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.

Read This First

Since publishing this article, many readers have generously shared their knowledge and expertise on visiting Puerto Vallarta as a wheelchair user.

You’ll be able to find up-to-date advice and firsthand experience from wheelchair users who’ve visited and lived in Puerto Vallarta in the comments section.

Moving forward, should you wish to leave a comment and are comfortable with others contacting you, please indicate that in the comment section. I’ll then connect you with readers who request to get in touch with you.

There’s no need to publicly leave your contact information if you don’t want to—I’ll have your email address from your comment on the backend of this website and will directly connect you with the reader.

General Accessibility in Puerto Vallarta

An accessible drop down curb 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

Wheelchair 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

Accessible parking spaces on the side of the road in Puerto Vallarta.

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.

Accessible Transportation

A wheelchair accessible bus in Puerto Vallarta.

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

A cruise ship docked 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

An accessible ramp leading to a beach in Puerto Vallarta.
An accessible beach at the end of Calle Jesus Langarcia.

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

A restaurant along the Malecon boardwalk.

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

A palm-tree framed portion of the Puerto Vallarta Malecon boardwalk.

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

A small wooden boardwalk along the ocean.

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.

People dining on tables in the sand at sunset.

This wooden boardwalk ends at the Si Señor restaurant.

3. Hang Out at Los Muertos Beach Pier

The wide entrance to 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

A narrow cobblestone street in the Zona Romantica.

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:

A ramp leading down to Isla Cuale.

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

A view of the tiles at 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.

Hey! Are you headed to other destinations in Mexico? If so, check out our posts on Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and Cancun.

13 thoughts on “A Wheelchair User’s Guide to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico”

  1. I spend my winters in Puerto Vallarta and I have a small mobility scooter (a Travelscoot). The information on accessibility here is quite good. I find it difficult in the older sections of town to get around with no cut-outs at ends of sidewalks and the cobblestones are quite uneven and difficult to navigate. The Malecon is excellent but many of the stores have a step up to get in. Not many have a ramp. There is a good bike lane from the hotel zone all the way down to the Malecon that can be used but bikes do whiz by so it’s tricky for me with my scooter that is not too fast. I use the sidewalks to go to the Malecon. I have seen buse with the wheelchair symbol but have not used any. There are many Toyota Avanza that accommodate my scooter so use those to get around town. We stay in the hotel zone so I use a lot of taxis to go places.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with accessibility in Puerto Vallarta, and how nice that you spend your winters there. I’m sure your comments will help future readers!

  2. Hi, My family and I are traveling there very soon and I am realizing there are no accessible vans operating. I reached out to two companies who posted on their website that they had wheelchairs but quickly learned they do not. One shared they don’t they anyone has one anymore. Curious if you have suggestions?

  3. I spent 2 weeks in Puerto Vallarta. I use wheelchair for mobility and here is a review of the Malecon and downtown.
    The Malecon runs north / south for approx. 11 blocks with the Pacific Ocean on one side and shops, bars, restaurants on the other. Many business’s have a step or short steep ramp, but owners are more than happy to help you in.
    I started at the north by the Hotel Rosita. It is flat, fairly easy wheeling until you reach the Cuale River pedestrian bridge. The bridge was too steep for me, so I needed a boost getting over. Just before going over the bridge there is one important feature. A small public plaza is situated between the shops and in there are washrooms with an accessible stall. It costs 7 pesos’ (approx. 50 cents Canadian) to use them but it means you can have a beer or two. Also, before going over the bridge I noticed you would not be able to wheel very far in-land because the roads start going up hill about a block or two away from the Malecon.
    Once you are over the bridge the Malecon levels out again and it becomes flatter in-land too. Near the south end of the Malecon it is possible to go on the sidewalks into the part of town called the Romantic Zone. The best way to see an example of this is as follows.
    -Bring up Google maps
    -In the search box type in 350 Olas Atlas Puerto Vallarta
    -Zoom in and then drop the little “street view man” on the corner of Olas Atlas and Basillo Badillo

    From here you can move around to get an idea of the side walks and curb cuts. Also, you can’t really see it, but the cobblestones have been replaced with interlocking bricks at intersections, so you can cross easily. I was quite impressed.
    There is a lot of Condo development in this area. One Condo states it will be ADA compliant. Here is the link http://avidapv.com/
    One last thing. Without even asking, WestJet Vacations arranged accessible transportation from the airport to my resort at no extra cost. The company is Timon Tours. They sent a lift equipped high roof van and it worked out great.

    1. Hi Hosni,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience in Puerto Vallarta. I’m sure your comments will help many readers!

  4. I will be visiting Puerto Vallarta in January. Will I be able to get to the Malecon by mobility scooter from the Grand Venetian? Please list the best place to rent a mobility scooter.

    1. Hi Herb,

      I took a quick look at a map, and it seems most of the journey would be along Highway 200. This “highway” is more of a main road through Puerto Vallarta that’s lined with shops. In theory, it should have a continuous sidewalk. But given how far you’ll have to travel, there’s a higher chance of running into obstacles blocking the sidewalk/missing drop-down curbs/etc.

      I’m not sure of the best place to rent a mobility scooter in Puerto Vallarta since I haven’t personally done so. But it looks like Access Ability could be a viable option.

  5. I go to the Malecon from the Grand Venetian on my scooter regularly. The sidewalk is in pretty good shape most of the way and in some places there is actually a bike lane. Some rough spots that are a little bumpy but not too bad and there are cut-outs as well. Much better than some of the streets in the downtown area. I don’t know the best place to rent a scooter because I have my own Travelscoot.

    Once you reach to Malecon it is smooth sailing!! Very wide area and lots of benches and shops and restaurants all the way on the Malecon (about 15 blocks) and right next to the ocean.

  6. Wendy, thank you for the info. Can you estimate what the number of miles a roundtrip from the Grand Venetian to the end of the Malecon and back would be? A mobility scooter company that I contacted said the battery is rated by the miles you can travel. I will be arriving 1/8/2023. Will you be there?

  7. I’ve never seen a better article about accessibility here in Vallarta, and I’ve written a few blogs about it myself. I wish we had met you when you were visiting our beautiful bay. With my sister, I own Beach Crossers’ mobility rentals and have hundreds of wheelchair clients each year. In addition, I use a wheelchair myself. I would like to add a few things if you allow it.

    Some of the Mi Transporte buses have lifts, but more often than not, they will tell you that the lift is not working rather than taking the time to load a wheelchair. It is not a reliable way to get around Vallarta. There is a “hop on, hop off” bus that has a lift and always takes time to load wheelchairs. They have a website that shows the stops. It says they stop at the cruise ship terminal and it’s less than $20 USD for a day pass. I would also allow you to see the jungle side of the bay to the south. The cruise ship terminal to the Malecon is almost 3 miles (Grand Venetian to Malecon is 2.5 miles)

    I’m very happy to see that there is a new option for accessible transportation. There are far more listings online than are actually providing accessible service. Some companies had to give up their vans during the pandemic, but their websites still show availability. There is another company we have seen recently, but I don’t have the contact information. A Google search does not list them or Timon Tours. That’s why sharing information in your comments is so important.

    As for restaurants, the food culture in Vallarta is amazing. If you see a step, ask. Most restaurants have a ramp inside. However, many other restaurants will offer to pick you and your chair up as their accessible access. That’s just not right for everyone. If you are good with it you can likely go to any restaurant you want. They are used to picking up wheelchairs to lift them up the stairs.

    The restrooms in two of the three Starbucks are accessible and free. The one near Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is accessible. There are three restrooms there. One of them is accessible. There’s a lady with a key that has to open it for you. It’s not inside Starbucks but in the area adjacent. It’s free with a Starbucks receipt. The Starbucks on Olas Altas is the most accessible. The restroom is inside and free. On the north end of the Malecon, there is an area near Mcdonald’s that says “flea market”. It’s just a few shops and a bar in the center. It’s got two rather steep ramps but it has ramps. In the back corner, there is an accessible bathroom for a fee. Someone has to unlock the gate to let a wheelchair through.

    Be careful with accessible parking. There are a few spots, but most of the spots that are marked for accessible parking have the license plate number of the one vehicle that is permitted to park in that spot. A blue sign does not mean that you can use the spot. You can use it IF it is not reserved for a specific vehicle.

    Marina Vallarta added curb cutouts during the pandemic. You can now travel down either side of the street throughout the entire neighborhood. The walk around the marina is accessible but you have to find the ramps to get up to the center walkway to access most of the restaurants. The Valet parking always sets up in the accessible parking in front of Sonora Prime, but if you ask, they move.

    Nuevo Vallarta is far more accessible than the downtown area but is also quieter. There are plenty of restaurants and clubs, but not the same energy as Lazaro Cardenas (Zona Romantica). There is a shaded, meandering bike path that is wheelchair friendly and runs for 3+ miles. There’s a free tourist shuttle that is wheelchair friendly. The beach is long and flat. It’s perfect for a beach wheelchair. There is a new wheelchair ramp to the beach at Fibba Nuevo Vallarta Blue Flag. One of the RIU properties has a beautiful ramp into the pool. Paradise Village Resort is very accessible with ADA-compliant rooms and grounds. They don’t have accessible pools but have ramps to the beach. Hard Rock (all-inclusive) is very accessible, as are Grand Velas, Occidental, and Villa del Palmar Flamingos.

    Downtown is a challenge with small elevators, steep ramps, and cobblestone streets. However, we have clients who stay successfully at Playa Los Arcos (I’ve been in there with a wheelchair and found it challenging). On the north end of the Malecon, hotel Rosita is a good option. It’s older but the accessibility and location are both really good. The Sheraton is just north of town but a short walk by wheelchair. All common areas at AVIDA are accessible (condo building) but not every unit is ADA. It was the buyer’s choice. There are several other condo buildings that are very accessible.

    There is no ADA in Mexico. Don’t assume anything is the same here as it is in other places in the world. Ask good questions and get pictures of everything. There are accessibility standards but they are rarely enforced. When you make a reservation, most places will tell you that they are accessible. That can be anything from fully ADA compliant to “we have a long hose on the shower and will bring you towels for the living room when you finish showing there.”

    Finally, it wasn’t mentioned, but I’d like to add a word about traveling with a service dog. I have a cardiac alert service animal that I cannot take with me to most places in Mexico. It kind of defeats the purpose of an alert dog. You will have no problem traveling with a service animal at the airport. They have a pet relief area outside of the terminal to the south. Unfortunately, you will not be able to take them into restaurants and stores unless the establishment is “pet friendly”. Most of downtown is very pet friendly, but that can also be very distracting for a service dog. Most of Nuevo Vallarta is NOT pet-friendly. There is pending legislation for the whole country, but when it passes, you will need to carry a letter from your physician, the dog must be clearly marked as a service animal, and you also have to carry recent vaccination records. Currently, only seeing-eye dogs are allowed in most places and some places even deny access to them. The Westin and the Sheraton are the only resorts I know of that allow service animals in Vallarta. There are plenty of pet-friendly rentals in Zona Romantica.

    I hope some of our experience is helpful to your readers.

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