Puerto Vallarta sunset over a beach. (photo via Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board)
The sunny Mexican Pacific destination of Puerto Vallarta is a standout for tourists for its ability to effortlessly blend culture, sun and fun in a seaside paradise. The area is also known for some of the country’s best beaches—and it’s easy to understand why.
While the beaches along the popular Malecon and in the hotel zone offer white sand, calm surf and cool waters with stunning sunsets, there are several crescents of sand hidden from the masses that offer visitors a more off-the-beaten-path beach experience.
Malecon boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta. (photo by Codie Liermann)
For example, Yelapa is only accessible by boat. The tropical paradise is an exotic fishing village with restaurants, beach clubs and a laidback atmosphere. The beach’s main attraction is hiking to its waterfall, a 30-minute walk into the jungle for a dip in a natural pool.
For turquoise waters and natural surroundings, visitors to Puerto Vallarta can check out Las Gemelas Beach, another hidden spot of sand known by locals as one of the best beaches in town. Travelers will need a car to get to this secret spot as it’s about a 20-minute drive from the city.
Conchas Chinas beach in Puerto Vallarta. (photo via Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board)
Discover one of PV’s most romantic beaches, Conchas Chinas, about 10 minutes by car from downtown. It’s a top wedding spot and popular for couples with pristine natural pools, soft white sand and turquoise waters.
Las Caletas is even more remote. This secret hideaway, which was once home to movie director John Huston, is literally like something from the cinema and is only offered through tours with Vallarta Adventure Tours.
After a one-hour boat ride, visitors arrive for scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding and more. Drinks and meals are included as are the private hammocks that hover over the water.
Boca de Tomatlán is a hub for adventure seekers and beach lovers alike. A jumping-off place for exploring hidden shores, the seaside destination is in itself an attraction, located 20 minutes’ drive from downtown, the town offers a small Malecon area, palapa restaurants, restaurants, bars and more.
Head to where the mountains meet the sea at Colomitos Beach, hidden away in a small enclave south of Puerto Vallarta. For adventurous travelers, this beach is reachable by a 40-minute hike from Boca de Tomatlán. Those that prefer a more traditional arrival can take a five-minute water taxi from Boca de Tomatlán to reach the beach.
Las Animas is another hidden beach reachable only by trek or water taxi. To reach this sandy stretch, travelers again head to Boca de Tomatlan. It’s a one-and-a-half-hour hike or a boat ride to reach the beach and travelers who do are rewarded with plenty of restaurants and bars serving up drinks and seafood under palaces. There are also opportunities to paddleboard, take a banana boat ride or enjoy an adventure park with ziplines, balance beams and more.
For a true dose of cinematic history, Mismaloya Beach is definitely not as hidden as others on this list. The well-known strip of white sand was featured in Puerto Vallarta’s movie claim to fame, “Night of the Iguana.” The beautiful beach is home to Los Arcos Marine Park, and guests can scuba dive and discover marine life off its shores.