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Top 10 Reasons To Visit Puerto Vallarta In December

Banderas Bay from Conchas Chinas

Visiting Puerto Vallarta in December may be the best time to enjoy this west coast city. With average daytime temperatures of 81°F and comfortable evenings, you can enjoy activities both day and night.

The chances of rainy days are low, making it ideal to head out to the Sierra Madre Mountains or take a Pacific Ocean excursion. 

While December is high season and may attract crowds, you can enjoy the Christmas spirit blended with Mexican culture. You’ll enjoy many hours of sunshine if you arrive as part of a Mexico Riviera cruise itinerary.

If you need more convincing, here are ten reasons to take a December vacation to Puerto Vallarta.

1. Virgin of Guadalupe Festival

The Virgin of Guadalupe Festival in Puerto Vallarta honors the Virgin Mary’s appearance to Saint Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531. This significant event in Mexican Catholicism is celebrated from December 1st to 12th annually, coinciding with the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. 

Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, Puerto Vallarta
Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The festival, which originated in the early 20th century, blends indigenous and Spanish traditions. It’s a vibrant display of faith and culture. Streets come alive with parades, traditional music, and dance. 

Locals and visitors join in processions towards the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the festival’s focal point in the El Centro district. Participants often carry candles and images of the Virgin. Street vendors sell traditional foods and crafts, adding to the festive atmosphere. 

The festival culminates in a special mass on December 12th, attended by thousands. It’s a time of unity, celebration, and spiritual reflection, deeply rooted in local traditions and beliefs.

So, if you want to witness this cultural festival, visit Puerto Vallarta between December 1st and 12th, and stay in the  El Centro area.

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2. Whale Watching

December provides the optimal month to enjoy whale watching in Puerto Vallarta. Humpback whales are the main attraction, known for their acrobatic displays. 

After their long migration from Alaska, they migrate to the warm waters of Banderas Bay around mid-December. This period marks the start of their breeding season, and the bay’s calm waters provide ideal conditions for spotting these giants. 

You can witness these majestic creatures breaching and slapping their tails as we did. Since they don’t feed in Mexican waters, they spend their time playing at the surface.

While you can choose between a fast-moving zodiac or a larger catamaran, we chose the larger vessel so we could move around. The stability of the catamaran gave us better photography options, too.

Humpback whales and dolphins in the Bay of Banderas
Humpback whales in the Bay of Banderas

Other marine life, like dolphins, may also be seen. The best time for sightings is early morning when the sea is tranquil. The epic whale-watching experience contributes significantly to Puerto Vallarta’s appeal in the winter months.

If you choose to make a day trip to Marietas Islands, your excursion will also include whale sightings.

3. Great Surfing

Winter, especially December, is the perfect time for surfing in Puerto Vallarta, Banderas Bay, and Riviera Nayarit. During the winter, the North Pacific swells arrive. The warm water and the waves are consistent, offering an excellent experience for beginners and advanced surfers. 

Beginners should head to beaches like Playa Las Palmas, known for its gentle waves and surf schools. More experienced surfers can enjoy challenging waves at spots like Punta Mita and Sayulita. These areas offer bigger and more powerful waves, perfect for skilled surfers seeking excitement. 

The diverse surf conditions make Puerto Vallarta a superb surfing destination in December, regardless of your skill level.

4. Sea Turtle Release

Sea turtle release
Sea turtle release

You can take part in a sea turtle release by visiting Puerto Vallarta in December. Sea turtle hatching season spans July through the month of December. 

Turtle release programs are available for tourists in Puerto Vallarta. These programs, often complimentary, help increase baby turtles’ survival rates.

Puerto Vallarta is a hatching ground for various sea turtles like Olive Ridley, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green Turtles. The Olive Ridley, known for its annual return and dark green shell, is the smallest, growing shells up to two feet.

Conservation initiatives are thriving, with about 2,500 turtle nests laid annually. Nearly 150,000 hatchlings are released each year, making it a popular ecotourism attraction.

5. Water Sports 

Puerto Vallarta is an ideal destination for snorkeling and scuba diving in December. Its warm ocean temperatures offer perfect visibility for exploring the underwater world. 

The Bay of Banderas, where Puerto Vallarta is located, teems with diverse marine life during this time. While the locals might tell you the water is cold, I found the sea temperatures warm coming from Canada.

If you’re from a hot destination, wearing a Rashguard t-shirt adds an extra layer to keep you warm. You can expect to see colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins. 

Wearing a Rashguard shirt in Mexico
Wearing my Rashguard in Puerto Vallarta

The unique underwater topography, featuring caves and reefs, creates an exciting environment for certified divers. The city also boasts numerous dive shops and tour operators, making arranging trips for all skill levels easy. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, December offers one of the best months for snorkeling and diving.

6. Outdoor Activities

If water activities aren’t your thing, opt for other Puerto Vallarta activities. Outdoor adventurers will enjoy the mild temperatures, perfect for zip lining in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Zip line courses vary and cater to all ages. 

Choose from the fastest roller coaster lines to ones that glide over waterfalls or zip lines with a cascade repel.

Alternatively, ATV tours add an adrenaline kick, navigating through rugged terrains and scenic paths. Horseback riding is another popular activity, providing a serene way to explore the area’s natural beauty. Riders often trek along beaches and through mountain trails. 

If you prefer the solitude of a hike, the trail to Mirador Cerro de La Cruz provides splendid views. Your reward for the climb is the vistas of the Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean.

View from Cerro de La Cruz
View from Cerro de La Cruz

Jungle-guided tours reveal the region’s unique flora and fauna. The cooler weather enhances these experiences, making physical activities more comfortable than traveling in the hottest month. 

Canopy River Park offers the ultimate adventure outing. Build your own tour with zip lines, ATVs, horseback riding, the world’s longest suspension bridge, and more.

7. Mexican Holiday Celebrations

In December, Puerto Vallarta embraces unique Christmas traditions. The city lights up with festive decorations and vibrant colors. The main event is “Las Posadas,” a reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. 

Locals participate in nightly processions from December 16th to 24th, symbolizing the search for shelter. Participants carry candles and sing traditional songs, creating a warm, communal atmosphere. 

The processions often end with parties featuring Mexican cuisine and piñatas. 

Since Puerto Vallarta has been voted as the friendliest city in the world, you’ll have a chance to mingle with the local and enjoy their hospitality.

8. Beautiful Beaches

Depending on where you stay, you’ll have access to numerous beaches by taxi, local transportation, and boat. If you’re seeking exclusivity, some areas like Yelapa, Colomitos Beach, and Las Caletas Beach are only accessible by water taxi.

Palmares Beach earned the Blue Flag award for sustainability-conscious travelers for its high environmental and safety standards. This honor confirms the beach’s cleanliness, safety, and excellent maintenance.

Conchas Chinas Beach is south of Puerto Vallarta, in a cove with lush greenery and rock formations. It’s a great place to escape the crowd and enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and a beach day.

Conchas Chinas coastline
Conchas Chinas coastline

Mexico’s Pacific Coast hosts tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins; you might even spot manta rays. With an average sea temperature of 77F in December, I found the water warm for snorkeling.

While hurricane season ends in November, there is a small risk of tropical storms in early December. So, it’s a good idea to check the Puerto Vallarta weather forecast before your beach day.

9. Mexican Cuisine

A trip to Puerto Vallarta wouldn’t be complete without trying tamales, ceviche, and tacos on freshly made corn tortillas. While there are many places to eat, Pancho’s Takos makes the best tacos if you’re staying in the Romantic zone.

You can order different flavors, but the Tacos el Pastor are the best! Expect to wait in line, although the queue moves quickly. I’ve always said, judge the restaurant food by the wait outside.

Head to Chico’s Paradise if you prefer something off the beaten path. Here, you can enjoy a meal next to the Tuito River while entertained by a cliff diver.

Enjoying a margarita at Chico's
Enjoying a margarita at Chico’s Paradise

While you can enjoy Mexican cuisine year-round, you can enjoy a meal during Las Posadas or the Virgin of Guadalupe Festival, adding to the appeal of a December visit. Should you stay until the New Year, you can enjoy the festive celebrations.

10. Vibrant Nightlife

If you like to party, you’ll find many places with live music and a vibrant party scene. Puerto Vallarta’s nightlife thrives as the sun sets. Bars and nightclubs light up the city, especially along the Romantic Zone, Malecon, and Los Muertos Beach.

Bar La Playa, a popular spot, offers a relaxing yet lively experience. Twisted Palm Rooftop Lounge, known for its stunning views, draws a crowd seeking a sophisticated ambiance. Incanto, nestled in the heart of the city, combines culture and nightlife, hosting various live performances. 

Each venue contributes to Puerto Vallarta’s unique and exciting nightlife scene. Wherever you choose to go, they offer a good time and a great venue to unwind from the demands of real life.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, visiting Puerto Vallarta at Christmas provides lots of possibilities for activities. With a dry winter and seasonal festivals, you can enjoy this west coast city without the scorching heat of the warmer months.

Whether you plan to travel in early December or toward the end of the month, Puerto Vallarta is sure to please with its sun-filled days.

View of Banderas Bay, Cerro de La Cruz and turtle releasing which you can do in December