Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido: Your Comparison Guide

Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido

Searching for a cool place for your summer vacation in 2023? Spend a few weeks in Mexico! The country is home to some of the world’s most beautiful coastal towns blessed with palm-fringed beaches. In this article, we will compare two places: Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido.

Both of these seaside towns in Mexico will stick with you forever. They are beautiful, popular with tourists, and offer some of the best beaches on the Mexican coastline. However, Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido are different in so many ways.

Should I visit Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido? It really depends on what you’re after. Hopefully, this travel article will help you decide whether to spend your vacation days in Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: General Vibe

Puerto Vallarta Beach
akiroq via pixabay

With only 45,000 people, Puerto Escondido is much smaller than Puerto Vallarta. This small surf town set on the coast of Oaxaca hasn’t been hit with mass tourism (at least for now). You won’t find sterile resorts and cruise crowds here.

Instead, you’ll encounter juice-wielding yogis and backpackers at this moderately developed and laid-back coastal town in Mexico. Puerto Escondido is popular for its pristine surf beaches, hot springs, ancient culture, and world-class scuba diving.

Puerto Vallarta is a proper city and much larger and more developed than Puerto Escondido. One of the most popular tourist resort cities in Mexico, it’s packed with tourists from all over the world. The beaches are amazing, not in Puerto Vallarta itself, but a short drive away. Expect to find a wide range of tourist attractions, lush mountain jungles, delicious cuisine, and ideal conditions for scuba diving.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Beaches

Puerto Vallarta beach views
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Puerto Vallarta is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. As we mentioned before, you won’t find good beaches in the city itself. Yes, there is the popular Playa Los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta, but it’s usually overcrowded with tourists. Instead, venture outside the city gates and go to the south where you will find magical places like Playa Las Gemelas and Playa Mismaloya. We also recommend spending a day at Las Caletas, a small beach that can be reached only by boat with a tour company called Vallarta Adventures.

There is no shortage of fabulous beaches in Puerto Escondido. The town’s largest and most developed beach, Playa Zicatela is a sandy beach lined by a string of boutique hotels, shops, boutiques, and restaurants. It’s definitely the most popular beach in this small surf town.

The crescent-shaped beach of Carrizalillo is also not-to-be-missed when spending your vacation days in Puerto Escondido. It’s an ideal place to enjoy sunbathing and swimming without large crowds of tourists. Travelers can also spend a day at Laguna de Manialtepec which is home to a phosphorescence phenomenon. This is one of the few places in the world where you can swim next to glowing organisms (dinoflagellate plankton) in the warm and dark waters.

So, who wins the battle of the beaches, Puerto Vallarta or Puerto Escondido? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are more developed and offer a range of beach facilities. On the other hand, the beaches in Puerto Escondido have more of a local charm, but no facilities at all. We also have to say that Puerto Escondido offers better conditions for surfing!

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Things to do

whale jumping out of water
design516 via pixabay

Both Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido offer a wide range of activities to enjoy. One might think that since Puerto Escondido is much smaller than Puerto Vallarta, there will be fewer activities to enjoy. However, this is not the case.

Have a once in a lifetime experience and go whale watching in Puerto Vallarta. The best time to see humpback whales here is from December to March when these lovely creatures decide to visit Banderas Bay. If you prefer land-based activities, we recommend paying a visit to Sierra Madre Mountains where you can enjoy everything from hiking and horseback riding tours to quad/ATV riding through the jungle.  For panoramic views of Puerto Vallarta, climb up to the Mirador de la Cruz. The observation lookout point is definitely the best place to enjoy stunning views of Puerto Vallarta and the coastline.

Swimming with Bioluminescent plankton is without a doubt the most popular thing to do in Puerto Escondido. You can also go on a fishing tour and fish for red snapper, grouper, or tuna. Adrenaline junkies visiting Puerto Escondido will want to book a tour with the first zip line tour adventure in North America, Los Veranos Canopy. The company offers 14 zip lines, with the largest being 500 feet long! If you wish to practice your surfing skills, the best place to go is La Punta.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Accommodation

Puerto Vallarta Hotel
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From cozy apartments to posh hotels, you will find many different types of accommodation options in Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido.  If you are traveling with kids to Puerto Vallarta, spend a few nights at the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta. There is also the popular Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta, a posh all-inclusive resort with fantastic customer service.

In Puerto Escondido, many tourists choose accommodation near Playa Zicatela. It’s an ideal place for people who wish to stay close to the beach, but also only a short walk from the best bars and restaurants in Puerto Escondido. Budget travelers visiting Puerto Escondido can book accommodation at the well-furnished Casa Daikiri. If you wish to splash out, book a room at Vivo Resorts which is one of the most luxurious properties in the city.

The main difference between accommodations in Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido is that Puerto Vallarta is home to more resorts and hotels. In Puerto Escondido, you will mostly find villas, apartments, and small boutique hotels.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Food and Drinks

Rigoyrbk via pixabay

Since both Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido are located in Mexico, one would think that they have the same cuisine. Puerto Vallarta may have more international restaurants where you can sample dishes from all over the world, but the state of Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido is known to have the most unique Mexican cuisine.

The best way to experience the local cuisine in Puerto Vallarta is by visiting one of the local food markets. Go to Olas Altas Market on Saturday to sample authentic dishes from the region. You can also book one of the food tours with Vallarta food tours and discover the best places to enjoy Mexican cuisine in the city. We should also mention that besides Mezcal and Tequila, the craft beer scene in Puerto Vallarta is on the rise. Visit one of the oldest craft breweries in the city called Los Muertos Brewing.

Foodies in Mexico are crazy about Puerto Escondido. The town has a growing culinary scene that ranges from the hole-in-the-wall fish taco shacks to high-end dining establishments. Book a table at the popular La Juqilena that serves regional delicacies. Seafood lovers can visit Costa Hermosa which offers a fabulous seafood platter paired with breathtaking sunset views.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Attractions

Puerto Vallarta tourist attractions
tekukuno via pixabay

To be honest, Puerto Vallarta is home to more tourist attractions than Puerto Escondido. This comes as no surprise, simply because Puerto Vallarta is a proper city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Mexico.

Spend a day in the old town of Puerto Vallarta to discover attractions like the world-famous Our Lady of Guadalupe church. You can tour the interiors, but also climb the bell towers to enjoy panoramic views of the city center. Culture vultures staying in Puerto Vallarta should stop by Museo del Cuale to see a fabulous collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics and hunting tools. The admission is free of charge! To experience the very heart and soul of Puerto Vallarta, spend a few hours exploring the city’s historic district, Zona Romantica. Here, you will find cobblestone streets and alleys dotted with historic buildings, bars, and restaurants.

The best attractions in Puerto Escondido are actually located outside the town. Go on a day trip to sleepy fishing villages like Mazunte, Puerto Angelito, and Zipolite to learn more about the local culture. There is also the remote village of Chacahua, a prime surf destination on Oaxaca’s coast. Nature lovers can explore the lovely Chacahua National Park which is home to a reptile sanctuary where travelers can see crocodiles.

Puerto Vallarta vs Puerto Escondido: Nightlife

shots of alcohol
rubyrijoano via pixabay

Both Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido boast a vibrant nightlife scene. If you are staying in Puerto Vallarta, make sure to visit the city’s most popular nightclub, Mandala. For best light shows and DJ performances, go to La Santa. 

Tourists who wish to try local craft cocktails should look no further than Almacen. Puerto Vallarta is also a popular destination among the gay population. Mr. Flamingo is one of the liveliest gay bars in the city.

While Puerto Escondido offers a laid-back beach vibe during the day, the town goes absolutely wild once the sun goes down. The nightlife scene centers mostly on Zicatela and La Punta that are packed with beach bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. The palm-thatch palapa bar on Zicatela is a great place to spend the night and enjoy artisan cocktails and live DJ performances. If you wish to dance the night away, dress to the nines and hit the Xcaanda nightclub.

The Verdict

It’s really hard to say! Puerto Vallarta is definitely one of the best resort cities in Mexico with beautiful beaches and a range of attractions. But, Puerto Escondido has a unique charm. It is more laid-back but still comes alive at night.


For more than 11 years, Joe has worked as a freelance travel writer. His writing and explorations have brought him to various locations, including the colonial towns of Mexico, the bustling chowks of Mumbai, and the majestic Southern Alps of New Zealand. When he's not crafting his next epic blog post on the top Greek islands or French ski resorts, he can often be found engaging in his top two hobbies of surfing and hiking.

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