Puerto Vallarta is such a perfect getaway, you may never want to leave the city center. And that’s perfectly fine. But you would really be missing out if you didn’t take a day or so and do some exploring. There are many charming beaches and small towns on the surrounding coast. Here’s a few of my favorite real day trips from Puerto Vallarta to get you started.
Puerto Vallarta has long been a thriving area popular to Mexicans and artsy Hollywood types. But in 1964, a little film called Night of the Iguana put the Mexican pacific coast and Vallarta in the spotlight. And Mismaloya was what flipped the switch.
John Huston produced and filmed Night of the Iguana movie in this sleepy fishing village. His star of the movie, Richard Burton, was involved in a torrid affair with Elizabeth Taylor. All the scandal, the then steamy beach scenes and the lure of Mexico, instantly put Puerto Vallarta on the map. It’s where everyone wanted to be.
What to do in Mismaloya
While you can’t visit the movie set, you can include Mismaloya in your day trips from Puerto Vallarta and wade in the same beautiful emerald waters and sit on the golden sand. Because of its location on the prettiest little cove, surrounded by jungle, it’s the perfect place for swimming, stand up paddling and kayaking.
You can also visit Los Arcos National Marine Park. Los Arcos are several small rocky islands located right off Mismaloya Beach. There’s an arch, caves and a reef for snorkeling or scuba. You can hire a boat or panga to take you out. Tip: always make sure you to follow the rules and use a licensed operator if applicable.
I suggest picking a beach chair and hanging out. Eat lunch, have someone serenade you, get a massage, and drink a Pacifico. I promise the only thing you’ll have to do all day more than that is move your chair back when the tide comes in.
Getting to Mismaloya
Mismaloya is located 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. Go early in the day so that you can get there before other. If there happens to be a cruise ship in port in Vallarta, there are excursions to Mismaloya. Other things to do in the area: El Eden, Mama Lucia Tequila Factory, Vallarta Zoo
Boca De Tomatlan
Further south down the coast from Puerto Vallarta, is Boca de Tomatlan or Boca. It’s exactly what you think about when you picture a small Mexican fishing village in your mind. Every day, boats leave from here to fish and bring home their catch. It’s also where tourists and locals can catch a water taxi to the beaches further south that are inaccessible by road.
You can visit Boca on your day trips from Puerto Vallarta and use it as a starting point for the beaches south or you could spend the day there, especially if you want to do some fishing.
What to do in Boca
Right on the beach by the water, are four or five restaurants that serve you right on the sand. They each have their different colored tables and umbrellas.
One of the experiences I keep reading about but have not had a chance to try is the Ocean Grill. From what I’ve read, it’s a really small place and only accessible by boat. After making reservations to dine there, the owners will 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. You could also go by taxi or Uber. By car, take Hwy 200 south of of downtown to Boca. Other things to do in the area: Fernandos
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 down the coast to Yelapa. The fact that it’s only accessible by boat adds to it’s charm. It’s the loveliest little town right on a beautiful calm curve of coast. The arrival by boat looks like something from a magazine.
Yelapa is divided by a river that flows out of the jungle. So besides normal fun beach activities, you can follow that river inland for about 20 minutes and find yourself at a waterfall and swimming hole.
What to do in Yelapa
One of the don’t miss things in Yelapa is the pie or “pay” they make there. Yes pie. For about thirty years, the pie lady of Yelapa has been making pies and selling them on the beach. There are several flavors to choose from. When I visited, I was offered a choice of chocolate, coconut or cheese. But I’ve read of other flavors including a lime that I’m dying to try.
I caught the bus from Vallarta pretty early to make the most of my day. It takes about thirty minutes to get to Boca and then another thirty to get to Yelapa. The last water taxi back to Boca leaves about 5 pm so unless you are spending the night you won’t have loads of time. Going early in the day ensures your choice of beach chair and beating the cruise ship crowd if there’s a ship in port.
I visited Yelapa in May, which is low season. Normally there is a rental fee for the beach chairs and umbrellas but I found at this time of the year, as long as you are eating and drinking they won’t charge for the chair too.
I chose a little place on the end of the beach called Juanitos. They serve seafood but also had Mexican favorites like queso and fajitas. I ended up having my fav, mahi mahi and of course a Pacifico because it wouldn’t be a day at the beach 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. They leave about every hour and when I was there the roundtrip fare was $180 pesos or about $10 USD. Alternatively you can now take a water taxi from Los Muertos beach in Vallarta. The price is a little more and it would take quite a bit longer to get there from PV. If you do decide to go from here, there are plenty of stands along the beach and malecon offering tours.
If you want to go north of town, then Sayulita should be included in your day trips from Puerto Vallarta. It’s great for a day or a weekend. I went for two days and that was perfect. Although I could have stayed longer.
Sayulita is a little bit bigger than the places I’ve already mentioned here but still not a huge. There is a considerable more amount of shopping and dining but in a very low key chill atmosphere, which is the purpose in being at the beach in Mexico to begin with.
What to do in Sayulita
It offers a lot in the way of water activities and is a favorite for surfers. The protected waters and the shape of the coast there makes it the perfect place to learn if that’s something you’ve been wanting to do.
There are also plenty of spas in town for the less active, relaxing day
It also topped my list of places to get a good meal and see some great murals and street art.
Getting to Sayulita
Sayulita is located about 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. It takes about an hour to get there. You can go by Uber, taxi or bus. If you choose to 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.
The next time you are in Puerto Vallarta, make some time to take some day trips and explore. It’s very easy and safe and you will have a chance to discover a different piece of Mexico.