Puerto Vallarta vs. Playa del Carmen

Two of the most famous seaside wonders of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen are worthy of their acquired fame. Whichever you decide between them, you can surely find a slew of draws that will give your Mexican experience that fabled spice.
Puerto Vallarta vs. Playa del Carmen

Table of Contents

Puerto Vallarta is a more authentic coastal city feel with its old town wonders still intact. Playa del Carmen is boho-chic, rustic, and incredibly beautiful. But at any of these destinations, you can surely find an interesting experience and scenery.

Puerto Vallarta

Mexico’s west coast is home to the seaside metropolis of Puerto Vallarta. Initially, the region was made up of a number of peaceful fishing and pearling communities. The city and its surroundings are now famous among tourists as a vacation spot.

One of those places that will stay with you forever is Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta maintains its roots as an actual port town full of history, culture, and the soul of true Mexico. It is a stark contrast to other beach resorts in the nation that were developed for tourists.

What Makes Puerto Vallarta Unique?

Zona Romantica

Experience the very soul and heart of the original Puerto Vallarta by traveling back in time. One of the most aesthetically pleasing areas of the city is the Zona Romantica, which is also the historic section. This quaint area on PV’s south side caters to the city’s more relaxed and unconcerned vacationers. It is reminiscent of a laid-back beach village.

The neighborhood’s streets feature a prismatic display of vibrant architecture. This highlights Puerto Vallarta’s historic appeal. Historic buildings flank cobblestone streets, and each is topped with distinctive red-tile roofs.

These buildings, which are mostly local homes, are adorned with intricate details. They usually have elaborate gardens, plant-filled balconies, and warm-colored roofs. Travelers should be cautious to keep their cameras fully charged.

The neighborhood is home to some of the best dining establishments in the city and top-notch cultural attractions. It also has Playa Los Muertos, the busiest beach in the city. It also has a pier constructed in 2013 with seating for pedestrians and nighttime illumination in a kaleidoscope of colors.

Many former tourists suggested booking your rooms in this neighborhood. If you want to stay somewhere else, this region of PV is bordered to the north by Rio Cuale (River Markets). To the south, by Santa Barbara Street, to the east by Insurgentes Street, and to the west by Playa Los Muertos.

El Malecon

The El Malecon is a bustling coastal walkway in Puerto Vallarta that stretches for more than a mile. From beginning to end, beautiful ocean views await those who follow the trek. Visitors can admire the lovely red-tiled roofs of downtown along the route.

Take in the city’s sculptures, beaches, and live street performances as you stroll past many of the trendiest restaurants. Recent travelers recommend grabbing a bite along the way at one of the street vendors and enjoying the ambiance of the night. They also advise going there at sunset if you can plan your visit well in order to take some amazing pictures.

Additionally, no cars are allowed on the Malecon, so you may wander at your own pace. It’s the ideal location for an early run as well. Along the Malecon, there is always activity at any time of day. The stretch has become a popular gathering place for residents, visitors, and foreign nationals.

The Beaches

With a coastal Yucatan address along the gifted waters of the Riviera Maya, you can expect to find gorgeous beaches in Puerto Vallarta. It boasts all the classic makings of a well-hyped beach. The shores boast crystal clear turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and borders of palm trees. Puerto Vallarta beaches are certainly one of the city’s best draws.

Here are some of the popular options:

Playa Los Muertos

You may reach the famed Playa de Los Muertos by taking a quick stroll from Zona Romantica in the direction of the shore. It stands to reason that it is Puerto Vallarta’s most well-known beach. As you soak up the warm Mexican sun, the smooth, golden sand invites you and provides a comfortable place to chill and lounge.

Playa de Los Muertos is widely regarded as a pleasant area with plenty of space and a fantastic location for people-watching. Playa de Los Muertos has a variety of top-notch restaurants and bars as well as options for Jet Skiing, windsurfing, and even parasailing. Try some of the less expensive land activities like beach volleyball.

Playa Palmares

For its spotless sand and crystal clear water, this beach is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Playa Palmares, which lies three miles (4.8 kilometers) south of the Romantic Zone, is Blue Flag–certified. This means that it provides a high degree of hygienic conditions, safety, water quality, and accessibility.

You’ll discover that there is no lack of amenities; you can hire umbrellas, tables, and chairs for comfort and sun protection. You can find lifeguards who attentively watch over swimmers. So you can safely enjoy yourself without worrying about getting into trouble.

Restrooms are also nearby if nature calls. For those who want to escape crowds and enjoy swimming without concern, Palmares Beach is the ideal location.

Playa Olas Altas

A calm beach area called Playa Olas Altas or High Waves Beach is located about half a mile north of Playa Los Muertos Pier. The waves can occasionally reach heights of 6.5 feet or 2 meters and beyond, making them powerful enough to be surfed.

The beaches at Olas Altas and Los Muertos are a portion of a long, continuous swath of sand. It stretches between El Pulpito (The Pulpit) to the south and the Cuale River to the north. You can therefore take advantage of all the same amenities and activities that you would at the town’s main beach.

Magic Towns

Puerto Vallarta offers a wealth of activities to keep visitors occupied from start to finish of their vacation. But some tourists choose to get a taste of Mexican life away from the popular tourist spots.

Communities close to Puerto Vallarta can be visited for a day trip. They provide an entirely different type of vacation experience. Especially for people seeking a more conventional vacation.

Several towns in Mexico that had preserved their cultural heritage and charm were awarded a designation. A moniker called “Magic Town” or “Pueblos Magico”. It was given just a few years ago by Mexico’s secretary of tourism. These quaint yet quirky towns are considered to be the best representations of historical, genuine Mexico.

Here are three that sit close to Puerto Vallarta:

Sebastian del Oeste

The colonial era of Mexico’s mining boom is responsible for San Sebastian’s historical development. With churches, ranches, and even ancient mines still standing, visiting this area is like taking a trip back in time to the heyday of mining.

The town’s entire landscape and the setting provide a wild contrast to the coastal appeal of Puerto Vallarta. The highland town offers a completely different experience because it is engulfed in thick forests and covered in fog.

Talpa de Allende

The cobblestone streets and buildings in this cute and eccentric village are all different colors. Visit the central church to see the brilliant purple bougainvilleas in bloom. Many times, pilgrims making their way to the church make a pit stop.


The town of Mascota is tucked away amidst the great pine and oak trees of the Sierra Madres. The Temple Inconcluso de la Preciosa Sangre is the focal point of the town’s fresh, highland atmosphere.

It is a church that is still under construction. Just like Sebastian del Oeste, Mascota also provides a stark difference from the beaches of Puerto Vallarta. Its highland wonder is the perfect day trip away from the crowds of heavy tourism.

Playa del Carmen

Simply told, Playa del Carmen is a paradise. One of Mexico’s most stunning, exciting, colorful, and dynamic locations is this gem in the Mexican Caribbean. Playa del Carmen is a beach resort that packs a punch in terms of entertainment and things to do. It is not like other beach locations where the sole activity is to soak up the sun.

One of the most fashionable communities on the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is home to affluent expats. It also hosts large numbers of tourists from Asia to Europe. Spend your days lounging at upmarket boutiques and enjoying the beach. You can also check out some of the fantastic surrounding dive spots. Dine at elegant establishments after dark and dance in flashy clubs.

What Makes Playa del Carmen Unique?

Quinta Avenida

Playa del Carmen’s main beach runs parallel with Quinta Avenida, a fashionable street – the city’s main artery. The avenue is one of the best places in the city for nightlife and cosmopolitan pleasures.

It is lined with a variety of street performers, restaurants, hotels, hostels, condominiums, and bars.

The pedestrian boulevard is lined with shops and specialty stores. This makes it the ideal location in the Playa for almost every kind of traveler.

It’s simple to spend the whole day strolling along the cobblestone street. It evokes quite an authentic yet romantic feel. Imagine getting a local breakfast specialty or an elaborate acai bowl at one of the numerous health-conscious cafés. You can also travel a block over to take a dip in the water or take in the many street performers who practice their acts after dark.

La Quinta Avenida is unquestionably Playa del Carmen’s top tourist destination.  Be aware that it can get extremely busy throughout the week and on weekends.

Beginning at the confluence of La Quinta Avenue and Avenida Juárez, the avenue travels 4 miles (6.5 km) north to the edge of the Grand Riviera Maya Golf Club.

Although it is free to stroll down the street, consider packing some pesos in case you want to stop for a quick snack or to buy a memento. Each store and restaurant has its own fixed hours of operation.

Rio Secreto

The landmass on which Playa del Carmen and the surrounding areas sit is porous limestone. It contains miles upon miles of cavernous underground passages. Rio Secreto, also known as the Secret River, is a subterranean wonder. It is well suited for intrepid explorers and is frequently praised as one of the best-hidden secrets on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The longest underground river in Quintana Roo is connected to a network of semi-submerged caves called Rio Secreto. With its vivid turquoise waters, this unusual cenote draws swimmers and snorkelers, and it’s big enough to feel like you have the spot to yourself. You will undoubtedly see thousands of stalactites and stalagmites above you while you swim in the 600-meter-long river (656 yds).

Rio Secreto is reachable from Playa del Carmen in 20 minutes by car. It is situated about 6 kilometers (3.7 mi) southwest of Playa del Carmen. Transportation is included in some packages.

You can get there on your own or as part of a guided excursion. Rio Secreto is open from 8 AM to 3 PM every day. Tours are offered both through other tour operators and directly through the attraction’s website.

Playa del Carmen Beach

The lengthy Playa del Carmen Beach is divided into portions by the town’s numerous beach clubs and resorts. The Playa del Carmen Arch, which serves as a landmark for Parque Fundadores, is situated in front of the area’s widest beach.

La Quinta Avenida runs alongside the busy street, so you’ll probably pass the beach at Parque Fundadores while wandering there. When you see the enormous arch sculpture that has been created at the beach’s main entrance, you’ll know you’re in the correct location.

Due to its close vicinity to Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue), it is frequently crowded with tourists. The beach is flanked by numerous beach clubs that rent out sun loungers for a few pesos. Additionally, it has a ton of amenities and is situated in a handy area close to the ADO bus terminal and the ferry to Cozumel.

Access to the beach is free, but you’ll have to pay extra to hire a lounge chair or other beach equipment. On top of that, you may try your hand at windsurfing and paddleboarding in the Caribbean Sea. You can also have fun on the volleyball court’s full size.

Xcaret and Xel-Ha

Beaches and natural formations aside, Playa del Carmen also boasts man-made wonders. You can expect to never run out of exciting things to do around the city.

The city features two theme parks that further up the Yucatan’s ante regarding tourism appeal. Xcaret and Xel-Ha are two of the biggest theme parks in Quintana Roo and the entire Yucatan Peninsula.

Xcaret is a sizable outdoor “eco-park” featuring an aviary, a dolphin aquarium, and a turtle sanctuary. It also has a beach ideal for swimming, diving, and snorkeling. It is often compared to a Yucatán-style Disneyland by both experts and tourists.

The park also provides a variety of adventures. You can check out speedboat rides, shark swims, stingray encounters, and dolphin interactions. It even offers scuba tours. Stay the day at Xcaret and take in the evening activities, which include shows highlighting the region’s Mayan history. There are also a few dining establishments in Xcaret.

The inlet and lagoon that make up Xel-Há are a natural aquarium where guests can swim and snorkel. You can even swim with schools of tropical fish, dolphins, and turtles. Throughout your trip, you can partake in several outdoor activities. Biking, zip-lining, and encounters with manatees and stingrays are all on offer.

A wading pool with waterslides and a playground with rope climbing may be found in the Children’s World. Xel-Ha Bay and the Caribbean Sea may be seen in great detail from the 40-meter-tall (131 ft) Scenic Lighthouse, which can be reached for this purpose.

Is Puerto Vallarta or Playa Del Carmen Better?

If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican experience and a ton of activities, Puerto Vallarta is the better option. However, it will still depend on the kind of experience you want to have.

Playa del Carmen on the other hand may not as feel as authentic as Puerto Vallarta. But the Playa has an ancient history and an even better roster of natural attractions. In a way, it can be a bit challenging to decide.


Is Playa Del Carmen Cheaper Than Puerto Vallarta?

Playa del Carmen, with its more touristy scene, is more expensive than Puerto Vallarta. Despite Playa’s rustic appeal, PV is generally more livable and authentic.

Playa Del Carmen vs. Puerto Vallarta Weather

Playa del Carmen has average highs of 87 F compared to PV’s 90 F (30.5 C vs. 32.2 C). The Playa also sees more rain than PV, with a humidity of 84.2%.

Playa Del Carmen vs. Puerto Vallarta Beaches

With long swaths of white-sand beaches, lush vegetation, and the mystical blue of the Caribbean, Playa del Carmen’s beaches are better.

How Far Is Puerto Vallarta From Playa Del Carmen?

Puerto Vallarta is approximately 1,175 miles or 1,891 kilometers from Playa del Carmen, directly.

How Do I Get From Playa Del Carmen to Puerto Vallarta?

You can go to Puerto Vallarta from Playa del Carmen by plane, bus, or car.