As Puerto Vallarta possesses a more laidback ambiance than other Mexican resort cities, it is a great destination for an exotic family vacation. Most importantly, Puerto Vallarta is both safe and entertaining for children of all ages. Puerto Vallarta offers everything from waterfall horseback rides and snorkeling tours to canopy tours that allow children to swing between the trees of the Mexican jungle. Children of all ages can swim with dolphins at the Sea Life Park or sit back and watch whales during the high season – generally November to March. Even if you want to spend a day relaxing at your resort, better hotels and resorts will offer children's programs featuring unique cultural and educational activities. Come see why Puerto Vallarta is not only a great place for your family to relax; but also offers a unique opportunity to enjoy a city unlike any other.
Of course, no family vacation to Puerto Vallarta would have been complete without a trip to the beach. As the area surrounding the city consists of 26 miles of white sand shorelines, there are plenty of beaches perfect for the little ones. Playa Los Muertos, one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta, features placid waves great for swimming. Even during the high season, you will find plenty of room to spread out in the sun. Also within the Hotel Zone, Playa El Saldo – known as Marina Vallarta – is a wide and well-maintained stretch of sand offering great views of the city and its mountainous setting. Playa Pelicanos is usually quiet, making it a great place for your family to escape the beach crowds while remaining in the heart of the city.
For family fun, visitors to Playa Destiladeres and Playa Bucerias can expect elegant white sand beaches, fresh seafood at charming palapa-shaded cafés and mild waves – perfect for boogie-boarding or learning to surf. If your children are interested in learning to surf, however, the best option might be Punta Mita. Also known as Playa Anclote, Punta Mita has long been celebrated as a great place for beginners to get wet as waves are consistently mild. Additionally, there are a few surfing schools catering to travelers unique to this pleasant beach.
Families can also find plenty to do in Viejo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta's Old Town. Viejo Vallarta is a network of cobblestone streets lined with welcoming inns, independently-owned restaurants and galleries showcasing local arts and crafts. One of the most popular activities in this friendly neighborhood is a stroll down the famous Restaurant Row, located on Basilio Badillo Street. This area features several blocks of restaurants, bars and cafés that can cater to any palette with everything from gourmet European cuisine to rustic local recipes. Many of these restaurants will have dining options for children, much like the Hotel Zone. One of the city's most recognizable landmarks – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe – also rests within the narrow streets of Old Town. The church soars above the neighborhood and has been at the center of local religious and cultural life for nearly 80 years. Constructed over a 12-year period beginning in 1929, the cathedral's open-air theater has been used for events and festivals since its dedication. If you are planning a family vacation to the area, the month of December may be the best time to visit Viejo Vallarta. Your family will be able to enjoy the 12-day Festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe – centered at the grounds of the cathedral – in addition to everything else this authentic Mexican neighborhood has to offer. On Sunday nights in Puerto Vallarta, the downtown seaside boardwalk – known as the Malecon – becomes a family-friendly festival. The crowd, consisting of tourists and local families alike, always enjoys the fun atmosphere and the fireworks display after sunset. The centrally-located Los Arcos Amphitheater is known for free shows, while clowns and street performers provide plenty of free entertainment. Most restaurants along the boardwalk will have children's menus available. But save some room for desert, as tasty trees – everything from cotton candy to crepes and deep fried bananas – are available on the boardwalk.
It must also be stated that under the new restrictions of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, all children now require passports to visit Mexico. Effective January 8, 2007, this change reflects the US Department of Homeland Security's effort to alleviate travel concerns regarding border security. When planning your family vacation to Puerto Vallarta, simply make passports one of the first steps on your list and you will not experience any hassle at all.