Puerto Vallarta is such a perfect getaway, you may never want to leave the city center. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t do some exploring. There are plenty of beautiful beaches and charming towns around Puerto Vallarta. Here’s just a few of my favorite day trips from Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta has always been a popular area for Mexicans but it was the famous movie, Night of the Iguana in the 1960’s, that put the Mexican pacific coast and Vallarta in the spotlight for Americans.
What To Do in Mismaloya
Sadly, the movie set is long gone now but you can still visit the golden beaches that were featured in the movie. Mismaloya is located on the prettiest cove, surrounded by the jungles that appear to spill into the ocean. Because it’s somewhat protected, It’s the perfect place to actually enjoy the water. It’s also good for kayaking and stand up paddling.
Los Arcos National Marine Park is right off the coast of Mismaloya. In fact you can see the rocks that make up Los Arcos easily from the beach. This park is made up of underwater caves and a small reef for snorkeling and scuba. You can hite a panga to take you out right from the beach.
If the water activities don’t interest you, then just pick a chair and take it easy for the day. Mismaloya is excellent for just chilling. Eat lunch, have someone serenade you, or get a massage. The only thing you’ll have to worry about all day, is moving your chair when the tide comes in.
Getting to Mismaloya
Mismaloya is 8 miles south of Vallarta. If you don’t have a car, take the orange and white bus at the corner of Basilio Badillo y Constitucion in the Romatic Zone. The fare is less than $.50 (8 pesos) one way. Get off at the Mismaloya Beach stop. There will be a cobblestone street that leads to the beach. You could also go by taxi or Uber. By car, take Hwy 200 south of of downtown to Mismaloya.
Boca De Tomatlan
Further south down the coast from Puerto Vallarta, is Boca de Tomatlan or Boca as the locals call it. It’s exactly what you picture in your mind a small Mexican fishing village. Besides fishing, Boca where tourists and locals alike, go to catch the water taxi to the southern beaches that aren’t accessible by road.
What to do in Boca
Because of it’s convenient location and water taxi, Boca is a good starting point for several day trips from Puerto Vallarta. You could also just spend a day there fishing or boating. There are plenty of pangas for hire to take you out sightseeing if you prefer a private tour.
Boca has a few cute restaurants, with tables right on the sand. They each have their own colored umbrellas and are eager to serve up the fresh catch of the day.
One of the restaurants (not on the beach) that I keep reading about is Ocean Grill. I haven’t had a chance to go but from what I’ve read, it’s only accessible by boat. After making reservations to dine there, the owners pick you up in their boat and take you to the restaurant.
I’m on a quest to find out more about it next time I’m in Vallarta. Report back later.
Getting to Boca
Boca is located 15 miles south of Vallarta. If you don’t have a car, take the orange and white bus at the corner of Basilio Badillo y Constitucion in the Romatic Zone. The fare is less than $.50 (8 pesos) one way. Get off at the Boca de Tomatlan stop and walk the short distance to the beach. You could also get there by taxi or Uber. By car, take Hwy 200 south of of downtown to Boca.
If you really want to get off the beaten path for the day, or longer, take one of the water taxis from Boca and go further south down the coast to Yelapa. The fact that it’s only accessible by boat adds to it’s charm.
What To Do in Yelapa
Yelapa is the loveliest little town right on a beautiful crescent shaped beach. It looks like a postcard come to life. Because it’s divided by a river that flows out of the jungle, in addition to all the usual fun water activities, you can follow that river inland to a beautiful swimming hole and waterfall.
Besides it’s beauty, Yelapa is probably most famous for the pie or “pay” made there. Yes, I said pie. For almost thirty years, the pie lady of Yelapa has been making pies and selling them on the beach. You can try one or try them all. There’s chocolate, coconut or cheese and I’ve read, there’s a lime flavor. I’m dying to try that one.
If you are just there to chill for the day, there are plenty of beachside restaurants to choose from. They will set you up with a chair and umbrella and serve you all day.
I picked a place at the end of the beach called Juanitos. They not only serve seafood but also have Mexican favorites like queso and fajitas. I ended up having my favorite when on the Pacific coast, mahi mahi. Of course I had to order Pacifico beer because it wouldn’t be a day at the beach in Mexico without one.
Getting to Yelapa
Yelapa is located about 30 minutes by water taxi from Boca. From Puerto Vallarta you can take the orange and white bus at the corner of Basilio Badillo y Constitucion in the Romatic Zone. The fare is less than $.50 (8 pesos) one way.
Get off in Boca de Tomatlan stop and once you walk into town just ask someone about a water taxi to Yelapa. The taxis leave Boca every hour. Roundtrip fare is $180 pesos or about $10 USD. If you don’t want to travel to Boca by bus to catch the water tazi, you can take a water taxi from the pier at Los Muertos beach in Vallarta. There are plenty of stands along the beach and the malecon offering tours.
Sayulita is a cool little beach town located to the north of Puerto Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit. It’s an easy day trip from Puerto Vallarta but I would recommend staying at least a couple of days. I went for two days and that was the perfect amount of time to get to know it.
What To Do in Sayulita
You can do as much or as little as you want in Sayulita. It’s protected waters and the shape of the coast makes it the perfect place to learn to surf if that’s something you’re into. There’s also plenty of shopping, art, yoga and even spas for the less active.
For such a small place, there’s a ridiculous number of places to eat. I had the hardest time deciding when I was there. The food was some of the best I’ve had on the Pacific coast.
Sayulita also has a thriving nightlife too. It’s a great escape from the bigger more crowded Puerto Vallarta.
Getting to Sayulita
Sayulita is located about 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta and takes about an hour to get there. You can go by Uber, taxi or bus. If you choose to go by bus, catch the green and white Compostela bus from the airport or from the bus stop in front of Walmart. Look for a bus that has Sayulita written on the windshield. The fare one way is 35 pesos or about $2 USD. A Uber should cost about $30 USD one way.
You can’t plan a trip to Puerto Vallarta and not take a tour to Islas Marietas or the Marieta Islands in English. By now, I’m pretty sure everyone has seen the pictures of the crater like hidden beach. And while you can only visit the islands and Hidden Beach on certain days, it’s a lot of fun just going to the islands and a great day trip from Puerto Vallarta.
What to do at las Islas Marietas
Depending on your tour, you can kayak, stand up paddle and snorkel around the islands. The ride to the islands across the Bay of Banderas is an excellent opportunity for spotting whales and other wildlife. Getting out on the water is one of the best ways to get to know a destination and taking a tour to the Marieta Islands is the perfect way to see Puerto Vallarta.
getting to the marieta islands
Visitors can book a tour to las Islas Marietas at any tourist kiosk or even online with a tour company. I visited the islands with Vallarta By Boat. Here’s my full account of my experience Visiting las Islas Marietas.
Day Trips From Puerto Vallarta
The next time you are in Puerto Vallarta, do yourself a favor and take a couple of days to day trip and explore the smaller, less crowded beaches of of Jalisco. Getting there is half the fun and it gives visitors a chance to discover a different side of Mexico.