I always like to go on some sort of an excursion no matter where we are, even on a beach vacation. As hard as it is to not sit by the pool/beach all day, it’s fun to experience new things and places. Puerto Vallarta is not short of things to do outside of your resort, but buyer beware, it’s not cheap! Most excursions start from the marina, which is really convenient if you’re staying at the hotel we stayed at, since it’s walking distance.
There were two things we wanted to do – visit Las Marietas and whale watch in Puerto Vallarta. I’m sure you’ve seen Las Marietas before via Pinterest, pinned a million times, as it’s a pretty hidden beach, accessible only when the tide is right.
It’s unbelievably awesome, but also, crowded (hence, popular tourist destination). Of course, who am I to talk? I was part of the masses. However, I wanted to be in and out, without the hassle of the big tour groups, so I set out to rent a boat with our own captain and guide. You guys, it’s expensive!!! We paid more for a (crappy) boat here than we did for a (nice) boat in Bora Bora. I was floored by the price, especially since generally, things in Mexico aren’t very expensive. While I didn’t need the $2k yacht one tour company quoted, I did expect that for just over $650 from the company we went with that we would’ve gotten a much nicer boat than the one we did. Turns out the $2k boat would’ve by far been the better value for what we got, however, it simply wasn’t in the budget for this last minute trip.
So Las Marietas is stunning. You can’t walk on the island due to restrictions, but it’s home to a ton of birds, as the no-humans allowed aspect makes it a wonderful sanctuary for them, and the green grass and brown/gray rocks make this tiny island really pop. To access the hidden beach you need to be in decent health. It requires swimming a small distance through a cave with a strong current.
Just before you get into the cave to access the hidden beach, spend some time snorkeling if you can. The snorkeling here is excellent, especially considering there are so many people around. We went to a snorkeling spot after this that was so blah compared to the coral and fish here!
Once inside the hidden beach!
If you want you can swim into these smaller caves (with a guide, because it’s dangerous!), and I highly recommend doing so! These smaller caves are amazing (and scary!), but wow – so beautiful! The color of the rocks, the way your heart races when a huge blast of water comes in, and the way you have to navigate like you’re on some huge adventure – so fun!
After the hidden beach, we stopped at the other side of the island for some snorkeling. As I said above, the snorkeling by where you enter the hidden beach is way better, and once you’ve snorkeled in places like Moorea, really no other destination compares. It’s a problem 😉 Anyway, I really still liked this stop for the above the water views – the rock arches, random beaches (which you can’t go on), etc, were so pretty!
Another reason I opted for the private tour route was to see whales! I (stupidly) figured it was better to see them up close on a smaller boat vs going on a huge one with a lot of people. I was wrong. There’s a big tour company (not the one we used) that offers the same excursions, and while the idea of having up to 60+ passengers frightens the crap out of me, at the end of the day, the people on that tour saw whales. At the end of our day, this is the extent of the whales we saw:
We paid extra to see them (vs. the tour option in which you go to/from Las Marietas and hope to see them). We spent a great deal of time searching, in particularly following this other tour company. We were always just behind this them. Always. And we always missed the whales, because we were just behind. It was annoying at best. Our guide was fabulous, seriously a wonderful person. But no, it wasn’t just “not a good day to see the whales,” because it was so blatantly obvious the other tour did. We just missed it.