatest gifts to the world, with the first and still highest quality cacao beans cultivated here. ChocoMuseo’s Bean to Bar Workshop takes students through the complete process of chocolate making. Beginning with a brief history lesson in chocolate, the class then provides hands on instruction in roasting and grinding the beans followed by mixing and molding the chocolates. Other classes cover truffles and how to cook a traditional Mexican Mole. Its 3-story location includes a chocolate shop, café, and a factory open for tours of the process.
Hike through a Jungle Garden
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens cover 64 acres of the Mismaloya jungle to the south of the city. Unlike a typical manicured garden, the landscape here is largely left wild, with several hiking trails winding their way over steep hills and down to the edge of the Los Horcones River (bring a swimsuit and towel if you want to take a dip). Trails vary from moderate to difficult, and a good pair of shoes is necessary to navigate over the uneven paths. Hike early to avoid the heat, then return to the center of the gardens, a flat area with a huge collection of orchids, the largest in Mexico, as well as an aquatic plants pond and a cactus garden. Birds, butterflies, and iguanas are all found here, plus a fresh Mexican restaurant with good food and even better cocktails.
Sunset Cruise in Banderas Bay
Vallarta is known for its colorful orange and purple sunsets and, under the right conditions, the rare “green flash” just as the sun disappears over the horizon. There’s no better spot to see the city’s famous sunsets than from aboard a sailboat, gliding over the calm waters in the Banderas Bay. You’ll have a great vantage point here to see not only an unobstructed view of the horizon, but also dolphins, turtles, manta rays, and in the winter months, maybe a whale or two. Most cruises offer an open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and sweets along the way, and last about three hours. The best sunset sailing tours are offered by Ada Sailing, leaving from Marina Vallarta, and Ally Cat Sailing Adventures, leaving from La Cruz Marina near Bucerías.
Fine dining restaurant featuring fresh, local ingredients and inspired choices. The menu features a bold blend of international flavors with Thai and Mexican featured most prominently. Meat, seafood, and vegetables are all prepared with great care and artful presentation. With talented chefs, attentive servers, stellar wines, and decadent desserts, this restaurant is always among the best in Playa. Oh Lala! is romantic and tiny with only nine tables total, so reserve in advance.
Casual, al fresco restaurant specializing in Mexican seafood dishes. Two pages of their menu are dedicated to tostadas, mostly with seafood, though meat and veggie options are also offered. The Tikal (raw tuna with chipotle) and the Mixta (shrimp, mahi-mahi, and octopus) are outstanding, as are the shrimp burgers, guacamole, and ceviche. The house cocktails are complex and creative, with mezcal, cardamom, or serrano peppers, while their tropical classics are strong and smooth. Great corner location on 5th, perfect for people watching from their sidewalk patio seats.
No frills Ah Carbon! stands out for its mouthwatering grilled meats. The al pastor tacos are the best in Playa; try the build-your-own version with a hearty portion of meat buried under a pile of fresh tortillas with cheese, lime, and a selection of four made-from-scratch salsas. Their papa al carbón is also rich and filling: a baked potato with butter and cream, topped with your choice of meat, whether chorizo, carne asada, al pastor, or arrachera. This family-friendly restaurant is casual and fun with indoor and outdoor seating, a low-key vibe, cold beers, and warm service.
Monte Albán is a ruined Zapotec city in southeastern Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of our favorite pre-Hispanic sites in the whole country. Monte Albán is best known for its magnificent temples, Zapotec carvings, hieroglyphic inscriptions and its jaw-dropping location, on top of a flattened mountain top.
Frequently Asked Questions about Monte Albán
Where is Monte Albán?
Monte Albán is a Zapotec archeological site, located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Monte Albán lies high on a mountain top around 6.4 km west of central Oaxaca City, and 460 km southeast of Mexico City.
How big is Monte Albán?
The core site of Monte Albán covers around 6.5 square kilometers (4 square miles), though smaller houses (as yet unexcavated) are thought to have existed far beyond these boundaries. At its peak up to 25,000 people may have lived here, but Monte Albán is uninhabited today.
What is the history of Monte Albán?
Monte Albán was founded by the Zapotecs in the sixth century BC and flourished to around 850 AD, after which, for reasons that are unknown, the city was gradually abandoned. The leveling of the mountain was completed and the earliest temples were constructed during the Monte Albán I phase (up to around 200 BC), while the main ceremonial center was completed during the Monte Albán II (to around 100 AD) and the Monte Albán III (300–700 AD) phases. The city was at its peak during Monte Albán III, dominating much of modern Oaxaca state and beyond. The city was abandoned during Monte Albán IV (700 to 950 AD) – little is known about this period. During phase Monte Albán V (950–1521), parts of the city were re-occupied by Mixtec peoples from northwestern Oaxaca. A small Spanish settlement was established nearby in the 1520s, but Oaxaca remained a backwater long into the 19th century. Large-scale excavations and research began on site in the 1930s, and Monte Albán was gradually opened up for tourism.
How do I get to Monte Albán?
Monte Albán is an easy trip from Oaxaca City. Lescas Co minibuses (colectivios) zip up and down the steep road to the ruins hourly throughout the day (8.30am to 3.30 pm, last bus back 5pm), departing the Hotel Rivera del Ángel, at Mina 518 in the city center, and stopping at the main plaza (Zócalo). Transportaciones Turísticas Mitla (aka Autobuses Turísticos) offers a similar service, departing Mina 501 and stopping at Hotel Rivera (20 de Noviembre 228). Both companies charge around 70 pesos return. Most Oaxaca taxi drivers will also drive up to the ruins for 100 to 150 pesos (fix the rate before getting in); it’s around 300 pesos for a return trip including two or three hours on site. Note that Uber does not operate in Oaxaca. Oaxaca City itself is connected to US and other Mexican cities by several non-stop flights.
Can I drive to Monte Albán?
Yes, but it’s not recommended. The drive down from the US border is long (800 miles/1287 km), the route is complicated, and the Mexican border states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas have been affected by drug cartel violence. In addition, the roads in and around Oaxaca are often congested and confusing to navigate. Drivers also need a Mexican “Temporary Importation of Vehicle Permit”.
Do I need a car in Monte Albán?
No. The site itself is pedestrian-only and easy to explore on foot – it’s easy to get here via taxis or public transport from Oaxaca City.
When is the best time to go to Monte Albán?
Sub-tropical Oaxaca is at its best November through February, when it’s cool, sunny and dry, though visiting from March to May is usually fine – not uncomfortably hot and still relatively dry. The summer (June to October) is warm and relatively wet. Avoid Easter, Christmas and any Mexican public holiday to avoid crowds of domestic tourists and high hotel prices (July and August also tend to be more expensive because of Mexican school holidays).
Where should I stay in Monte Albán?
Aim to stay in the atmospheric old center of Oaxaca City, close to all the sights, best restaurants and attractions. There’s little point in staying near the ruins of Monte Albán itself. For more info visit our Best Places to Stay in Oaxaca.
What are the best things to do in Monte Albán?
There’s only one reason to come here – the ancient Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán (officially “Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán”). Check out the tiny museum at the entrance before hitting the main site – there are some amazing finds displayed here, including the carvings of the famous “dancers”. The heart of Monte Albán is the Gran Plaza, the huge, ceremonial center of the city, ringed by the site’s major highlights: Plataforma Sur, the tallest pyramid at the southern end (with the best views of the site); the rectangular platforms of “Monticulo M” and “Sistema IV”, on the western side, Monte Albán’s best-preserved buildings; the gallery and structures known as “Los Danzantes” (the dancers), with blocks carved with images of “dancers” (these are replicas, the originals are in the museum); and Monticulo J, aka the observatory, in the center of the plaza, with more carvings and hieroglyphics. The ruins are open daily 8am to 5pm and cost 80 pesos to visit.
What are the facilities like?
At the main entrance there’s a basic cafeteria, souvenir shop (that sells maps and guides), and toilets (there are also toilets next to the Plataforma Sur in the site itself).
What currency is used in Monte Albán?
The Mexican peso (often pre-fixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of Mexico and used at Monte Albán – businesses will generally not accept US dollars. Bring lots of peso cash for the shops, bus/taxi and cafeteria.
Is Monte Albán safe?
Yes. Monte Albán has avoided the drug violence that has affected other parts of Mexico, and petty crime at the site is very unusual.
Mexico is well-known for its exquisite silver jewelry and intricate designs inspired by a rich indigenous heritage. No trip to Mexico seems complete without acquiring a stunning piece of jewelry to take home. And for every well-established Mexican jewelry designer who has attained international recognition, there are countless emerging designers and craftspeople creating stunning and unique pieces. We took to the streets in Mexico City and perused interesting shops and pop-up markets to compile a selection of the best Mexican jewelry designers to look out for.
10 Best Mexican Jewelry Designers in Mexico City
The brand was born at a crossroads in the designer’s life. She had been out of Mexico for 10 years and living in Portland, Oregon, when she felt the need to return to her country, despite not knowing what she’d do when she got there. On a trip to Mexico City, she found a goldsmith shop with a sign that read, “Learn to make a ring in a day.” The first pieces she made were quickly snapped up by her friends, and that’s when she knew she was onto something. Her pieces are produced in Guadalajara and can be purchased at pop-up markets and select stores in Mexico City, like Happening Store.
Mina de Mar
In Giovanna Silva’s words, the designer behind Mina de Mar, the brand is imbued with romantic marine airs in every detail. Inspired by the beauty of beaches and reefs, she created a collection that fuses elements of the ocean and minerals of the earth. All the pieces are handmade in a workshop in Guadalajara, carefully crafting the details of each piece. Her collection can be found at her online store or at Tráfico Bazar, a monthly pop-up market in Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood – follow them on Instagram for actual dates.
Founded by two sisters (STEL = Esthela and RÖZE = Rocío), the brand’s designs can be described as “wearable art.” Each piece is handmade, with only one to three items per design, and the designers work with different communities throughout the world. Some pieces are designed by the sisters and others are proposed by the communities they collaborate with, but Estela and Rocío always choose the color palettes and the materials that will make their jewelry come alive. Their pieces are currently designed and produced in Mexico, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Milan, and Madrid with high-quality materials to ensure durability. Find their collection online or at pop-up markets in Mexico City.
Beka is created for people who want to express their identity in a fun, authentic, and graceful way. Rebeca González, the industrial designer behind the brand, creates each piece by hand using different artisan techniques, sometimes enlisting the help of as many as three people at her workshop in downtown Mexico City. Her pieces, which she hopes are small treasures in the life of their new owners, can be found online and at pop-up markets like Vanitas Bazar in the Coyoacán neighborhood and Mercado Escondido in Polanco, both in Mexico City.
The brand was born with the intention of filling life with color, joy, and good vibes. When designing her collections, Talía searches for inspiration in various cultures to expose herself to different concepts of beauty. She may design a piece based on a stone she comes across or a pattern she finds on her travels. All her products are unique and handmade, with production lines in Mexico, India, and Turkey. Some of her designs are intervened by the craftsmen who produce them, who she believes are the true experts in the field. Find her pieces online, at the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City, select shops throughout the country, and pop-up markets in Mexico, Texas, and Barcelona. In Mexico City, she frequently has a stall at Tráfico Bazar and Zona Zero.
Her collections are inspired by the multicultural experience she gained from traveling the world. After her fashion design studies in Guadalajara, she headed to Paris for a diploma in haute couture, where she found her muse among architectural treasures and museum relics. Each design is unique and modeled in wax. When producing her pieces in a workshop by her garden, she likes experimenting with new textures and playing with the shapes of stones. Find her designs on Instagram and at pop-up markets in Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Azure’s philosophy is to make pieces for everyone, regardless of gender, because people are as unique and different as the brand’s limited-edition collections. The design team is made up of Cynthia, who leads the way and dictates the lines for the collections, Joyce, who uses her international vision to determine the markets to target, and Carlos, in charge of marketing and production. The pieces are produced at their own workshop with the help of goldsmiths and jewelers that have been working with them for more than 10 years. Azure jewelry can be found online and in shops throughout Mexico, the USA, Germany, and Spain, among other countries, as well as pop-up markets, museums, and international trade shows. For a full list of retailers, consult their website.
A piece by Lili Carrillo is not only interesting on account of its vibrant colors and rich textures but also because it’s committed to fair trade and socially responsible practices. Born in the designer’s native Veracruz, the brand soon made its way to a workshop in Cholula, Puebla, where Lili employs single mothers and pregnant women from the region to make each piece by hand. Part of the proceeds goes towards courses to support the women on topics ranging from nutrition to gender equality. Her pieces can be found online and in Puebla, Veracruz, Chiapas, and Mexico City, as well as in Germany.
The brand’s name means ‘Urban Jewelry’ and its silver collections are inspired by daily life in the city. Ariadna, Juliana, and Rodolfo are the design team behind the brand and they aim to create fun, lightweight pieces that accompany the wearer in their day-to-day activities. Their jewelry is produced in Mexico using .925 silver and 100% Mexican materials, and they combine the highest technology with traditional goldsmith practices. They have points of sale at different shopping malls in Mexico City, participate regularly in pop-up markets, and have an online presence.
The brand’s philosophy is to materialize dreams into jewels, reinterpreting everything that makes us happy and turning it into pieces boasting authentic design, quality, and social conscience. All the pieces are designed and handmade by goldsmith and jeweler Patricia Zermeño at her workshop in Puebla. The brand participates regularly at the pop-up markets Tráfico Bazar and Mercado Escondido in Mexico City and has pieces at Casa Salt, a store that sells items by emerging Mexican designers exclusively. Check out Malintzi’s latest collection online.
Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes some of the world’s tallest pyramids, one of the most spectacular archeological sites in Mexico, and also one of the most easily accessible.
Visiting Teotihuacan – Tips & Info
The ruins are open daily 9am to 5pm and cost 80 pesos to visit.
There are five entry gates (“puertas”), but buses (and most visitors) aim for Puerta 1 or 2.
Aim to arrive at Teotihuacan just before opening time at 9am – this is by far the busiest Mesoamerican site in Mexico, so it pays to get an early start
Allow around at least half a day to visit the ruins – aim to eat lunch here if possible.
Hire an official guide (once inside the entrance), or obtain a comprehensive written guide before touring the site, as there are very few signs in English.
Guides charge around 850 pesos for a 1 to 2 hours and 1500 pesos for a 2 to 3 hours. Non-Spanish speakers should make sure the guide’s English is good before paying.
Local vendors sell snacks, drinks and handicrafts outside and inside the site – bring peso cash for these.
Note that it is permitted to leave the site for lunch and re-enter with your original ticket (see below for eating suggestions).
You can climb the Teotihuacan pyramids (only halfway up the Pyramid of the Moon), but numbers are restricted and lines form for the Pyramid of the Sun soon after opening at 9am. It’s a short but energetic hike to the top, aided by support ropes, but visitors with mobility or fitness issues may have problems..
The main attractions at Teotihuacan are the monumental pyramids along the 2 km “Calzada de los Muertos”, the Causeway of the Dead. The Pyramid of the Sun (“Pirámide del Sol”) is a gargantuan, 70-meter high structure with sensational views of the whole site from the top. The similar Pyramid of the Moon (“Pirámide de la Luna”) at the end of the Calzada de los Muertos is slightly smaller but provides the best overview of the site’s overall layout (though it’s only possible to climb as far as the platform half way up).
Other highlights include the Palacio de Quetzalpapálotl, an artfully restored palace with finely carved pillars and original frescoes. Opposite Gate 1 (Puerta 1) is La Ciudadela, a huge sunken square, surrounded by stepped platforms, once serving as the city’s administrative heart. The main attraction here is the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, with its four steps featuring ornate bas-relief sculptures.
Be sure to also visit the two site museums, the Teotihuacan Culture Museum (“Museo de la Cultura Teotihuacana” at Puerta 5) and the Museum of Teotihuacan Murals (the “Museo de Murales Teotihuacanos” at Puerta 3A), crammed with precious artifacts discovered at Teotihuacan, from obsidian tools and ornately decorated ceramics, to burials recovered from under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. The “Ex-Museo” near Puerta 1 is reserved for temporary exhibitions featuring the latest finds at Teotihuacan.
Frequently Asked Questions about Teotihuacan
Where is Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city in central Mexico, located in the federal State of Mexico, in-between the modern towns of San Juan Teotihuacán and San Martín de las Pirámides. It lies some 50 km northeast of central Mexico City.
How big is Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan covers around 20 square kilometers (8 square miles), though satellite communities are thought to have existed far beyond these boundaries (up to 30 square kilometers). The main tourist site today covers around 2.6 square kilometers (652 acres). At its peak 100,000 to 200,000 people may have lived here. Today around 47,000 people live in the adjacent community of San Juan Teotihuacán.
What is the history of Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan was one of the largest and oldest Mesoamerican cities, with early communities forming here around 600 BC. The city proper was established during the “Teotihuacan I” phase (200 BC to 1 BC), while the city grew to be the biggest in the Americas in “Teotihuacan II” (1–350 AD). The famous Pyramids of the Sun and Moon were completed in this period. The city reached its peak during “Teotihuacan III” (350–650), when it became the predominant power of ancient Mexico, conquering rivals as far as Copán in modern-day Honduras. “Teotihuacan IV” marks the decline of the city between 650 and 750. The reasons for this are still debated, ranging from internal unrest (civil war), to ecological collapse (droughts). Small communities remained among the ruins however, and during the heyday of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century Teotihuacan was a sacred place of pilgrimage, the place where the sun was born. Major excavations and research began in 1905, and the city became one of the first Mesoamerican sites to be developed for tourism. Discoveries are still being made – excavation of a tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent began in 2010 and took several years.
How do I get to Teotihuacan?
Most tourists visit Teotihuacan on day-trips from Mexico City. Taking an organized tour (with transport by bus included, from around 900 pesos) is the most convenient option and is easy to arrange at hotels in the city, but it’s also relatively straightforward to visit independently – a far cheaper option, and allowing more flexibility. Buses depart Mexico City’s Terminal del Norte (“Autobuses del Norte” metro stop, Line 5), every 20 minutes or so through the day to Teotihuacan via Autobuses Teotihuacan (www.autobusesteotihuacan.com.mx). It takes around 1 hour and costs around 110 pesos return. It’s usually a little faster to take the Metro to the Indios Verdes station (line 3) and take a bus to “Las Pirámides”.
Regular taxis in Mexico City are likely to charge well over 1000 pesos for the trip to Teotihuacan – take an Uber or the bus.
Amigo Tours is a recommended operator for guided tours of Teotihuacan – they offer early access tours which arrive before most of the other tour groups (amigotours.com.mx/mexico-city/sunrise-tour).
What about Uber?
Uber is available in Mexico City – one-way rides to Teotihuacan from the Zócalo in the center of Mexico City cost around 490 pesos.
Can I drive to Teotihuacan?
It’s relatively straightforward to drive to Mexico City from the US (it’s 590 miles/950 kilometers from Brownsville, Texas), but this not recommended. The Mexican border states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas have been affected by drug cartel violence, and the roads in and around Mexico City are heavily congested and confusing to navigate. It’s also possible to rent a car once here and drive to Teotihuacan from Mexico City, but it’s much easier to take a bus or a guided tour, especially for first-time visitors.
Do I need a car in Teotihuacan?
No. The site itself is pedestrian only and small enough to explore on foot.
When is the best time to go to Teotihuacan?
Teotihuacan is a year-round attraction, but the best time to visit is during the dry season, from November to April – nights can be cold, but during the day it’s likely to be sunny and warm (especially March and April). Summers tend to be hotter and rainy. Aim to arrive early to beat the crowds; avoid Sundays and Mexican public holidays altogether, when the site is mobbed with visitors and long lines are common to climb the pyramids.
Where should I stay in Teotihuacan?
Most people visit Teotihuacan on a day-trip from Mexico City. Visit our Best Places to Stay in Mexico City guide for more info. It is possible to stay next to the ruins, which can make it easier to get an early start – our favorite is the Villas Teotihuacan Hotel Spa, within walking distance of Gate 1 (Puerta 1), with basic but adequate rooms and swimming pool.
What are the best things to do in Teotihuacan?
There’s only one reason to come here – the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan (officially “Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacan”).
What are the facilities like?
Tickets are sold at each of the five entrances to the site, though toilets are only available at gates 1,2, 3 and 5. Gate 3 is the only accessible entrance (with ramps and walkways for wheelchairs). An official INAH bookstore at Gate 5 sells maps and guidebooks to the site. Souvenir and handicraft shops cluster around each entrance, and official guides are available for hire at all five gates.
What about food?
It’s worth exiting the site to eat at one of the restaurants just beyond the gates (it’s permitted to re-enter afterwards). Our favorite is La Gruta (200m west of Puerta 5), a fine restaurant charmingly located in an open-sided cave, with traditional dance performances and typical Mexican food. Las Pirámides, the official restaurant at Puerta 1, offers the best views of the pyramids and fairly decent Mexican food, as well as three-course set menus.
What currency is used in Teotihuacan?
The Mexican peso (often pre-fixed with a “$” sign) is the currency of Mexico and used in Teotihuacan – vendors in and around the site will often accept US dollars (albeit at poor exchange rates), though entry to the site itself will be paid in pesos.
Bring lots of peso cash for small purchases like bottled water and snacks.
Is Teotihuacan safe?
Yes. Teotihuacan itself has avoided the drug violence that has affected other parts of Mexico, and is generally free of petty crime.
Pujol • $$$$
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 list named it the best restaurant in Mexico and all of North America. Its creator, Enrique Olvera, is a rockstar in the world of chefs. His signature dishes offer a fancy reinterpretation of traditional Mexican cuisine. Diners can choose between a seven-course tasting menu and a nine-course taco bar in Japanese omakase-style. Bookings should be made well in advance.
Quintonil • $$$$
Quintonil regularly competes with Pujol for the first place as the best restaurant in Mexico and sometimes it beats it. Patrons have the option of ordering à la carte or choosing the ten-course tasting menu. The selection of ingredients by Jorge Vallejo, the chef, depends on the harvests of the season, so the menu changes constantly.
Carmela y Sal • $$$
In the 2019 edition of México Gastronómico, a culinary guide published by Larousse, Gabriela Ruiz was named the best chef in Mexico. The chef was born in Tabasco, a state in the south of the country, and she brings the essence of her childhood cuisine to her restaurant. With a keen ear that makes her a music lover, the chef uses synesthesia to create her dishes and the menu exudes rhythm and cadence. There are also options for vegans and vegetarians.
El Huequito • $$
If there’s a dish that represents Mexico City, it’s undoubtedly the taco al pastor. El Huequito, first opened in 1959, offers a “gourmet” version that arrives at the diner’s table topped with marinated onion, guacamole, and orange sauce, the house’s secret weapon. This veritable hole-in-the-wall (the literal translation for “huequito” is small hole) started out in a space that occupies a mere 11 square feet, but the restaurant now has branches throughout the city.
Páramo • $$
This place has no sign indicating its name, it’s open only in the evenings, and in speakeasy style, has gained popularity through word of mouth. Its menu offers a combination of the owners’ homemade recipes influenced by classic canteen fare. The atmosphere is unbeatable and they organize different events all the time, from social gatherings and pulque tastings to sets by famous DJs.
El Cardenal • $$
This is one of the most representative restaurants of traditional Mexican cuisine. Paying special attention to elaborating raw materials in house, they produce their own tortillas, bread, and chocolate. There are three branches in the historic center, one in the west of the city and one in the south.
Rosetta • $$
Rosetta is located in a beautiful house in the trendy Roma neighborhood. With chef Elena Reygadas at the helm, the restaurant is a local favorite on account of her creations. The menu is à la carte and changes regularly, depending on the products of the season. Rosetta’s bakery is even more popular than the restaurant, so much so that it even has its own premises in the Juárez neighborhood.
La Esquina del Chilaquil • $
Literally translated as “the corner of the chilaquiles,” this is one of the most popular street stalls in the city. The waiting time can last up to 40 minutes, which patrons gladly endure in order to get their hands on a torta de chilaquiles. This is nothing other than bread stuffed with beans and fried tortillas with salsa, cream, and cheese. The combination can seem a bit strange but diners are delighted and visit time and time again. “La Güera” and her relatives serve this delicacy to an eclectic crowd that includes office workers, hipsters, and housewives.
Máximo • $$$
This is one of the most revered restaurants in the city thanks to the creations of its chef, Eduardo García, which vary daily. That’s right, Máximo’s menu is not printed since he cooks something different every day based on seasonal products and whatever the mood strikes. The menu consists of three courses and can be enjoyed from Tuesday to Sunday. Bookings should be made in advance.
Nicos • $$
Homemade Mexican cuisine reaches new levels at this restaurant that has been seducing palates for over six decades. It starts the day by serving breakfast, and delicacies like Filete Nicolasa, beef in a crust of dried chiles with hibiscus sauce, can be found on the menu. July to September is chiles en nogada season in Mexico as that’s when the nuts used for the iconic sauce are harvested, and this restaurant’s take on the dish is a classic. It’s very popular among locals, so it’s recommended to book in advance.
Dulce Patria • $$$$
An unforgettable experience awaits locals and travelers in a dining room decorated in red, Mexico’s “primary color”, and gold to evoke the hues attained by corn. The renowned chef Martha Chapa experiments with the essence of Mexico and crowns her creations with flowers and some of the country’s quintessential ingredients. Her flagship cocktails and aguas frescas —flavored water— deserve a special mention. Like the dishes on the menu, they’re made from traditional ingredients.
Azul Histórico • $$$
Located in the courtyard of a beautiful building in the historic center, this is a restaurant that rescues the traditional flavors of the country and reinvents them through the cuisine of Ricardo Muñoz, known as “the anthropologist of Mexican cuisine”. The menu is à la carte and, in addition, there is a “festival” each month dedicated to a different dish or ingredient. This is a well-known spot among the international crowd, so bookings are essential.
Campobaja • $$
In this corner of Baja California located in Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood, diners can sample the perfect combination of seafood and traditional Mexican antojitos —snacks or hors d’œuvre— such as sopes, quesadillas or tacos. The cuisine is simple but exquisite, with seasonality at the forefront given that the dishes are prepared with the fresh ingredients that chef Ezequiel Hernández receives every day.