Fun in the Sun
Seemingly limitless year-round sunshine, coupled with twenty-five miles of silky soft beaches surrounded by tropical mountains make Puerto Vallarta a paradise if you prefer an active vacation in the sun. Swimming, golf, tennis, sailing, fishing, and horseback riding are among the most popular sports.
Beyond Old Town, three miles of sun-drenched beaches stretch out along Bahía de Banderas, Mexico's largest bay, north to Marina Vallarta. Beginning with Playa Camorones, the golden-sand beaches form a continuous strand through Playas Las Glorias, Los Tules, and de Oro. Here, you can swim in the gentle waves without the huge crowds of the beaches south of town. And your kids will delight in hunting for tropical shells along the shore. Since resort hotels line these beaches, renting water-sports equipment isn't a problem. Surf fishing is popular.
Playa Los Muertos, also known as Playa Olas Altas and Playa del Sol, just south of the Río Cuale, is one of the most popular beaches. Little undertow makes it a perfect family bathing beach. Sundays, when locals come to have fun with their families, it gets particularly crowded. Mariachis play while little boys hawk “fish on a stick” to tourists. You can even fish off the rocks at its southern end.
To the south of Playa Los Muertos lies Playa Conchas Chinas (Chinese Shells Beach), a series of sandy coves interspersed with rocky outcroppings. Snorkeling and fishing off the rocks is popular here, also.
While seemingly overdeveloped with condos and a huge resort hotel, Playa Mismaloya offers excellent swimming and snorkeling. Colorful fishing
Some of Mexico's prettiest coves and inlets lie along the shores of Bahía de Banderas. You can reach most only by boat, all of which depart from the
Have your child's photo taken with an iguana for a dollar on the beach at Yelapa. It will be a memory to treasure and something to use for show-and-tell.
Or you can take a sunset cruise aboard the smaller
If you'd prefer the serenity of a sailboat, several companies offer sailing options:
• Sail Vallarta: Sunset cruises, three-day sailing cruise, day sailing, and sailing lessons (322- 221-0096)
• Bora-Bora: Daily coastal trimaran trips (322- 224-3680)
• Neptune Charters: Charter sailings for swimming and snorkeling, plus sunset cruises (322-223-1065)
• Marigalante Cruises: Sunset cruise aboard a pirate ship (322-323-0309)
Snorkel, Scuba, Fish
The craggy coves of Puerto Vallarta offer the perfect opportunity for snorkeling and scuba diving. You'll find the best snorkeling at Los Arcos and the surrounding national marine park where tunnels and caverns overflow with goat, angel, butterfly, and parrot fish. Local operators can take you for a full day of snorkeling, including equipment, or about $30.
Pacific Scuba (322- 222-4741) offers PADI instruction, or they'll arrange a custom trip for you if you're more experienced. Or you can take a guided dive with Chico's Dive Shop (322-222-1895,
Though Puerto Vallarta isn't known for its sportfishing, you'll find it adequate for your needs. November through April is the best time for marlin. Dorado run from May to November, wahoo from October to March, and yellowfin tuna from June to February. Sailfish, while plentiful year round, are best between November and April. Larger cabin cruisers can be chartered for $100 per person or for $300 to $500 for the entire boat for the day, or you can hire a smaller pangas on any beach for $25 an hour. Here are a selection of fishing charter companies:
• Chefero's Fleet: Captain and English-speaking crew (322-222-6899)
• Fishing with George: Provides shuttle service and will cook your catch (322-224-5676)
• Vallarta Five-Star Fishing Charters: Sport-fishing yacht with fish finders and radar (322- 221-0037)
PWC Rentals, Kayaks, and Parasailing
You can rent Hobie Cats and WaveRunners on the beaches north of town at the larger hotels for $50 per half hour. Or you can go water skiing for $75 an hour. You can also rent kayaks and explore Puerto Vallarta's rivers and estuaries. A ten-minute parasailing ride will set you back $25 — and provide lots of white-knuckling sweat.
Mountain biking has come to Puerto Vallarta. Participate in an escorted mountain bike tour to the villages of San Sebastian, Yelapa, or Mascota, arranged by Bike Mex Adventures (322-223-1680,
You may prefer to go horseback riding into the jungle. You can rent horses at several stables in Puerto Vallarta for about $10 an hour, including Rancho El Charro (322-224-0114), Rancho Ojo de Agua (322-324-0607), or Rancho Palma Real (322-321-2120). Join the group or canter along the beach. You can ride for as little as three hours along the beach or join a guided leisurely excursion into the foothills of the Sierra Madre through picturesque villages and spectacular scenery, stopping for lunch along the way. If you're in Puerto Vallarta for a longer time, perhaps you might want to join a three-day horse camping trek to the historic silver mining town of San Sebastian, founded in 1604.
Considered one of the best tennis destinations in Mexico, you'll find dozens of tennis courts at area resorts, like the Sheraton and NH Krystal, as well as Puerto Vallarta's several fine tennis centers, including these:
• The John Newcombe Tennis Center: Play at four indoor and four outdoor courts for $16 an hour. Or take lessons for $35 an hour. Afterward take a steam bath or get a massage (Hotel Canto del Sol, 322-226-0123).
• Los Tules Tennis Center: Six courts (Adjacent to Fiesta Americana Hotel, 322-224-4560)
• Las Iguanas Racquet Club: Two covered courts (Marina Vallarta, 322-221-0683)
Though Puerto Vallarta can't compare to Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya when it comes to golf, you'll find several good courses that will provide hours of playing pleasure:
• Vista Vallarta Club de Golf: Two eighteen-hole courses, one designed by Jack Nicklaus, the other by Tom Weiskopf, provide a challenging round each time (322-221-0402,
• Club de Golf Marina Vallarta: An eighteen-hole course, designed by Joe Finger with the vacationer in mind; within the Marina Vallarta development (322-221-0545,
• Los Flamingos Club de Golf: An older easy-play eighteen holes, designed by Percy Clifford, twenty-five minutes from Puerto Vallarta (329-226-0404)