Once an unknown fishing village, the coastal city of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico was transformed in the mid-1960s, when Hollywood power couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor moved to the area, bringing the international spotlight with them. Since then, the once quiet town has drawn an endless stream of tourists. The resort boasts world-class hotels and restaurants, but what really attracts tourism is the beautiful beaches. Grab a margarita and flop on a sun lounger at one of these pristine beaches on Mexico’s Pacific coast – here are our top recommendations.
Las Gemelas, like the name implies – it means “the twins” – are a pair of semi-secluded beaches about 20 minutes south of the Puerto Vallarta city center. The beaches are small and typically not crowded – you won’t find snack vendors, tour guides or surf instructors here. This also means you’ll need to pack everything you need before you hit the beach, and scout out a nearby bathroom. However, the privacy and slow-moving blue-green waters here make it a worthwhile stop.
Playa Camarones, or Shrimp Beach, is prime surf and sand, just off the boardwalk lining downtown PV. Hang out on the shore – check out the shops, bars and seafood restaurants along the way – or get adventurous and opt for paddleboarding, jet skiing or parasailing in the water. The sand is soft, so you may want to stay in one place all afternoon long, or move to the beach’s southside where fly fishers post up in hopes of a prime catch.
The Marietas Islands hold Puerto Vallarta’s “hidden beach,” perhaps now one of the worst-kept secrets in the area. Also known as Lover’s Beach, the shore is formed inside an underground crater, creating a small beach amid the rocky Redonda Island. Accessible only by boat, the Marietas Islands are popular among scuba divers, snorkelers and birdwatchers. Spots are limited, so you’ll have to make a reservation ahead of time – most groups take off from Punta de Mita, a short drive north of Puerto Vallarta.
At the north end of Puerto Vallarta’s Hotel Zone, the Playa de Oro gets its name from a famed hotel that once stood along the beach’s shores, before the resorts moved in. Its legacy lives on through the beach, a gold-standard for relaxation. The beach is about 15 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta, and is easily accessible from nearby streets. Before you leave, pop into the tiny artisan market by the entrance, where you can pick up some souvenirs to take home with you.
Another hidden beach accessible only by boat, Las Caletas – the Coves – features a craggy shoreline lined with hammocks and surrounded by thick jungle. The beach is private, so you’ll have to book a trip out there. Once you arrive, staff wait at the ready to serve up drinks, and can point you to other activities like scuba diving, snorkeling with sea lions and guided nature walks. Kids can choose from a zip line, donkey rides and swinging bridges at the beach’s adventure park.
Mostly locals venture out to this beach, about a 15-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta’s southside. Some condos sit just off the shore, but otherwise, other tourists aren’t flocking here. There are plenty of amenities, however, including restaurants and vendors right on the beach. The clear, blue-green waters are calm, and perfect for relaxing or boogie-boarding all afternoon.
Stephen Woodman contributed additional reporting to this article.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, why not book into one of the best boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta? Or perhaps one of the best resorts? For more inspiration while you’re in town, check out the top things to do. And don’t miss out on the top restaurants in Puerto Vallarta.
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