In Chicago, fall marks the arrival of tailgating, cozy sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. But most importantly, it means the clock is ticking when it comes to booking winter getaways to warm, beautiful locations that allow you to leave the cold behind.
This winter, think Puerto Vallarta. Situated on the Pacific coast of Mexico, the seaside city has everything Chicagoans crave in winter: sunshine, white-sand beaches and warm temperatures. And with a vibrant dining and nightlife scene, a roster of family-friendly activities and plenty of opportunities for adventure, it also has something for every travel style.
The best part? There are daily flights all season out of O’Hare on United and American Airlines, making it easy to accommodate any schedule.
A FOODIE’S FEAST
Best for: The Chicagoan who always has a table at the hot new West Loop restaurant.
Where to stay:
Puerto Vallarta is home to resorts and hotels with award-winning dining on-site, meaning your next memorable meal is just a few steps away.
Sheraton Buganvilias Resort & Convention Center houses more than a dozen different eateries, including Mediterranean-focused Pescador, Asian spot Umai, and gourmet Mexican restaurant Las Gaviotas, which recently received the coveted Four Diamond distinction from AAA.
Six different restaurants at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa include Japanese, Mexican, and three different seafood spots. Las Casitas focuses on local flavors and produce, Nosh Sunset Bar + Bites offers a raw bar alongside live music and Ceviche & Tequila Bar pairs market-fresh ceviche with the best tequilas on offer.
The adults-only, all-inclusive Casa Velas offers gourmet Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner surrounded by koi ponds and tropical greenery at the casually elegant Emiliano — a AAA Four Diamond restaurant. Or stay poolside and dig into next-level food from Taú Beach Club and drinks from the swim-up Aqua Bar.
Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta has a restaurant for every style, from upscale French cuisine at Bordeaux to Italian spot Capers, which features a five-course menu, ample wine cellar and sommelier service. Or opt to keep it casual at breezy, outdoor Barefoot Grill or Carnival international buffet, with five different global food stations.
What to do:
Puerto Vallarta’s abundant local produce, fresh seafood and talented artisans make the destination perfect for taking in local culture via your tastebuds.
The experts at Vallarta Food Tours offer a range of three-hour walking cultural tours, which allow you to learn about the area while sipping and snacking along the way. Options include The Original Downtown Tour, with eight different stops for iconic local dishes; The Street Tour, an evening venture with seven stops for incredible street food; and Discover Versalles de Noche, which takes guests through the best restaurants in Puerto Vallarta’s hottest food neighborhood.
A local staple for more than 30 years, Café Des Artistes has received a range of awards — including the AAA Four Diamond — for chef Thierry Blouet’s French-meets-Mexican cuisine. El Dorado’s beachfront location pairs super-fresh seafood with sweeping ocean views. A favorite since the 1960s, the spot serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks in a tropical-inspired space. Open-air Italian restaurant La Cappella serves traditional Italian food and wine with live music and views of both the water and the Guadalupe Cathedral. One of the newer restaurants on the scene, Noroc serves globally inspired cuisine and exotic cocktails in an oceanfront dining room peppered with small pools. Finally, The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar serves elegant, local cuisine alongside the best tequilas and mezcals the area has to offer.
A GIRL’S GETAWAY
Best for: The Chicagoan who is always planning the next group get-together.
Where to stay:
Chic resorts combine luxury and relaxation with late-night fun, allowing your group to refresh, recharge and reconnect in myriad ways. (Bonus: all-inclusive options eliminate any bill-splitting stress.)
The adults-only, all-inclusive Hotel Mousai — the only AAA Five Diamond resort in Puerto Vallarta — was just named one of the world’s best hotels and resorts by U.S. News & World Report. The resort offers on-site dining and bars, spa treatments, activities, deluxe suites and VIP service that leaves reality behind.
Once the former homes of the legendary Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Casa Kimberly now features nine magazine-worthy suites, plus a spa, indoor pool and The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar, perfect for enjoying live music over just one more drink.
Hilton Vallarta Riviera All-Inclusive Resort has it all, with 12 restaurants and bars, oceanfront pools, a spa, rooms with views and balconies and plenty group activities options, like beach games and craft classes. Wind down the day — or start the night — at the nightly Sunset Pool Party, with a soundtrack spun by a local DJ.
A visit to the tranquil, adults-only Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel — a AAA Four Diamond resort — features spa services, a local golf course discounts and 24/7 butler service for a true escape. The Gourmet All-Inclusive Plan includes all meals, beverages, room service and mini-bar fees under one cost.
Situated on the highest point in Puerto Vallarta, the tranquil AAA Four Diamond Grand Miramar All Luxury Suites and Residences hasthree restaurants and The Gin Joint, a mixology-focused bar. There’s also a deluxe spa,personalized service and four outdoor pools — including an Instagram-worthy infinity pool.
What to do:
The recipe for a perfect group getaway? Best friends and the beach. Just add tequila — and the occasional dance floor.
Open Saturdays and Sundays, Majahuitas Beach Club’s restaurant and lounge are inspired by the local landscape, with music provided by top DJs. The three-hour Mex-ology walking tour offered by Vallarta Food Tours takes guests through Old Town to experience local culture through tequila and tacos. A delicious restaurant, stellar service, inviting pool and beachfront cabanas make Tau Beach Club the perfect place to spend a day unwinding by the water. The best show in Puerto Vallarta, Alma by Rhythms of the Night transports guests via sunset cruise to a secluded island to enjoy dinner followed by a show filled with music and acrobatics. Chicabal Sunset provides a luxurious party vibe day or night, with a beachfront location and top DJs, while Bar Morelos is the go-to nightclub when it’s time to dance the night away in an energy-filled room.
Best for: The Chicagoan who knows every hiking trail, bike route and yoga schedule in the area.
Where to stay:
Hotels and resorts in Puerto Vallarta offer easy access to the abundant natural landscape.
As Mexico’s top wellness resort and yoga retreat, Xinalani is a place to find your inner peace, with tranquil surroundings, healthy cuisine, a pristine beach, eco-friendly excursions and six nature-immersed yoga studios with top-tier instructors.
Situated in the jungle, Verana has received accolades for its unique location and luxe features. Guests are immediately immersed in nature, as they hike to the boutique hotel while a mule carries belongings. The resort offers 10 different houses with access to activities like hiking, fishing, snorkeling, culinary classes, yoga and more.
The isolated El Grullo Naturista truly takes you away — it’s only accessible via boat. Once there, this holistic wellness spot recharges guests through yoga, spa services, healthy eating and curated retreats focused on detox or healing, plus easy access to the beach.
What to do:
With jungle, beaches, mountains and tropical plants, there’s no shortage of ways to take in the varied and unique nature of Puerto Vallarta.
Whether it’s adrenaline-pumping adventure or just a jaw-dropping nature walk, Canopy River offers several unique ways to take in the great outdoors. The River Expedition features non-stop excitement, as it blends rafting, rappelling, ziplining and mule riding. The two-hour Jorullo Bridge RZR Tour takes guests through the natural terrain — including across the world’s longest suspension bridge — via ATV and finishes with swimming under a waterfall. On a less extreme note, the Jorullo Bridge Hiking Tour is a guided 8k hike that lets guests observe the area’s native flora and fauna.
Similarly, Vallarta Adventures offers exciting, pulse-racing opportunities to explore Puerto Vallarta. The Outdoor Zipline Adventure takes guests via boat and mule to a secluded zip line location, where you zip, swim, hike and rappel through the jungle. Extreme Zipline Adventure ups the ante, adding UTVs, a hillside waterslide and indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel. Finally, the UTV Tour allows adventure-seekers to power through the great outdoors at their own pace, stopping for hikes or sightseeing when the mood strikes.
Best for: The busy Chicago family that’s desperate for some quality time.
Where to stay:
Options like swimming pools, activities, kids’ clubs and memorable excursions allow parents and kids to bond while also enjoying their own fun.
The all-inclusive Crown Paradise Club Resort includes a kids’ club, baby area, waterpark, movie theater, family game room and a zip line for daring family members. There’s also Nitro, an adults-only nightclub as well as an adults-only pool bar for when parents need a minute to themselves.
Sunscape Hilton Vallarta Riviera, another all-inclusive option, allows families to connect with water time and family-friendly rooms. Parents can take a moment with yoga classes, spa services and nightly entertainment, while kids can enjoy the Kids’ Club, with arts and crafts and complimentary activities. A Teen Club offers sports tournaments, classes, pizza nights, themed parties and a nightclub.
A heated kids’ pool with waterslides will keep kids in the water all day at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, while parents take turns in the spa and adults-only lap pool. The resort also offers easy access to family-friendly activities like whale watching, botanical gardens and the Los Arcos National Marine Park, with snorkeling, swimming, kayaking and more.
Hotel Meliã Puerto Vallarta’s Kidsdom club offers play areas and planned activities that vary by age — think crafts and treasure hunts for younger kids, and teen-centric sports, karaoke and beach parties. Private babysitters are available for an extra charge when parents want to take advantage of the Yhi Spa or Fish House beachfront restaurant.
What to do:
Families can make memories through a wide range of activities that are far from the everyday options.
Accessible only by boat, Las Caletas Beach Hideaway offers activities like kayaking, snorkeling, hiking and a kids’ adventure park, with zip lines, swings, face painting and more — plus mezcal tastings for parents. Led by marine biologists, Dolphins in the Wild allows families to learn about and interact with dolphins in their natural habitat. Pirate Ship Marigalante welcomes families for a swashbuckling adventure aboard the Marigalante Galleon — an exact replica of Columbus’ Santa Maria. Finally, the Butterfly Sanctuary brings families face-to-flutter with butterflies as they educate visitors on the importance of conservation efforts supporting these natural pollinators.