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Is Puerto Vallarta Safe for Tourists?

by Craig Zabransky on May 13, 2011

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Last month the State Department’s travel warning to Mexico expanded and included the states of Jalisco, Nayarit and others. Puerto Vallarta resides in Jalisco and to the north tourists find the luxury resorts on the Riviera Nayarit. Officially the warning did not cover Puerto Vallarta, but with the constant coverage of warnings in Mexico and the inclusion of these states, do travelers to Puerto Vallarta need to be worried?

security with a machine gun is a common sight in the US too

My 2 pesos – no, they don’t.

I understand drug related violence exists in Mexico, but it is concentrated in the north of Mexico at the border, some 1,200 miles away from Puerto Vallarta. Hypothetically, if you were worried about the drugs in Miami, would you avoid traveling to New York? Probably not.

But why the increased warnings? Some violence has been cited in other cities 300 miles from Puerto Vallarta. With so much to do and see in the Vallarta area, do you really think you might travel 300 miles outside the city? Or in a hypothetical comparison again, might concerns about Detroit make you avoid Chicago? Again, probably not.

So then is Puerto Vallarta safe?

I can’t answer that for you, but instead of offering more facts and figures that often fall to a deaf ear, let me tell you about my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta. I never felt threatened. I walked downtown Puerto Vallarta both day and night, took late night taxis for transportation, walked the sculpture filled Malecon at sunset, took a full day excursion via a guided tour, and met many tourists from Canada, the US and local Mexicans, some with families having a great, safe, vacation.

No incident. Never a concern. No worries.

do I look worried or concerned?

Over a million visitors come to Puerto Vallarta every year and love the destination. Are you one of them? Do you want to be? Well either way, I am curious about your thoughts? Do you think Puerto Vallarta is as safe as I do. Why or why not?

photos: Police Officer is via Flickr dream2life and the Hammock is by Craig Zabransky.

Craig travels around the world to write tales of travel aimed to encourage and inspire others to take and make adventure in their life. And after calling Mexico home for over a year, it secured a special place in his heart. He continues to return often and often considers it his second home. You can find more of his travels on his Stay Adventurous site and follow him on his Twitter: @stayadventurous..
Craig Zabransky
View all posts by Craig Zabransky

    I am a 44 year old female and this is my 6th year vacationing in PV with my mother who is 76. We are taking my daughter in March who is 18 for her first visit to PV. We like going to Pipi’s and the Blue Shrimp. We have always taken taxi cabs downtown and have had no problem. I feel very bad for Babs and her son and what they had to go thru. I want my daughter to have a good first experience and any trips she plans there afterwards. We have a 4 hr flight so I will stress the importance to her on safety and staying together. Also this is our first time going during spring break, any comments or thoughts on that??

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Nicole, I believe you will not have a problem once again this year, but I agree I feel for Babs, and think stressing the importance of staying together and smart is important to anyone for any destination.

    Plus, if you or anyone wants a sneak preview, or to understand the safety of PV, you can follow me as I am Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit next week – Feb 4th to the 12th.

    I’ll be on Facebook under “stayadventurous” and also on twitter under the hashtag #StayAAPV all week.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Amanda

    Hello, I actually stumbled upon your site as I was looking for information about the safty in P.V. My husband and I booked our trip a year ago to go this March. However, I was concerened about going because of the recent advisories for Jalisco. I’m a bit hypercritical to say the least, so I called the department of homeland security, the company in which our trip is booked through, and am currently trying to contact the resort directly, to find out about saftey and if travel to P.V. is going to be o.k. or if we should cancel. (I know hypercritical). I’m not saying anything will or will not happen, but I do not want to spend my vaction in fear that our lives could be threatened. However, after reading the comments on your site, I feel a little bit better about still deciding to go. (cause as of this morning I was going to cancel). My other two questions, if no one minds answering are; 1.) has anyone heard of /stayed at the hotel plaza pelicanos grand? 2.) are taking taxis from the airport ok? Thanks!!!!

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky


    Glad you didn’t cancel. I just returned (Fe 12th) from PV – no issues, no worries. Great, SAFE trip.

    1) I don’t know the hotel, but I looked it up and its in a safe spot.
    2) TAXIS are SAFE. Find the yellow authorized Taxi stands, it will probably cost your $195 pesos (you pay by zone, and your hotel is in close zone)

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Wayne

    My wife and I are traveling to PV on the 26th of Feb. Our first time. I have read more good things then bad regarding PV. The only real concerns I have is the food and water (Getting Sick). Any advice would be great! Also, we have been told to exchange for Pesos in the airport at PV? We are looking forward to the trip for a week at Paradise Village.

  • Tatyana

    Thank you for sharing in information with everyone, i just found your website. I am planning on traveling to PV at the end of March. We will take our 15 Y.O son with us, it will be his first trip. Of course I worry about everything going smoothly and our safety. I have never been to PV, but would prefer to stay in the city. Do you know anything about hotel El Pescador? Is it a good place to stay with a child?

    thank you!

  • Angie Lozano

    My boyfriend and I will be traveling to PV in 29 days and will be staying at the Golden Crown Paradise…any advice or comments? Thanks…

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Wayne, I trust you found the food good in PV, it’s widely considered the best culinary city in Mexico outside of the capital city.

    @Tatyana, I personally don’t know the El Pescador, looking it up it seems to be a reasonable place in a reasonable location and you are walking distance to downtown. I took that walk before and felt safe.

    @Angie, I don’t know the Crown Paradise, but it looks like a paradise. It’s an all inclusive, so inside you’ll be in a paradise… and it seems you are not too far from the downtown… – that’s definitely worth a visit.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • jen

    I don’t see how anyone can even consider traveling to Mexico right now with all the kidnappings and murders that take place every day, especially on the tourists and those just visiting. Some murders have taken place at local malls and restaurants and bars and even weddings and birthday celebrations. With all the safer and more beautiful places in the country and world to travel to, why pick a country that is run-down by drug lords and violence? I really don’t know how you all can sleep at night knowing that anything could happen while on your trip. People that travel to Mexico remind me of the people that take these cruise trips. Haven’t you seen enough in the news already to warn you that a lot of bad things could happen?

  • Vanessa White

    Hello Craig,
    I guess our concerns are the same as everyone around safety in PV. My husband and I booked our trip for this end of this week but heard some terrifying news and is looking to cancel. D you know anything about the Shereton Hotel there? Thanks

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Jen, I just traveled to PV and your description of Mexico is not what I experienced at all. Also, I am planning to return to PV for either this month or in early April. Crazy? I don’t think so.

    I can not say there is no crime in Mexico, but I can’t say that about any of the countries in the world. And I know many people both ex-pats and locals who call PV home; they all seem to believe PV is safe too.

    But, each person is entitled to their opinion, and although I am curious about all your sources and wonder if you spoke to any of millions of tourists who travel to Mexico and have a great, safe, time in places like PV, it’s always your decision, or anyone who considers any destination to visit.

    And I often use the phrase fact or feeling. As much as I can tell you facts, it’s often how one feels that drives a decision. And it’s most important you feel safe and comfortable on your vacation.

    @Vanessa, Yes, I stayed at the Sheraton. But first off, I am sorry your husband heard such news. Hopefully everyone is safe.

    I stayed at the Sheraton last winter and actually loved the property. It’s fairly central to downtown and quite nice. I even walked downtown once, but often took the short taxi ride. Safe. Comfortable. I’d love to go back.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Marilyn

    My husband and I just returned from our first, and not our last,visit to Puerto Vallerta. We loved it there and felt very safe. We took many cab rides all over and never once felt uncomfortable. The locals are friendly and try to be helpful to the tourists. It’s a gorgeous area. Be sure to visit the Boardwalk if you go and see all the quaint shops, good restaurants, and beautiful sand sculptures along the beach! We prefer this to Cancun any day!

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Marilyn, Agreed, I feel the same way. Thanks for commenting. And the boardwalk is known as the malecon… glad you liked its new face lift.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • http://www.freckleberryfinds.com Ashley

    My husband and I are looking into visiting PV and staying at the Villa Del Palmas. Does anyone know about this area and it’s safety? Would you bring two small children along (5 and 3 years)?

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Ashley, I don’t know the Villa Del Palmas personally, but I’d have no issues brining two children to Mexico or Puerto Vallarta, it is a vert family friendly place.
    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Tony Todd

    I am looking to book a trip for me and my wife in June to go and have been looking at the Velas Vallarta resort. My question is, do you know anything about it and as far as safety goes I agree that you shouldn’t base your vacation on such things and bad things happen when people wander off or are by themselves. Also, is Cabo or Playa del Carmen any safer or are they all about the same?

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @tony, Velas is a top resort and it’s the Marina Vallarta area. I just stayed a few nights in the MV location in February… I had no security concerns.

    As for safer than Playa or Cabo. Fortunately, I’ve traveled through all three locations recently, I’ve felt safe in each. I base your decision on what you want in your Mexican holiday.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Tony

    Since you seem to travel quite a bit do you know of the best place to book a trip through? Travelocity seems to have the best prices I have found and actually booking through the hotel was only $8 more so I didn’t know if going through the hotel would get me any perks.

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @tony, Booking through the hotel provides two things to consider, and they might be worth $8 USD. The first is cancelation, often the cheaper internet deals offer restrictions hotels don’t. The second is loyalty points. Many hotel chains offer loyalty programs. If you want “credit” you need to book through the hotel. I always take the points. Hope that helped.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Kristy

    I am so glad to have a place to refer to for my upcoming trip to PV. My fiance and I are getting married next month at the Marival World Residence & Spa. Do you know if this is in a safe area? Should I be cautious of anything? This is my first time out of the USA, so I am a little scared! Everything you watch on TV is so dark and gloom. I keep telling myself if I use common sense everything would be fine. I just need to know if there are areas I should avoid or should I just stay at the resort. I would love to see what all PV has to offer but not at the risk of my life.

    Thanks for any help you can offer – Kristy :)

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    Kristy, first off congratulations on your marriage… We at AllAboutMexico wish you the very best. As for your hotel choice, you are in Nuevo Vallarta part of the Riviera Nayarit. I recently spent some time there too. Very SAFE. The properties are all inclusive, and although I don’t personally know the Marival, it seems like you are in good hands.

    To see where you are, you can view this post:

    Also, I like your adventurous spirit heading out of the US for the first time, you will be fine… and prepare for more trips to Mexico, you will love it.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Brooke

    Thanks so much for all the great info! We are planning a trip in sept. to either PV or Sayulita…what do you think would be best? It is a group of 8 adults. Also is the weather horrible in sept? I have heard mixed reviews.

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    Brooke, PV or Sayulita, both are different. Sayulita is a smaller, slower town with a yoga / surfer vibe. Loads of ex-pats spend time there… and stay there.

    PV offers more of a resort feel and option. Bigger hotels and more amenities. It is really your choice. This site will really help you get an understanding of PV. And read the recent post about the safety assessment.
    Also, connect to the linked stories… You’ll know Puerto Vallarta after a little reading. Plus if you have any specific questions, you can always email me or @ me on the FB page.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Jeff Knapik

    I don’t know why so many people have a fear of Mexico have been going several times a year for thirty years and last year bought a condo there and plan on retiring there soon. I always tell people if I came to the U.S. from another country after watching the news the first night with all the killings, rapes, and robberies I hear on the news nightly I’d be on the next plane out!

  • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ Craig Zabransky

    @Jeff, you bring up a good point here and i agree, I am not sure why so many folks fear Mexico they way they do. Glad to see you are enjoying it, and good luck with your retirement.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • laloba

    I am going to a wedding in September to Puerto Vallarta. We are all staying in an allegedly private compound. I’ve been assured that PV is safe, but look at what happened to that lady on the bus who was accused by Mexican of having 12 lbs. under her bus seat. Then they demanded $5,000 to forget the whole thing…..Now I’m worried about being set up by the very police for $….Don’t get me wrong, Ilove Mexico, I was born there, but home state is in the middle of a major drug war, so I can’t go there. Mexico is really getting unsafe and creepy, it has changed so much and I am 62 yrs. old. What is going on?????? Mexico is losing millions of pesos a day; nobody wants to go there and the internal business structure is collapsing because people are afraid to go out in some major areas. Sad.

  • http://att.net/ patty

    You’re serious?

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