Choose from 40 Fun Things to Do in Jalisco
The liveliest time to visit the church is December 1 to 12, when crowds celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with street processions, festive food and mariachi music. The festival coincides with the anniversary of the founding of Puerto Vallarta, so locals have even more reason to celebrate.
The inside is even more over-the- top, with five tiers of gilded balconies and a ceiling frescoed with scenes from Dante’s Divine Comedy. A red-and-gold color scheme is augmented with frippery, including a fearsome golden eagle above the stage. The eagle holds a chain in its beak: as legend has it, the theater will stand until the day the golden eagle drops its chain.
The theater was completed in 1866, at the height of Mexico’s great theatrical renaissance. Today the lavishly appointed building is home to classically Guadalajaran institutions, including International Mariachi competitions, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco, the Ballet Folklorico of the University of Guadalajara, and the Guadalajara City Ballet, as well as traveling performances and limited run shows.
The palace was completed in 1790. Father Miguel Hidalgo occupied the building in 1810, during the Mexican War of Independence. A radical priest with a taste for wine and women, Hidalgo crusaded for human rights; it was here in the governor’s palace that he issued his famous proclamation to abolish slavery. Later, during one of Mexico’s numerous small civil wars, Benito Juarez, “Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln,” also occupied the building. When opposing forces entered the city, Juarez was captured outside the palace and very nearly executed. The guns of a firing squad were lined upon him when the novelist Guillermo Prieto jumped forth to shield Juarez. Supposedly he cried “los valientes no asesinan,” (the brave don’t murder) and the soldiers lowered their rifles.
The interior of the Palacio de Gobierno reflects the building’s storied past. The principal stairwell is emblazoned with a dramatic image of Father Miguel Hidalgo, backlit by the fires of revolution. The mural wraps up the stairs, depicting the history and imagined future of Mexico. The paintings are the work of one of the world’s preeminent muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco, and offer a good crash course in Mexican history. A smaller upstairs mural depicts Hidalgo signing the decree to abolish slavery—this mural was Orozco’s last work.
- The Beach of the Dead is ideal for all beachgoers. Families may prefer to be near the pier, where swimming can be better for children.
- Remember to bring sun protection and plenty of water, as the beach offers little shade.
- Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent.
- Wear comfortable shoes for biking and walking.
- The promenade is especially busy during summer nights.
- Free Wi-Fi is available along the boardwalk.
- The local nightlife scene starts up around 10pm.
Located near Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Banderas Bay (Bahía de Banderas) is famous for its 42-mile (68-kilometer) stretch of picturesque coast. Jungle, sandy beaches, and rich aquatic life define this area, which is ideal for watersports and land adventures alike.
Most tours exploring Banderas Bay’s terrestrial and aquatic offerings leave from Puerto Vallarta. Explore the bay’s waters on a snorkeling excursion, some of which also include kayaking and a visit to Marietas Islands National Park. If you’re a certified diver, you can opt for a scuba diving tour to explore undersea tunnels, hidden caves, and reefs brimming with tropical fish. Sailing tours are another option for experiencing the picturesque bay. On land, you can pedal along the coastline on a biking tour, delve into local culture on a taco-tasting tour, or explore the jungle on a day trip to nearby Las Caletas.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Banderas Bay is a must-see for nature and beach lovers.
- Remember to bring sun protection and plenty of water for outdoor excursions.
- Proof of PADI certification is required for certified dives.
- Be careful not to touch or disturb aquatic or terrestrial wildlife.
When to Get There
April through June is the best time to visit Banderas Bay, when rain is scarce and there are fewer tourists. January through March is the best time for whale watching, although the area tends to be crowded during this time.
How to Get There
Part of the Pacific Ocean, Banderas Bay borders Puerto Vallarta and stretches between Punta Mita in the north and Cape Corrientes in the south. Puerto Vallarta is the main jumping-off point for tours and activities in the area. The closest international airport is Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, located roughly three miles (five kilometers) from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
Whale Watching in Banderas Bay
Among the most popular outdoor activities in Banderas Bay, whale watching tours provide an opportunity to see humpback whales, which travel to the bay in early December for mating and calving. Most of these excursions leave from Marina Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta.
Located roughly 50 km south of Guadalajara, Chapala is Mexico’s largest lake: 35 km wide and 120 km long. Chapala is not a swimmer’s paradise: water levels have sunk steadily over the years and the lake is murky and choked with pretty but invasive water hyacinth. Most visitors prefer to explore the lake by boats, which can be chartered at the pier in the town of Chapala. The ruined fortress of Mezcala Island, also known as Presidio, is a must-see.
The three main lake towns, Chapala, Ajijic, and Jocotepec, are all worth a visit. Chapala is a famous writers’ retreat; celebrated visitors include Tennessee Williams and D.H. Lawrence, who immortalized Chapala’s Church of San Francisco in the final pages of his novel, The Plumed Serpent. Ajijic is a haven for retirees and artists; the stone streets are lined with galleries and cafes, and it’s an easy place to get by if your Spanish is limited. Jocotepec is the least touristy of the three towns and features a pretty waterfront park and an old-fashioned plaza, where visitors can dine on authentic regional specialties such as birria, spicy goat or beef stew.
- Keep in mind that most museums located in the Guadalajara Historic Center are closed on Mondays.
- The city’s central plaza area is wheelchair and stroller accessible and is equipped with ramps, and all road crossings have concrete wheelchair ramps.
- San Juan de Dios, a popular three-story covered market with large produce and prepared-food sections, is a must for foodies.
Since 1561, the massive cathedral has weathered eight earthquakes, two of which did serious damage. An 1818 quake demolished the central dome and towers. The distinctive tiled towers you see today date back to1854. The interior is awesome in the original sense of the word; the stained glass windows are reminiscent of Notre Dame, and 11 silver and gold altars were gifts from Spain’s King Fernando VII. But it’s not all just finery --- the cathedral also has its share of macabre relics. Under the great altar you’ll find the crypts of bishops and cardinals, which date back to the sixteenth century. And to the left of the main altar you’ll see the Virgin of Innocence, which contains the bones of a 12-year-old girl who was martyred in the third century, forgotten, and rediscovered in the Vatican catacombs 1400 years later. The bones were shipped to Guadalajara in 1788.
How to Get to Puerto Vallarta
If your ship is mooring at Puerto Vallarta, you’ll dock at the Marina Vallarta Maritime Terminal, 3 miles (5km) north of the city center. Alternatively, your ship might anchor just offshore, in which case a tender will float you ashore. Taxis line up to take you downtown; negotiate the fare (around US$5) before you head off.
One Day in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s number one attraction is the beach, and the full-facility resorts lining the sands. After soaking up the rays, take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade to shop for silver jewelry and ceramics, sculptures and glassware. Soak up the colonial architecture and cobblestone streets on a Small Group City Tour, and if you’re docked for the evening take a sunset cruise across Banderas Bay and dine on the sands by candlelight.
Or spend the day getting up close and personal with dolphins or sea lions, or setting sail for snorkeling and swimming on a day trip to Marietas Islands. Other eco-escapades take you zipping across the rainforest canopy, or cutting trails through the coastal mountains on an ATV adventure.
Puerto Vallarta is a popular cruise port, visited by cruise liners operated by Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess Spanish is the local language, but English is widely spoken and understood in Puerto Vallarta. The local currency is Mexican pesos, and you’ll find it’s cheaper if you use pesos rather than US dollars. There are ATMs throughout Puerto Vallarta.