Whether you’re looking to lounge with the latest beach read, catch a wave, stroll the lively malecón, or snorkel a secluded cove, Mexico’s Pacific coast has a stretch of sand for you. Here are the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Sayulita and the Riviera Nayarit, and Costalegre.
For the Liveliest Scene:
In Puerto Vallarta, the most popular beach is Playa los Muertos, just off the malecón in the heart of town, a bustling beach filled with people catching rays and lounging about, with dozens of restaurants, hotels, and beach clubs lining the sandy stretch and offering loungers, umbrellas, and food service. Vendors walk back and forth selling foot massages and sunglasses, and you can watch fishers in the waves catching krill, kids jumping off the pier, and pelicans forming a flotilla in the waves.
For a Local Experience:
North of Playa los Muertos, Playa Camarones is where locals and families put down blankets and make a beach day of it, a quieter but convivial community, and the beachfront restaurant El Barracuda makes some of the best cocktails in the city.
For Serenity and Snorkeling in the City:
Next door to Playa los Muertos on its south end, Playa Conchas Chinas offers a secluded setting, with small coves and rocky outcrops perfect for private sunbathing, and few vendors or amenities. If you have snorkel gear, bring it along as the coves harbor colorful fish.
For an Illuminating Paddling Experience:
Off Playa Mismaloya, you can take an evening paddleboarding or kayaking tour to Los Arcos National Marine Park and witness the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence in the waters around the offshore islands.
Banderas Bay North
For the Best All-Around Time:
Playa Bucerías is a wide stretch of fine white sand running the length of town, great for walking, playing volleyball, or just relaxing and watching the town’s oyster divers, while the waters are conducive to swimming as well as activities from paddleboarding to kitesurfing. Many beachfront restaurants offer loungers with umbrellas and all-day service. Bonus: Beachfront massages are available.
Just past the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is Playa la Manzanilla, a small, protected cove with calm, safe waters for children to frolic in, vendors renting beach toys, and restaurants selling fresh food.
For Long Strolls:
Banderas Bay’s breathtaking Playa Destiladeras offers kilometers of wide, flat, soft sand perfect for meandering walks alongside craggy cliffs, gentle waves, and exclusive villas and resorts with beachfront restaurants.
For Beginner Surfers or Stand-Up Paddleboarders:
Directly in front of Punta de Mita, Playa el Anclote has light waves and breezes that make this an ideal place for new learners.
Sayulita and the Riviera Nayarit
For Surfers of All Skill Sets and People-Watching:
The most popular beach in Sayulita is its main beach off the town center, Playa Sayulita, filled with beautiful people, interesting characters, musicians, and surfers waiting for their next perfect wave.
Lined with palapa-covered restaurants serving fresh catches of the day, Playa Rincón de Guayabitos has great perches from which to catch sunsets, particularly spectacular alongside the beach’s offshore islands.
For Fresh Oysters:
In the Matanchén Bayarea is Playa Platanitos, a small cove with a large oyster bed just off the beach; during the season you can enjoy fresh oysters served with lime and chile sauce at the beachfront restaurants, along with cold beer, for a perfect day.
For Participating in a Turtle Release:
At 19 kilometers (11.8 mi) long, Playa Mayto is the largest area dedicated to turtle rescue—care of the Campamento Tortuguero Mayto—on the Pacific coast. Baby turtles are released July-January, and you can participate if you’re in the area.
For Offshore Island Explorations:
The most popular beach on beautiful Chamela Bay is Playa Punta Pérula, a prime jumping-off point to small, uninhabited offshore islands home to numerous birds and marinelife, perfect for snorkeling and sunbathing. You can rent a boat right off the beach to take you to the islands.
For Hanging with (New) Friends:
Americans, Canadians, and Europeans all converge on Playa la Manzanilla in the winter months—a beach with fine sand, protected waters, and waterfront restaurants offering places to break bread and enjoy drinks with fellow snowbirds.
Jalisco’s first fully accessible beach, and one of only nine in the world, Playa Cuastecomates has calm, temperate waters, a boardwalk to allow easy passage for people in wheelchairs, directional signs featuring Braille for the sight-impaired, and first-aid stations along the shoreline to assist in medical and emergency care.
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