Home to the vibrant city of Guadalajara, the birthplace of mariachi music, Jalisco is known for its rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and stunning natural beauty. Enjoy a fascinating blend of old-world charm and modern-day vibrancy. If we inspire you to visit this beautiful corner of Mexico, consider our Tranquil Vibes Jalisco Vacation or perhaps even level things up with a private tour of Jalisco.
The main tourist areas in Jalisco are well known to be very safe tourist destinations, especially Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta’s crime rate is lower than most major cities in the US, including Miami. Puerto Vallarta is very welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community and hosts events and activities in support.
Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city population-wise, so naturally, it has higher crime rates than small beach towns. However, Guadalajara is still a very safe destination. There are many neighborhoods where you can walk around feeling completely safe and carefree. Crime is often in the form of petty theft, so stay aware of your belongings. Do research on the best neighborhoods to stay in and you will have a great trip to the city!
Puerto Vallarta has been visited by international travelers since the 1960s, with its rise in popularity attributed to the Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor affair that occurred in the city. Paparazzi covered the scandal closely and unintendedly showed off how beautiful Puerto Vallarta is. Since then, the city has continued to grow but has retained an old-town charm. From giant all-inclusives to boutique hotels to Airbnbs in the hills, Puerto Vallarta has something for any traveler with any budget. We recommend a visit to Puerto Vallarta to start or end your vacation but to spend most of your time in the smaller beach towns to the north and south that offer more unique experiences.
San Sebastián del Oeste is a historic mining town at 4,800 feet in elevation nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. While only a 90-minute drive away from Puerto Vallarta, San Sebastián del Oeste couldn’t feel more different than the bustling resort town. San Sebastián del Oeste offers peace and solitude. The smell of fresh mountain air and pine trees overwhelm the senses. San Sebastián del Oeste has an authentic town square rich with history. It has diverse local cuisine made with fresh ingredients grown in the nearby mountains. This town opens your eyes to a new side of Mexico travel.
Costa Careyes is definitely off the beaten path- as it is intended to be! The owners of this beachside community like keeping Careyes a best-kept secret and its remote location helps keep it this way. Careyes is a bucket list destination. It is filled with colorful homes that have earned their own designation as Careyes-style architecture. It is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Jalisco and is surrounded by the lush green jungle. The allure of the eccentric vibes in Careyes attracts the rich and famous. It is still an affordable destination and worth the trek! It is 3 hours from Puerto Vallarta International Airport.
You hear the second biggest city in Mexico and imagine a sprawling city with large buildings. But in reality, Guadalajara feels like a town with trees lining the boulevards, car-free Sundays, parks everywhere and generally a more laid-back energy. Colonia Americana is a vibrant neighborhood in the heart of the city and was recently named the Trendiest Neighborhood in the world! Guadalajara has not seen the same rise in tourism as Mexico City, so it still remains very authentic and affordable. Guadalajara is an impressive city that will make you think, should I move here?!
Even if you don’t drink the popular Mexican beverage, you definitely have heard of it. Tequila, Jalisco is located only four hours from Puerto Vallarta and one hour from Guadalajara. Tequila is similar to champagne, in that only liquor made from agave plants grown in the state of Jalisco can be called tequila. This has created years of traditions and history in the town surrounding many of the blue agave fields. In fact, the agave landscape and ancient industrial facilities are a UNESCO world heritage site. This town is steeped in magical Mexican culture and cuisine.
Tlaquepaque, Jalisco is considered a large suburb of Guadalajara, but in reality, this town takes on a whole character of its own. Tlaquepaque is only 20 minutes from central Guadalajara and 30 minutes from the airport. While Guadalarja is keeping up with trendy & modern times, Tlaquepaque is holding onto its authentic and traditional Mexican customs and architecture. This town is well known for the artisans all over Jalisco & Mexico that bring their work here to be showcased. From clay pots, to copper decor, to handmade furniture, to sculptures and beyond, there are magical pieces from Mexican artists all over town.
Go Tequila Tasting in Tequila – It goes without saying but we’re going to say it anyway: you need to visit a tequila distillery when traveling to Jalisco. Even if just to learn about the unique history and traditions surrounding this popular liquor. Join a tour to make the most out of your day!
Whale Watching in the Bay of Banderas – Hundreds of humpback whales migrate to the Bay of Banderas every December-March. You can be lucky enough to spot the whales from the coastline, but it is truly magical to see the whales from the water. Taking a boat cruise to see the majestic whales is a must-do activity!
Visit a boat-access-only town south of Puerto Vallarta – Some of our favorite beaches in Jalisco are only accessible by boat. The towns of Quimixto and Yelapa can be reached from Puerto Vallarta within a 30-minute boat ride, but these beaches are much quieter and more relaxed. You get the feeling of visiting a remote island and a fun boat cruise along the way! Bonus- each town has a waterfall that you can hike to.
Culinary Experience at Jardin Nebulosa – this is a world-class dining destination. They are built on sustainable dining principles and grow all their food. They focus on the unique ingredients found only in this Cloud Forest region and create a modern- Mexican cuisine. Dine at the restaurant or join a tour to explore their farm and Raicilla distillery.
Food Tour in Puerto Vallarta – While staying in Puerto Vallarta, take advantage of the delicious cuisine that is all around! It is difficult to know which taco stands and restaurants are worth a stop so why not join a food tour? You are guaranteed to eat at tasty and unique spots and you’ll have fun and make a few friends along the way.
Hike Cerro de La Bufa – looking to stay active on your vacation and experience epic lookout points? Cerro de La Bufa is a famous hike in San Sebastian del Oeste. Many travelers rent ATVs to drive near the top and then hike the remaining 30 minutes. On a clear day from the lookout, you can see all the way to Puerto Vallarta and the ocean.
Boat Cruise on Lake Chapala – As Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Chapala is a beautiful lake that creates a unique microclimate in the region. Some of the freshest fruits and berries are grown right around the Lake. Rent a boat for a few hours and explore this lake from the water for a relaxing and calming day.
Explore Colonia Americana in Guadalajara – Recently ranked the “Trendiest” Neighborhood in the World, Colonia Americana is full of shops, restaurants, & parks. You could easily spend an afternoon walking through the neighborhood, stopping along the way for shopping and drinks. It gives you a great perspective of day-to-day life in Guadalajara and opens your eyes to the modern side of Mexico.
Learn about Mexico’s History in Guadalajara – Guadalajara is full of museums, and many of them are free to visit! Take some time to explore the museum of your choice, from art to history to natural sciences. You will gain a new appreciation for Mexican history and what makes this country what it is today.
A Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, is a special recognition given by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism (Sectur). This honor is only given to towns that possess certain magical qualities, such as historic characteristics, natural wonders, or authentic traditions and food. The goal is to promote tourism to lesser known towns in Mexico that are filled with charm and unique experiences. Learn more about the magic towns of Jalisco.
The state of Jalisco has 9 Pueblo Magicos, which puts Jalisco in second for states with the most Pueblo Magicos.
Renting cars from Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara is an easy and cost-friendly transportation option. Driving in Mexico can be safe and easy! Always research the best routes ahead of travel and download the maps for areas with limited cell service. This is the best option if you have a travel buddy and want ultimate flexibility to explore.
There are a wide variety of private transportation options from SUVs to Sprinter vans. If you have a group and have limited excursions planned, this can be a great option. Find a company and driver to stick with for the duration of your trip.
Taxis are readily available, even in small towns. Ask for directions to the local taxi stand and you’ll find a line up waiting. This is a good option for a more confident traveler who speaks some Spanish. You’ll want to be able to clearly communicate where you are going and negotiate a fair rate.
Ubers are not allowed at most airports in Mexico, so always take a taxi. Once you are in the larger cities, like Puerto Vallarta or Guadalajara, Ubers are a safe and affordable way to get around.
There are two major airports that provide access to Jalisco. The majority of travelers seeking sun and beach will fly into Puerto Vallarta International Airport. This central airport provides access to Jalisco as well as Riviera Nayarit. Guadalajara is a great option for those wanting to visit the city, Tequila, or Lake Chapala.
Guadalajara International Airport, known as Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Airport (GDL), is located about 20 minutes south of central Guadalajara. It is Mexico’s third busiest airport after Mexico City and Cancun, and it offers a variety of direct flights to GDL. This airport offers year-round routes to major cities in Mexico, the US and other countries in Latin America.
Volaris Airlines operates a hub in Guadalajara, and they offer many direct and affordable routes. However, it doesn’t offer as many “sun destination” flights and airlines, as Puerto Vallarta. If you are interested in the beach, flying direct to Puerto Vallarta and then driving or taking a local flight to Guadalajara is the best option.
As with many destinations in Mexico, flying direct to Mexico and then transferring to a local airline to GDL, can be the most affordable option.
Direct Routes to Guadalajara International Airport (GDL) from the United States
Puerto Vallarta International Airport:
PVR Airport is located on the north side of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco. Major airports across Canada & the US fly direct to PVR, making it an easy trip for most North American travelers. The airport is expanding a second terminal, and new flight routes are being added often. In 2022, there were record travelers flying into Puerto Vallarta, with 6.2 million passengers flying through PVR. Below is a list of direct flights to Puerto Vallarta International Airport. Here are more details on how to get to Puerto Vallarta and beach towns near PVR.