Located on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta is a popular vacation and living destination for adults and retirees in the U.S. and Canada. However, Puerto Vallarta is also the ultimate family-friendly destination with many activities for families traveling with kids. With a variety of water sports, museums, and beautiful nature to explore, there are plenty of things to do in Puerto Vallarta with kids.
This post has been sponsored by Visit Puerto Vallarta. However, I live here and all opinions shared are my own and truthful.
13 Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta with Kids
- Stroll the Malecón
- Visit the ChocoMuseo
- Visit the Museo Naval (Naval Museum)
- Take a dip in Rio Cuale
- Take a walk on Isla Rio Cuale
- Visit the Vallarta Zoo
- Visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
- Hike to Palo Maria
- Visit Boca de Tomatlán
- Visit a Waterpark
- Go Ziplining
- Go on a Pirate Ship Cruise
- Visit the Local Malls and Restaurants
Since moving to Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, with my 4-year-old in 2018, we’ve had the opportunity to explore what this sunny, beautiful paradise has to offer for families beyond the all-inclusive resorts and group tours. What we found are numerous indoor and outdoor activities for kids of all ages, most of which are completely free, or pretty close to it!
Below are 13 things to do with kids in family-friendly Puerto Vallarta:
1. Stroll the Malecón
A popular activity of both visitors and locals is to stroll through downtown Puerto Vallarta and walk the Malecón (the boardwalk). Whether it’s to take pictures in front of the many statues that line the oceanfront, watch the Papantla Birdmen glide through the air, do some humpback whale watching, or simply to watch the waves crash ashore, the Malecón is a nice way to let the kids run around, roller skate or go for a bike ride.
At night, the Malecón is a popular place to view Puerto Vallarta’s classic sunsets and see various fireworks shows taking place along the Banderas Bay. Vendors sell children’s toys, cotton candy and candy apples while clowns and other kid-friendly entertainers perform shows in the Los Arcos Amphitheater.
Farther south past the Malecón are more statues, more restaurants, and eventually the Los Muertos Pier and Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Beach). Playa Los Muertos is a very popular beach for local families and children, especially on Sunday afternoons and evenings.
2. Visit the ChocoMuseo
Right off the Malecón is a kid’s dream: a museum all about chocolate. The ChocoMuseo is a must-visit museum that takes visitors through the history of chocolate as well as offers hands-on workshops to learn about and make chocolate. There are several full-length English and Spanish chocolate workshops available. The 45-minute Mini Workshop is perfect for young children.
During the 390-peso Mini Workshop, my son and I learned about the history of chocolate and how it is made. At the end of the lesson, we had the opportunity to mold our own chocolates and take them home. Afterwards we enjoyed browsing through the many chocolate-based products and foods for sale in the museum’s store. On the top level of the museum is an air-conditioned café to have a meal and a cold chocolate smoothie while overlooking the Malecón and ocean.
3. Visit the Museo Naval (Naval Museum)
At the south end of the Malecón is the Naval Historic Museum (Museo Naval). With interactive multimedia presentations and movies in both English and Spanish, ship replicas, and even a nightly jazz band, the naval museum is a fun way for kids to interact and learn a little naval history. In addition to the various real-life ship structures, a favorite among kids is the video game simulation where they can pilot their own ship.
A visit to the Naval Museum is 45 pesos per person general admission, 30 pesos for children over the age of 6, and free for children under the age of 6. (Note: at the time of this writing, one US dollar is equal to 19.72 Mexican pesos. However, this fluctuates quite a bit, so be sure to check this rate while planning your visit.)
4. Take a Dip in Rio Cuale
Located a short walk south of the Malecón, the Rio Cuale bridge connects downtown Puerto Vallarta and Zona Romantica (the Romantic Zone). When a swimming pool isn’t an option, several local families take a trip “under the bridge.” There they set up picnics under the shade and relax while their children play in the sand and swim.
Beautiful trees line the river, providing a cooling shade from the bright Puerto Vallarta sun. The water is calm and shallow, therefore much safer for kids. Since the river opens into the ocean, it’s a great way to get the best of both worlds. It is also a great way to meet local families.
5. Take a Walk on Isla Rio Cuale
On Isla Rio Cuale (Cuale River Island), kids can enjoy taking a leisurely nature and art walk. The island features a flea market with handmade souvenirs toys for purchase, eye-catching artwork, and swaying wooden footbridges to walk across. At the end of the island closest to the Pacific Ocean there’s the Museo Arqueológico del Cuale (Cuale Archaeological Museum). A visit to this small museum of pre-Hispanic ceramics and artifacts will give kids a quick history lesson of Mexico’s indigenous and archaeological history.
6. Visit the Vallarta Zoo
A popular activity for visiting and local kids in Puerto Vallarta is the Vallarta Zoo. Located in Mismaloya (a short 30-minute bus ride away), the zoo offers an unique opportunity to pet and feed the animals. Visitors receive a bag of healthy treats upon entering for feeding the animals along with their 200 peso admission (free for kids under the age of 2). The zoo also offers a restaurant to refuel after a walk through the park.
7. Visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
Another stop among the Mismaloya bus line is the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Often mentioned as one of the best places in Puerto Vallarta to visit, the garden offers several trails for kids to explore and learn about different plant species. A trip to the garden costs 200 pesos per person and is free for kids under the age of 4.
8. Hike to Palo Maria
For the adventurous kids looking for an outdoor adventure, a hike up Palo Maria is right up their alley. Also located in Mismaloya, the 30-minute hike through the jungle ends with a beautiful waterfall. At the bottom is a pool of water for swimming, a perfect way to cool down after the hike up. The waters are shades of turquoise and blue, with exotic fish swimming at the bottom.
For the even more adventurous, the climb can be taken one level higher to the next waterfall. The second waterfall offers an even larger pool for swimming. However, the climb requires scaling a narrow and slippery rock wall. While not confirmed, I’ve been told that there are alternate (albeit more time-consuming) ways to get there.
9. Visit Boca de Tomatlán
The last stop on the Mismaloya bus line, Boca de Tomatlán is a small, rural village south of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a great place to take a day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The cove features calm, clean and shallow waters that are ideal for kids to swim and play. Nearby are small, family-owned restaurants offering seafood and traditional Mexican fare.
There are many families who live in the area and therefore several local children out playing. For 50 pesos, local families rent out kayaks for 30 minutes. Many children take advantage of this opportunity to ride with one another in the Horcones River. Boca de Tomatlán is also where water taxis (or “pangas”) are located to transport passengers to the beaches and towns further south, such as Playa Las Ánimas and Yelapa.
10. Visit a Waterpark
Just 30 minutes north in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit are two water parks where kids can enjoy a fun day. Popular among both tourists and locals, Aquaventuras is a water playground for kids. The park offers water slides, ziplines, lazy rivers, and the opportunity to swim alongside dolphins. Splash Water Park also offers plenty of entertainment for kids including water slides, dolphin shows, ziplines, and an aquarium.
11. Go Ziplining
With lush, beautiful jungle and the Sierra Madre mountains surrounding the Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta is perfect for ziplining. Kids as young as 6 can fly through the air and get their adrenaline pumping. Adventurers 6 years old and older can participate in ziplining tours operated by Canopy River, Los Veranos Canopy Tours, and Indio Adventures, while they’ll have to wait until the age of 8 to participate in tours by Vallarta Adventures.
12. Go on a Pirate Ship Cruise
In Puerto Vallarta, kids can bring a make-believe game of “pirates” to reality with a pirate ship cruise. Setting sail in Marina Vallarta, the pirate ship cruises offer a variety of cruises and times to choose from. Kids will have a blast on an authentic Spanish pirate galleon doing everything from participating in beach and water activities to enjoying an entertaining show with fireworks.
13. Visit the Local Malls and Restaurants
For a change of scenery, it is worth a trip to one of Puerto Vallarta’s four malls/plazas: Galerias, La Isla, Plaza Caracol, and MacroPlaza. There is plenty for kids to do including trampoline parks, arcade rooms, movie theaters, bowling, and more. Galerias has remote control car racing, a merry-go-round, and a train ride. La Isla even has a year-round amusement park great for kids of all ages.
Many restaurants in Puerto Vallarta even come equipped with staffed Kid’s Clubs. The Kid’s Clubs provide a place to play and participate in fun activities while waiting– a win for both kids and adults!
We love Puerto Vallarta and all we’ve experienced here. What would your favorite thing be? Did I miss anything?