© istock/ignativss
© istock/ignativss

Puerto Vallarta: Beach Hopping around Banderas Bay

4 minutes to read

Puerto Vallarta is the beach town hub of the state of Jalisco’s incredible Pacific coastline with a backdrop of lush, forested mountains, rivers, and waterfalls that open into the ocean. Puerto Vallarta and all the fishing towns up and down the coast of Jalisco are located on coves of a single 40-km bay known as Banderas Bay. The beaches of Banderas Bay are quite calm and great for swimming. There are dozens of beaches to explore in and around Puerto Vallarta, with plenty of private and public transportation to access each one. The most beautiful beaches in Banderas Bay are located far from the coastal highway running north and south of Puerto Vallarta. You will have to first get a bus or taxi to the local fishing towns close to where these beaches are located, followed by a water taxi actually to access the beach. This is your guide on beach hopping around Banderas Bay.

Beach Hopping

Beach hopping is a common phenomenon in this region that helps travelers experience as many different beaches as possible. Akin to island hopping, beach hopping is simply catching water taxis or hiring a private boat to visit various beaches along the same coastline in one day. Most of the beaches south of Puerto Vallarta can be accessed solely by water taxi. You can grab a cheap water taxi that runs continuously from the quaint fishing town of Boca de Tomatlan, or Boca for short.

© istock/drferry
© istock/drferry

Boca is around 20 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta by bus. There is a bus that leaves from Puerto Vallarta Centro every 5 minutes to Boca. Once you get to Boca, head down to the beach where you can grab a water taxi to these incredibly beautiful, semi-secluded, and relaxing beaches that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or just chilling under a palm tree. 

Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco
Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco
Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco, Mexico
© istock/BlakPhoto
© istock/BlakPhoto

If you do not mind a longer water taxi ride to the southern beaches, you can grab a water taxi from Playa Los Muertos, which is Puerto Vallarta’s main beach. You can also hire a private boat for the day to hit multiple beaches faster, but it will cost a pretty penny. Now that you know how to get to these beaches, I will lay out my favorite beach hopping route for a day of tropical paradise in many forms.  

Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta
Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta
Los Muertos Beach, Jalisco, Mexico

Las Animas and Playa Caballo to Quimixto

Las Animas and Playa Caballo are two beaches separated by an outcropping of jungle that you can walk around easily. They are around a 10-minute water taxi ride from Boca. If you are in the mood for an hour and a half or two-hour hike through the lush jungle, you can walk from Boca to these beaches. However, if it is your first time, you should venture in with a local as paths are not clearly marked.

Las Animas and Playa Caballo, Jalisco
Las Animas and Playa Caballo, Jalisco
Las Animas Beach, Jalisco, Mexico
© istock/ElijahLovkoff
© istock/ElijahLovkoff

Las Animas gets a bit more tourism and has beachside restaurants, while Playa Caballo is practically undeveloped and has a real virgin, private beach feel. They are both incredibly beautiful beaches that are great for swimming, snorkeling, and relaxing. Las Animas is a narrower stretch of beach, while Playa Caballo has large palm trees that provide ample shade.

© istock/Daniel-Avin77
© istock/Daniel-Avin77

You can easily spend a few hours at both beaches picnicking, snorkeling, and sunbathing. Then, when you are ready, you can grab the next taxi that comes along to Playa Quimixto, which is only about five or ten more minutes in a water taxi. These taxis constantly run, so you should not have a problem catching one. 

Playa Quimixto

Playa Quimixto, Jalisco
Playa Quimixto, Jalisco
Playa Quimixto, Jalisco, Mexico

Playa Quimixto is a secluded, calm, and vast sandy beach that does not get a lot of traffic, so it is great if you want some peace and quiet. What makes this beach extra special is that it has a hiking trail that meets up with the beach taking you up into the mountains, following the banks of a rocky river. The hike is no more than half an hour and ends at a giant waterfall known as the Cuale Waterfall. There are various large swimming holes around the waterfall to enjoy some fresh water swimming for a change. 

© istock/isabellaphoto
© istock/isabellaphoto

When you have had your share of beaches and waterfalls for the day, you can grab another water taxi back to Boca. You can always switch up the order of the beaches and start with the 15-minute taxi ride to Quimixto, then head to Las Animas and back to Boca. You decide the order, but regardless of where you go first, beach hopping around Banderas Bay will be a full day in paradise.


The author

Julia Holland

Julia Holland

Hello, I am Julia and I live in Mexico. I came to Mexico as an anthropologist working in Chiapas and I fell in love with this country: the pure and savage beauty of nature, the humility and warmth of the local people, the rich and varied culture. I decided to stay and Mexico is what I call home.

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