There are 90-100 miles of sensational coastline (and an estimated 30-40 miles of sandy beaches) on Banderas Bay, the largest natural bay in Mexico and the seventh largest in the world. To add to the pleasure of these beaches from November to March, sightings of whales are common and dolphins are in the Bay all year round. Beaches to the north tend to be wider and longer with more opportunities for swimming and surfing. Beaches to the south tend to be beautiful sandy coves with the mountains coming right down to the sea.
From the Centro South:
Olas Altas Beach – The few blocks of sand between Daiquiri Dick’s restaurant and the Rio Cuale.
Los Muertos Beach – considered the most popular beach of Puerto Vallarta, located along the picturesque “Bahia de Banderas,” or Banderas Bay. It is long and wide with small waves that are great for swimming. It is lined with beachfront hotels and restaurants and is usually bustling with activity–sun worshipers by day, and the dining and nightlife crowd after dark. The beachfront bars and restaurants in this area are a great place to catch one of the incredible Vallarta sunsets. This is also where you will find many water sports, including jet skiing and parasailing. A famous section of this beach is called Blue Chairs and is Puerto Vallarta’s most popular gay beach. Along this beach are some of the most popular beachfront restaurants in PV such as La Palapa, El Dorado, Daiquiri Dicks’s, and Coco Tropical, as well as hangouts like the Oasis Beach Bar and Burros Bar. The pier at Los Muertos is where many people board the daily cruise ships bound for the South Shore villages of Las Animas, Quimito or Yelapa. Water taxis from the pier can also take you directly to these destinations.
Los Muertos Secluded Beaches – Walk to the far south end of Los Muertos Beach, climb the path along the ocean, and you will discover two separate small beautiful beaches that rarely have many people on them. You can continue on this beach path all the way to Conchas Chinas Beach.
Conchas Chinas Beach – Best picturesque beach on the South side. Great diving through caves and tunnels, and visiting “Lovers Beach”, accessible only by a surface swim through an archway. All these are volcanic formations. Located just a 20 minute walk from Villa Encantada. More private than Los Muertos Beach. You can take a 30 minute beachside walk from Conchas Chinas all the way to Muertos Beach in Zona Romantica.
Take a Taxi: Only takes five minutes to get to Conchas Chinas from Villa Encantada.
Walk: A 15 minute walk to the ocean and a 20 minute walk to Conchas Chinas Beach: Walk down the hill until you get to the main road, turn left for 40 yards, cross the street (carefully!), go down the stairs and turn left, follow the road about 600 yards—it will wind right and then left and then hits the ocean, turn left (you can also choose to go right about 200 yards to a very nice and somewhat private small beach) and follow the oceanside path past a newish villa on the right, until you see a small palapa on the right. Take the walkway on the right side of the palapa and follow the beach to the left. In a little while you will come to the three beaches that compose Conchas Chinas Beach. The largest is the last one next to the stairway up to the road. If you go up the stairway and turn right, you will come to La Playita Restaurant within about 200 yards. Happy hour 12-1 pm and 5-6 pm with a great palapa view of the ocean, and great fajitas and margaritas. From there you can walk next door to Lindo Mar condominiums, take the elevator up to the top, where you can get a cab back to the Villa.
The Conchas Chinas Beaches: The first one next to the roadway tends to get the most use. Also check out the one just north of the first one. It is a very pretty beach and is usually less crowded. Sometimes the water there is a little rougher, and if it is, just walk back to the first Conchas Chinas Beach to swim.
Dreams Beach: This is a private beach at Dreams Hotel. A White sand beach that is one of the nicest on the south side. To get there you have to get a day pass to Dreams or kayak to the beach.
Playa Punta Negra: Beautiful fine sand beach at approximately Km 5.8 south of town on the way to Mismaloya. It is usually not crowded. There are two ways down to the beach. Both require a walk over gravely beach to get there:
- 1) Look for the small dirt public access road on the right side just before Hotel Jalisco Vacacional. Follow the dirt road about 100 yards to the beach, then walk about 400 yards to the left over the gravely beach until you get to Playa Punta Negra.
- 2) Go past Hotel Jalicso Vacacional until you get to Punta Negra Condominiums, and then Los Palomares Condominiums on the right side. From here, continue south 300 yards on the highway and park along the right side of the road. You will find a dirt path down to the beach. Walk 300 yards to the right until you hit Playa Punta Negra. There are sometimes construction type toilets here, but they usually don’t have paper!
Playa Garza Blanca: At Km 7.1 south of town on the way to Mismaloya. The Garza Blanca Resort recently opened here right on the beach. They imported beautiful white Hawaiian type sand and although only about 20 meters by 200 meters, it is one of the more beautiful beaches on the southside with a beautiful view of Los Arcos. There is a great roped off area for swimming. The shallow water is a little rocky with small rocks, but it is a great place to chill out and swim. To access it, look for the Garza Blanca resort at Km 7.1 as you are going on the highway south of town. 50 yards before the resort there is a small parking area. Park here and then walk up to the gated Resort entry. Just to the right you will see a bricked walking path down to the beach.
Las Gemelas Beach: This is a lovely sheltered little beach (actually composed of two separate beaches) south of town. One of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the region. It has trees that provide nice shade and a panoramic view of Los Arcos, which makes for a great sunset view. The perfect option to get away from city noises without going too far from Puerto Vallarta. Gemelas is one or two miles before you get to Mismaloya at kilometer 8.5 on the highway towards Barra de Navidad. From Villa Encantada take a taxi, or instead, walk to the bottom of the hill, cross the street, and walk 200 yards to the unsigned bus pullout. It’s only 5 pesos. Flag down the Mismaloya bus, and get off at Playa Gemelas (next to the El Presidente Hotel).
Gemelas North: This is a lovely beach with water that has a flat sandy bottom. There is an area roped for swimming. One of the mildest south beaches for kids to play in the water. More trees than south beach. Look for the stairs down to the beach between Playa Gemelas Condominiums and Girasol Sur. If you are driving: Park on the left side of the highway, 50 yards to the left of the entrance to the Sierra Del Mar entrance, then walk 250 yards south looking for the stairs mentioned above.
Gemelas South: More sloped but more private than the north beach. Reach from the north beach by walking around the rocks to the south. The far south end of the beach has a nice shaded area. Alternatively, walk to the south end of the parking lot for the Intercontinental Presidente Hotel, and go the left of the stone tile sign, down the stairs, through the hotel to the beach. This way is easier.
Mismaloya Beach: A small sandy beach on a beautiful jungle-fringed cove about eight miles south of Puerto Vallarta where the Mismaloya creek meets the ocean. This is where the “The Night of the Iguana” was filmed in 1963 — the movie that put Puerto Vallarta on the international tourist map. This is about a 20 minute drive from the Villa. From the highway, take the road to the beach to the left of the La Joya de Mismaloya Hotel. The beach has several small restaurants and there are boats for rent for a trip to the rock formations at Los Arcos or nearby beaches. Javy (Boating with Javy) is located here.
Boca de Tomatlan: is the last “beach stop” on the road heading south out of PV. After Boca the Highway turns inland. This is a small beach on a cove where the Tomatlan River empties into the bay. Few waves. There are a couple of palapa restaurants next to the beach. It is very laidback and non touristy. It has a lot of water taxis coming and going because it is the jumping off point to get to the southern beaches. It also has a lot of no seeums, so other beaches are preferable to many people. Take Boca/Mismaloya bus at the corner of Highway 200 and Basilio Badillo for 55 cents. Boca is where you can catch the hiking trail to Las Animas (see Article on Hiking Boca to Las Animas)
The following beaches and villages along the South Shore are accessible only by taking one of the day cruise boats, or you can get to these beaches by taking a water taxi from Mismaloya or the small village of Boca de Tomatlan, which is just beyond Mismaloya. You can also take a private boat or panga (see Boating with Javy).
Colomitos Beach: A 30-45 minute hike from Boca de Tomatlan–see Hiking. A beautiful little cove with good snorkeling at times. Try the Ocean Grill Restaurant, built on the hillside over the ocean, about 150 yards from Colomitos Beach–good food and great setting!
Los Caballos Beach: A gorgeous palm fringed beach that usually is deserted. To get there take a water taxi to Las Animas, then walk about a half mile back in the direction of Vallarta. It’s worth the walk—one of the prettiest and quietest beaches on the southside!
Las Animas Beach: Located about 20 minutes from Boca by boat. The first big beach after Boca, it has a small pier to unload, restaurants and bars on the beach, but not much more. It is uncrowded before teh tour boats get there and it’s advantage compared to Majahuitas is that you have both bathrooms and places to eat and drink. The tour boats get there a little before noon, load up on food and booze, then they leave. Since it is the closest beach by boat, it is busier than the others down South. A little nicer than Yelapa. An alternative is to hike there and take a water taxi back to Boca. There is a pretty decent trail between Boca and Las Animas with a couple of usually deserted beaches to explore on the way (see Hiking Boca to Las Animas).
Quimixto Beach: A small village on the South Shore. Many of the day cruises drop anchor here for several hours so that their passengers can horseback ride up to the popular waterfall in the mountains. Several palapa roofed restaurants line the cove. Get there before the tourists arrive at 11:00 and you can hike up to the waterfall and swim and usually have it to yourself. It has the best surf south of PV.
Caletas: An elegant beach, once the private residence of John Huston. It is now the location of two tours from Vallarta Adventures, the Caletas day tour and in the evening, the Rhythms of the Night tour. Not a good place to go to privately as all the facilities are Vallarta Adventures’.
Majahuitas Beach: A few miles south of Mismaloya, accessible by boat only, has good snorkeling and is a beautiful beach, bordered by a tropical jungle. Forbes Traveler named it one of the most romantic beaches in the world. All the facilities are owned by Vallarta Adventures, so it is not a good beach to stay for an extended time because of lack of access to bathroom facilities, but is a beautifull short visit. Has good snorkeling. Majahitas can only be reached by boat. You can take an inexpensive water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan south of PV.
Yelapa Beach: A remote fishing village on the South Shore, bordered by tropical jungle. Accessible only by boat. It’s popular because of its beauty and slow pace of life, and has been known as somewhat of an artist retreat and hippie hangout. Several day cruises stop there and like Quimixto, there is a river and popular waterfall. The waterfall is OK during or after the rainy season, but dries up fast after that. Yelapa is very laid back with palapas and seafood restaurants on the beach. There are water taxis from PV and Mismaloya direct to Yelapa that run in the morning and the afternoon. Yelapa can only be reached by boat. You can take a 120 peso taxi or a 60 cent bus from the south part of PV to the small harbour at Boca de Tomatlan. From there catch a 60 peso per person water taxi to Yelapa. Don’t pay for a round trip. Just buy your return trip when you are in Yelapa.
Pizota Beach: Is a beautiful palm covered beach famous for its white sand. 10 minutes south of Yelapa by boat and about an hour by boat from Vallarta. You can take the water taxi from Boca and it will go to Yelapa and then Pizota. There is a small restaurant there for food. The beach is wrapped around the back of some rocks, so it is blocked from harsh currents and there is no sand kickup and the water is as clear as a pool for 15 feet deep. Good snorkeling. One of the nicest around and very few people know about it. If you want a deserted island feeling, this is it! You can hike through the mountainside between Yelapa and Pizota but it’s a 3 hour hike.
From the Centro North:
Playa Dorada: is the beach downtown running the length of the Malecon. It is not used much as the waves here can be rather strong and the beach tends to be stony. Locals go to Playa de Los Muertos.
Playa Camarones (El Barracuda is a great beachside restaurant at Playa Camarones) , Playa Las Glorias, Playa Pelicanos, Playa Las Palmas, and Playa Los Tules: run nearly continuously for over two miles from just north of the Malecon to the Pitillal River. Many of these beaches are accessed by going through or around the main hotels in the area. These beaches together comprise the longest stretch of beach in town and some areas are popular.
Playa de Oro: extends from the Pitillal River in the North Hotel Zone to the Marina Terminal.
Playa El Salada: is the beach in the Marina District at the very northern end of Puerto Vallarta where one finds some of the town’s largest and newest hotels. It is wide and well maintained and offers great views of the City and mountains.
Playa Bucerias: in the town of Bucerias. A nice stretch of clean sandy beach north of Nuevo Vallarta. Some nice little restaurants line the beach and the waves are normally calm-a good swimming beach.
Nuevo Vallarta Beaches: Approximately 16 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. Miles of strip beaches that are great for walking or jogging. The widest and longest beaches in the Bay. You will have to park and walk in through one of the many hotels that front the beach. Choose one that isn’t an all inclusive hotel, since these won’t let you in. (Someone said there is a beach access between Marival and the Grand Velas. There is a little public bar/café there.)
Destiladeras Beach: A great strolling beach with elegant white sand North of Puerto Vallarta just past La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. A fabulous wide white coastline for several kilometers. Never feels crowded. Perfect for swimming and boogie boarding. You can go far into the sea walking way out on the smooth sandy bottom while the water barely reaches your waist. There are a couple of beachside restaurants close to where you park. If you walk further away from the restaurant areas, you’ ll find a more private stretch of beach. From Wal Mart, hop on the Punta Mita bus and tell the driver Destilideras. You’ll be there in 35 minutes.
Burros Beach: Burros is a secret beach where experienced surfers go. There are no services there. To get there take the ATM bus to the Flamingo hotel. Go down the small street which leads to the hotel. The first street to the left there will be some parked cars. Go down the small path through the trees. A few minutes walk and you are there.
Punta Pontoque: Is a beautiful jungle fringed beach close to Burros Beach. It is within a gated community so you have to know a resident, or be buying real estate to get in. If anyone knows a way to access it, please email us!
El Anclote: Just before Punta de Mita is a shallow shelving beach, great for children, the perfect beach for all ages, and also produces some excellent surfing breaks, not big but long. With consistently low rolling waves, it’s a good place to learn to surf, although if you have a little surfing experience, Sayulita is a better place to learn. The sand is finer here than on most other beaches. It has lots of beach restaurants and kayak/boogie board rentals. About 22 miles from Vallarta. Drive or take the ATM Punta de Mita bus. There is another really nice beach south of El Anclote within walking distance in the town of Emiliano Zapata.
Punta Negra: A white sand beach that is one of the most beautiful in the area. Strong but not dangerous surf in the winter and very calm in the summer. Good for boogie boarding, but not for surfing. On the road between Punta Mita and Sayulita just 5 minutes from Punta Mita. You can walk down to the beach via two public access points.
Litubu Beach: Is a two mile long beach a few miles south of Sayulita. If you are coming from Sayulita take the right turn into the City of Litibu just after the Punta Higura Bridge. Wind your way through the town about a mile until you get to the beach. To your right is a frontage road that has houses on the beach. This is a little nicer section because it is lined with coconut palms, although the palms are all fenced off on the private property, so they don’t actually provide shade on the beach. If you go to your left on the beach (south) you can walk a long ways but the beach has small rocks in many areas. Although it’s a great beach to take a long walk, there are beaches in the area that are prettier and less rocky than Litibu Beach.
Los Carricitos Beach: Try this one is you want a beach that is larger but that very few people go to. This beach has big rocks in the water, and a very energetic feeling about it. It is similar to an Inverness, California beach and is quite lovely. To get to it, follow the dirt road that leads out of the Los Muertos Beach parking lot. Stay to the right on this road as much as possible since Los Carricitos is just a little south of Los Muerto on the water. If you get lost, just ask a local where Los Carricitos is. Once you are to the sign on the road that says Los Carricitos, just take the 5 minute path down the hill to the beach.
Los Muertos Beach: If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main beach, drive south from the main beach to the Villa de Amor Hotel. From the main beach you will pass through city streets briefly, then will be on the dirt road next to water. Continue on this into the Villa de Amor Hotel and you will see a dirt road which you turn on to the left. You will immediately pass through a very old quaint cemetery and when you come out you will be on a very small quiet beach called Los Muertos Beach.
Sayulita Beach: 25 miles north of PV, (take the Sayulita bus) a gorgeous long and wide beach that is great for easy surfing, and good boogie boarding, with bars and restaurants right on the beach (including the upscale Don Pedro’s and the popular Capitan Pablo’s), and a small picturesque village. It has creamier sand and a more primitive feeling than the rest of Banderas Bay. There are surfing lessons available right at the beach. Both longboard and shortboard are popular. Surfers like it because the cove there gives good waves pretty much the whole year (the best waves are Nov-April). It is the favorite surf spot in the Banderas Bay area. Has a Women Only Surfing School. To the south, past the rocky point, you’ll find some small beautiful sandy coves (take the path by the cemetery).