Lovingly called San Pancho by its fans, this small, touristy beach town is just up the road from Sayulita and has a number of good places to eat as well as small, local hotels. The town is a favorite with internationals, many of whom are full-time or part-time residents here. The immediate beachfront is bordered by a handful of beach shacks and lounge chairs for rent, but walk just a little north or south from the main town beach entrance and you’ll find yourself in the companies of just handful of other swimmers and surfers.
Los Muertos beach is a tiny little inlet north of Sayulita’s main beach accessible from a sandy road heading south down the coast that passes the local graveyard. Rocks and tropical vegetation hedge in this miniscule paradise, but the water is practically waveless because of its protected position on the coast. The beach is popular but weekdays are chill, with fruit and drink vendors as well as umbrellas for rent for the hour or a day.
Created thousands of years ago by volcanoes, the Marieta Islands are home to a ‘hidden beach’ – a sun-drenched opening in the middle of one of the islands only accessible through a watery tunnel and then only at low tide. This place is a popular tourist destination, but access is controlled to the point that it is never crowded. Its draw is not just its virgin splendor, but also the vast quantity of marine life within its waters.
What was once a small fishing village is now an exclusive resort and residential development that forms part of the Riviera Nayarit, with some of the world’s biggest names in hotels situated on this small peninsula. There are lots of beaches to explore, the most exclusive being those private beaches in front of five-star hotels that look out over the ocean. A few great surfing spots ensure that the place holds on to at least a little bit of its bohemian vibe.
Las Animas, Las Caletas, and Majahuitas
These three ‘virgin’ beaches are located just south of Puerto Vallarta, and are only accesible by taking a boat ride from Boca de Tomatlan, a little fishing town with local pangas boat taxis that will take you to the first beach, Las Animas, in about 45 minutes. The beaches have a handful of small restaurants but no hotels to speak of, and are each tiny strips that fill up on the weekend and holidays with mostly national tourists, but during the week are mellow spots to sip out of a coconut and play in the water.
Another delighful beach town reachable only via the ocean, Yelapa has stunning isolated beauty combined with a few very high-end boutique hotels and beachy restaurants. The isolation is not for everyone – there’s no cell service for example – but for those wanting to get away from it all, it’s the perfect place. You can take a water taxi from either Boca de Tomatlan or the Playa los Muertos dock right in the heart of Puerto Vallarta.
Passing through the quaint town of El Monteón, Punta Raza is on its way to be becoming a tourist hotspot with hotels and developments. But it’s not there yet, and there is still time to enjoy its secluded beauty and its main attraction, the sea turtle camp. The new Punta Raza tourist club just recently opened up here with swimming pools, eateries, bathrooms and shops.
Las Cuevas and Mal Pasos
These two beaches just north of Sayulita are two of the truly virgin beaches on this list. There are no restaurants and no shops, so come with what you need for the day. Las Cuevas is formed by massive rocks beaten smooth by the ocean – Mal Pasos can be reached by a passageway through the rocks. These beaches are accessible by land but are much easier reached by sea on a local water taxi. Be careful of the strong rip tides here, but enjoy the isolated glory.