There are some excellent side effects that come with searching for beaches beyond the borders of Puerto Vallarta proper.
For one, you’ll get to ride a Mexican bus, an experience in itself, complete with guitar-playing preachers and most likely a guy with a chicken under his arm.
You’ll also get to see some landscapes that are very different from your Pacific ocean-view room. Namely, the mountainous and leafy jungles that surround the city. And you’ll have an opportunity to practice some Spanish when it comes to ordering lunch at a small town café.
Your modes of transportation include the aforementioned bus, which is ridiculously cheap, or a taxi, which can get a little pricey, depending on where you go.
Don’t be shy at the bus stop or taxi stand. Ask about your intended destination (do you go to Bucerias?), smile, negotiate a price and enjoy the ride.
Lo De Marcos
First on our list is this tiny town that got its start as coconut harvesting destination. It’s about 60 km north of PV and if you’re looking for authenticity, this is it.
The beach is parked between two mountains, so the waves come crashing in nonstop. As long as you weigh over 80 pounds, you won’t get washed away. I can’t say the same for your goggles, snorkel or bathing suit.
Let the big churn toss your body around or grab a board and ride the wild waves (but only if you have some surfing experience).
All that waterplay has no doubt made you thirsty, so take a few steps up the beach to the family run store/café. It’s blue. You can’t miss it. Ask for the pina (that’s pineapple in Spanish). They will know what you mean.
The pineapple gets chopped and mixed with a variety of other fruits, orange and lime juice, a healthy spoonful of salt, some chili powder, crushed ice and a splash of Grenadine.
La Manzanilla at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
At the top of Bahía de Banderas sits this hustling town with a sweet little beach that no one knows about.
Unlike the beaches along PV’s hotel zone or downtown, La Manzanilla is dead calm. Lagoon like, really.
Grab a chair at one of the waterside restaurants, order a few drinks and prepare for seriously low key beach day.
But if you feel you need to actually move from your chair, grab your fishing rod and cast a few off the rocky peninsula.
Or make a deal with one of the tour boat operators parked on the beach and go for a snorkel around the bend.
Any of the restaurants will serve a top-notch fish dish. It probably has something to do with the catch of the day being caught five minutes ago.
I like to snack from the few traveling food vendors that cruise the beach–namely, the nice bakery lady with the pan full of still-warm coconut muffins.
It won’t take much convincing to get your crew to spend the day in Bucerias. The 20-minute bus ride from PV will drop you into a town with a decidedly slower pace, a sprawling beach and fantastic deals on buckets of cervesas.
The quiet water makes it a popular (and safe) spot for travelers with wee ones in tow, although on a windy day, you can have some fun in the waves.
You might want to start with lunch before you head to the beach. The main drag is Alfredo V. Bonfil and it’s here you’ll find Cenaduria Dona Lupe. It’s a hole in the wall where English is sparse at best. You’ll do lots of pointing, mostly at other people’s plates, and be rewarded with a cheap, cheerful and real Mexican meal.
Walk the beachside strip and take your pick from any of the seaside restaurants, starting with the hard-to-miss Adriano’s Restaurant. It’s the giant orange building on the beach. As long as you order a couple of drinks, the proprietors of any joint will be happy to have you lounge in one of their chairs. All. Day. Long.
Mexico’s Magic Towns
There are 111 pueblos mágicos in Mexico, each one designated as such for its enchanting beauty, architecture and centuries-old culture. Here are five magic towns—Sayulita, Todos Santos, Tulum, Isla Mujeres and San Sebastián del Oeste—that are easily accessible from major cities and resorts.
Five Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta
Cobblestone streets, a roaring culinary scene and lush surroundings have attracted tourists to Puerto Vallarta since the 1950s. Visit the Vallarta Botanical Garden, escape to Hidden Beach on the Marieta Islands, sign up for a food tour and ride up to rivers and waterfalls on horseback.