Puerto Vallarta (PVR) – cruise port, resort destination, home to incredible beaches & a jungle paradise. PVR has a little bit of something for everyone, but what gets TIY excited, are the special locations just a short drive from the city. In this article, we are going to give you all of our favorite day trip recommendations, to ensure you have unique & fun experiences! Or join a TIY tour and experience all this and more with the insurance of a trusty guide and fun group to go with.
Quimixto is a small and quiet beach town south of Puerto Vallarta. It is accessible by boat, which adds to its allure and remoteness. It is mainly visited by day trippers who are in search of the waterfall hike and pristine beaches. But, if you are up for an incredibly relaxing evening, stay at one of the few hotels in the town. Amaca Beach Resort offers wellness focused detoxes and yoga packages. Or just hang on their beach lounge chairs… steps away from your room! Looking for a little slice of luxury & yoga all in one? Check out Xinalani Retreat. It is a luxury yoga resort with its own private beach and just steps away from the main Quimixto beach.
Quimixto is a fantastic place to get away from the hustle and bustle of PVR and to relax in the beautiful natural environment. Not to mention, the boat cruise to the town is an adventure in its own right. You’ll get stunning views of uninhabited beaches, impressive hotels & homes, and have we mentioned the water?! This side of PVR has unique green and blue hues to the ocean. See it for yourself!
Things to do:
- Waterfall Hike or Horseback Ride
- Yoga & Wellness focused activities
- Relax on the Beach
- Boat cruise along the blue waters
How to get to Quimixto:
Location: South of PVR- both modes of transportation equate to about 45 minutes of travel time.
- By boat-
- Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta – more expensive & further boat cruise. Easier access from PVR and see more sites!
- Boca de Tomatlan – need to take a taxi or drive to the town, about 30 minutes from Old Town PVR. Less expensive option with a shorter boat cruise.
- *TIP* There are several towns along this coastline that boat tours may want to take you to, especially Yelapa. Yelapa is very similar to Quimixto but slightly more developed and busier. You can’t go wrong with any of these beach towns, but make sure to get off the boat at the town of your choosing!
San Sebastián del Oeste
San Sebastian is a historical mining town nestled up in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. As you enter the town, you are greeted by cobblestone streets & a grand brick entrance sign. All this while being surrounded by the mountains. There are pine trees. The air is fresh and crisp. Is the beach really only 90 minutes away? It sure is. And you can see it from the La Bufa lookout point. San Sebastian transports you away from beach life. It is a great visit for adventure seekers, those looking for more moderate temperatures, or for those wanting a change in scenery.
The town radiates charm, history and culture. Historically, San Sebastian del Oeste was a silver mining town throughout the 1600- 1800s. It is now known as a Pueblo Magico, a designation given to towns throughout Mexico for their historical significance and for how they have preserved original architecture & culture. While San Sebastian has maintained its charm, the town has a slight influence from the luxury communities in PVR and Riviera Nayarit. The Hotel Boutique Villa Nogal is a wonderful example of a high end hotel that embraces the history of San Sebastian. San Sebastian del Oeste can easily be seen in a day. However, staying overnight and dining at Jardin Nebulosa is highly recommended! There are many historical and amazing Airbnbs for affordable prices as well!
Things to do in San Sebastian del Oeste:
- Hike or ATV to La Bufa lookout point
- Dine at Jardin Nebulosa
- Hike Mirador de San Sebastián del Oeste
- Visit the town square & nearby church
- Walk the cobblestone streets
- Relax & take in the breathtaking mountains
How to get to San Sebastian del Oeste:
Location: Just east of PVR into the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. You take one of the roads that leads you to Guadalajara.
- Rental Car – if you are comfortable to drive on the winding road to this city, it sure is a beautiful drive. Not to mention there are towns and restaurants that you may want to explore along the way. Contact TIY for rental car company recommendations.
- Private Car/Taxi – Reach out to a taxi or private car service for the day to drive you there and back. It is an equally convenient option and better if you want to sit in the back and just enjoy the ride.
- Bus – There is a bus that takes you near to San Sebastian but not all the way. It stops at La Estancia and then you can take a taxi about 15 minutes to the center of town. This is the most affordable, but definitely longest, option.
Islas Marietas & Hidden Beach
Perhaps one of the most photographed locations in the Bay of Banderas is Hidden Beach & the Islas Marietas. The Islas Marietas National Park is a boat ride away from practically anywhere along the Bay of Banderas, but only certain towns have piers to take you there. These uninhabited islands have hidden beaches cut out of the islands, diverse marine & aerial life and wondrous landscape. The picturesque beaches and exotic snorkeling truly make the experience.
This is an easy day trip, as just about anyone selling tours will want to take you to these islands. They are a major tourist spot, but oh so special and very much worth visiting, at least once. Don’t let just anyone tell you they can take you to the “Hidden Beach” seen in all the photos. It is an extra cost and only a certain number of visitors are allowed to visit the beach a day. The additional feed and visitor limitation all go towards protecting the island and the ecological environment. Make sure to find a reputable tour operator and ensure Hidden Beach is included; it’s worth the splurge and goes towards a good cause! It truly is a unique spot and unlike any beach TIY has visited before.
Things to do at Islas Marietas
- Swim and Snorkel
- Relax on the beaches
- Paddleboard or Kayak
- Enjoy the boat cruise
- Take in the wonderful views of PVR and surrounding towns
How to get to Islas Marietas National Park:
Location: About an hour catamaran cruise from the main port in Nayarit- La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The islands are located in the Bay of Banderas west of Punta Mita
- Local Boat: If you are walking around PVR or any surrounding town, chances are you will be approached by somebody with a boat who will want to take you to the Marietas. This can be a great option for a less expensive & less touristy experience. However, not all of the smaller operators will have the availability to access Hidden Beach. Do your research and ask around.
- Catamaran: There are a handful of large tour operators that run, almost daily, tours to the Marietas. These are typically all-day experiences, including lunch, drinks and snacks. If you are wanting a reliable experience and don’t mind the crowds, this is for you. The catamaran typically comes with water toys, slides, and more to keep you entertained throughout the day.
- *TIP* Many tour operators sell you on the “open bar” experience. Please note, you are not allowed to consume any alcohol within the park borders, which closes the open bar for the majority of the day. Not an issue, but something to be aware of when comparing prices.
Join a TIY’s Signature Tour to experience the Islas Marietas!
Sayulita & San Pancho
While we could write all day about these two towns and why they are worthy of their own overnight trips, at the bare minimum a day trip to these towns is a MUST! Sayulita & San Pancho are neighboring beach towns north of PVR on the Riviera Nayarit coastline. They are full of vibrant colors, lively streets, stunning beaches, adventure, tasty food & the list could go on and on. Some would say they have it all. Many visit for a week and end up staying for years. Enough said to get you to visit?
Sayulita is the more developed of the two towns and has tourists visiting throughout all the seasons. San Pancho is slightly more seasonal, and becomes quieter June-September. However, this is a great time to visit if you are looking for a more peaceful time. Any time of the year, you will be welcomed by the happy vibes of both towns. There is so much variety in both towns that there is something for the beach lounger, thrill seeker, families, couples & literally any one. We can’t recommend a visit to these towns enough. We dare say it will change the way you view Mexico and how you will travel in the future.
Things to do in San Pancho
- Spend the day at Tierra Tropical Beach Club
- Walk up and down Tercer Mundo and explore all the town has to offer
- Grab a cooler & drinks and hang out on the main beach
- Visit local community center – Entreamigos
- Participate in a Turtle Release on the beach
Things to do in Sayulita-
- Surf lessons on the main beach
- Walk around town and explore the street art, shops, and restaurants
- Short walk to Playa Los Muertos to relax and swim
- Hike to Playa Carricitos
- Beach Yoga
How to get to San Pancho & Sayulita:
Location– both towns are ~45 minutes driving from PVR airport. These towns are north of PVR along the Riviera Nayarit coastline.
- Rental Car- renting a car for the day could provide the flexibility and freedom desired to explore more of the towns and at your leisure. Be aware, parking is extremely challenging in Sayulita and only slightly better in San Pancho. We would recommend paid parking, if you can find it!
- Taxi/Private Car – Taxi is likely the easiest and a reasonably priced option for visiting the towns. A taxi will know exactly where to go to drop you off. From there, it is easy to pick up taxis in both towns. In Sayulita, taxis line up in the town square. In San Pancho, they are at the park. Any hotel or restaurants would be happy to help you find a taxi as well.
- Bus – There are buses leaving PVR airport once an hour to San Pancho and twice a hour to Sayulita. Make sure to ask that you are on the right bus! This is the most affordable transport option and will give you a more local experience.
- *TIP* – make this trip longer than a day. Stay overnight and really soak in the electric energy of these towns.
El Anclote & Playa La Lancha
The town El Ancolte sits outside the gates of the famous Punta de Mita community and it definitely has a sense of luxury to the town as well. However, El Ancolte has a vibe of its own and is slightly more rustic. It has high end restaurants and shops. Incredible views of the Bay of Banderas and PVR. Boat tours to the local islands. And so much more! Surf enthusiast? The nearby beach of La Lancha is famous for its surf. It is now home to a Punta Mita beach club but there is still public access.
If you are interested in staying overnight in El Anclote, Hotel Meson de Mita is a wonderful option. It is beach front on the main beach in El Anclote and has a beautiful pool near the beach. The restaurants along this strip range from traditional Mexican, Sushi, & Italian, and they are all top restaurants with incredible cuisine.
Things to do in El Anclote:
- Surf at La Lancha
- Walk the two main streets and explore the shops
- Dine at one of the many restaurants along the waterfront- all equally delicious
- Hang out on the El Anclote Beach or La Lancha Beach
How to get to El Anclote & La Lancha:
- Rental Car – incredibly easy option. Only a 40 minute drive from PVR airport & great views of the Bay of Banderas along the way.
- Taxi/Private Car – This option can be surprisingly more expensive than traveling to similar destinations. When you mention going to Punta Mita, the prices tend to go up. Stay firm on going to El Anclote and receiving a fair price.
- Bus- The bus runs from PVR to Punta Mita 3 times an hour and is a very affordable and easy option.
- Playa La Lancha- to get to this specific beach, you will need a little adventure and ready for a short 15 minute hike. Park or get dropped off from Wildmex Surf School and you’ll see the trailhead start.
Travel If You encourages travellers to get outside of their comfort zones and experience the other side of the resort! There is so much to see and explore in this magnificent region, and we can’t wait to hear how you like these destinations!