A family biking in Puerto Vallarta. (photo via Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board)
Puerto Vallarta has natural sceneries that impress with their beauty and vast biodiversity as well as protected areas and ecotourism destinations where you can connect with nature without leaving a significant footprint behind.
Here are some of the notable places where visitors can live Puerto Vallarta’s natural charm to the fullest.
Los Arcos National Marine Park
Located in front of Mismaloya beach, Los Arcos National Marine Park is a natural paradise to practice scuba diving and snorkeling. It is a great place to discover abundant marine life because its oceanic currents are light and allow excellent visibility even at 480 meters deep.
If you want to take your diving experience to another level, book a sunset dive tour, which offers one of the most extraordinary and unforgettable underwater adventures. Los Arcos also offers ideal waters for paddle boarding and kayaking while discovering the caves that form between the huge granite rocks that emerge in the middle of the sea.
This protected area is the natural habitat of diverse marine birds, such as boobies, some species of parakeets, and pelicans, among others. At the bottom of the sea, its reefs are home to multicolored fish, among which you will find clownfish, pufferfish, manta rays, and octopuses.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta, in the direction of Barra de Navidad, you will find this great space dedicated to the conservation and exhibition of exotic plants from Mexico and the world. It’s been ranked among the 10 Best Botanical Gardens in North America.
Inaugurated in 2005, this extraordinary garden has an extension of 46 hectares and is protected by Friends of Vallarta Botanical Gardens, A.C., in collaboration with the United States. Today it is one of the essential attractions in the region, as it offers you the opportunity to observe beautiful birds that visit it daily and to refresh yourself in the Los Horcones River, just a few steps away.
The site has a fantastic collection of orchids, oak trees, bromeliads, agaves, and wild palms.
Los Arcos National Marine Park is a natural paradise to practice scuba diving and snorkeling. (Photo via: Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board).
El Salado Estuary
The dedicated work of the biologists and operators of Estero El Salado has allowed this protected area to flourish as one of the significant ecotourism attractions in Puerto Vallarta.
The only urban estuary in Latin America, with 168 hectares of mangroves and marshes, offers you the magnificent adventure of meeting the American crocodile up close and learning more about its habits and care. Its importance in the climatic balance is significant since it is the producer and regulator of food for all the species that inhabit the bay.
Meanwhile, the estuary’s fascinating fauna includes 29 amphibians and reptiles, such as the garrobo and the river crocodile, crustaceans such as fiddler, pit, and dusky crabs as well as 10 species of mammals, such as adorable raccoons and opossums.
Guided tours take you aboard boats through the canals full of plant and animal life and provide visitors the opportunity to walk along the pier surrounded by mangroves.
Palo Maria Waterfall
Formed by the Palo Maria River, this waterfall is a must-see during your visit to Puerto Vallarta. To get to the Palo Maria waterfall, you must walk through a tropical forest for approximately 15 minutes. Still, the effort will be worth it when you find yourself in front of its crystalline waterfall and different pools formed at its feet to refresh yourself after the walk.
The flow of the river and waterfalls are more impressive if you visit during the rainy season.