Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Beaches in Puerto Vallarta
Beaches in Puerto Vallarta

Beaches in Puerto Vallarta are largely easily accessible. Almost anywhere you are around Banderas Bay, the largest bay in Mexico, you will find a beautiful stretch of sand by driving for no longer than about ten minutes. Even if your Mexican vacations have taken you as far away Guadalajara, the best Puerto Vallarta beaches are only about two hours away. With over 100 miles of coastline, you have a choice of more than 40 beaches that provide attractions with appeal for just about any taste and interest.

Puerto Vallarta Beach Sunset
Puerto Vallarta Beach Sunset

The city itself sits roughly in the center of the 100-mile coastline, and the beaches in Puerto Vallarta can be roughly divided using the city as a point of reference. The beaches to the north (located in the state of Nayarit where the Sierra Madre Mountains sit back from the ocean) tend to be longer, wider, and sandier, and this is where most of the newer and more extensive tourist resorts are located. To the south (in the state of Jalisco), the mountains spill right into the ocean, creating numerous smaller bays and coves with more remote and intimate beaches. Additionally, the topography of the rugged mountains make many of the southern beaches inaccessible except by boat, so this is where you will find almost deserted romantic beaches.

Puerto Vallarta Beaches Map
Puerto Vallarta Beaches Map

This means that naming the best Puerto Vallarta beaches really depends on what kind of beach you are seeking. The greatest number of visitors flocks, naturally, to the beaches located to the north. In fact, this region is referred to as the Riviera Nayarit and it has the same sort of atmosphere, facilities, and services as the famous Riviera in southern France. Playa de Oro is the first beach north of the city, and it is located in the Nuevo Vallarta Marina district. This is a long and wide stretch of white sand with a few patches of rocks and pebbles. This is the center for beach and water sports, with vendors renting out everything from volleyballs to jet skis, kayaks to windsurf boards. Don’t worry if you want something more sedentary, there are Playa de Oro vendors renting umbrellas and sun beds as well. Playa de Oro sits in the center of what is called the Hotel Zone and numerous resort complexes and smaller hotels line this stretch of coastline.

As you go north towards the end of Banderas Bay, the beaches are less crowded. The waves are higher and good for surfing and the waters better for scuba diving. These are the best Puerto Vallarta beaches for people who enjoy those activities. This is where one of the longest waves in all of North, Central, and South America was measured and this is where the pristine Islas Marietas Marine Reserve is located, with some of the best scuba diving in the western hemisphere. The Islas Marietas, which sit just offshore, are also prime whale watching spots because they contain a humpback whale nursery from about November until about March.

Just south of the city, are Playa Conchas Chinas and Playa Olas Atlas (which means “high waves” beach), both located next to Los Muertos Beach, the city’s most accessible stretch of sand. The city’s popular El Malecon oceanfront boulevard with its famous sculptures, ends in this area. Playa Mismaloya is even further south, sitting in a lovely sheltered cove with crystal clear waters ideal for snorkeling. This is the location used in making the Oscar winning 1963 film Night of the Iguana. Later, the mountain jungle behind the beach was used to film the Arnold Schwarznegger movie Predator. This was a sleepy fishing village when film director John Huston discovered it, with just a few palapa (thatched) huts where you could buy tamales and beer. Today, there are a number of high rise hotels and condos used for vacation rentals. Mismaloya is the last Puerto Vallarta beach easily accessible by road. Head a bit farther south to remote Yelapa, and you will see what Mismaloya looked like in 1963.

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