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.
Our 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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
See the map :
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
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.
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
Tecuan Beach (km33) is a deserted beach, good for rock fishing.
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 (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).
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.
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
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
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.
The eco-tourism occupies a large place in this “Happy Coast”.
See the pages about the sea resorts on the Pacific coast :
South part :
Puerto Escondido-Huatulco-Puerto Angel
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