You will be excused for not knowing where Nuevo Vallarta is, I had no clue before I moved here. But in the Nuevo Vallarta travel guide I’m going to share everything I know about the place I now call home.
Ok so I’m not going to lie, Nuevo Vallarta is a bit of a strange in-between place. Named the ‘New Vallarta’ almost as an extension for its neighboring city Puerto Vallarta.
But things can get a bit confusing because the two cities are actually in two different Mexican states! Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco, whereas Nuevo Vallarta is in Nayarit.
So why would anyone visit Nuevo Vallarta? What is there to do there? Where are the best places to stay in Nuevo Vallarta? Well, I’m going to answer all of these questions and more in this post.
In this Nuevo Vallarta travel guide in which I’m going to briefly touch on a lot of subjects to give you a well-rounded overview. Where relevant I have linked to blog posts I’ve written that go into much more details about specific subjects. So if you want more information, click on the link to learn more.
Nuevo Vallarta is pretty much just a long ole line of hotels and beach clubs. It’s super chill and the beaches are never busy. But it can also be a little on the pricey side. I recently spent a day at one beach club which cost $500 USD for the day! Almost all of the hotels offer day passes, which normally run from 9-6pm. More often than not though it’s actually not much more expensive to book a night in one of the resorts, that way you get 2 days of beach club and a nice in a nice hotel. I always check booking.com to find the best all-inclusive deals.
This is one of the first activities I did when I arrived in Nuevo Vallarta. The bike tour is only available on a Tuesday, as this is the day the market happens. You will be met at your resort by your guide who will get you set up with a bike before taking the bike path all the way through Nuevo Vallarta to the Tuesday market. Once there you will get an hour to wander around the market before heading to one of the cutest restaurants I’ve been to in this area for a mojito and a fish taco. It’s a super fun and relaxed tour and a fun thing to do on a Tuesday morning.
You can book your tour by clicking here.
There is no surf in Nuevo Vallarta, but there is plenty close by. You have a few options, depending on if you have a car or not, and how far you are willing to travel. The closest beaches to surf are Punta De Mita and La Lancha. If you want to travel by public transport then La Lancha is a little easier as you can just take the bus there and rent a surfboard. You can also take a bus to Punta de Mita, but it’s a little further away. If you don’t mind traveling a bit more than Sayulita is also a good option. Click here to read more about surfing in Sayulita and surrounding areas, including how to get there and recommendations for board rental and surf lessons.
I honestly died and went to heaven on my birthday when I was treated to a spa day at Melange World Spa. It isn’t cheap, but it is oh so worth every $. You can get a whole array of treatments, but if you really want the full experience then you need to book one of the signature themed treatments. I had the Bali experience, which was magical. I honestly came out and floated home. You can learn more about visiting the spa here.
I really love the vibe in Bucerias and it’s very easy to get to by bike from Nuevo Vallarta. You simply take the bike path all the way up and then take the yellow brick path on the right when you get to the end. Follow that path right alone until you arrive in Bucerias. It’s also easy to walk, but biking is more fun! If you don’t have a bike you can rent one from Bahia Bikes by clicking here.
This is a summertime activity. I went once in the winter, never again! Not only was it freezing cold, but the visibility was also awful! From mid April until October are the best months to go scuba diving in Nuevo Vallarta. You can read my in depth guide to scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta and Nayarit here.
Sadly, Nuevo Vallarta lacks a central community area like Puerto Vallarta. So if you want to wander around and enjoy sea views and cute shops, then you should take the short journey to Puerto Vallarta. You can take the public bus, grab an Uber, or rent a car. Get dropped off as close to the Malecon as you can and then walk down to the bridge. When you cross the bridge you will see some steps to your left, walk down them and wander through the market. From here you can either walk back the way you came or turn in and walk back through the streets.
Whale Watching in Nuevo Vallarta runs from December through to March. It’s my favourite time of the year! If you pack some binoculars you can often see them from the shore jumping around which is so cool. But if you want to get up close and personal then you will need to book a whale watching tour. There are so many you can choose from so it really depends on what other activities and level of comfort you want.
From Nuevo Vallarta, Islas Marietas is very accessible. You can book a Islas Marietas tour from Nuevo Vallarta, or make your own way to Punta de Mita and take a tour from there. If the Islas Marietas tour you are booking costs under $100 USD then they are NOT going to be taking you to the secret beach. They will just be taking you around the islands. So if you want to actually visit the secret beach then you need to be very clear about it with the tour guide. The tour does include a short swim to get to the island, and you will be provided with a life jacket and helmet to wear for your safety. Click here to read my full write up of the Islas Marietas tour.
One of my absolute favorite activities haha, tequila tasting with Taste of Sayulita. It’s such a fun concept, basically they come to you in your airbnb or apartment and they do a tequila tasting workshop with food pairings. All of the tequila is artizanal from small tequila producers in Jalisco and the food is delicious! It was a very fun night. And if you are more of a Mezcal drinker then you can also request a Mezcal tasting. Click here to learn more and book.
I did the most wonderful cultural tour in Bucerias recently with Human Connections, and I really can’t recommend it enough. During the tour we went to visit the homes of 3 Nayarit locals: Francisco a ceramist, Rolando a weaver, and Nallely a restaurant owner and amazing chef. It was not only a fun way to spend half a day, but it was also very informative. I learned so much about each of their crafts and was truly inspired by their talents. Trust me, you don’t want to miss doing one of these tours! Click here to book.
Can we all just agree that Mexican food is amazing? OK good. The food in Nuevo Vallarta is especially good, especially if you want to eat a variety of international cuisine. This is due to the fact that most of the restaurants are inside the hotels which can afford to bring in the best chefs.
If you want street food you need to take an uber to the location on the map below. It’s close to where I live in the local side of Nuevo.
If you want restaurants here are my top picks for restaurants in Nuevo Vallarta:
Perfect place to enjoy the sunset while eating delicious food. As it’s up on the roof you really do get a perfect view of the bay. Best for fish lovers.
The place to go for Asian food in Nuevo Vallarta. The menu is a mix of different Asian dishes from sushi to Thai.
Right on the beach in Bucerias, this is one of my favorite no-frills restaurants in the area. It serves a mix of Mexican and seafood dishes and is very reasonably priced.
No sea view at this restaurant, but you do get a beautiful view out over the lake. As I’m sure you can get from the title, this place is all about the seafood. I’ve eaten there a few times and the food is ok, nothing special. In fact, we had to send our food back because it was cold. But the service was very good and they definitely cater to the American/ Canadian market. Basically, it’s a very touristic place, you won’t find many locals in here!
This is more of a fun evening affair where they put on entertainment while you are enjoying your meal. There is always some kind of live music or dancing. S get there early to get a good table and plan to stay late!
Nuevo Vallarta really isn’t a budget travel destination. It’s more of a wine and dine beach club kinda destination. But there are a few ways you can save money. The first would be to rent a car. This way you can get out and about without needing to take taxis or book on tours. Car rentals are pretty reasonable here and can start from around $17 USD per day. Click here to check prices.
Restaurants in Nuevo Vallarta are excellent, and with that quality comes a price tag. So if you really want to save some money then consider renting an apartment and cooking some meals at home rather than eating out the whole time.
It’s Mexico, so you really can wear what you want here. That said, Nuevo Vallarta is full of fancy restaurants and beach clubs, so you might want to dress for the occasion!
Here are a few cute beach club outfits I recently invested in.
For a full packing guide to Mexico click here, I even have a downloadable packing checklist.
I don’t think the words budget and Nuevo Vallarta really go together haha. But I’ve tried to list a good range of some recommended places to stay in Nuevo Vallarta.
I have full in depth Nuevo Vallarta Accommodation guides depending on what kind of accommodation you are looking for. Click the links below to read more.
Getting to Nuevo Vallarta is very easy! Most people fly into Nuevo Vallarta from Puerto Vallarta airport. It’s actually faster to get to Nuevo Vallarta from the airport than it is to get to downtown PV most days as the airport is smack bang in the middle of both. I wrote a detailed guide going through all of your options from getting to the airport to Nuevo Vallarta that you can read here.
Thinking about getting some medical or dental work done while in Nuevo Vallarta?
I actually had my full mouth reconstructed while living in Nuevo Vallarta and it was the best decision I ever made. I loved my new smile so much that I even convinced my Mom to travel down to get her dental implant in Mexico with my dentist.
You can read all about my Mom’s experience here, and learn more about dental implants in Mexico here.
If you are a digital nomad planning to visit Nuevo Vallarta you will be pleasantly surprised that there is fiber optic wifi here, so check it’s installed in your accommodation before booking. There are currently no coworking spaces in Nuevo Vallarta, the best option here is a starbucks inside the shopping centre! For the digital nomad scene you will need to head to either Puerto Vallarta, or Sayulita.
This is really going to depend on what you want to do here! If you want whale watching, then January or February are the best months. If you want to do outdoor activities such as hiking this is also a good time as it’s cooler.
If you want to go scuba diving then May or June are good months as the sea temp and visibility are both good, but it’s not too hot when you are on dry ground.
The only months I’d avoid are August and September, and possibly October as these are the hottest months and also the stomyist. If you visit during these months be sure to pack your umbrella!
Where would we be without the trusty Lonely Planet Mexico book?!? It really is the best all-around guide to Mexico. The only issue I ever have with these books is that often the information can be outdated, but if you want to really explore Mexico, not just the tourist trail version of Mexico then get this book on your Kindle. It’s oftern free if you have a kindle unlimited subscription.
It’s all about the food here in Mexico. Especially in Oaxaca, thought of as the culinary heart of Mexico. This Mexican cookbook is the first true introduction to Oaxacan cuisine by a native family, each dish articulates their story, from Oaxaca to the streets of Los Angeles and beyond.
The book showcases Mexican “soul food” serving up 140 authentic, yet accessible recipes using some of the purest pre-Hispanic and indigenous ingredients available.
As much as I don’t want to perpetuate Mexico’s reputation as a county full of cartels, drugs, and danger. It can’t really be ignored, and I know many people are interested in learning more. So I’ve included Midnight in Mexico on my list of books to read. It’s a true crime book written by a Mexican-American journalist and migration lawyer. It’s about as close to the truth as you can get. Being. journalist here in Mexico is one of the most dangerous arrears you can have. But Corchado is known for never shying away from the truth reporting on government corruption, murders, and the drug cartels of Mexico. In 2007, Corchado received a tip that he could be their next target, he had twenty-four hours to find out if the threat was true…
Are you even alive if you don’t know who Frida Kahlo is? If you are a Friday fan then this is the perfect fictional accompaniment to your Mexican vacation. Especially if you will be visiting Mexico City.
Using several of Frida’s notebooks as inspiration acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this touching fictional account of her life. Through the book, you are taken on a magical ride through this imagined life of Freida
An old, but a goodie! This one is for all of you lovers of romance novels! It’s described as:
“A novel of passion, food, and magic, Like Water For Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.”
Forbidden love, family obligations, and seduction by food… what more could you ask for in a novel!
I must confess, my friend Mexico Cassie wrote this book. That doesn’t mean it’s not a bloody brilliant guide to moving to Mexico, because it is. As someone who moved to Mexico there was so much of this book that resonated with me, even though I moved here myself, without a family.
She goes in to great detail about the visa application process and some other notoriously tricky things like trying to buy a car or find a good school for your kids.
If you are considering a move to Merida, or anywhere in Mexico actually this is a great read!