La Paz or Puerto Vallarta? A Guide To Choosing The Perfect Destination

Are you torn between La Paz and Puerto Vallarta for your next Mexican escape? Let’s help you decide!

Both cities are two of western Mexico’s most popular beach destinations. So, if you’re craving sun, sand, and scrumptious Mexican food, you can’t go wrong with either place. But there are some key differences that you should be aware of when planning your trip south of the border. 

Whether you’re planning a family trip or a romantic couples getaway, choosing between these two areas ultimately comes down to your travel preferences. But to help you make that decision, I’ll explain what you can expect in terms of dining, activities, weather, and more in the beautiful coastal getaways of La Paz and Puerto Vallarta.

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La Paz

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Which is Better? La Paz or Puerto Vallarta

With warm weather, nice beaches, and tons of outdoor activities, it can be hard to choose between these two destinations. La Paz is ideal for those who want a relaxing beach getaway, as this charming resort town has a beautiful coastline with calm waters and year-round sunny weather. Puerto Vallarta is better suited for all-inclusive travelers (there are so many resorts along the coast), although the bustling city is also good for history and cultural lovers. 

But let’s dive into these places a bit more to help you decide which area is better for your trip!

Location and Weather

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La Paz

Both cities are on the western coast of Mexico. La Paz is located on the southern point of the Baja California Peninsula, two hours north of Cabo San Lucas. For this reason, it has the Pacific Coast to the west and the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez) to the east. But the city itself lies directly on La Paz Bay, a tranquil body of water that’s popular with water sports enthusiasts.

La Paz is blessed with warm weather and sunny skies throughout the year. Summers are incredibly warm – sometimes reaching as high as 95℉. However, winters are a tad cooler, in the mid-60s or low 70s, although it drops and can become quite chilly in the evenings. 

Most travelers prefer to come in the spring or fall, as the weather is still warm and perfect for exploring or beachgoing. There is a higher chance of rain in September, but this is very minimal and usually only an inch or two the entire month.

Puerto Vallarta is located in the state of Jalisco on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Unlike La Paz, it has distinct wet and dry seasons, with June to September being the rainiest months of the year. Summer temperatures are in the high 80s/low 90s with lots of humidity, which can be a dealbreaker for some.

Winter is a nicer time to visit, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s. But I recommend going during the shoulder season, when the weather is still warm for sightseeing or visiting the beaches.

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Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta and La Paz have some of the most beautiful beaches on this side of the country. However, they are drastically different from one another, so it’s important to consider your preferences when deciding where to go for your Mexico vacation.

The beaches in La Paz are part of La Paz Bay, a small, protected area with calm, shallow waters. In fact, many people consider La Paz to have the best swimmable beaches in all of Mexico! Not only are the shores ideal for swimming, snorkeling, or kayaking, but the surrounding landscape of desert cliffs, mangrove forests, and rolling sand dunes also make it mesmerizingly beautiful.

The most famous beach in the area is Balandra Beach. This little slice of paradise is so popular that entry is regulated (you can visit either from 8 AM to 12 PM or 1 PM to 5 PM). Even if you’re not a fan of crowds, I highly recommend coming here at least once to soak in the scenery.

Other good beaches around La Paz include Playa El Tecolote, Pichilingue, and El Pescadero.

Puerto Vallarta beaches are equally as stunning when it comes to their natural surroundings. Flanked by the Sierra Madre Mountains, the beaches are a mix of coastal beauty and rugged mountainous jungles, which makes for a truly unique experience. 

There are lots of beaches in PV to choose from, some of which can be easily accessed right from downtown or the Romantic Zone. While most places are rocky, it is still possible to find some with soft golden sands, which I think is better suited for a beach day.

And be careful – the Pacific Ocean is notorious for large waves and swells. Playa Los Muertos, Camarones, and Conchas Chinas are suitable for swimming, although they can be cold and rough in the wintertime. 

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Activities and Attractions

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Puerto Vallarta

Although a beach day is a must on vacation, it’s also a good idea to plan a few activities. If you plan to visit Puerto Vallarta, here are a few things you won’t want to miss:

  • Scuba Diving Los Arcos
  • Watching the sunset from the Malecon
  • Hiking Up to Mirador de la Cruz
  • Taking a walking tour or food tour in Zona Romantico
  • Visiting the Church Of Our Lady Of Guadalupe
  • Ziplining the Superman – the longest zipline in Mexico!
  • Whale watching from December to March
  • Golfing at the Vista Vallara Golf Club

La Paz offers a similar set of activities for nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, and cultural seekers. For example, you can go:

  • Kayaking on Balandra Beach
  • Visiting sea lions on Isla Espiritu Santo
  • Whale watching from December to March
  • Sandboarding or ATV-ing the El Mogote sand dunes
  • Sailing on the La Paz Bay
  • Exploring the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de La Paz
  • Kite surfing on La Ventana Bay

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When it comes to accommodation, both Puerto Vallarta and La Paz have plenty of hotels, inns, and vacation rental properties to choose from. Puerto Vallarta has a slight advantage in terms of diversity, as you can find everything from budget hostels all the way to 5-star all-inclusive resorts

Here are a few hotels I recommend for your next trip to Puerto Vallarta:

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Hotel Mousai Puerto Vallarta




Similar to Puerto Vallarta, La Paz also has a mix of budget-friendly hotels and luxury resorts. 





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The dining scene in La Paz and Puerto Vallarta is both diverse and delicious, especially if you’re a fan of Mexican cuisine. And while the food isn’t drastically different, the style of restaurants and overall dining experiences set these two places apart.

La Paz is an up-and-coming beach town that has garnered attention for its culinary scene. For this reason, you’ll find lots of trendy chef-run restaurants and sustainable farm-to-table establishments. But if you prefer something more laid back, there are also beach bars and food stalls where you can indulge in fresh seafood and local Mexican specialties. 

As a large city, Puerto Vallarta has something for all diners (picky eaters included!). The city is chock-full of taco stands, street food vendors, and family-run eateries. But there are also some great ocean-front restaurants and fine-dining establishments if you’re seeking a more sophisticated evening. 


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Puerto Valarta

Is nightlife an important factor when deciding between Puerto Vallarta or La Paz? When it comes to after-hours fun, only one destination can be crowned the clear winner – and that’s Puerto Vallarta. PV is a great city for nightlife, with a seemingly endless number of bars, nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and live entertainment venues. 

Most of the action takes place along the Malecon, the waterfront promenade in the heart of the Romantic Zone. Not only is this where you’ll find the majority of tourist-friendly bars, but the promenade itself comes alive at night with street performers, food stands, and live music. 

La Paz, on the other hand, is way more laid back in terms of nightlife. Instead of booming nightclubs, you’ll find relaxed beach bars and live music venues where you can unwind after a day on the water. 

Travel Costs

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La Paz

Vacation costs vary depending on numerous factors, including accommodation, excursions, and food. But generally speaking, Puerto Vallarta is the cheaper destination to visit simply because there are more budget-friendly options in town. It’s easier to find affordable accommodation, restaurants, and tours in the big city compared to the smaller resort town of La Paz.

However, that doesn’t mean La Paz has to be an over-the-top expensive vacation. Compared to other resort areas around the world, it’s still quite affordable, which is great if you want a relaxing beach getaway without breaking the bank.

Although the exact cost of your trip depends on when you travel, you can expect to pay around the following prices:


  • Mid-range hotel: $50 – $100 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $200 – $400 a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $5 – $10
  • High-end meal: $30 – $50
  • Cocktail: $5 – $10
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Snorkeling Trip: $40 – $60
  • Zip Line Tour: $35 – $50
  • Food Tour: $40 – $60


  • Mid-range hotel: $75 – $150 a night
  • Luxury hotel or all-inclusive: $300+ a night
  • Meal at local restaurant: $10 – $15
  • High-end meal: $50 – $100
  • Cocktail: $6 – $12
  • Local beer: $2 – $4
  • Island Snorkeling Trip: $100 – $150
  • Pig Beach Tour: $150 – $200
  • Kayak Rental: $40 – $60

As two of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta each have their own unique things that appeal to travelers. To summarize, I recommend going to Puerto Vallarta if you’re a fan of historical cities or all-inclusive vacations. La Paz is more laid-back, which is better suited for water sports enthusiasts and those craving a quieter beachside getaway. But whichever place you choose, you’re bound to have a memorable and relaxing vacation, so enjoy it!

FAQs about Choosing Between La Paz and Puerto Vallarta

What are the main differences between the beaches in La Paz and Puerto Vallarta?

La Paz boasts calm, swimmable beaches with clear waters, perfect for activities like snorkeling or kayaking. Puerto Vallarta’s beaches, while stunning against a backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains, can have rougher waves due to the Pacific Ocean’s swells, making some less suitable for swimming.

How do the activities and attractions in La Paz compare to those in Puerto Vallarta?

La Paz is a haven for water sports enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering unique experiences like swimming with whale sharks and kayaking at Balandra Beach. Puerto Vallarta, rich in history and culture, invites visitors to explore its vibrant Zona Romantica, scuba dive at Los Arcos, and enjoy the nightlife along the Malecon.

Can I find all-inclusive resorts in both La Paz and Puerto Vallarta?

While both destinations offer a range of accommodation options, Puerto Vallarta is better known for its all-inclusive resorts, catering to travelers seeking a hassle-free vacation. La Paz also has luxury resort options, though it may offer a more laid-back and intimate setting.

Are there direct flights available to both La Paz and Puerto Vallarta?

Yes, both destinations are accessible via direct flights from major cities in the United States and Canada. Puerto Vallarta’s Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport and La Paz International often have direct connections, including airlines like Volaris and Aeromexico, making travel convenient.

Which destination is better for whale watching, La Paz or Puerto Vallarta?

Both destinations offer incredible whale watching opportunities, with La Paz famous for its proximity to the Sea of Cortez, where you can see whale sharks and humpback whales. Puerto Vallarta’s whale watching season from December to March is ideal for spotting humpback whales along the Pacific Coast.

What should I consider when planning my travel dates to either La Paz or Puerto Vallarta?

Consider the weather and peak tourist seasons. La Paz enjoys warm weather year-round, with spring and fall being ideal for visits. Puerto Vallarta’s best weather is during the winter and shoulder seasons, avoiding the humid summers and rainy season from June to September.

Regarding dining, how do La Paz and Puerto Vallarta differ?

La Paz is emerging as a culinary hotspot with a focus on sustainable and farm-to-table dining, offering a mix of trendy and casual beachside eating options. Puerto Vallarta’s dining scene is more diverse, with everything from street tacos to sophisticated ocean-front dining available.