Date: January 6
This Catholic holiday receives little attention in the rest of the world, but Día de Reyes is a relatively important celebration throughout Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Though celebrations are low-key and held within the family, you can join in the traditional festivities by swinging by any local bakery and picking up a rosca (traditional round/oval-shaped cake with a small figurine of baby Jesus baked into it). Traditionally in Mexico, the person who finds the figurine has to buy tamales (a dish of seasoned meat and maize flour steamed or baked in maize husks) for the entire party afterwards.
Date: February 14
What some of us celebrate as Valentine’s Day, in Mexico it is celebrated as the Day of Love and Friendship – casting an even wider net. Like in many places around the world, this is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. If you’re brave enough to go out, make a reservation well in advance.
Date: May 5
Around the world Cinco de Mayo is perceived as the definitive Mexican holiday, but it might surprise you that for Mexicans it isn’t very important at all. Contrary to another popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Rather, it celebrates the Mexican victory over French forces during the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Cinco de Mayo grew to become the American holiday it is today primarily due to the marketing efforts of beer companies in the 1980s. In Puerto Vallarta, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in some touristy bars and restaurants, catering exclusively to American tourists, but that’s about it.
Date: May 10
If there’s one thing you’ll learn from being in Puerto Vallarta on Mother’s Day, it’s that Mexicans really love their moms. Expect to see street vendors selling flowers at every intersection and on every corner, and don't expect availabilities at restaurants during the evening – book in advance to secure your spot.
Dates: September 15 & 16
Arguably the biggest holiday in Mexico, Independence Day celebrations take place over two days. In Puerto Vallarta, the celebration starts the evening of September 15, with the traditional reenactment of the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores) – the event that marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. At 11pm, the mayor leads the shout of “¡Viva México!” from the balcony of City Hall, and the fireworks begin. The next day there's a massive parade through town and in the evening, fireworks light up the night sky again.
Date: November 2
This is by far the best known festival, and though the celebrations in Puerto Vallarta aren’t particularly exceptional compared to elsewhere in Mexico, it’s still a great time to be around to see how things are done. You’ll see parties in cemeteries around the city – but these are for individual families celebrating the lives of loved ones who've passed on. If you want to join in, you can stop by a bakery and pick up a pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a traditional sweet bread decorated with bone-shaped pieces, often with sugar on top.
Dates: November, exact dates vary
For one week each year in November, Puerto Vallarta is the home of this self-proclaimed “premiere culinary event” in Mexico. The festival attracts some of the best Mexican and international chefs, so if you consider yourself a foodie, don't miss this. Find out specific dates on the official website.
Date: December 12th
Our Lady of Guadalupe is Mexico’s most important religious image, and the namesake of Puerto Vallarta’s main church – so it should come as no surprise that this is the most important annual festival in Puerto Vallarta.
Festivities begin on December 1, with the Guadalupe Processions. For 12 days, groups representing schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and civic associations make processions through Old Town to the main church. Larger groups often feature folkloric dancers, musicians, parade floats – even pyrotechnics – as they make their way through the narrow streets.
On December 12, the processions culminate in the festival itself. Food and craft vendors, live music, street performers, and of course plenty of fireworks are on display.
Date: December 31
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest celebrations in Puerto Vallarta. Everyone is out partying – and you’re invited! At the stroke of midnight, many of the major hotels in New Town compete with each other to put on the biggest display of fireworks. If you've got a balcony view, you're at eye level to see some of the colorful blasts that encircle the Bahía de Banderas.
Find out how to get around on the cheap with our tips on transport in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
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