A Puerto Vallarta snorkeling adventure offers the opportunity to see some of the Pacific’s most spectacular creatures. Manta rays, turtles, and colorful fish all call the Bay of Banderas home, but where are the best places to dive? And when’s the best time to go?
Here we discuss everything you might need to know about snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. If there’s anything we’ve missed, ask us in the comments below, and we’ll try to get you an answer!
Is Puerto Vallarta good for snorkeling?
Yes, Puerto Vallarta is a great place to go snorkeling. Go to the right spots (revealed below), and you’ll almost definitely see a wide variety of marine life. If you’re lucky, you may even see some of Vallarta’s larger residents including turtles and rays. During the winter months, the Bay of Banderas is also home to migratory humpback whales, which provides excellent whale watching opportunities.
However, if you’re looking for a snorkeling-specific vacation, then the Yucatan Peninsula and Riviera Maya are better suited to your needs. There you can snorkel next to whale sharks and visit the Cancun Underwater Museum of Art.
Best time to snorkel in Puerto Vallarta
The best time of year to snorkel in Puerto Vallarta is winter and spring (November to May). Visibility is typically at its best around this time, thanks to a lack of rain and calmer waters. The sea temperature is slightly cooler – around 65oF (18oC) to 75oF (24oC) – but still comfortable.
When you start moving away from the coast, to the Marietas Islands for instance, you might consider wearing light to medium wetsuit, especially if you’re prone to getting cold.
Best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta
Los Arcos National Marine Park
Jutting out of the sea near Mismaloya, on the south side of the bay, is Los Arcos National Marine Park. This stunning protected habitat – once called Las Peñas – is home to an array of marine life, including turtles, octopus, and giant Pacific manta ray. Visibility is typically very good, plus there’s a wealth of caves and tunnels to explore. With the arches a little way out to sea, however, it’s best to organize a tour to get there.
Home of the famous Hidden Beach, the Marietas Islands also offer some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Taking a boat there is essential. The ride can take up to an hour and will probably take longer during the winter months as you stop to watch the leaping humpback whales.
When you get there, however, you’ll be rewarded with excellent visibility and lots of fish plus, if you’re lucky, manta rays and turtles. The islands are also great for bird watching – look out for the blue footed booby with its tell-tale dazzling blue feet.
A tiny beach on the south side of the bay, Colomitos is a true hidden gem in Puerto Vallarta. Inaccessible by car, there are two ways to get there. The first is to hike from Boca de Tomatlan, a small fishing village outside of Puerto Vallarta, which takes you along the coast and through jungle foliage. The second is to hire a boat. The journey from Boca takes around five minutes and provides gorgeous views of the coast and towering mountains behind it. Once there, you should find excellent visibility and plenty of underwater rocks in which fish hide.
Playa Conchas Chinas
Nestled in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta, Conchas Chinas, the beach of the same name offers some great snorkeling opportunities. Just a short drive from the town center, Conchas Chinas is easily the most accessible of our recommended dive spots. The best snorkeling is found slightly past the rocks jutting out to sea. There you’ll find hidden boulders and plenty of fish swimming around them. Make sure to go in the morning when the sea is at its calmest. Not only is the safest time to swim, but it’s also when you’ll get the best visibility.
Marine life you might see snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta
Great Pacific manta ray Credit: NOAA Photo Library/Flickr
Spotted Eagle Ray Credit: Jason Boldero/Flickr
Olive ridley turtle Credit: C Watts/Flickr
Hawksby sea turtle Credit: Derek Keats/Flickr
Moorish idols Credit: Rickard Zerpe/Flickr
Pufferfish Credit: scattered1/Flickr
Needlefish Credit: denAsuncioner/Flickr
Spotted box fish Credit: Jon Connell/Flickr
Snorkeling safety in Puerto Vallarta
While snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta is generally safe, you still need to follow standard safety procedures. Here are eight rules you should follow:
- Check your equipment before you enter
- Snorkel with a friend
- Never enter unknown waters
- Watch the waters before you get in
- Keep a safe distance from rocks and animals
- Wear sunblock (make sure it’s reef-safe to protect the local sea life)
- Stay hydrated
- Organize a tour with an expert snorkeling guide who can help to keep you safe
Book a Snorkeling Tour in Puerto Vallarta as part of your Customized Itinerary
Having the very best Puerto Vallarta snorkeling experience is about knowing exactly when and where to go. Organize your Puerto Vallarta trip through Journey Mexico, and we’ll take you out with local experts who can tell you everything you need to know (and keep you safe!). Start by browsing our customizable sample itineraries on our website or simply contact us and a Journey Mexico Travel Planner will get back to you.