Best Snorkeling Spots in Puerto Vallarta
Snorkeling Puerto Vallarta, Mex
You should spend at least one day exploring the incredible snorkeling Banderas Bay offers if you plan to visit Puerto Vallarta. Although the Pacific Coast of Mexico doesn't have the same white beaches and turquoise waters as the Caribbean side of Mexico, the incredible wildlife and amazing rock formations make snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta worth the effort.
My first snorkeling experience was when a dolphin came up to me and swam around me at Los Arcos. Although I was blessed with the best luck, I can say that I never had a better snorkeling experience than my first snorkeling trip to Puerto Vallarta. Many years later, I've been able to find the best spots for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta and am happy to share them with you.
What is the best time to snorkel in Puerto Vallarta during the year?
You will find more marine life in Banderas Bay between July and November. Although the water is generally warmer during this time of year, visibility can be limited by rains. We recommend October to November for the best visibility. This is because the water gets too cold for the bones that have been acclimated in Puerto Vallarta. You can still enjoy great snorkeling all year. If you're visiting from the north, you won't mind the cooler waters as a refreshing respite from the scorching sun.
Where is the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit all the top snorkeling spots in Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay 15 years ago. Below is a list of some of the most popular snorkeling spots, along with helpful information and feedback from customers. Take a look at the list below to help you decide where you want to snorkel in Puerto Vallarta before you make your booking.
Snorkeling Los Arcos National Marine Park-The Iconic Arches at Puerto Vallarta
Distance from Marina Vallarta: From there, it takes 20-30 minutes to get by panga or speed boat. It takes 45 minutes to travel along the scenic route on larger sailboats and catamarans.
Average Snorkeling Depth: 10-12 meters (30-40 ft), but depths can vary from 3 to 27 meters (10-10 ft) at Los Arcos.
Avg Visibility 6-15 meters (20-50 ft)
Types of marine life: There are many types of tropical fish like clownfish, angelfish and snapper.
Pros: This is a great spot for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Cons: It is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Puerto Vallarta. This can make it very crowded.
Los Arcos is a personal favorite of mine. Three main rocks, which make up Los Arcos de Mismaloya, are home to an incredible variety of marine life and birds below the surface. While snorkeling at Los Arcos, I was able to swim with one dolphin. Los Arcos was where I received my certification to scuba dive. My dog stared at me in horror as I glided past the footprint of a breaching whale at Los Arcos while I was on a paddleboard. This was the moment that I realized that it was not the best idea to follow a giant whale on the paddleboard. Los Arcos was home to the incredible, yet rare bioluminescence. My panga lit up with bioluminescence's blue light at night like a low rider in LA during the '90s. My wedding reception, also known as the hangover party, was held there. Los Arcos National Marine Park is pretty cool in general.
It's not a secret. Los Arcos is a popular spot for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. It is also convenient that you can get there and back in a matter of hours. The water is clear and calm all year, making it ideal for beginners to snorkeling. The real attraction of Los Arcos marine reserve is beneath the water. Los Arcos is protected at a variety of depths, which allows for many species to thrive. There are many colorful tropical fish schools, spotted eagle-rays, coral reef and colorful rock formations. You will also see a variety sea urchins and other anemones. If you look closely enough, you might spot a nudibranch, or sea horse.
Insider Tip - This is a popular spot for snorkeling in Banderas Bay. You can book a private snorkeling tour if you're a keen snorkeler who wants to get the best experience. You can leave earlier or later than the tour boats. However, once you are underwater, it is impossible to focus on what is happening above the surface.
Snorkeling Marietas Islands National Park is home to Puerto Vallarta’s Iconic Hidden Beach.
Distance from Marina Vallarta: 32km (20 miles). It takes 60 minutes to get there by fast boat or panga, and it takes closer to 1.5 hours by catamaran or sailboat. It is much quicker to depart Paradise Village or La Cruz marinas if you're staying at Rivera Nayarit.
Average Snorkeling Depth is 7.5-18 meters (25-60 ft). However, some inlets can be very shallow. Rock formations attract fish and other marine life just a few feet below the surface.
Avg Visibility 12 meters (40 feet)
Types of Marine Life: You can find 30 species of birds nesting and feeding here, which is similar to the life found in Los Arcos. You will often find butterfliesfish, surgeonfish and colorful parrotfish in the Marietas Islands' underwater mountain range. Sea sponges, starfish and sea urchins can also be found in the rocky outcrops. If you're lucky enough, you might spot a sea turtle or a dolphin.
The Galapagos Islands are home to many species of birds that can only be found here. You can find many snorkeling spots between the main islands and some islets. Amazing photo opportunities are available at the "hidden beach". Marietas Islands is the ultimate spot for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Pros: It is difficult to find the "hidden beach". The site is very popular and people have been flooding it for the past ten year, causing havoc to the fragile environment. The government intervened and put restrictions on who was allowed to access the site and what days they could do so that the environment would not be destroyed. This is a great thing. The second thing you need to remember is that the tide and water are right for accessing the beach. To get to the beach, you will need to swim 120 meters through a tunnel. This activity is not recommended for families or people who aren't strong swimmers.
Jacques Cousteau, an oceanographer and conservationist, put the Marietas Islands onto the map in the 1960s. The Marietas Islands were designated a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in April 2005. Although the Islas Marietas are an incredible snorkeling spot in Puerto Vallarta since their inception, a viral post about the "hidden" or the "lovers" beach was posted around 2010. This led to a huge growth. In May 2015, the access was temporarily closed to protect the islands. They opened them to a small number of people every day in May 2015, but they also closed the access to Mondays and Tuesdays for coral and volcanic island recovery. Restrictions continue today.
To visit the islands, you'll need to book an organized tour that has proper permits. You will also need to make reservations well in advance to ensure a flexible schedule and to see the Hidden Beach in Mexico. You must also consider the weather conditions and tides, in addition to the limitations on the number of permits. The beauty of snorkeling Marietas Islands, however, is the same regardless of where you are located.
Snorkeling Majahuitas Cove - Abundant Marine Life in a Quiet Cove
Distance from Marina Vallarta: Take 45-50 minutes by panga, fast boat or on foot. It takes approximately 75 minutes to travel along the scenic route on larger sailboats and catamarans.
Average Snorkeling Depth is 6-12 meters (20-40 ft), but depths can vary from 3 to 27 meters (10-10 to 90 ft), similar to Los Arcos. There are depths that suit all skill levels.
Average Visibility: 5-18 meters (15-60 ft), but in October and November, you can see up 30 meters (100 feet)!
Types of Marine Life There are many species of marine life, including colorful parrotfish and eagle-rays as well as pufferfish and large schools of sergeant majors and giant damsels. Sometimes you might even see a sea turtle, an eel, or octopus. If you're lucky, even a giant mammal!
Pros: This cove is less-known but is a popular snorkeling spot for locals, fishermen and even pirate ships. This cove is perfect for snorkeling of all levels due to its calm waters and shallow depths. You should be careful on your steps as the beach is covered in tiny hermit crabs.
Cons: A larger tour provider recently purchased the beach area, meaning they can bring more guests to the area. However, it is still quieter than Los Arcos.
Majahuitas Cove offers the best snorkeling in Banderas Bay. It is also a popular spot that locals love to visit while exploring the bay and on their way to Yelapa. Because of its calm, safe waters, the Marigalante Pirate boat has been taking families snorkeling Majahuitas Cove for over a decade.
Majahuitas's water is so calm that I can tow my dog on a boogieboard while I snorkel. He balances on the board, and he also looks over at the fish. My dog and I don't have children. However, I have seen parents do this with their children who are afraid of water.
Snorkeling Colomitos Cove- Quiet Cove on The Beaten Path
Distance from Marina Vallarta: 35-40 minutes by panga, fast boat or on foot. It takes about an hour to travel along the scenic route on larger sailboats and catamarans.
Avg Snorkeling Depth is 6.5 to 14.5 meters (20 to 40 ft), but there are depths of up to 39 meters (120 feet)
Avg Visibility is 11-12 meters (35-40ft)
Types of marine life: Colomitos is characterized by a sandy bottom and a rugged coastline. There are many tropical fish to be found, including boxfish, pufferfish and sergeant majors as well as butterflyfish, pufferfish and boxfish. You will also find the usual suspects along Puerto Vallarta’s coast.
The pros: This snorkeling spot does not belong to the popular Puerto Vallata snorkeling tours. Sometimes you can even have the entire area to yourself.
Pros: Locals love to hike from Bocas de Tomatlan. If possible, avoid weekends.
Playa Colomitos is the snorkeling spot I frequent the most. I also love hiking and the main coastal trail begins at Bocas de Tomatlan. The first destination you reach is Colomitos Beach. The hike is beautiful and offers a stunning view of the emerald-green water as you descend to the beach. A small waterfall is available during rainy seasons. It is a great spot to relax and unwind, even if you are not snorkeling. Depending on your physical condition and the trail conditions, the hike can take anywhere from 30 to 50 mins. The descent can be a little more difficult during rainy seasons.
It is great to snorkel in the Colomitos, but it is best to go early so that there are not too many boats pulling in. Mornings are the calmest time to be in the water. You can also take a water taxi to Bocas de Tomatlan if hiking is not your thing. There are several guided tours that will take you to the top of the mountain if you don't own transport or do not wish to take the bus. After a brief visit to the stunning emerald cove, you can charter your private panga or kayak from Puerto Vallarta.
Snorkeling Las Caletas Beach- Snorkeling and So Much More
Types of marine life: The same marine life can be found on the south coast at Banderas Bay. If you book the Las Caletas Beach Tour, you can also meet sea lions and a resident sea turtle. There are also 2 sunken ships off the coast that offer great underwater photography.
The pros: You can do so much more than snorkeling. This tour is a great vacation experience and one of the most popular in Puerto Vallarta.
Cons: This is the only private beach south of Puerto Vallarta. Vallarta Adventures controls the beach and you can book their Las Caletas Hideaway Tour to get there.
Las Caletas is a more vacation-oriented Puerto Vallarta snorkeling trip than the typical one. You can choose from other destinations if you want the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Las Caletas offers the best snorkeling experience. We have struggled to find the average snorkeling depths, and the time it takes to get in a panga because all tours are with the same company. However, you can help a sister by listing her information in the comments.
Only accessible by boat, Las Caletas beach was once home to John Houston, who put Puerto Vallarta onto the map as a tourist spot in Mexico. Las Caletas has become a paradise of hammocks and spa services, incredible food, and open bars nestled in the jungle.
But, just because the private beach is closed to you does not mean that you can't take a panga or snorkel off-shore. There is a lot of marine life in Las Caletas that can be accessed from all levels. It is also known for being a great diving site. If you don't want the full package but just want to snorkel, we recommend hiring a private charter so that you can get there before the crowds arrive. The fishing in Las Caletas can be amazing. After all the snorkeling, you might want to eat lunch so that your body can get a rest.
The Beautiful Snorkeling Gem of Snorkeling Conchas Chinas is a Short Walk from Old Town
Conchas Chinas isn't a well-known destination for snorkeling, but it is loved by locals. This is the best place to catch lobsters and spearfish. It is also easily accessible by foot. You will find Conchas Chinas if you follow Los Muertos Beach to the end. Follow the trail up and across the large rock at its end. Conchas Chinas are tiny seashells that can be found all over the beach. You will find many little coves and tidepools to explore if you keep following the trail. On calm days, snorkeling in the coves can be spectacular. However, if the weather is poor or the tides rise, it can prove difficult. Let's now talk about safety when snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Snorkeling Safety in Puerto Vallarta: Be Smart, Be Respectful, and Have Fun
Never snorkel alone. Always go with a friend. You can also go on a guided snorkeling tour with a professional guide in Puerto Vallarta. This is a must-do for tourists. You should not venture into unknown territory alone. There are very few problems with tourists getting into trouble when snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Most of the best spots for snorkeling require that you take a boat to get there. However, Conchas Chinas is a case where you should be careful. This is because Conchas Chinas allows people to bring their own equipment and explore the area on their own.
It's not just about protecting yourself. You also need to respect marine life. It takes coral years to grow. Even touching a tiny bit of it with your fingers can cause damage. Please remember to use ocean-friendly, biodegradable sunblock. Sunblock can be found in most places. Apply sunblock at least one hour before you go into the water to ensure that the oils and toxins do not penetrate your skin. This will prevent any damage to fragile marine life. Don't touch anything. In addition to the harmful chemicals that can be applied to your skin, it can also cause damage to marine life. You should not attempt to catch or take it home. Imagine being in a tidepool and a tourist keeping you from your safety. These are not cool people. Don't be this guy.
Hydrate! You've probably experienced the feeling of hunger and thirst when you get out of the water. This is real. Even though you're in the water, it is likely that you are becoming dehydrated. Make sure you have plenty of water. You can also bring a few electrolytes. These electrolytes are similar to the Pedialyte that you get back at home, but you can find them here at any mini-mart, because we are locals and know they are essential.
Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta: Let Us Help You Get the Best Experience
These are just some of the top snorkeling spots in Puerto Vallarta. There are many more around Banderas Bay. Tell us about your favorite spots! Our Activities Experts can help you book a Puerto Vallarta snorkeling trip. We've snorkeled in Banderas Bay so we can help you pick the best snorkeling adventure. Contact us today!