A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a city with a backdrop of steep, jungly hills and a foreground of ocean lapping at beachfront restaurants. It’s also home to Mexico’s third-largest port, making it a popular stop for cruise-goers.
So, whether you’re arriving in Puerto Vallarta by sea or land, you understandably are wondering—is Puerto Vallarta wheelchair accessible?
I’ve visited Puerto Vallarta a few times and will help you understand the ins and outs of accessibility there.
Note: The information here is based on my observation as a non-wheelchair user. If you have firsthand experience as a wheelchair user in Puerto Vallarta, I’d love to hear about your time there and your recommendations in the comments section. I appreciate it, and I’m sure that our future readers will too.
General Accessibility in Puerto Vallarta
On a scale of very accessible to not accessible, Puerto Vallarta falls somewhere in the middle.
It has an approximately 1.5-kilometer boardwalk, called the Malecón, along the ocean that’s 100% accessible. This is the city’s biggest attraction. Furthermore, many of its shops, hotels, and condos are modern, featuring ramps and elevators.
However, the moment you head inland, the situation changes.
Some—but not all—crosswalks have drop-down curbs. Many of those drop-downs can be quite steep, given that the sidewalks are high to keep people raised above seasonal flooding. Furthermore, many streets in Puerto Vallarta are cobblestone.
Finally, manual wheelchair users will likely find it a challenge to manage the steep inclines that you’ll encounter the moment you leave the coast’s flat shoreline.
Nevertheless, I don’t want to deter you from visiting this city, as there are several accessible places you can comfortably visit.
Accessible Restrooms in Puerto Vallarta
I encountered two public “accessible” restrooms in Puerto Vallarta. Both offer a flat entry. However, there wasn’t an accessible stall in the bathroom.
Interestingly enough, though, they had an accessible sink.
The doors of the standard stalls were wide enough to accommodate most wheelchairs. However, there was limited space inside the stalls and no grab bars, so depending on your abilities, you may have to rely on your hotel’s restroom.
You can find these restrooms in the following locations:
- Los Arcos Ampitheater (at the corner of Calle Zaragoza and Calle Guadalupe Victoria)
- Juarez Parking Station (on Calle Malecón)
There’s a seven peso fee to use the Los Arcos Ampitheater restroom and an eight peso fee to use the Juarez restroom.
If you encounter better accessible restrooms during your time in Puerto Vallarta, fantastic! Please share them in the comments section.
Accessible parking is available in Puerto Vallarta. Several spaces exist throughout the downtown area. However, prepare to encounter mediocre accessibility at these spaces—street parking is limited, and you may have to cross cobblestone to get to a ramp.
If you’re in the newer part of Puerto Vallarta, particularly the aptly named Nuevo Vallarta (New Vallarta), there’s a greater quantity of accessible parking that’s more on par with ADA standards.
Many Mi Transporte buses offer wheelchair accessible transportation in Puerto Vallarta. These public buses have a built-in lift at the middle door.
You can even hop on a Mi Transporte bus that heads along the south coast towards Boca de Tomatlan.
This is a fantastic way to see some of the coast from a higher viewpoint, as they built Highway 200 into the mountains.
Accessibility at the Puerto Vallarta Port
The Puerto Vallarta cruise port is wheelchair accessible.
Upon your arrival, I recommend having pre-arranged transportation take you to the Malecón area.
Accessible Beach Access in Puerto Vallarta
Downtown Puerto Vallarta offers limited wheelchair accessible beach points. I encountered the following three ramps leading to the beach during my stay:
- Beach at the end of Calle Jesus Langarcia
- Beach at the end of Calle Venezuela
- Beach off the boardwalk between Calle Basilio Badillo and Calle Manuel M. Dieguez, by Hotel Los Arcos
In all cases, the ramps lead to the start of the beach. So, it’ll be helpful if you have a beach wheelchair to push through the deeper, looser sand before getting down to the more compact sand by the waves.
That said, this is by no means a complete list of accessible beaches. Puerto Vallarta sits on a massive bay, and I hear that Bucerias has several accessible entrances.
So, if you encounter other beach access areas during your visit, please share their location in the comments section.
Accessible Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
You’ll have many wheelchair accessible restaurants to choose from in Puerto Vallarta.
Nearly all restaurants you pass on the Malecón boardwalk will be accessible, due in great part to outdoor seating. In addition to the Malecón, some other noteworthy accessible restaurants include:
- Noroc Fusion Cuisine
- Mi Pueblito
- El Dorado (beachside tables, but you only have to roll a few feet over compact sand)
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
With the basics under our belt, let’s explore the many wonderful accessible things to do in Puerto Vallarta.
1. Meander Along the Malecón
The Malecón is by far Puerto Vallarta’s biggest attraction. This mostly flat, cement and brick pedestrian path passes alongside the ocean.
Restaurants, bars, street vendors, and performers are all around this area, making it a lively place day and night.
Get your camera ready, because the scenery is stunning. It’s also fun to pose with the tasteful statue art that lines this walkway.
The Malecón begins at the corner of Calle 31 de Octubre and Paseo Díaz Ordaz and ends near the Burros Bar & Restaurant by Lazaro Cardenas Park.
2. Explore the Wooden Malecón
Although the official Malecón ends at Lazaro Cardenas Park, where steps lead down to the beach, there’s a workaround to get on the informal, wooden boardwalk that continues down from there.
To do so, head into The Blue Shrimp Restaurant in Zona Romántica. From there, a ramp leads down to a wooden boardwalk. The advantage of this boardwalk is you’ll be at ground level with the sand without needing a beach wheelchair to push through it.
This wooden Malecón is much shorter, but it’s quieter and more elegant than the main Malecón.
Furthermore, you can dine at several restaurants along the way by rolling off the boardwalk a few feet into the sand for a beach table. It’s an especially great place to eat at night, where lanterns turn the area into a romantic dining experience.
This wooden boardwalk ends at the Si Señor restaurant.
3. Hang Out at Los Muertos Beach Pier
Los Muertos is where people board small boats for day trips to beaches around Puerto Vallarta that are mostly inaccessible by car.
Sadly, the docking area and boats aren’t accessible.
However, Los Muertos is a massive pier that offers excellent viewing of fisherpeople, pelicans diving into the water, and a panoramic view of Puerto Vallarta’s coast.
The entire area at Los Muertos is wheelchair accessible, and it connects with the Malecón, making it an excellent stop during your explorations.
4. Explore Zona Romántica by Car
Zona Romántica is Puerto Vallarta’s most famed district.
It has cute cafes, a thriving retiree and LGBTQ scene, and high-rise condos nestled in tropical mountainsides.
Unfortunately, it also has tons of super bumpy cobblestone and high sidewalks to prevent people from passing through flooded streets during the rainy season.
So, while it’s technically possible to explore Zona Romántica by wheelchair since many sidewalks have drop-down curbs, it can make for an uncomfortable experience.
Therefore, I recommend driving around to get a feel for what the district is all about.
5. Head to Isla Cuale
Isla Cuale is a small island surrounded by the Cuale River.
No roads exist on this island—just a single pedestrian walkway.
At first glance, Isla Cuale may not seem wheelchair accessible, given that a steep set of stairs lead down to it from the Malecón.
However, swing over to Calle Ignacio L. Vallarta and you’ll find this beautiful ramp:
There are also other accessible entrances you’ll come across when exploring Isla Cuale, including a small hanging bridge over the river. These entrances will take you to a more local side of Puerto Vallarta.
Isla Cuale is filled with vendors, so this is a great place to pick up some souvenirs.
6. Visit Lazaro Cardenas Park
Lazaro Cardenas Park feels like a mini Parc Güell, if you’ve been to Barcelona. It’s a large space filled with ceramic pieces, making for great photo opportunities.
I recommend visiting Lazaro Cardenas Park during the day since they sadly don’t have it well-lit at night to fully appreciate the artwork.
In addition to the park itself, there are numerous vendors that line the front side. So, it’s yet another option to grab some souvenirs.
Given that Lazaro Cardenas Park sits at the end of the main Malecón, it’s an easy visit to include in your Puerto Vallarta explorations.
Are You Ready to Visit Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta won’t be winning any prizes in the near future for being an excellent destination for accessibility. However, it has enough accessible features to make it a doable place to visit. Plus, it’s a stunning city, and you’ll get to enjoy the best of it on the Malecón.
If you have questions about wheelchair travel to Puerto Vallarta, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.
Alternatively, if you end up visiting Puerto Vallarta, I’d really appreciate you returning here to share your experience in the comments section. Your feedback will surely help future readers.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.