You could spend weeks, if not months, discovering all the wonders that Vallarta has to offer; however, with more than 40 miles of coastline, it is quite tempting to see what lies beyond the city. From snorkeling and kayaking to peaceful sunbathing in secluded beaches, Vallarta’s South Shore features a number of destinations reachable by boat, suitable for day trips or overnight stays.
Of all the destinations, the closest, Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán, are the only ones that are also reachable by land, a short 20-minute car ride from Puerto Vallarta. Las Animas and Quimixto are tranquil beaches with gentle surf that make fantastic day trip options. As relaxing by day as it is enchanting by night, Caletas hosts the spectacular “Rhythms of the Night” evening music and dance extravaganza offered by Vallarta Adventures. Majahuitas is an intimate cove where the romantic boutique hotel of the same name is located. Yelapa is a small town with a funky, artsy feel, a popular hideaway for Vallartenses and famous personalities alike. Wedged between Majahuitas and Yelapa is Paco’s Paradise, a private gay beach with limited overnight accommodations.
There are basically three ways to explore Puerto Vallarta’s South Shore: You can take a day cruise, you can take a water taxi from Los Muertos pier, or you can travel to Boca de Tomatlán and take a water taxi from there. Your choice will largely depend on your traveling style and budget, your taste in activities, as well as the amount of time you have to explore these destinations.
Day cruises are large vessels that depart from Puerto Vallarta’s Maritime Terminal. They are operated by a handful of companies and, regardless of the one you choose, they all offer similar amenities, all you can eat and drink usually included in the fee. Once on board, day cruises head south and make several stops along the way. Kayaking and snorkeling are often an option, but check ahead of time, as not all companies carry the necessary equipment. Also, due to their size, expect the day cruise to offer you a smoother but slower ride. You won’t get to spend as much time at the stops you make as you would if traveling on a smaller water taxi. While most of the cruises operate during the day, there are several sunset cruises available. Expect to pay around $50 USD or more per person if you decide to embark on a day cruise.
Water taxis are small powerboats that make stops at the different destinations upon request. They travel fast and offer no amenities, but almost always carry life vests. Some have a built-in canopy to protect you from the sun, and some don’t, so it’s a good idea to wear a hat, just in case. Fees vary according to your destination, and there are a variety of departure and return times available. In most cases, you will want to take a water taxi to a specific destination and spend a fair amount of time there, as opposed to the day cruises, which offer shorter stops along the way.
The water taxis that depart from Los Muertos pier are extremely convenient; however, if you want to make the most of your day, you’ll find that Boca water taxis have earlier departure and later return times. The trip to Boca de Tomatlán is about 20 minutes by car, or 30 minutes by public transportation. Buses leave every 10 minutes or so from the corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitucion in South Side. Taking the bus or driving to Boca gives you the added bonus of a scenic coastal ride.
Take the day cruise if you want a comfortable ride, if you are not particularly adventurous about what you like to eat or drink, or if you just want to experience most, if not all, of these destinations on a single trip.
Take the water taxis if you know where you are going, if you are traveling on a budget, or if you only want to reach a single destination. The ride is faster and bumpier, but you’ll have more time to enjoy your day, and food and drinks are readily available at all destinations.
And don’t forget to bring a camera, and enjoy yourself as you discover the many charms of our bay’s South Shore destinations!