Accessible Vallarta: Tips for Disabled Visitors

handicapped parking

Until recently, Puerto Vallarta has had a reputation among travelers for presenting a number of challenges to visitors with limited mobility with the hilly topography and cobblestone streets that characterize many areas of the city. However, a recent focus on improving the experience for tourists with disabilities and limited mobility has resulted in a number of changes aimed at improving accessibility in the area.

A New Commitment

Over 10,000 individuals managing limited mobility visit this sunny seaside city each year, and so Puerto Vallarta’s Tourism Board along with its Municipal Council on Disability have collaborated in a joint effort to offer added accessibility for disabled visitors as well as residents.

A series of improvements completed in 2012 include vast renovations to the city’s mile-long Malecon boardwalk to allow disabled guests to share in the beauty of the Pacific Coast, undergoing procedures to widen, expand and smooth out the pedestrian pathway. Additional improvements to the city’s accessible experience also include widened sidewalks and the installation of additional wheelchair ramps in the most frequently visited areas of town.

The inclusive retrofitting of Puerto Vallarta has also taken notable hold in Marina Vallarta, which features a leisurely and scenic promenade where wheelchairs, bikes and other rolling conveyances can easily pass. This area of the city is especially attractive to disabled guests for its low, flat layout and range of accessible business thanks to relatively recent expansions.

Handicapped Parking

One area of accessibility improvement that is still underway in Puerto Vallarta is the development of handicapped parking spaces in the city’s most popular neighborhoods. Major local establishments like the Galerias Vallarta Mall north of Centro feature dedicated handicapped parking zones, but other, smaller establishments may lack the resources or rights to institute similar programs in all areas of the city.

Lift Van Rentals

The business community of Puerto Vallarta is also working to advance accessibility in the area through expanding local lift van rental services. Thanks to the newly accessible redesign of the airport in town as well as its expedited screening process for handicapped travelers, disabled visitors can disembark from their planes and proceed directly into the city to explore what the area has to offer them, and these lift van rental services present a convenient resource to these visitors.

Beach Wheelchair and Equipment Rentals

Being limited to a wheelchair is no longer an issue for prospective beachgoers due to the development of beach wheelchairs. These specially designed mobility devices enable easy transport across loos packed surfaces with low pressure wheels that distribute the weight of the chair and rider over a larger area to prevent the wheels from sinking deeply into the sand, dirt or other surface material.

There are a number of businesses in the area that offer rental of beach wheelchairs as well as other mobility enhancing devices, and travelers can even arrange to have these items delivered to them at the airport and picked up at the end of their stay to make the process as smooth as possible. For this reason, Puerto Vallarta remains one of the most accessible coastal destinations in all of Mexico.

Top Picks for Disabled Visitors

Puerto Vallarta is home to a range of entertainment options and points of interest accessible to the disabled traveler, including:

Galerias Vallarta Mall- Extensive handicap parking and a full size elevator make this central city shopping center into one of the most accessible attractions in the city.

Los Muertos Pier- This active area of the Malecon has been improved for added accessibility with a wider, more wheelchair friendly walkway, inviting all guests to experience the magic of the waterfront.

Romantic Zone– World class dining options and old world Mexican charm await new visitors to this historic area of the city, featuring upgraded sidewalk and rolling ramps on the majority of major streets.

Andale Dance and Dinner- A mainstay in the Olas Altas section just inland from the northern end of Los Muertos beach, the accessible bathrooms and pathways at this lively hangout distinguish it from most in the area.


The city is home to a well-developed public transportation system that transports riders around the city along with its network of taxi cabs and vans, giving residents and visitors multiple options for convenient transport. The 2018 public transportation upgrade initiative further expands city by expanding the city’s fleet of wheelchair lift buses.

Wheelchair Checklist

In order to be of the most service to you during your stay in Puerto Vallarta, wheelchairs should be equipped with a number of features optimized for the environment and terrain.

Wheelchairs should have reliable shock absorbers in case of small sidewalk obstructions or cobblestone streets. They should also feature movable and cutout armrests as opposed to models with fixed armrests, as many tables used in restaurants and other establishments will prevent fixed-armrest wheelchairs from fully sliding under the table.

Other good ideas for visitors who require the use of wheelchairs include a small collection of spare parts and upgraded mountain bike tires to deliver a smoother ride over uneven or textured terrain. Be sure to bring along the owner’s manual for your wheelchair and any specific tools required for servicing it in case a need for emergency repair arises.

Decades ago, the limited accessibility for disabled visitors to Puerto Vallarta sadly limited its appeal to these travelers. Fortunately, local government and businesses in the area are working together in a cohesive effort to improve the city’s quality of accessible services, opening its wonders up to a wider range of visitors than ever before.

About the Author

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AJ Freeman

AJ Freeman is an adventurous spirit, serial friend maker, and general enthusiast. He lives his everyday life hoping to demonstrate the nearly infinite potential for discovery and wonder on this small wet rock orbiting a dim yellow star in the backwoods of the Milky Way.

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