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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
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  • Isabella

    Thanks for this Craig!! Well put.

  • Cara

    Thanks Craig.. I was in Puerto Vallarta in December – went out during the day and at night. Never felt unsafe. PV is such a beautiful place!

  • http://www.keppiecareers.com Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

    I’m no expert on traveling in Mexico, but I thought your analogies were very descriptive. Regarding travel, like all things in life, it’s important to evaluate information and not jump to conclusions based on hype.

  • Leslie

    Couldn’t agree with you more. We were in Puerto Vallarta in early April and walked everywhere day and night. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I never felt unsafe. As with any vacation in any part of the world, don’t be stupid, don’t drink too much and don’t be obnoxious. Enjoy the wonderful weather, culture and food!

  • http://www.conniemex.com Connie Meyerhoff

    I have lived in Los Cabos Mexico on the Baja for 14 years and I know I am 100% safer here than any US city.

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

    @Isabella, Cara, thanks glad you feel the same.

    @Miriam, totally agree. There is much hype about many destinations, some disappoint, some exceed expectation… I’d put Mexico in the 2nd category.

    @Leslie, yes, standard disclaimers for safety on any destination. And Puerto Vallarta is such a place to enjoy the weather, culture, and food.

    @Connie, I have no doubt Los Cabos is safe too (I recently visited) And many destinations in Mexico are much safer than places in the US; thanks for commenting.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • http://shifthappens.com Alicia

    We’ve done a lot of business in Mexico. In fact, our CEO is speaking at Meeting Place Mexico in Puerto Vallarta in June. We’ve always felt safe. The DMC’s, hotels and cities are very up front about any issues and take security very seriously. We’ve never had anything but a great experience in PV, when we’ve gone individually or taken groups.

    While I was in Cancun in Sept, there were some minor warnings issued by the government, but everyone within the hospitality community took warnings very seriously and were extremely professional about it. That’s (part of the reason) why we love Mexico. The other part is the wonderful people — and can you get more beautiful that Puerto Vallarta?

  • Jade

    We were just there last week and couldn’t have felt safer- I never worried about it! Even the resort told us it was safe to take the local bus a few miles into town- we did and again felt safe. I love PV and would highly reccommend the trip to anyone on the fence about security!

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

    @Alicia, @Jade, thanks for commenting, I am glad you enjoyed the same experience in Puerto Vallarta regarding its safety. And glad to see you both recommend the destination…

    also, @Alicia, hope your CEO has a great time in June.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • http://allaboutcancun.com/author laurie gourley

    I have spoken to many friends who have the same story that you do. They have told me that they felt very safe. I too recently visited Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Mexico City and Cabo and have not heard or seen any thing unusual.

  • Reyna

    I agree with everyone here. Mexico is a safe place I have visited many times during my life and do feel as safe if not safer here then I do in the east coast where I reside.. I try to visit at least once a year in particular the region of Puerto Vallarta, http://taheimahotel.com. The military is ever present and cops in every corner I visited. Very fun and safe town. The only mayor problem I can recall in Puerto Vallarta was last year there were issues with a bridge that slowed traffic down due to weather problems. =)

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

    @laurie, i think many of us have the same story, a positive experience in Vallarta, thanks for sharing.

    @Reyna, if traffic on a bridge is the big complaint, that doesn’t seem too bad.. glad to learn you too felt safe and secure in Vallarta. And well, traffic is never bad, when lounging in a hammock with a margarita…

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Reyna

    @ Craig, Your are absolutely right once installed in your destination time seems to slow down and there is nothing as relaxing as a chilled margarita as you lounge under a cabana. Honestly the resort I visited last time Taheima was really amazing and private. It is located like 10 minutes away from the traffic of PV in Nuevo Vallarta I ran across this great article people I am sure might enjoy http://www.banderasnews.com/1104/nb-travelwarning.htm.

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

    @ Reyna, Yes, great read from BanderasNews.com, I often read articles from the publication.
    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Charlotte Brook

    Wow Puerto Vallarta sounds great! Do you think it is safer in Puerto Vallarta or in Cabo?

  • Charlotte Brook

    Wow Puerto Vallarta sounds wonderful! It’s great to know I’ll be safe there. Do you think it’s safer to be in Puerto Vallarta or in Cabo?

  • Charlotte Brook

    Wow Puerto Vallarta sounds wonderful! It’s great to know that I’ll be safe there. Thanks Craig. Which do you think is safer: Puerto Vallarta or Cabo?

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

    @Charlotte, yes you will be safe in Vallarta, as for where is safer…well they may be different destinations, but both are really safe – and that is what is most important.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • margo

    I think Puerto Vallarta is safer than Seattle WA, which is where Im from. Yes, as a girl I occasionally get harassed, but nothing more than a whistle or a \hey baby\ is said. Im staying at Oasis Hostel (www.oasishostel.com) which is a little ways away from Centro, and I feel very safe walking there by myself.

  • http://www.oasishostel.com Alicia

    I love the way you describe Puerto Vallarta because that is exactly how I feel walking around downtown. Safe. This is my first time in Puerto Vallarta and I am already in love with the place and the amazing people that I have met! I stay at Oasis Hostel (www.oasishostel.com) and I feel very safe staying there. Media forget to show the real side of Mexico. They forget about the amazing food, the nice people, the culture and the nature. Puerto Vallarta is an amazing city that everybody has to visit!

    Before people make up their mind about what they think about a country they have to stop listening to media. Viva la Mexico and Puerto Vallarta!

  • margo

    I feel very safe in Vallarta, I think people that focus too much on the media headlines dont know what they´re missing out on. This is my third time back to PV, Im a 24 year old female and I have never been harassed, not by the cops and especially not by the locals. I stay at Oasis Hostel (oasishoste.com) and even though its a 20 minute walk from Centro, I still feel safer here than I do back home in Seattle.

  • mike mcdivitt

    My wife and I were in PV 2 years ago in Februay. We found it to be a wonderful safe city. We accepted a ride from a local gentleman after a time share and he drove us 40 minute across town to Conchas Chinas. We took cabs on our own and had no problems. I trust everyone to a degree and have a sixth sense when it comes to trouble. I only felt uneasy late in the evening in an area that was deserted near the beach, but nothing happened. I would recommend this town to anyone and I was just checking this evening, becuase I plan to go again in February of 2012. Mike.

  • David

    This was a great read. I have been a few times to Cabo to stay with a friend. We love it there. ;) We are excited to be going to Puerto Vallarta in November for our 15 year anniversary. We here wonderful things and thus are excited to go. I have not felt unsafe once except when my Good friend was driving us to town. She makes us nervous with her fast driving…lol I most say has a gay man I have loved how friendly and kind I have been treated. It’s wonderful to be around such happy people. I have not felt on safe walking around night or day.

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

    @Alicia, Margo, thanks for offering your thoughts; we appreciate your experiences…

    @Mike and @David, enjoy your upcoming trips, and definitely let us know here at All About Mexico how we can help make the trip even more special…

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • http://www.FR-R.com Christa

    Thanks. My daughter and husband are leaving tomorrow for PV and I was worried. After reading the comments here I’m much more relaxed and will tell her tonight that she’ll be safe. THANKS!

  • Rob

    I have been going to PV for 4 decades and have lived there for 15 years. I can still say with all certainty that any women or girl could walk anywhere in PV at any hour and be completely safe. To not come to PV due to what is happening at border cities, Montery & Mexico City would be like not going to the USA to visit or live because there is crime in every major city in the USA. Look at the stats of such cities as L.A. Detroit, Miami, N.Y.C., Houston, Atlanta and the list goes on and on. Okay let’s not visit San Francisco because Stockton, Ca 60 miles away is so very dangerous. Or don’t dare go to Disneyworld in Orlando Florida because there are murders in Miami 220 miles away. Don’t dare go and see the great sites around the Los Angeles basin because of all the crime around LA and again the list goes on. I really cannot impress enough how safe PV really is for visitors and residents. I am safer there from my fellow man than any desent size city in the USA. And yes I am an American, 63 year old retired airline pilot that has traveled all over 6 of 7 continents and been in all 50 states of the USA. Please do not pass up a great vacation in PV because of the way news is portayed as if ALL of Mexico is in a state of anarchy. It just is not true. Instead go to the great cities of Rome or Paris where I have been pickpocketed several times or the Island of Jamaica where I was accousted twice in one week and almost murdered, yet you don’t here about that on the news except for incedences such as Natalie Hollowy in Aruba that the news ran with for years.

  • Danielle

    We are planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta in April 2012 and after I made the arrangements a lot of people commented on the safety issue and it made me nervous but reading your comments I feel much better. We are going there for our honeymoon and we both are very excited about going. But I just wanted to ask again that you don’t see us having any issues about safety or anything? Thanks!

  • stan miller

    everyone is missing the point.
    if something bad happens in the US you have real police and real courts.
    in mexico what do you have. the cops are crooks. the courts do not function
    like ours do. you cant sue anyone. go to american virgin islands.

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

    @Rob I have traveled 40 countries myself, and I agree PV is pretty safe indeed in comparison… plus, I appreciate how you spelled out your geography lesson and logic. thanks for adding to the conversation.

    @Danielle, you do not need to worry. When people offer me opinions, I always try to understand the source… in the case of PV and Mexico, I ask myself – have they traveled to Mexico? Do they really know what is happening in Puerto Vallarta – those are the folks I listen too.

    @Stan, The US Virigin Islands are a wonderful destination… but I think you are missing the point some too. If something bad happens? 1) that is no way to live your life, let alone your vacation 2) I don’t think people are crossing the border to commit crime and need to worry about the police and courts either. Actually, most go for fun in the sun and PV is a great destination for such a trip.
    stay adventurous, Craig

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Olav

    I have visited Puerto vallarta with Atlantis Events for 3 years now – never anything but a good time. The only big drawback is the pushy time share vendors; other than that we have fun staying at the Vallarta Palace Hotel in Nuevo Vallarta.

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

    @Olav, thanks for commenting and confirming that PV is a great time. Glad to hear you return annually too.
    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Bruce Wyder

    Thank you for the information Craig. I travel a lot, mostly Asia, but will visit PV in January. I have been twice before and enjoyed it.

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

    @Bruce, glad to hear you are returning to PV. Have a great time.
    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Peter Tredwin

    For the last five years we have spent most of the winter in Baja Mexico . This year we paln to go to Punta Perula, about 80 miles south of PV… Does anyone have any thoughts, especially related to safety…peter

  • http://aophoto.vze.com Artur

    I go to PV every year, and never experienced anything that would make me think twice about going back. Will be there in about one week.

    I would say that I am more concerned about safety in my on city which is Toronto, then I am about PV.

    Just go there and have a lot of fun, trust me you will.

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

    @Peter, I don’t know Punta Perula, but I imagine at only 80 miles it is rather safe, but I will research it…

    @Artur, i agree, you will have fun in PV… and it’s interesting to hear you say that, because I thought Toronto was pretty safe too.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Sarah

    Just wondering what everyone’s thoughts are now that Princess Cruises cancelled their stops in PV? It would be hard to believe their security team would make that decision based on no facts.

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

    @ Sarah, I have no doubts the Princess decision was based on fact, but what facts? – There is a lot of coverage that Mexico is unsafe, fact. But is it unsafe? I am not sure I’d say that is a fact.

    Also, Princess plans a return:

    Remember it’s a business too. Decisions are based on consumer demand, which can be based on fear more than facts. Just something to consider. In fact, take a look at Virgin America, they just expanded and added a non-stop to Puerto Vallarta citing a high demand for Mexico.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Lisa


    Thank you for posting this! I am traveling to Puerto Vallarta (Nuevo Vallarta, to be exact) later this month for the first time and reading your blog makes gives me reassurance! =) I have a question about transportation in PV. How safe is hailing taxis at the airport (to get to the hotel) or at the hotel (to go off site and shop)? Also should we convert our US dollars to pesos before we arrive?

    Thanks for all your help!

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


    Glad you gained that reassurance, you will have an amazing time.

    Taxis. Ok, from the airport, there is a taxi stand, an official airport taxi, you can ask information, but if I recall you pay your far and receive a ticket based on a zone. It is very safe. There is also Grey Line which has an office, you can buy to/from service via an airport shuttle.

    As for at regular taxi, have your hotel call a taxi, depending they might sel you are “safe car” but you’ll be fine with a taxi, and most likely you can have any restaurant call you one for a ride home. I even hail them there without any concern.

    And for exchange, I always use ATMs now. After taking out some pesos, (remember the exchange rate 13/14 to 1 and you are taking out pesos) I buy a water or mints and get some small change… it’s good for tips, although they will accept dollars if you run out.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • http://www.truenatureyogacoaching.net lyn orlando

    Hi Craig, I am glad i have come across this conversation about PV. I am 50 yrs young and my parents traveled to Mexico with our family since I was a teen. They bought property in Nuevo Vallarta yrs agao and built a vaca home they work hard all summer in Oregon then go there in winter every yr. I am thinking about moving there and people are always warning me of the dangers of Mexico but, I have always felt safe in PV. Thanks Lyn

  • David M.

    I retired to “PV” , as we call it here , I can shed a little more light on this.
    I know there are around 8 to 10 thousand retired Americans and Canadiens living in PV (low est.) .
    In 6+ years I can tell you PV is not crime fTree. But I can tell you I feel
    safer in PV than when I lived in Dallas, Tx. I walk anywhere, anytime. And
    have always felt the people here are quite warm and friendly.
    If i could change anything in PV it would be there are just too many good
    places to eat. I hope that can tell you where safety is on my list.
    Many of the businesses I frequent remember me by name, and some even
    call me “CAPTAIN DAVE” as I usually wear a boat captains hat to cover my bald head. Listen or look for a chubby middle age guy in a cap. hat and
    I will be glad to extend a warm welcome. Just as I recieved from the locals
    here 6 years ago. Best regards and see you soon !! _davidm

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

    @lyn, i always suggest know the source of all information, as for warning on PV, always know if they’ve been to PV. Good luck with your abode in Nuenvo Vallarta.

    @Captain Dave, I’ll definitely look for you when I am in town on Feb 4-12th… apparently you are easy to find. Thanks for commenting and enjoy all those good places to eat, I know I plan to.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Trooper

    Your photo caption says: “a police with a machine (gun?) is a common sight in the US too”

    I have lived in the U.S. my entire and have never, not once, seen a policeman with a machine gun.

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

    @trooper. Good point, I changed the caption to read security, and in NYC, where I spent many days of the year, I see “security” with machine guns, but I can not say they are police.

    thanks. stay adventurous, Craig

  • Manuela

    @Trooper: I have been living in NYC for almost 11 ears and I assure you tat you see machine gun often here and there.
    I am planning to o PV this February and Marc and I will stay on a resort.I bet it will be great!

  • Dorothy

    I am in PV now. Staying one month. This is my 5th year visiting. I feel safe everywhere except for on the buses! Crazy drivers will actually race each other in and out of traffic. They have no shocks, bad brakes and no care for the passengers.

  • Babs

    I love P.V., and have visited many,many times over the last 25 years. BUT last month we had a very frightening experience. My son (24) and I were leaving a large, well-lit nightclub on the Malecon around 1 a.m. He went out to get a cab while I stayed inside to pay the bill. When I came out, he was nowhere to be seen. I asked cabbies outside the club who said they had not seen him. After searching without results back in the nightclub, I grabbed a cab and returned to our hotel to wait for him. He returned around 4 in the morning, very shaken. When he stepped out of the nightclub, he was approached by a policeman who handcuffed him, put him in a police car with two other cops, and drove him to a nearby alley. There he was questioned about whether he was alone or not. They then asked for his wallet, took a all of his money (about $200 U.S.), and drove him north of town (opposite end of town from our hotel) and dropped him off at the side of the road. No money, so he started walking. He was stopped by TWO other groups of police, one who took down a report, and the other who also tried to rob him. No luck, since he had already been robbed! We called the consulate the next morning who told us that unfortunately that what happened is very common. Bottom line, we are very happy that he was not harmed in any way but very sad that our favorite vacation place is tarnished. I post this because a couple of months ago I would have vigorously defended the safety of P.V. The fact that two different groups of police tried to rob him in the same night indicates a widespread problem. Be careful when you’re there. Don’t go anywhere alone, even well-lit, crowded tourist venues. And be wary of walking the streets at night.

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

    @Dorothy, I am not sure I ever took a bus in PV… Perhaps I will on my next adventure. I head back there next week. Thanks for the comment and advice.

    @Babs, I am sorry to read this, such an event is never easy. I am glad you and your son returned back to the hotel safely. That’s what is most important.

    And frankly, I am also surprised to hear the consulate mentioned it’s very common. It doesn’t seem to be the consensus of those who commented, but one event is one too many. Thanks for sharing your difficult story.

    As with any trip, you must keep safety in mind. Puerto Vallarta seems safe for many visitors, but that doesn’t mean nothing happens as Babs tells us. Anyways, next week, I return to PV and will be providing live, detailed updates. Anyone excited ato visit or perhaps hesitant, please follow me on Twitter @stayadventurous under hashtag #stayaapv starting Feb 4th.

    stay adventurous, Craig

  • Paul

    My wife and I have been going to PV for about 15 years now, every winter to get a break from the snow at home. We stay at the Mayan Palace near the marina. When we started going down there, the Mayan Palace was called the Vidafel. We have had our kids down there, also friends. Have never had a problem what so ever! Love it. A nice cold pina colada on the beach watching the sun set, can’t be beat. We walk from the Mayan to the marina as there are many good restaurants located there. Never had a problem taking a bus or taxi downtown to eat, drink or shop. A very fun place and the locals always friendly. We are heading down in March 2012 again. Already have the plane tickets in hand!

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