Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta bay from the air


Five Free Family-Friendly Activities in Mexico's Famous Party Town

Forget about Puerto Vallarta’s seductive reputation as the luxe destination for hip jet-setters. Underneath the style and shimmer lies what has always been there: a family-friendly, traditional Mexican town. And despite the fact that it is one of Mexico’s most enticing tourist hot spots, it can still be affordable. With a little planning, it’s easy to organize a budget vacation in one of the most popular destinations on the Pacific Coast. Here are five free things sure to keep the entire family entertained.

Sundays on the Malecon

Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk is a great place to stroll any day of the week, but Sunday is Family Day and as such is especially lively. Every Sunday beginning at 5 p.m., there is music and salsa/cumbia dancing on the plaza in front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, across the street from the Los Arcos Amphitheatre. At 7 p.m. inside amphitheater, expect to see a variety of performers guaranteed to keep the kids rapt, including clowns, magicians, break-dancers and comedians. It gets very crowded, so make sure to get there early. After the show, stroll along the Malecon and take in the food vendors (the kids will love the hot dogs and elote), and various street performers. Finally, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., fireworks are set off over the water, making for the perfect end to a Sunday in Puerto Vallarta.

Voladores de Papantla

Every evening at 6 p.m., beside the famous seahorse sculpture on the Malecon, catch a free performance of the brave Voladores de Papantla as they spin around a 50-foot pole and perform a spectacular flying ritual. This folkloric show features dancers from Papantla region dressed in brightly colored traditional costumes performing aerial dances. Kids will love watching the voladores climb to the top of the pole, wind ropes around it and then launch themselves head first into the air, spinning and descending toward the ground.

Playa de los Muertos

Let’s be honest—you are here for the beach—and one of the best is Playa de los Muertos, located right in the heart of Puerto Vallarta and popular with locals and tourists alike. This is perfect for family fun as there are no heavy waves, and the water is almost always calm and good for swimming. The pier with an inlet underneath is where the local kids gather to swim. Los Muertos has plenty of restaurants and hotels lining the beach where you can rent loungers and umbrellas, but also free space on the sand, so if you bring your own blankets and/or beach chairs, you are all set. This is the perfect beach for people-watching as you can see locals fishing off the pier or from the beach, boats passing by and tourists parasailing. Another added bonus are the lifeguards, which means you can sit back and relax while enjoying a cold Corona and plate of freshly shucked oysters.

Live Music in the Main Plaza

Every Thursday and Saturday starting at 6 p.m., there is live music in the gazebo at the main plaza (near the central church). Expect to find crowds of people and hear a variety of cumbia, salsa, pop and traditional music. It’s a great place to be at that time of the day and the location usually attracts other street performers and food vendors nearby. Enjoy the music while waiting for Puerto Vallarta’s famously spectacular sunset.

Release Baby Turtles

If your family is in Puerto Vallarta from July to November, then a great free activity is releasing baby turtles. Most of the hotels along the main beach participate in the sea turtle protection program. This means that eggs from the Banderas Bay beaches are collected and incubated, and once the baby sea turtle is born, it is brought back to the beach where your child can release it back to the ocean. This is a heartwarming activity that always draws lots of both locals and tourists. Your child can even name her turtle and then carefully release it in the sand. To participate, just show up to the main beach at sunset and ask any of the hotels where you can join in.