Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Mexican Riviera

Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port: Tips, Attractions and Weather

The Puerto Vallarta cruise port is popular with sports fishermen. Credit: Wikimedia
The Puerto Vallarta cruise port is popular with sports fishermen. Credit: Wikimedia

The Puerto Vallarta cruise port is home to a massive resort community along the Mexican Riviera on the western coast of Mexico.

Even though it is hugely popular with resort visitors, it also is one of the three major cruise ports on seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises.

Although the number of visitors increases year by year, the city continues to hold on to its charm and laid back culture.

Cruise ships dock at the Marina Vallarta Maritime Terminal. Passengers who disembark won’t find much in the way of a cruise terminal. They can either get on an excursion bus or hop on a small shuttle that takes them on a short ride to a building with a handful of shops. From there, they often take a taxi, shuttle or excursion bus to the best attractions in the port.

Quick Travel Tips

  • The Malecon and El Centro are the main attractions in the city.
  • Decent beaches lie within walking distance of the pier.
  • February through April has some of the best weather

Where is Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta is about 200 miles south of Mazatlán. It is in the Bay of Banderas, one of the largest bays in the world. The bay is attractive for sports fishing and other types of water recreation for cruise visitors.

Attractions and Shore Excursions

Puerto Vallarta Cruise Port Map

The Malecon is a vibrant beach promenade, stretching the length of downtown Puerto Vallarta. This boardwalk by the beach has live music, dancers, artwork, bars, restaurants and cultural events. Although energetic walkers can reach it from the cruise port, it is better to take a 15-minute taxi or bus to El Centro, which is right by the Malecon.

El Centro, the main part of historic downtown, is filled with colonial architecture and plenty of shopping. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the religious gem of the city. The cathedral is beautiful both inside and outside.

Guided city tours cost about $45 to $65 or more per person depending on their length and amenities. Some of them last up to six hours. They may include lunch and transportation and usually cover the history, culture and architecture of the city.

Humpback whale
Humpback whale sightings are common at Puerto Vallarta. Credit: Pixabay license

Guests can swim with dolphins at Dolphin Discovery and have playtime with these friendly marine animals, guided by animal trainers. The cost ranges from $75 to $190. The address is Carretera Tepic Km 155 Bahía de Banderas 63732 Nuevo Vallarta, Nay.

Catamarans take guests to various areas including Las Marietas, Yelapas and Las Caletas. These are prime areas to see an abundance of stunning sea life. The average cost is $55-$75.

Guests will have to use traverse cables to make their way through the jungle canopy. There are a series of pulleys, ropes and platforms to assist adventurers. The cost is $90-$110.

San Sebastian in the Sierra Madre mountains is a quaint Mexican town with authentic rural life, food, entertainment, culture and cobblestone streets. This six- to seven-hour tour costs about $100 including lunch and transportation. Note that it takes 90 minutes to reach San Sebastian, so nearly half of the trip will involve driving.

Big budget visitors can try sport fishing with costs starting at $400 or more per person. The trip can last four to 10 hours depending on the type of fish and success at finding them.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

Puerto Vallarta beach
Cruise visitors often take advantage of Puerto Vallarta resort beaches.

For beaches that are within walking distance of the port, visit any of the resorts along the Golden Zone hotel district to the south of the cruise docks. They are visible from the ship as it pulls into the port. Playa Los Muertos Beach is upbeat and a place to grab lunch and a cocktail.

Shore excursions to better beaches that include transportation and some amenities will cost about $45 per person. A 25-minute trip to Sabal Playa north of the port is one example. Amenities include a beach chair and umbrella. The total excursion time is four to five hours.

An example of a beach excursion that is more expensive and also has more amenities is a boat trip to Majahuitas Cove and Yelapa Beach. Visitors can hike to a waterfall and natural pool and tour the Yelapa fishing village. The cost is $90 for teens and adults with discounts for children. Amenities in this example include lunch and open bar.

Yet an even more expensive option with more amenities is Las Caletas. Carnival Cruise Lines says that Las Caletas is one of the top four private beaches in the world. This highly rated, six and a half hour shore excursion costs about $140 for adults and teens with discounts for children. The excursion has a wide range of amenities including three beaches, gourmet lunch, open bar, kayaking, animal adventures and other activities. This nature reserve is accessible only by boat.

Prices, amenities and destinations for beach excursions like the ones above are subject to change at any time.

Shopping / Restaurants

Cruise visitors will find a handful of shops and restaurants by the cruise port terminal. Otherwise, El Centro is the place to go. Cruisers who are looking for souvenirs and trinkets will find plenty of shops in the historic district that sell pottery, glassware, jewelry and keepsakes.

The local currency is the peso and is about 20:1 against the U.S. dollar at the time of this writing.

The majority of stores and taxis accept U.S. currency and ATM machines offer dollars and pesos. The symbol for peso is the same as the dollar, $, so visitors need to pay close attention when making purchases.

Transportation / Getting Around

Taxis are abundant in the area and line up by the cruise terminal that is about 100 yards east of the cruise docks. Visitors need to be sure to ask for rates before getting into them.

Most taxi drivers quoted us $6 per person to go from the marina to El Centro and the Malecon.

Buses are cheap in Puerto Vallarta, costing about $0.70 U.S. for a trip into town. We took a bus from the marina to El Centro. It was a bumpy ride that lasted about 15 minutes, but it was cheaper than a taxi. We took a taxi back for $6 per person.

Weather / Best Time to Go

Puerto Vallarta monthly rainfall
Average rainfall by month in Puerto Vallarta. © 2021 Scott S. Bateman

Puerto Vallarta has a subtropical climate with more than 300 sunny days per year. The average high temperature ranges from about 84 degrees Fahrenheit or about 29 Celsius in January to the lows 90s Fahrenheit or low 30s Celsius in the summer.

The dry season season begins in late October and continues through May. It is especially dry from February through April.

The rainy season is from mid June through mid October during the Pacific hurricane season. July through September average more than 12 inches of rain per month, according to the Mexican meteorology service (Comision Nacional Del Agua).

Cruise ships visit Puerto Vallarta most often during late winter and most of spring.