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Banderas Bay

Puerta Vallarta, the Gem of Banderas Bay, Mexico

Puerta Vallarta, the Gem of Banderas Bay, Mexico

by Barbara Weibel at Hole in the Donut Travels

Like precious pearls, the beaches of Vallarta are strung along 60-mile horseshoe-shaped Banderas Bay. At the center of this necklace is one of Mexico's precious gems, the town of Puerta Vallarta. This is where the action is. Stroll along the Malecon - the traditional seaside boardwalk - to El Centro, the center of downtown Puerto Vallarta. Pop into shops, enjoy a leisurely lunch, or visit historic landmarks before continuing along the Malecon to the south side, where a new pedestrian bridge crosses over to Los Muertos Beach. Popular with locals, this beach provides an authentic glimpse into Puerta Vallarta life and is home to some of the town's finest restaurants. Boats depart from the Los Muertos pier, destined for smaller towns to the south, many of which are accessible only by water.  

South of Puerta Vallarta, jungle-covered mountains tumble to the sea, enfolding secluded coves with a South Pacific feel. Beyond Estacas, Punta Negra, Garza Blanca, and Las Gemelas beaches is Los Arcos, the rock outcropping near the town and beach of Mismaloya, the famous site where ÒThe Night of the Iguana was filmed. More pearls dot the southernmost portion of the bay, notably Boca de Tomatlan, another gorgeous but primitive cove with few facilities. From here it is necessary to change boats in order to visit the most remote beaches: Las Animas, Quimixto, Las Caletas, Majahuitas, and Yelapa.

North of Puerta Vallarta the mountains flatten out, spawning longer and wider beaches. Most tourists stay in Nuevo Vallarta, as it is located only 15 minutes north of the airport and offers a full complement of hotels, resorts, shops, restaurants, and attractions located on a seemingly infinite stretch of beach. Venture a bit further north to the town of Bucerias and rock the day away in a hammock strung between coconut palms, sipping tropical drinks from one of the dozens of palapa restaurants scattered along this golden beach. Further afield is the sleepy little fishing village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, as well as Anclote Beach, located on the Punta de Mita peninsula at the mouth of the bay.

In addition to world-class beaches, Banderas Bay offers numerous other water-based activities. Diving trips virtually guarantee swimming with dolphins, manta rays, and giant sea turtles. Sport fishermen try for sailfish, marlin, and tuna, and humpback whales are regularly spotted between November and March. For more information on  beaches, restaurants, and things to do in Puerta Vallarta and its surrounding towns, visit

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