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Puerto Vallarta, Costalegre
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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The access to Manzanillo (Colima state) or Puerto Vallarta Jalisco state) can be done either directly by plane or by road, the northern road from Guadalajara via the Nayarit or the southern road via the state of Colima.

Puerto Vallarta

handicraft from Puerto VallartaOur drive to the north ends before Tepic, capital of the state of Nayarit, and we suddenly change direction to go back to Puerto Vallarta. This portion of the road offers big differences between the mild air of the plateaus and the sultry temperatures of the coastal jungle.
Puerto Vallarta, located in the Bay of Banderas at the foothills of the Sierra Madre, is parted in two by a river, the Cuale, which originates in the volcanic sierra and flows into the Bay of Banderas, one of the biggest and more beautiful bays in Mexico. The climate is pleasant all year long with an average temperature of 28C or 82F. The rain season brings some late afternoon rains between May and October. Puerto Vallarta is both traditional, with its old village leant against the hill, and modern, with the famous Malecon, lined with shops, restaurants, bars and gallerias.

     Right picture : handicraft from Puerto Vallarta

Our first day there is consecrated to the visit of the old city. We will also discover Nuevo Vallarta, invaded by hotels complexes, in the state of Nayarit !
Two-third of the city, whose nick name is "little Mexican Saint Tropez ", is on the north bank with most of the shops and almost all the old hotels. While strolling, stop at the main place of the city, called the Zócalo. The Church Our Lady of Guadalupe dominates the place.
Following the bank, we arrive to the bridge that leads to the Gringo Gulch : it is the popular name of the neighborhood overlooking the Cuale River, with a lot of nice colonial-style houses built by foreigners. Crossing the bridge, we get into the tourist and residential sector. The only building of interest, the Municipal Palace in which you can admire a strange fresco of Manuel Lepe, figuring the flying angelic children of Puerto Vallarta. It is home to the Tourist Office which is a great place to get information : the staff is friendly, multilingual and competent. There you can get the free tourist brochures in Spanish and English with all the cultural events of the month.
Two bridges cross the river, by the huge Municipal Market, and allow the access to the river Cuale Island. There, the street vendors set their stands between 8 and 9AM every day to attract tourists. There are also several luxury stores, very nice restaurants as well as parks. You can also visit the Cultural Center of Crafts (offering fine art courses) and the Museum del Cuale, a free museum open from 9AM to 5PM from Tuesday to Saturday.

Church Our Lady of Guadalupe

Left picture : Church Our Lady of Guadalupe

The old downtown of Puerto Vallarta conserved its whole charm with its paved streets, its patios ornate with multicolored bougainvilleas and its white houses with red tile roofs.Unfortunately, the hotels complexes grow like mushrooms in a not so harmonious way around the bay, mainly to the north of the Malecón, a boardwalk especially lovely at sunset. The Malecón is bordered with restaurants, open cafes, patios and stores. One can admire statues all along the Malecón. During the yearly fairs, there is a stage with free shows.



We won’t forget to mention Nuevo Vallarta, marina and luxury residential complex north of the airport and the Marina Vallarta, a luxury marina surrounded by prestige and deluxe hotels, to the north of the old town. The city of Puerto Vallarta has more than 300,000 inhabitants and more than two million visitors a year !


Maps of the beach resort : (downtown)

   Right picture : The Malecón

The Malecón

We will spend the second day checking the beaches. South of the river, you can have a stop at the beaches "Playa Olas Altas" and "Playa de los Muertos". You will be able to practice many water activities. You can leave from the pier located on this beach to go fishing or to take a water-taxi for a ride to the southern beaches. These two beaches are lively sandy beaches for Mexican families on Sundays and everyone during the week. You could also listen to mariachis while watching the sunset. A bridge over Cuale River joins this beach to the Malecon.

However, the more beautiful beaches are the southern beaches :

Playa Mismaloya The Playa Mismaloya, about 7 miles (12 km) south is a nice place for diving or snorkeling. You can also go horse riding (Rancho Manolo) or simply admire the many iguanas. You can access this beach by road (green or grey bus, MXN$6) or boat.

Left picture : Playa Mismaloya

At the mouth of the río Tomatlán, Playa de Boca de Tomatlán is located about 10 miles (17 km) south from Puerto Vallarta. It is a nice beach and favorite of the locals. It is also a fishing village.
These two beaches are serviced by buses every fifty minutes, from downtown Puerto Vallarta (Corner Insurgentes and Basilio Badillo), or by colectivos.
The lovely beaches located beyond Playa de Boca de Tomatlán are accessible only by boat. Among them are the beaches of Las Ánimas, Quimixto, Majahuitas, Las Caletas and a little further Yelapa.

The Animas : it is a nice beach made of two sandy stretches separated with rocks. There are some palapas restaurants. The locals come with their boats but you can take a water taxi at the Los Muertos Pier (Half an hour trip).
Quiximito : it is a fishing village with a nice beach, half an hour by water taxi from the Los Muertos Pier. There is a 1 hour hike along a coast trail between las Animas and Quiximito.See picture below.
Mahajuitas : Small nice cove half an hour from PV by boat, with good swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. You can stay at a luxury hotel (Mexican Hotel Boutique/ Casa Azul Profundo).
Las Caletas : it is a group of 3 nice sandy beaches, surrounded by a tropical forest and accessible only with Vallarta Adventure
Yelapa is an old traditional fishing village, nestled in a still wild cove, bordered with coconut trees (it has 300 inhabitants). We already said that it is the most "Tahitian" place in Mexico. And to add to the feeling, there are some 30 bungalows, or more precisely palapas worthy of the islands of the South Seas, that have been fit out on the shore. And nature gave the surrounds a wonderful 30 foot high water fall, in the jungle, just outside the village, feeding a fresh water basin suitable for swimming. In this cove, you can ride a horse or a canoe or just relax on the beach.

Quimixto fall The best way to go there is a water-taxi from the Playa de los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta, or a lancha from Boca de Tomatlán. The first departures are at 10AM and the last boats leaves around 3PM (MXN$220 per capita).
There is a possibility of staying there at the Lagunita hotel.

Left picture : Quimixto fall

All these places or beaches have seafood restaurants.

Even if it is a tourist place, the day trip is worth it : the beach is lovely, the hike to the fall is nice and the lunch under the coconut trees with a good "margarita" set the stage.

Many other nice beaches all around Bay of Banderas in Puerto Vallarta or further north, in the state of Nayarit, are accessible and pleasant : Playa Camarones, Playa Las Glorias, and Playa El Salado. The beaches in Nuevo Vallarta (MXN$10) and in Bucerias, Destiladeras ( a favorite with Puertovallartans for surfing), Anclote (good for surfing too), Punta de Mita (info at www.tranquilosurf.com), 40km (24 miles) north of Puerto Vallarta. The Marietas Islands, in front of Punta de Mita, is a bird sanctuary that you can reach by boat from any northern beach (www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx).
Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) is a privileged place for the laying of the turtles.


Other possible visits :

When driving from Puerto Vallarta towards the southern Pacific coast, you take a nice 220km (130 miles) long road along the Costalegre (from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad). The road is nice ; it often runs close to the ocean and also crosses little inland villages and alternates landscapes of fruit trees, coconut trees and desert parts with cactus. Many gas stations allow refueling all along the road.

See the map :

playa de TomatlánThe Costa Alegre, meaning the “Happy Coast”, is divided into 6 areas :
Cabo Corrientes : This cap is the southernmost point of the Bay of Banderas, accessible only by boat from Boca de Tomatlán or Puerto Vallarta. It is also the beginning of the Costa Alegre. The jungle around the rocky coast is full of birds. There are several desert beaches : Playa Tehuamixtle, Villa del Mar and Ipala.
Costa Majahuas : Here the waves are strong. The main beach, Majahuas, is located 15km (9 miles) from Tomatlán. It is a big tortuguero field operated by the Center of Coastal Ecology of the University of Guadalajara for the protection and conservation of the marine turtle. Camping is allowed. It is good for fishing. You can also admire ducks, crocodiles, herons and many other birds in their natural habitat. A little bit South, Penitas is a nice sandy beach surrounded by rocks that gave it its name. It was a Nahuatl location since there is still a granite cave with paintings and hieroglyphs. It is good for camping and sport fishing as well as bird watching.

Chalacatepec, located 20 minutes from Tomatlán, is a quiet beach where there is a wrecked pirate ship. It is also an ideal place for the reproduction of the turtles.

Bahia de Chamela is composed of the fishing villages of Chamela and Punta Perula, the beaches of La Fortuna and La Rosada and the Island Pajarera. These places are good for swimming, fishing and sailing. The Pajarera Island (Island of the birds) is accessible by boat from Chamela. You can see a rare kind of seagull called ”bobo”.

     Right picture : playa de Tomatlán

Costa Careyes : It is mainly occupied by El Careyes Resort, a hotel and condos, mainly large and expensive homes, in a gated community full of palm trees and bougainvilleas. There is no direct access to the beach from the residential community but the view is fantastic. The resort offers golf and polo courses. Nearby is El Careyito, a small beautiful beach with a palapa restaurant at the end of a road running among the coco trees. The beaches Rosa and Blanca, separated by a big boulder and El Pirata are other nearby small quiet beaches. Playa Careyes, surrounded by exuberant vegetation, is good for swimming, snorkeling, sailing and fishing. The turtles nest in these beaches in summer.

Tenacatita Beach Bahia de Tenacatita where you can find a long beach bordered with lush vegetation, coral and colorful fish to watch while snorkeling or diving, mangroves and lagoons with crocodiles.
You can hike or mountain bike in El Tecuan (km33 on road 200) or unwind and rest at Cuixmala and Teopa Beach (km 44). You can stay at an all inclusive first class resort at Los Angeles Locos surrounded by palm trees and tropical gardens. It is a good place for snorkeling and diving.
Tecuan Beach (km33) is a deserted beach, good for rock fishing.

Left picture : Tenacatita Beach

Tenacatita Beach (km 28) is a nice beach with a row of palapa restaurants. Coconut trees abound. You can take a tour in a lancha (350 pesos/hour up to 10 people) to watch the mangroves, crocodiles and birds. Get information at the beach restaurants Fiesta Americana or Chitos. Just on the right (facing the Ocean) of Tenacatita, there is Mora beach, a small beach with the best snorkeling of the area.

Boca de Iguanas Boca de Iguanas (km 19) is a long, nice protected and secluded beach where you can walk miles and miles. It is mainly occupied by a luxury eco-hotel settled on many acres, and offering every kind of activities like hiking, meditation, spa, ocean kayaking, bird watching, horseback riding, sailing, fishing and swimming in a swimming pool overlooking the Ocean (www.bocadeiguanas.com). See picture Boca de Iguanas


La Manzanilla (km 13) : Do the detour and stop in this nice quiet and little known fishing village of 1000 inhabitants. It has few year round foreign residents. From December to February, the dolphins approach the beach : it is cool ! La Manzanilla has a very long sandy beach with a few palapa restaurants. The mangrove swamp offers wildlife like birds and crocodiles. You can play tennis and ride bikes or horses to go to the cascade La Jolla. In winter, it is a good place for whale watching.
You can stay at Casa Maguey (www.casamaguey.com), in a bungalow overlooking the beach.

Playa de Manzanilla
There you can go fishing in the morning (you can rent a boat with the crew and the whole fishing ground and go deep sea fishing and bring back a lot of fish), and relax and swim in the afternoon.

You can read a nice article in English from the Washington Post about this heavenly place by clicking on

Left picture : Playa de Manzanilla


map of the small village Barra de Navidad



Left picture : map of the small village Barra de Navidad







Barra de Navidad :

Barra de Navidad On the way, we went back into the state of Jalisco. Barra de Navidad is a village stretched to the south along an almost one mile long sand bar. It is a village and a small charming beach resort. Enjoy the place swimming, surfing and deep sea fishing. It is the center of deep sea fishing tournaments.
There are all kinds of tourist services in Barra de Navidad.
Try the coco juice from the coconut directly picked up from the trees.
The village is surrounded by a lagoon to the east and the Bay of Melaque to the west, where there is the small harbor of San Patricio.
The neighboring village of Melaque is barely worth the detour.
El Tamarindo (km 7.5) is a private beach with a luxury Golf Resort and Spa (www.eltamarindomexico.com).
Cuastecomates : it is a small bay surrounded by a tropical jungle. The beach has 2 hotels and a row of restaurants.

     Right picture : Barra de Navidad

The eco-tourism occupies a large place in this “Happy Coast”.



Left picture : Barra de Navidad








      Right picture : Barra de Navidad









Beautiful video of a circuit from Barra de Navidad to Tenacatita

See the pages about the sea resorts on the Pacific coast :


South part :



Puerto Escondido-Huatulco-Puerto Angel



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