When choosing between a two or three-day getaway, it’s important to first consider whether you’re planning to travel by land or air, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or more of a personal reset, and of course, where you’re thinking of staying. Although there are plenty of things to do in Guadalajara over the weekend, if you feel like escaping with your family and/or friends near and around Guadalajara, Hilton Hotels is here to help you plan a great trip and have the best experience possible. To that end, we have compiled a list of the best places to go for a weekend jaunt while you’re visiting Guadalajara, that will excite all your senses with the perfect combination of ecology, natural beauty and Mexican culture.
Approximately five hours from Guadalajara by bus or car lies Puerto Vallarta, a place fondly referred to as an “Eden” in Rocío Durcal’s famous song, “Garland.” If you leave the city in the morning, you can make it to this enchanting destination before noon, and plan an entire afternoon of amusement. Puerto Vallarta is the main port in the State of Jalisco and an international tourist hotspot that offers countless things to do. In addition, you can stay at the Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort, which recently opened the Hacienda, a truly Mexican retro-style experience for adults only that seeks to evoke the country’s heritage through its architecture, cuisine and decoration.
What is there to do in Puerto Vallarta? For starters, there is no moment more moving or majestic than when you see a whale in its natural habitat. Between the months of December and February, you will be able to get up and close and personal with humpback whales that return to these waters as part of their reproductive cycle. If you prefer to swim with dolphins, Aquaventuras Park is the place for you, where you also have the chance to swim with cute sea lions. This is a plan that will delight the whole family and appeal to people of all ages.
In addition, just one hour away from the port is the Vallarta Botanical Garden which is a must-see, if only to see the unbelievable orchids on display. Scuba divers will love the Arcos Marine Park or the Marietas Islands, which were declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Among the beaches we recommend you visit during your weekend getaway are: Yelapa, Palmares, Conchas Chinas and Mismaloya.
A great ecotourism experience can be found in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. Here you can enjoy nature at its peak, a route that you can take on foot, on horseback, on a mule or an ATV. And after that massive adrenaline rush and exercise, you will have worked up an appetite, and lucky for you, Puerto Vallarta also offers unparalleled culinary experiences.
Some of the area’s best restaurants worth highlighting are Cafés des Aristes, which some say is one of the country’s culinary treasures. Then there is El Andariego, where we especially recommend breakfast, or La Leche, with its eye-catching décor and a menu that changes daily. Le Kliff offers exquisite cuisine with sea views, and Vista Grill satisfies your palate while offering you an unsurpassed view of the city from its terrace. Finally, the nightlife of Puerto Vallarta is just as enticing, and the hottest nightclubs include La Santa, Strana, La Vaquita, and Zoo, where you can dance all night. Without a doubt, Puerto Vallarta has something for all ages and all tastes.
Another amazing weekend idea is to visit Sayulita, a small town which is about three and a half hours from Guadalajara. This town is a surfer’s haven, so you can either take it easy or catch some waves while you’re there. The village itself is also quite charming and perfect for a casual stroll, some great drinks and unexpected gourmet dinners.
About a three-and-a-half-hour journey away from Guadalajara by car or bus is Guanajuato, a city declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and hands down considered to be one of the most fun places to visit in all of Mexico. From the Cervantino International Festival to the Alhóndiga de Granaditas, a museum that is one of Mexico’s most powerful revolutionary symbols, this is one getaway you shouldn’t miss. The city’s streets are famous for imitating a labyrinth-like appearance, so it’s a pedestrian paradise where you can easily get lost navigating your way through its charming corridors and alleyways.
You can browse the Museum of the Mummies of Guanajuato, which is a great testament and learning lesson into the important role death plays in Mexican culture. If you’re traveling with your spouse or partner, a stop in the Alley of the Kiss is a must, as the legend goes that any couple who kisses on one of their steps will enjoy seven years of happiness. For art aficionados and fans of Frida Kahlo, there’s the visit to the home of her husband, artist Diego Rivera. Also, worth noting, a quick visit to Basilica of Guanajuato or the Temple of the Company are recommended too. Of course, the best view of the city will undoubtedly be from the Funicular, where you may be inclined to take a few memorable selfies as mementos of your trip.
We definitely recommend a visit to the State of Colima, especially to its capital which bears the same name, and Manzanillo, both of which are three and four hours from Guadalajara, respectively. In Colima, you can stop by the University Museum of Popular Arts to learn more about folk art, which includes an impressive and extensive collection of masks and mojigangas. Last year, the Arque-Ecological Park was inaugurated, which is part of the archaeological zone of La Campana. On the other hand, in Manzanillo, you can rest and go to the beach, among which La Boquita, Miramar and Audiencia are recommended, or fish as this is considered to be the world capital of sailfish.
A short distance from Guadalajara is also the city of Aguascalientes, known for its hot springs, the San Marcos Fair, its colonial architecture and bullfighting culture. If you want activities such as hiking or cycling we recommend you visit La Sierra Fría or El Ocote, but if you are looking for a physical challenge, the Boca de Tunel is for you. The renowned Cristo Roto, one of the five largest monuments in the country, can be seen in San José de Gracia. Or visit the Black Christ, which you can find in the neighborhood of Encino.
Learn about the rites and beliefs behind Mexican culture’s relationship with death at the National Museum of Death. And if you happen to be intrigued by the legend that says this land was once inhabited by giants, you have to visit Cerro del Picacho (feet of the dead), which is a formation of small hills that seem to represent a man lying down. Be sure to pamper yourself at the Ojocaliente Hot Spring or treat yourself to a relaxation treatment at Temazcal Spa. The Malpaso Dam is one of the most popular places to visit as you can see the dam overflowing, but the Historic Center is really hard to beat with its jaw-dropping cathedrals, including the church of San Marco and the Cathedral of the Basilica of the Virgin of Asuncion.
If you know you want to escape for a weekend trip but definitely don’t want to travel far from Guadalajara, just an hour away you will find the magical town of Mazamitla, which is often considered to be the Switzerland of Mexico. You can choose a quiet day exploring this town, its museum, artisanal treasures or parish. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more immersive experience, you can visit Cascada el Salto, which you can do on horseback, otherwise make sure to pack your comfiest walking shoes and prepare for a hike unlike any other. Here you can also choose between two ecotourism parks, the Mazamitla Teocolote or Mundo Aventura. At the first, you can rent a cabin or camp, as well as enjoy hiking or horseback riding, and at the second, prepare to get a little more adventurous, with activities such as rock climbing and rappelling.
Another typical and popular weekend plan is to enter the Barranca de Huentintán. It is a beautiful canyon that is part of Mexico’s revolutionary history, and due to its abundant biodiversity, it was declared a protected natural area. This is the perfect escape for the traveler looking for some time in nature, fresh air and dazzling landscapes. But beware, this “nature walk” is not for the faint of heart; make sure to bring water and a really good pair of sneakers or hiking shoes. When you make your way down into the canyon, don’t miss the chance to take some extraordinary photos of the suspension bridge. This experience gives new meaning to ecotourism by mixing it with a touch of history.
If a trip to Guadalajara is in the cards for you, whether for business or pleasure, we welcome you to stay in any one of our five hotels: Hilton Guadalajara, Hilton Guadalajara Midtown, 1970 Hotel Posada Guadalajara-Curio Collection by Hilton, Hampton Inn by Hilton Guadalajara-Expo and the Hampton Inn by Hilton Guadalajara-Airport. If you manage to make it over to Puerto Vallarta, there is the Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort as well. Guadalajara has so much to offer in terms of easy weekend getaways, with plenty of unique experiences that will enrich your trip beyond measure.