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Wandering through the markets and plazas of Puerto Vallarta as vendors are selling sizzling tacos and homemade trinkets is a truly cultural experience filled with the energy of the city. However, some of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta are off the beaten path, and without crowds of other tourists, you’ll be able to see a whole new side of the city. By visiting different towns near Puerto Vallarta, you’ll get an even richer taste of the local culture, so the next time you need to escape the city, head out on a journey to one of these best places near Puerto Vallarta.

Rio Cuale

When you want to escape the crowds without having to leave the city, the island on the Rio Cuale offers a respite from the heat. Located just off the popular Malecon boardwalk, the Rio Cuale should be on everyone’s list of what to see in Puerto Vallarta, but not many people wander down this way. When you get to the bridge on the Malecon, head down along the river, and as you make your way along the island under the shade of lush palms, you’ll pass by local artisans, gourmet restaurants, and the city’s cultural center. Surrounded by natural beauty, tourists can relax on their vacations without crowds in one of the best places to visit in Puerto Vallarta.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

For nature lovers who want vacations without crowds, one of the best places near Puerto Vallarta is the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, a natural sanctuary with pristine gardens and jungle trails. Begin your visit to the garden by wandering the grounds and visiting the different areas. Then, venture along the trails to see the vanilla plantation and coffee plants. To cool off, jump into the peaceful river for a dip in paradise. When it comes to what to see in Puerto Vallarta, the botanical gardens are filled with wonders. Afterwards, treat yourself to a hearty Mexican lunch at the Hacienda de Oro restaurant.

San Sebastián del Oeste

One of the best places to visit near Puerto Vallarta Mexico is the old mining town of San Sebastian del Oeste. While the mines are no longer operational, the city’s charm and unique experiences still draw tourists away from the ocean and into the mountains to see one of the smaller towns near Puerto Vallarta. Here, artisan shops, local distilleries, delicious restaurants, ATV rides up to viewpoints, and charming cobblestone streets make San Sebastian del Oeste one of the pueblos mágicos, magical towns, near Puerto Vallarta, an official title given to the city by the government. While you can drive yourself there, guided tours with transportation to the city make exploring the mining town a little easier. 

San Pancho

San Pancho, a quiet surfing village, is another one of the best places to visit near Puerto Vallarta Mexico with its beautiful shoreline and laidback energy. San Pancho is just next door to Sayulita, one of the best surfing places to visit in Puerto Vallarta, but since Sayulita has become more popular, San Pancho is the destination for those seeking vacations without crowds. As you walk to the beach, you’ll pass local galleries and boutique clothing stores where you can pick up handcrafted leather goods or locally screenprint t-shirts. At the beach, you’ll find one of the best places near Puerto Vallarta to surf where you can rent a board or take a surfing class, but you can also just splash in the waves or layout on the beach. After swimming for a while, fill up with some fresh fish tacos and a cold beer as you bury your toes in the sand.

These places to visit near Puerto Vallarta Mexico each offer something unique, like botanical gardens, surfing classes, or local markets. As you explore these destinations, you’ll find more of what to see in Puerto Vallarta than you ever would if you stayed in the downtown area, so the next time you visit Puerto Vallarta, don’t be afraid to venture somewhere new.

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