You are going to get a lot of biased answers here, because many of the people who post here are in love with PV, and visit it frequently. In my biased opinion, PV is the place.
It's a great town for exploring on foot. You can spend all day everyday, just roaming around and finding new restaurants and shops. For running, I'd avoid the downtown cobblestone streets and their uneven sidewalks. I run in the morning at the Marina, and so do lots of other people.
Party? There are endless places for that.
To learn more, try this website: http://vallartainfo.com/index.html Be sure to look at the list of maps on the right side of that page.
Also, check out the FAQs on the right of this page.
You won't regret a trip to PV, though you may regret going home.
ditto above---the onlybad part about pv is leaving and waiting for the next trip.
I've been to a few places in Mexico but not to Matzatlan so can't compare PV and Matatlan.
I like PV because we never run out of things to do. We've been going to PV for 24 years and still find new places to go and new places to see. Walking in town is a treasure and there are still things to be discovered there as well. PV is also dramatically beautiful with it's jungle covered mountains running to the sea, which I've missed in other places in Mexico, even though I did enjoy those places.
In terms of running, you don't have to go to the Marina to run unless that's what you want to do. You have the option of also running on the Malecon and taking the stairs down to the island on the river and run the length of that and back. It's all even sidewalk and wide most of the way. Or you can just do the Malecon.
You can do everything you listed in PV, but you can probably do that in Matzatlan too, so maybe terrain and vistas would be a way of changing things. Matzalan is going to have that more rugged look that the Cabo has....I'm guessing from photos I've seen. PV is more lush and tropical with rolling mountains down the coast.
Thank you to everyone! It's so helpful when making the decision. We've stayed at cabo and san Jose. Both beautiful people and scenery. Very much a desert so it sounds like pv is different ...more tropical. We're looking forward to it.
PV is definitely more tropical. I've been to Maz once and I liked it okay...but it really felt more like a "working city" than a tropical destination. That's just a personal opinion, and it's hard to describe. There were things to see and do and I enjoyed myself - but it didn't have the pull on me that PV does. I didn't feel any driving need to go back.
Now, if you ask this question on the Maz forum I'm certain you will also get a wide variety of opinions different from here that you would love it there more. It has its fans, just like PV.
Yes, PV would feel a lot more tropical to you than Cabo. Mountains, beach, lots of foliage and jungle. It's in a bay rather than on open ocean so the water activities would be a bit different (such as snorkeling, diving, etc). But it has a real warmth to the city and the people. Very welcoming.
There are some who don't fancy the beaches. I don't mind them. They vary a great deal because of geography depending on where you are in the bay. I live 700 miles from the ocean so to me, ANY beach is better than no beach. But if pressed on it I'll say that the beaches outside PV proper are better than the ones inside the city. They aren't unusable in the city, they just aren't as good as outside going south or north.
Here's a quick video to give you a sense of some of the scenery and terrain south of town. It will give you a sense of the lushness of the foliage in the area:
And here is a two minute "tour" of PV, courtesy of Ventura Orozco Osorio of "We Did Your Homework" (btw, I highly recommend going through his whole YouTube channel for a great overview of almost anything/everything you can think of for PV - tours, restaurants, activities, nightlife, shopping...he even covers safety)
And this one - a trip through time with Don Silvino. A nice touch of history:
On one of my first trips, a vendor on the beach told me "once you get the sand of Vallarta between your toes, she never leaves your heart". So far, he's been absolutely right...15 years and counting, going on 30 trips and counting. (-:Edited: 22 January 2014, 22:39