Top 5 Best Free Things to-do In Puerto Vallarta (part 2)

Top 5 Free Things to-do In Puerto Vallarta Part 2

  1. Hiking Around Puerto Vallarta

For this list I made sure to only include hikes that are easy to intermediate, nothing to strenuous or outlandish so most people can try each of these hikes out.

a) Palo Maria

Get ready for an epic hike that’s the talk of the town – seriously, it’s a must, especially when the weather’s cooled down a bit after the rainy season. The trail is short, just around 20 minutes, but it’s a blast, taking you over boulders and through streams (yep, your shoes might get a little wet, so wear the grippy ones, not flip flops).

Start your adventure right off the main road near Garza Blanca in the Conchas Chinas area – super easy to get to from downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Once you hit the waterfall, it’s like nature’s reward ceremony. The water is clear as day, a bit chillier than the ocean, and guess what? You can swim with the local fish! Feeling brave? There are spots deep enough to jump off the rocks, but hold up – you’ll need a rope to get back up the wet, rocky slope.

Now, here’s the deal – no facilities at the waterfall, so pack your water, sunscreen, and a picnic. And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, there are more waterfalls waiting if you trek up the left side of the cliff face – just be cautious, okay? It’s all about embracing the thrill and making your own wild discoveries! ?? #EpicHike #VallartaAdventures #NatureThrills

Directions: Palo Maria

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Palo Maria First Waterfall

b) Nogalito

Important notice: **This hike is only suitable for dry conditions. During rainy season this place is inaccessible** 

This is a wonderful hike with a spectacular final destination. But first the slightly tricky part will be finding the hike. 

To locate the starting point of the hike, keep your eyes open while driving towards Mismaloya – it will be on the left side before you reach Mismaloya and right across the street from Playa Punta Negra. Google map”El Nogalito” to be directed to the restaurant. Once you make the turn off of the main highway road, the dirt road  is really only accessible with an SUV with clearance, so taking a small car is not advisable. 

Once you park your car in the parking lot, head up the inclined driveway towards the restaurant. You can eat and drink here before or after your hike – whatever your heart/stomach desires. As you navigate the restaurant grounds, a path will guide you towards the hike itself. The journey spans approximately 1-2 hours, contingent on your pace, and winds through rocky terrain. Along the way, you’ll encounter a petite freshwater pool. 

However, the true spectacle awaits just beyond this modest oasis—a breathtaking waterfall. To enhance your experience, we often bring hammocks and snacks to relax by the pool’s side and savor the cool, invigorating waters. Though the water may be notably brisk, it’s always exceptionally refreshing after your hike. The opening of the rock once you reach the waterfall itself is a wondrous sight to behold. Nature never disappoints! ??? #Mismaloya #Vallartahike #Mexicohike

Directions: Nogalito

nogalito hikeNogalito


c) Monkey Mountain

Explore the renowned Monkey Mountain, locally known as “Cerro del Mono,” a sought-after hiking spot near Punta de Mita, Nayarit. This trail promises a picturesque journey through vibrant tropical jungle terrain and rewards hikers with a breathtaking 360-degree view from the summit. Conveniently located about 10 minutes by car from Punta de Mita or a 20-minute drive south from Sayulita, it caters to all adventure enthusiasts.

Trail Challenge: The hike presents varying difficulty levels, with some moderately challenging sections. It’s ideal for those with a moderate fitness level and some hiking experience, featuring steep segments and uneven terrain.

Time Commitment: Plan for a 2 to 3-hour trek to reach the summit, depending on your pace and break preferences. The return journey is typically quicker.

Scenic Splendor: As you ascend, immerse yourself in the lush jungle surroundings, benefitting from shaded trail sections for sun relief. For an optimal experience, kickstart your hike early to avoid crowds and intense midday sun, especially before 10 am.

Best Timing: Busy periods, like Christmas and Semana Santa in April, attract more hikers, so consider exploring Monkey Mountain on mid-week days for a more tranquil outing.

Natural Beauty: The trail is adorned with rich greenery and tropical flora, enhancing the overall beauty of the expedition. Arm yourself with mosquito repellent and stay vigilant for scorpions to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.

Also sadly, there’s no actually monkeys on this hike – it’s simply a name. ?? #Monkeymountain #Puntademita #hikingvallarta

Directions: Monkey Mountain

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Incredible view of Punta Mita from the top of Monkey Mountain

2. Visiting Puerto Vallarta’s Cathedrals

a) Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe)

One of the most remarkable landmarks in Puerto Vallarta is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Towering as the tallest in the city, it captures attention nestled in downtown, particularly dazzling at night with its illuminated grandeur. Recognized for its distinctive crown design, the cathedral stands as an architectural beacon.

Constructed in the early 20th century and completed in 1951, the Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of Mexico. It serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Puerto Vallarta and hosts the famous “Noche de Reyes” every January 5th, drawing thousands for carol singing and the blessing of the Three Wise Men.

Open daily to the public, the Cathedral is a must-visit for tourists, showcasing not only architectural beauty but also deep historical and cultural significance.

Directions: Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Catedral Guadalupe

b) Iglesia Bíblica Cristiana

Other noteworthy cathedrals include Iglesia Bíblica Cristiana in Cinco de Diciembre, walking distance from Our Lady of Guadalupe. This used to be the tallest building in all of Vallarta for many years, and holds a significant place in the hearts of those born and raised in Puerto Vallarta. However since the completion of Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this church has taken a backseat. Despite this fact, it’s still a beautiful church in a wonderful location just before the start of the Malecon.

Directions: Iglesia Bíblica Cristiana

22 puerto vallarta oldest cathedralb
Vallartas oldest cathedral

c) Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel, situated in Pitillal (Puerto Vallarta’s largest neighborhood), is a traditional Mexican church with a mix of architectural styles. It houses a small museum, offering insights into the history and culture of Pitillal.

Venturing beyond the well-known south and west side of Highway 200 reveals the authentic side of Puerto Vallarta. The north and east side, where locals reside, including Pitillal, provides a unique and genuine city experience away from tourist hubs.

Explore the vibrant community of Pitillal with a visit to Parroquia de San Miguel, showcasing the area’s rich history and culture.

Directions: Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

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d) Iglesia de la Santa Cruz

In the romantic zone, you’ll find Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, a lesser-known gem but a regularly used church worth discovering during an old town tour.

These are just a few of the noteworthy churches and cathedrals scattered across the city, each playing a significant role in the local infrastructure and history of Puerto Vallarta, embraced and frequented by residents in their daily lives. If you’re staying in Zona Romantica, look for the yellow colored exterior of this church. Here you can walk in and participate in service/mass if you’d like – and if you’re feeling churros, the churro man sets up his station right outside Iglesia de la Santa Cruz.

Directions: Iglesia de la Santa Cruz

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
You can spot this church in the Romantic Zone

3. Puerto Vallarta Outdoor Markets

a) Marina Vallarta Market

Discover the bustling charm of this highly popular market that truly comes to life during the high season (November-April). Local vendors converge, creating a vibrant tapestry of offerings catering to both tourists and locals. From diverse foods and crafts to cigars and textiles, the market boasts something for everyone. Entrance is free, making it an ideal spot for leisurely exploration. While there’s no admission fee, bring some pesos if you’re tempted by the enticing array of foods and goods available for purchase. Take a leisurely stroll around the marina, admiring the luxury yachts, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere. This weekly market extravaganza unfolds every Thursday evening.

10 Best Tacos in Puerto Vallarta You Must Try
Fresh tacos being made

b) Nuevo Marina Market

Thriving year after year, the Nuevo Market has solidified its popularity. This morning market, held every Tuesday, transforms the parking lots of Joya Hospital near the Nuevo Marina into a vibrant hub of flavors. Indulge in a diverse culinary experience featuring Thai curries, Indian delicacies, local Mexican tacos, freshly brewed coffee, and an array of delights waiting to be explored.

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Large parking lot gives Nuevo Market lots of open space for comfort

c) La Cruz Marina Market

Continuously expanding year by year, the market at La Cruz Marina, held on Sunday mornings, invites you to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Explore the diverse offerings from various vendors, each showcasing their unique homemade art, local clothing, and souvenirs. It’s the perfect spot to discover distinctive treasures for a memorable takeaway.

La Cruz Marina Market
La Cruz market

d) Zona Romantica Market

Got a free Saturday morning with no plans? Head down to the market in the Romantic Zone in downtown Puerto Vallarta for a laid-back and enjoyable hour or more. While not as expansive as the mentioned markets, it offers excellent variety and a plethora of small goods for purchase. No entry fee means you can leisurely browse diverse vendor stalls without any pressure to make a purchase. It’s a relaxed and delightful way to spend your morning.

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Live band at La Cruz Sunday morning market

4. Puerto Vallarta Art Gallery Walk

Immerse yourself in one of the top free activities in Puerto Vallarta – a delightful exploration of art in the heart of the city. While it won’t cost you a penny to stroll through the vibrant art studios and galleries in Centro near the Malecón, the experience is priceless. Discover the unexpected wealth of talent among local and Mexican artists who now call Vallarta home.

Explore a diverse array of artistic expressions at the art walk, where paintings, sculptures, fine ceramics, and jewelry take center stage. This event is crafted to create a delightful atmosphere, inviting art collectors, patrons, local residents, and curious visitors to uncover the incredible variety and exceptional quality of art in this vibrant space.

Puerto Vallarta Art Gallery Walk

Whether you’re drawn to paintings, towering sculptures, or the intricate bead art crafted by the native people of Jalisco/Nayarit (the Huichol), there’s a captivating variety catering to every artistic palate. Even if art isn’t your usual pastime, taking a leisurely evening walk through these creative spaces after an early dinner adds a touch of charm to your time in Vallarta. While purchasing an art piece is an option for enthusiasts, the sheer pleasure of exploring this artistic enclave comes at no cost, making it a wonderful way to spend a memorable evening in the heart of Puerto Vallarta.

This is a weekly event taking place every Wednesday during high season from 6-10pm.

Location of the Galleries

Top 5 Best Free Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta (part 2)
Inside one of the local galleries

5. Turtle Hatching/Egg Laying

Experience another extraordinary phenomenon that unfolds across the Bay of Banderas, providing a fascinating spectacle. Depending on the time of year, you might witness a mother turtle meticulously digging a sizable hole to lay her eggs or observe the remarkable moment when her hatchlings emerge from their small eggs, embarking on their maiden journey to the ocean. In either scenario, it’s a marvel and a captivating showcase of nature’s flawless beauty.

Puerto Vallarta is known for the presence of Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). These turtles are the most common species that nest along the Pacific coast of Mexico, including the beaches near Puerto Vallarta.

Female Olive Ridley sea turtles typically lay around 100 to 150 eggs in a single nest. The nesting season for Olive Ridley turtles often peaks during the months of June to December, with the highest activity occurring in the summer months. The exact number of eggs can vary, and nests may be laid in clusters along the sandy beaches where the turtles choose to nest.

17 baby sea turtle on beach
Newly hatched turtle attempts to crawl through the sand to get to the water


Witnessing the hatching of turtles is an extraordinary and exhilarating wildlife experience, accessible at various locations around the bay. In Puerto Vallarta, sea turtles typically lay their eggs and undergo the hatching process during specific times of the year, varying by species. Here’s a general overview:

  • Olive Ridley Turtles: Nesting primarily occurs from June to December, peaking from July to November. Hatching usually takes place around 45-55 days after egg laying.
  • Leatherback Turtles: Eggs are laid from November to February, with hatching occurring approximately 60-70 days later.
  • Loggerhead Turtles: Nesting takes place from April to September, with the peak in June and July. Hatchlings emerge around 50-70 days after nesting.

Turtles select sandy beaches for egg laying, and after an incubation period, the eggs hatch, giving rise to baby turtles embarking on their journey to the sea. Coastal beaches in the region offer enchanting sights of dozens or even thousands of baby turtles hatching and making their way to the water, the abundance depending on the time of year and specific location of the hatchery.

Conversely, the captivating egg-laying process involves mothers breaching the water, meticulously digging a hole (a process taking about an hour), laying the eggs (known as a clutch), and delicately covering the hole with sand once again. This entire process is always a remarkable spectacle! To witness the hatching, inquire about potential hatcheries near your stay; there could be one nestled along the nearby beach.

17 huge green turtle heading back to ocean
Huge green mother turtle heading back to ocean after laying her eggs

In concluding our exploration of the top five free activities in Puerto Vallarta, we’ve merely scratched the surface of what this vibrant destination has to offer. From the enchanting Malecón to the lively art walks and the mesmerizing turtle nesting and hatching experiences, Puerto Vallarta proves to be a treasure trove of diverse and immersive experiences that won’t cost you a peso.

As you venture beyond these highlights, you’ll uncover a city rich in culture, natural wonders, and countless hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So, whether you’re strolling along the iconic boardwalk, witnessing the marvel of nature, or immersing yourself in the local art scene, remember that the best things in Vallarta often come free, inviting you to delve deeper into the heart and soul of this captivating destination.

Let these moments be just the beginning of your Puerto Vallarta adventure, leaving you eager to explore the countless wonders that await around every corner.

For all your chartering experiences in Puerto Vallarta, contact us for more information anytime at https://palmaracharters.com/contact-us/

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