The best beaches in Puerto Vallarta can rival any of Mexico’s other sun-and-sand destinations, thanks in no small part to the area’s ethereal beauty. The magic lies in the twin gems of the twinkling Bay of Banderas in front and the towering Sierra Madre behind — both uniquely beautiful by themselves but combined create a magnetic pull that keeps travelers returning year after year.
If you’re looking for the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta, however, you’re spoiled for choice. To make things a little easier, here’s a list of Puerto Vallarta’s best six beaches and very nearby with a bonus two private beaches that will take your Puerto Vallarta vacation to the next level.
Six best beaches in Puerto Vallarta
1. Playa del Amor aka The Hidden Beach
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Best for: Beauty
The most celebrated of Puerto Vallarta’s beaches, Playa del Amor — also known as the Hidden Beach — is also the only one on our list that doesn’t sit on the shores of Bahia de Banderas. Instead, it’s concealed within a group of unpopulated islands known as the Marietas Islands (Isla Marietas) in the middle of the bay.
Its worldwide fame is down to the unique formation of the beach which sits inside an open-top geological abnormality, said to have been formed when military testing blasted a hole in the roof of a cave.
Access to Playa del Amor is regulated which means you must go with a licensed tour operator. Talk to a Journey Mexico Travel Planner to arrange a trip to Puerto Vallarta’s Hidden Beach.
2. Playa Los Muertos
Best for: Restaurants, fiestas
The bustling Playa Los Muertos is Puerto Vallarta’s most action-packed beach with waiters shuttling margaritas to their clients at a furious pace. Pop and reggaeton hits push out through the speakers as vacationers attempt to shake off their exertions from the night before.
For the traveler looking to make new friends, drink cool drinks, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, Playa Los Muertos is perfect. But it’s also home to some of the very best restaurants in the region. In particular, a local favorite is La Palapa — a gourmet eatery serving “tropical Mexican cuisine” under a romantic beach-side thatched roof.
JM Tip: For a more sedate version of Playa Los Muertos, book a stay at Puerto Vallarta Beach Club. As the furthest hotel on the beach, you’ll be away from the crowds that congregate towards the center of town, but still close enough that a five-minute walk will take you into the thick of it.
3. Playa El Caballo
Best for: Peace
On the southern curve of Bahia de Banderas lies Playa El Caballo, an almost-always deserted beach strip nestled against lush, jungle foliage. To get there, you’ll either need to hike from Boca de Tomatlan — a beautiful walk in its own right — or take a water taxi to the neighboring Las Animas beach.
The effort is undoubtedly worth it. While you might get the odd hiker passing through, the majority of your time will be spent in utter peace. Take a good book and your beach bag for a day in paradise.
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Best for: Hidden gem
Colomitos is tiny. But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in beauty. While it is possible to get a water taxi there, the hike from Boca de Tomatlan is the way to do it. Making your way through the jungle, you will suddenly spot its breath-taking jade green waters before its yellow sands come into view.
Clamber down — and it is a bit of a clamber — to claim your spot on the beach. To get the full Colomitos experience, get there early before the small beach fills up and the clear waters have too many people cooling off in them.
Best for: Surfing, hiking
Just along from Playa El Caballo lies the beautiful, authentic Mexican village of Quimixto and its beach of the same name. Here you’ll find great surfing opportunities, particularly if you’re a beginner looking to test yourself against some gentle waves.
Quimixto has the added benefit of a gorgeous nearby waterfall, accessed either on foot or horseback, with a swimmable plunge pool. Getting to Quimixto is simple, just take a water taxi from Boca de Tomatlan to the village pier.
6. Playa Esmeralda
Best for: Relaxing
Near to the famous Garza Blanca hotel on the south side of the city lies Playa Esmeralda, a secluded beach with a beautiful man-made bay. The protection from the bay makes swimming easier than on some other beaches in the area, while the sea’s emerald-green color is undeniably beautiful.
A little way off the main tourist route, Playa Esmeralda is all but devoid of vacationers who tend to prefer the ease of either Playa Los Muertos or Playa Camarones. To get to Esmeralda, you can either take a bus from town (although you’ll need to ask the driver to stop there as it’s not an official alighting point) or get a taxi (much easier).
Private beaches in Puerto Vallarta
Playa La Troza
Best for: Families
Book a stay at the stunning villa, La Troza, with Journey Mexico and enjoy the delights of your own secluded beach. The expansive eight-bedroom property sits on beautiful yellow sands, the ideal spot for relaxing with a good book and soaking up the Pacific Coast sunshine. If you’re a bit of an adventurer, you’ll be delighted to hear this Puerto Vallarta villa comes with snorkeling equipment, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards.
You may, however, prefer to enjoy the villa’s gorgeous beach views from the estate’s infinity pool or reclining next to it on a sun lounger.
Best for: Beach yoga
Nestled within the lush Puerto Vallarta jungles is Xinalani, a world-class yoga retreat with its very own private beach. Yoga lessons can be enjoyed on the sands of Playa Xinalani or in one of three jungle yoga studios. The rest of the time can be spent reclining on the sun loungers, chilling at the beach club, or cooling off in the infinity pool.
Guests can take their adventures even further by swimming out to the resort’s floating hammock, which bobs in the sea, or by walking to the nearby waterfall in Quimixto.
Best beach in Puerto Vallarta
“Where is the best beach in Puerto Vallarta?” is an impossible question to answer. It all comes down to what type of vacation you’re looking for. For a world of utter peace, Playa El Caballo is a fantastic, while exceptional beauty can be found at Puerto Vallarta’s Hidden Beach. If you’re looking for a bit of fun then Los Muertos is great while Quimixto offers great opportunities for adventure.
Hiring a villa or staying at a luxury hotel is probably your best bet for getting it all — privacy with resort-like amenities. Speak to a Journey Mexico Travel Planner who can help you organize the ultimate beach vacation in Puerto Vallarta.