banderas bay

Puerto Vallarta is an amazing place to vacation and one of the most popular resort towns in Mexico. Not surprisingly, its popularity is largely due to its beautiful beaches. Puerto Vallarta is located in the center of Banderas Bay whose coastline is dotted with many stunning tropical beaches. If you’re looking for a more relaxing beach experience with less crowds, then it’s time to plan a fun day trip south of the tourist center and visit some of the more picturesque and lesser known beaches. These must-see hidden beach gems are located within 13 miles of the city center.

If you’re like most people, you want to take full advantage of the fabulous beaches located in Puerto Vallarta. However, every other visitor has this same fantasy of fun in the sun which is why the more popular beaches in the heart of the city – Playa Los Muertos Beach and Playa Camarones – can get overly crowded.

Read our guide to the top lesser known beaches to discover on your next Mexico vacation. We are talking about an amazing day trip snorkeling in the sublime turquoise water of jungle-framed coves, unwinding in lush green getaways, and exploring quaint fishing villages. There are also plenty of water sports and activities: scuba diving, hiking, boat ride, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, and sightseeing.

With Playa Palmares being the closest to Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa the furthest south, you can easily access most of these remote spots by bus, taxi, car, and water taxis.

Here are the top lesser known beaches in Puerto Vallarta:

Playa Palmares

Playa Palmares is one of the best secluded beaches in Puerto Vallarta, known for its long and narrow stretch of pristine white powdery sand and its year-round crystal-clear water. It’s quiet, and it’s the perfect place to plan a fun family picnic day to relax and unwind.

There’s a small parking lot just off the highway on the right. Take the public access stairs off the highway straight down to access the beach.

Playa Las Gemelas

playa las gemelas

Playa Las Gemelas translates from Spanish as “Twin Beaches”, a secluded hidden gem with inviting turquoise waters to swim that blends beautifully with the majestic stretches of pristine white sand. Relaxation is the only requirement for this stunning tropical paradise.

Twin Beaches is a fitting name for the two small side by side beaches. The two beaches are separated by a natural rock wall, which makes one of them easily accessible, while the other requires a bit of hiking. Fewer people venture to the latter, which rewards those who do with a more private and exclusive beach.

To access the beach, look for the narrow and steep stairs that head down to the beach, located next to Condominios Girasol.

Los Arcos Marine Park

los arcos puerto vallarta

No trip to Puerto Vallarta is complete without a visit to Los Arcos Marine Park. It’s not actually a beach, but this group of picturesque granite islets that jut out from the deep blue sea has a protected ecosystem that is virtually untouched. It is known for its vast biodiversity, abundant with natural wonders that let you experience the rich tropical flora and fauna.

Visitors come to see its natural beauty and tropical wildlife both below and above the glistening blue waters. You’ll find caves and deep tunnels to explore and be surrounded by land and sea animals as they coexist in their natural habitat.

It is an ideal location for water sports, especially scuba diving because the water here is among the deepest in Banderas Bay with a thriving coral reef, colorful tropical fish, and exotic sea life.

Playa Mismaloya

Playa Mismaloya is one of the lesser known beaches where the Sierra Madre hills fall dramatically into the Pacific Ocean, creating a rustic backdrop for the beach.

Stroll into the small town to visit the Mamá Lucía Tequila Factory, a local zoo, and further up the path, an ecological park for some sightseeing.

Follow it up with a day playing in the emerald waters, basking in the sun, eating delicious fresh seafood paired with a chilled beverage at the beachside palapa and you have arrived in paradise.

This is the starting point for the pangas (water taxis) which transport visitors to other idyllic beaches in the southern zone which can only be reached by water.

Fun Fact: Playa Mismaloya was put on the map when John Houston filmed “The Night of the Iguana” in the mid 60s with a star-studded cast including Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, and Ava Gardner.

Boca de Tomatlán

Boca de Tomatlán (“Boca” to the locals) is a quaint and lively fishing village. Enjoy its soft- white sand beaches, gentle ocean surf, great food, and friendly people.

boca de tomatlan

The Horcones River flows down from the Sierra Madre Mountains through the lush tropical jungles and empties its waters into this beautiful cove, surrounded by bougainvillea, hibiscus, banana, papaya, and palm-covered hills that are rich with wildlife.

The beach is divided into two sections by the Malecon and the river mouth, to the north is the Boca malecón, pier, water taxis, and cute cafes, and to the south is a more tranquil area to relax and swim.

For avid outdoors adventurers, there’s also a hiking trail that starts off here which goes all the way to Quimixto (10 miles) along a scenic jungle and ocean view trail.

Playa Las Animas

Las Animas beach is paradise on Earth with a breathtaking 2-mile stretch of beach lining a small and lush cove that can only be reached via water taxi. Having a wide and spacious shoreline without all the crowds, this piece of heaven on earth is one of the best of the beach destinations in Puerto Vallarta.

las animas beach

Aside from swimming in its translucent waters, sunbathing on white sand beaches, and family fun building sandcastles in the presence of picturesque views, you can also enjoy water sports such as kayaking, jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling to explore the plentiful underwater treasures.

Surely, a day at the beach is not complete without indulging in delicious food, especially fresh seafood favorites. Lucky for you, there are many superb restaurants.

For hiking enthusiasts, this is an ideal spot. A scenic 2.5-mile hike takes you back to Boca de Tomatlan where you can finish off your day with a chilled post-hike cerveza and head home.

As you can see, there are plenty of awesome lesser known beaches around Puerto Vallarta to choose from. Visit a few to get a nice mix and make the most of your vacation!

How To Get There:

By car: car rental, Uber, taxi

By Bus: Hop on the orange bus that’s heading south. It leaves from an OXXO in the Romantic Zone at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitución street for just 10 pesos ($0.50). It leaves every 30 minutes and takes about 15 minutes.

Goes to: Playa Palmares, Playa Las Gemelas, Mismaloya, Boca de Tomatlán and Los Arcos

Water Taxi (Panga): You can catch water taxis headed out of Boca de Tomatlan, Los Muertos Beach or Mismaloya to any of the beaches along the way to Yelapa. Just let them know where you’d like to go and you’ll get quoted a price and a wait time.

Goes to: *Las Animas – *no direct car or bus access.