Los Muertos and Olas Altas are the two closest beaches to the central square. The former is the most popular, and backs onto a magnificent 200-foot (60 meter) pier that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The beach was named Los Muertos (Deadman’s Beach) because the site was once used as a cemetery. Excavations conducted at the site during the 1920’s unearthed human bones in ceramic pots, a custom of some indigenous tribes. A favorite for banana boat rides and beach volleyball, there are more beautiful beaches in the area, but this is an iconic spot that you definitely need to visit.
A more remote and secluded option, Playa Las Gemelas is a stunning beach located about 20 minutes by car from the city center. The majestic stretch of sand looks out onto clear, turquoise water. Many hotels offer minivans that will provide transport to and from the beach. You can also head back to the center by waving down El Tuito bus from outside the Gemelas condominiums.
Four kilometers (2.5 miles) from Playa las Gemelas, Playa Mismaloya is the stretch of sand most closely associated with Burton and Taylor, since it was the setting of The Night of the Iguana, the 1964 film that brought them to the area. Stretch out on the sand once graced by the Hollywood superstars and look out at Los Arcos Marine Park, a collection of rocky islands that have been designated a protected national park.
Smack dab in the center of Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone, Playa Camarones is a quiet stretch of sand that is great for families, sandcastles and swimming. The beach is also very popular with water sports enthusiasts, and there are a number of activity crews offering excursions. Thrill-seeking adventurers can head out parasailing, take a banana boat excursion or rent a paddle board and take to the waves.
Thirty minutes by boat from Los Muertos beach in Puerto Vallarta, Playa Yelapa is one of Mexico’s most beautiful and authentic beach communities. Still barely touched by tourism, the charming village has been isolated from the rest of the region. With no paved roads leading to the community, it can only be accessed by boat. Take a day trip from Puerto Vallarta’s center and enjoy Yelapa’s gorgeous, secluded bay. Don’t forget to sample the local delicacy: the dessert pies offered by beach vendors are the stuff of legend in Mexico.