BEACHES IN PUERTO VALLARTA
“Let’s go to the beach, Puerto Vallarta”
While buildings or fences may block access from (for example) a road to the beach, you can enjoy ANY beach you can get to without crossing private property. If the particular stretch of beach you want to enjoy seems to be blocked by private property, and you can still get there via another stretch of beach that is accessible, don’t let anybody get away with telling you that the beach is ‘private property’, because ALL beaches are PUBLIC property in Mexico.
Boca de Tomatlan is the last ‘beach stop’ on the road heading south out of Puerto Vallarta…after ‘Boca’, Highway 200 turns inland. This is a small beach on a cove at the point where the Tomatlan River empties into the bay. Good for swimming, or snorkeling along the rocky edges of the cove. There are a couple of quaint beach restaurants where you can sit at a table on the sand under a palapa and enjoy fresh seafood and cold refreshments. You can catch a Boca/Mismaloya bus at the south end of Puerto Vallarta, at the corner of Highway 200 and Basilio Badillo for 6.5 pesos.
Mismaloya Beach is hardly a beach any more. Visitors from years past will be saddened to see the damage wrought by the passing of Hurrican Kena in 2001, which took most of the sand with it as it moved north. The long row of palapa restaurants along the south side of the bay has been reduced to just a few survivors, and if the sand keeps moving, they might be gone before long too. The beautiful Hotel La Jolla Mismaloya has recently been purchased by the Barcelo hotel group.
Playa Gemelas, Playa Garza Blanca, and Playa Punta Negra: Between Mismaloya and Puerto Vallarta are these three beaches (in order from south to north). These can be difficult to access due to condos or steep cliffs, but keep a sharp eye out as you drive the road, look for turn-outs or wide shoulders on which to park, and you’ll find beautiful beaches that are fairly secluded or scarcely used. The waves can be dangerous here, so swim with caution. There are some great rock outcroppings for snorkeling if the waves are slack.
Playa Los Muertos is by far the most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta, south of the Cuale River (Rio Cuale). This mostly sandy beach is long and wide, with typically small waves, perfect for swimming. The beach is lined by dozens of restaurants and bars, and despite it’s popularity there’s usually plenty of room to spread out a towel to soak up rays between dips in the water. It’s a bustling place full of craft and food vendors and large extended families with their laughing children. This is a great place to take a ride on the parasail and get a birds-eye view of the city. The beach has the added attraction of being on the edge of Viejo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta’s beautiful ‘Old Town’.
Playa Camarones (‘Shrimp Beach’) stretches from the Rio Cuale north along the Malecon (the downtown sea-front promenade), past the north end of Downtown (‘El Centro’) to the south end of the ‘hotel zone’. Usually a wide sandy stretch of beach, but there are some rocky parts and often the sea-bed drops away sharply, so keep your head about you when swimming.
Playa Pelicanos is the next named stretch of beach, from about the Sheraton to Playa Las Glorias. Fairly vacant, this is a good place to get away from the usual beach crowds while remaining in the heart of the city.
Playa Las Glorias is the generic name for the stretch of beach from Playa Pelicanos all the way to the cruise ship terminal and Marina Vallarta. If you’re staying in any of the hotels north of the Sheraton or Club del Sol, this is the beach you will find out your ‘back door’. Beautiful sand, generally great for swimming, and close to services of the hotels which border the beach.
Playa El Salado is the proper name for the beach which is more generally known as the ‘Marina Vallarta Beach’, and backs the row of hotels there. There is a public access to the beach you can use without going through any of the hotels between the Mayan Palace Marina hotel and the Melia Hotel.
Playa Nuevo Vallarta is of course the beach at Nuevo Vallarta, north of the city of Puerto Vallarta. Generally wider and with fewer rock outcroppings than elsewhere in the bay.
Playa Bucerias is at the town of Bucerias…a nice stretch of clean sandy beach north-west of Nuevo Vallarta. Some nice little restaurants line the beach, and the waves are generally calm…an excellent swimming beach.
Playa La Cruz is not much of a beach, at the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (Just say ‘La Cruz’ and you’ll be understood and won’t have to strain your tongue on ‘Huanacaxtle’). However it’s a cute little fishing town, and becoming more and more of a sailor’s town as plans are underway to build a large marina here.
Playa Destiladeras is one of several beaches between La Cruz and Punta Mita. Playa Destiladeres is a popular beach with a couple of rustic restaurants for food and refreshments, especially popular with Mexican families (where you’ll be more than welcome too). Nice waves for boogie-boarding and learning to surf. There are several other difficult-reach-beaches along here, popular among surfers for the good wave action…check in at the Coral Reef surfer’s shop in Bucerias for details on how to find them.
Punta Mita (also known as Playa Anclote) is renowned for its friendly row of beach restaurants and gentle slope, making it perfect for all ages. Hurricane Kena sucked a bit of the sand out of this beach in 2001 as well, but it’s coming back fairly quickly due to the efforts of the town. For a long walk on a secluded stretch of beach, head east from town and enjoy a beautiful stretch of sand several miles long complete with several secluded coves. Don’t just look at the ocean…the homes of princes, sheiks, and movie stars set back along this stretch are a great view too. Punta Mita is also renowned as being an excellent place to learn to surf, due to consistent low and long rolling waves…there are a couple of surf schools here. Of special note is Posada Paraiso, a charming bed-and-breakfast in town just a couple blocks from the beach.
Sayulita has developed over the past few years into a surfer’s town with a bohemian feel. You’ll find some of the most popular surfer’s waves here, and lots of laid-back attitude. To get there, stay on Highway 200 North, rather than taking the Punta Mita turnoff just past Bucerias.