In my humble opinion, the Puerto Vallarta beaches south of the city are the most Instagram-worthy, beautiful, and dramatic beaches, and yet they are usually mostly empty. It baffles me because they are SO easy to get to, whether you have a car or are taking the bus.
During my last trip to Puerto Vallarta, I spent much of my 5 weeks heading south on the bus, stopping at as many of Puerto Vallarta beaches as I had time for, and taking lots of photos.
First: A Guide to Reaching these Instagram-worthy Puerto Vallarta Beaches by Bus:
Reaching the Puerto Vallarta Beaches for Instagram-worthy photos below is super easy by car - there is one coastal road heading south, and the beaches can be reached in minutes.
By bus, it’s just as easy. Head to the “Parada de Camiones a Mismaloya” (Or the bus stop to Mismaloya) in front of the Oxxo at Basilio Badillo and Calle Constitucion in Puerto Vallarta Old Town/Romantic Zone. The busses will be facing north (which is a little confusing) but those are the ones that will turn and head south. This is where the buses start, so they are usually turned off in a line until they are ready to go. Passengers often queue up until the bus is ready for them to board.
At the end of 2017, the bus fare was 9.50 pesos (about $.50 USD). There is only one road that heads south, so this bus passes by all of the Puerto Vallarta beaches below (with the exception of the last 4 which are past the end of the road, but I will explain how to get to each Puerto Vallarta beach).
Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta:
Airbnb: I stayed in a beautiful Airbnb with an amazing host - I would recommend it 100%. There are also plenty of other great Airbnbs throughout the city.
Booking.com: Or check Booking for great rates on hotels.
Ready to take Instagram-worthy photos at the Puerto Vallarta beaches below?
1. Conchas Chinas: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
This is one of the most beautiful and Instagram-worthy Puerto Vallarta beaches and one of my favorites. Conchas Chinas is also the closest Puerto Vallarta beach to Old Town/Romantic Zone.
This beach is full of giant rocks, and small cliffs. It’s a large beach with lots of nooks, and it connects to Playa Amapas heading back north. You will most likely be able to find your own little nook, especially if you go during the week.
The best Instagram-worthy photos of this Puerto Vallarta beach are when you have the sand to yourself, and photo the dramatic large rocks and coves.
How to Get to Conchas Chinas:
You could walk here, but it’s not the most pleasant walk along the highway, there isn’t much space for pedestrians and cars/buses drive fast. It isn’t possible to walk along the beach from Playa los Muertos - the beach does not go through.
Take the Bus to Mismaloya/Boca de Tomatlan as explained above. Get off at the spot marked on the map, walk down the road and enter the beach at Conchas Chinas.
Where to Stay at Conchas Chinas:
Casa Karma: This boutique hotel has an absolutely gorgeous sunset view.
Quinta Maria Cortez: A quiet and beautiful B&B.
Grand Miramar: A luxurious resort with beautiful views, that won’t break the bank.
Hyatt Ziva: A Hyatt resort with it’s own small private beach, but very close to Conchas Chinas.
Tip: There are no amenities right on the beach, but there is an Oxxo on the main highway. You will want to bring your own water, beer, or snacks. You can usually find a shady spot near some of the rocks or nooks. We were offered to rent an umbrella here by a man during a visit, so that should be an option too.
2. Playa Las Gemelas: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Playa las Gemelas is tucked between a cliff and the water. The beach is divided in two sections, the first as you enter is a public section, and the farther section is roped off for the resort there.
I love this Puerto Vallarta beach because it’s often visited by locals and just has a fun vibe. I usually see locals playing frisbee or volleyball, camped out for the day with a cooler and snacks.
Playa las Gemelas can get busy on weekends with locals but still has a fun vibe. If you go during the week it’ll be less busy.
The best Instagram-worthy photos at this Puerto Vallarta beach are on the south end, where dramatic large rocks spill into the water. If you go during the late afternoon, you can get some great golden hour light, or even a beautiful sunset over the water and rocks.
How to Get to Playa Las Gemelas
Take the bus to Mismaloya/Boca de Tomatlan as explained above and get off at the point marked on the map below at Condominios Girasol Sur. There will be a sign and a slightly precarious looking stone stairwell on the right hand side if you are facing away from the road. The stairs are fine, just not very well maintained. You will need to have mobility as it’s a couple floors down.
Where to Stay at Playa Las Gemelas:
Garza Blanca: One of the most famous luxury resorts near Puerto Vallarta.
Park Royal: Another all-inclusive resort right on the beach with great views.
Tip: There is no store at this beach and the hotel is private. Bring in your own water, beer, soda, or snacks so you can enjoy your day. There is often a women selling grilled fish and shrimp on a skewer here - this is a delicious snack!
If it’s not too crowded, you might be able to find a shady spot near the back.
3. Playa Mismaloya: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Playa Mismaloya is one of the most iconic Puerto Vallarta beaches because it was the filming location for Night of the Iguana - the film in the 60s that made Puerto Vallarta famous. This makes it a perfect Puerto Vallarta beach for Instagram-worthy photos.
Playa Mismaloya is different than the above beaches in that it’s a local fishing village where a river meets the ocean. This makes it a very calm port, and therefore the place that most people depart to do snorkeling at the Los Arcos.
While I wouldn’t say that Playa Mismaloya is the most beautiful of the beaches on this list, it has a great jungley vibe, with local culture. It’s a great place to take Instagram-worthy photos of a Puerto Vallarta beach with docked boats, swaying palms, kids running around.
How to Get to Playa Mismaloya
Hop on the bus to Mismaloya/Tomatlan as above and get off at the point marked on the map. Follow the road through the tiny village of Mismaloya to the beach. You may have to wade across the river where it meets the beach, but it shouldn’t be too high to cross.
Tip: There are a couple restaurants here and a big resort. You can enjoy a snack or michelada at the restaurants. It’s also possible to buy a day pass to the resort if you prefer. You can also negotiate directly with the boat captains here to take you on a trip to Los Arcos for some snorkeling.
Where to Stay at Playa Mismaloya:
Barcelo: This is a popular, large, all-inclusive resort right on the beach.
Hotel Casa Iguana Mismaloya: This is a budget friendly, pretty hotel just up the hill from town.
Villas Altas Mismaloya: These rental apartments are up on the cliff overlooking the beach.
4. Boca de Tomatlan: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Boca de Tomatlan is a Puerto Vallarta beach similar to Mismaloya above - it’s a small local village that serves as a boat port. This is where most boats enter and leave to go to the Cabos Corrientes, or the beaches further south down the coast that are only accessible by boat. This is also where the road ends going south, from here, you can only drive inland, not along the coast.
This gives Boca de Tomatlan a very interesting vibe. It’s super jungley and sleepy, very few cars, most people walk or hop on a boat for transportation.
This is a great Puerto Vallarta beach for Instagram-worthy photos of jungley cliffs that spill into the ocean, of boats leaving the cove, or colorful local homes.
Where to Stay in Boca de Tomatlan:
Villa Armonia Luxury Boutique Hotel: A pretty boutique hotel on the cliff overlooking the bay.
Villa Lala Boutique Hotel: A luxurious boutique hotel at the edge of the Boca cove.
How to Get to Boca de Tomatlan:
As above, take the bus to Mismaloya/Tomatlan, and stay on until the very last stop (at the point on the map below). Here you can follow the streets to the beach.
Tip: There are plenty of little restaurants here in the town and on the beach. You can also get boats here to any of the below beaches. Another option is to do a hike that starts here, and follows the jungley coast up and down cliffs past many of the below beaches and ends at Playa las Animas - where you can get a boat back to Tomatlan. I’ll be writing a blog post about this amazing hike that I’ve done twice!
5. Playa Colomitos: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Playa Colomitos might just be the most beautiful Puerto Vallarta beach for Instagram photos.
This cove is tiny, ringed by steep cliffs on each side except for the sliver of gorgeous turquiouse water that filters in from the ocean.
You can only reach this Puerto Vallarta beach by boat or by foot, so it’s special and often very empty.
How to Get to Playa Colomitos:
You can get a boat taxi from Boca de Tomatlan, or you can hike by foot from Tomatlan village. Blog post about this awesome hike coming soon!
Where to Stay at Playa Colomitos:
There are no options for accommodation at Playa Colomitos. The closest hotels are in Boca de Tomatlan or at Playa Escondida.
Tip: I have usually seen a local or two here that will sell you some beer or snacks, but I would recommend bringing anything you want to eat or drink, just in case.
6. Playa Escondida, Jalisco: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
These couple beaches between Playa Colomitos and Las Animas get a little hazy as far as names go because there is very little to no info online. We came across these Instagram-worthy Puerto Vallarta beaches during our hike between Boca and Las Animas.
Playa Escondida, or the area around this point on the map, is usually completely empty. You can reach it by boat, but most people come across this beach on the hike (which isn’t very popular to begin with). The only other people you will see are those staying at La Troza, a private resort. Both times I’ve done the hike through here, La Troza seemed to be totally empty.
The most fun place to take Instagram photos at this Puerto Vallarta beach, is the small stone malecon or pathway that passes by the hotel. There is also a small stone extension of the path that goes out into the water - presumably a small pier. I love this spot to walk out to and get a photo. You are completely surrounded by vibrant aqua sea that is crashing against the rocks below. It’s a very dramatic and beautiful place for photos.
How to Get to Playa Escondida, Jalisco:
You can take a boat taxi here from Boca de Tomatlan, but most people arrive here by hiking between Boca and Las Animas. (Blog post about the hike to come!).
Where to Stay at Playa Escondida, Jalisco:
The only option here is the private luxury hotel, La Troza.
Tip: I haven’t often seen people swimming here so I would exercise caution if you plan to take a dip. This is the Pacific Ocean, so there can be strong rip currents. Be careful, and maybe stick very close to shore.
There are no amenities here, and the hotel is private, so you will want to bring plenty of water and snacks with you.
7. Playa Caballo: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Playa Caballo is a stretch of beach next to the beautiful Hotelito Mio.
This Puerto Vallarta beach is my favorite for Instagram photos on the hike between Boca and Las Animas. The northern-most section is filled with tons of tall palms and scattered large rocks. It feels incredibly wild - like a deserted island. I have never seen any other people in this section.
It’s an amazing place to wander between the rocks, and take Instagram-worthy photos.
As you keep going south, you’ll find a more open section of the beach, close to the Hotelito Mio.
How to Get to Playa Caballo:
You can get to Playa Caballo by doing the hike from Boca to Las Animas. Or you could take a boat taxi, but most people doing this will be staying at the Hotelito Mio.
Where to Stay in Playa Caballo:
The only option here is the gorgeous Hotelito Mio.
Tip: Again, be very cautious about swimming here, especially if you don’t see anyone else swimming. There could be rip currents. I enjoy this area more for walking/wandering than for swimming.
You’ll also want to be bringing in your own water and snacks. There are no amenities besides the Hotelito Mio, which is private.
8. Yelapa: Puerto Vallarta Beaches Guide
Yelapa is a hidden gem. While I’m calling this a Puerto Vallarta beach, it really is its own village, and is a bit far from Puerto Vallarta city (though still in Banderas Bay - the giant bay that Puerto Vallarta is nestled in the middle of). It is remarkable easy to get to though for such a disconnected and remote village - but many people don’t know about it yet, so its a great time to go! It took us about 30 minutes to reach Yelapa from downtown Puerto Vallarta via water taxi.
There are tons of Instagram-worthy photos in this Puerto Vallarta beach and in the cute little town of Yelapa. Tons of colorful little towns, palms, flowers line the cobblestone foot paths - there are no cars here since you can not enter the town by car. Everyone walks along the winding paths, or takes boat taxis.
The town is situated in a deep cove that protects the town and beaches from the open ocean. The cliffs are full of thick jungle, and the yellow sand slopes gently into the turquoise water.
I loved this village so much that I wish I could have stayed for a few days and truly disconnected and relaxed. I will definitely return to Yelapa for longer next time!
How to Get to Yelapa:
The easiest way to get to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta city is to take a boat taxi from Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta Old Town/Romantic Zone. This is a slightly pricier option at 320 pesos a person round trip (or about $17/USD), but is very easy and direct. This trip took us about ½ hour each way. You can buy your ticket from the official small office at the end of Los Muertos Pier.
You can save some money by first heading to Boca de Tomatlan by bus as explained above, and then get a boat taxi from here. Boat taxis to Yelapa from Boca de Tomatlan should cost about 90 pesos one way or 180 pesos round trip (about $9.45 USD).
Where to Stay in Yelapa:
Hotel Lagunita: A basic but charming hotel right on the beach.
Casa Vista Magica: This budget friendly hotel in town has great views of the Yelapa beach.
Casa Bahia Bonita: This colorful hotel is in a quiet place on the eastern edge of the cove and is budget friendly.
Tip: You can do Yelapa as a day trip (just be sure to leave in the morning and be aware when the last boat departs back to Boca or Los Muertos), or stay overnight at any of the guesthouses or hotels in this little village.
There are lots of restaurants here. Cafe Bahia is run by an expat and has delicious, healthy food. Domingos is a great local restaurant on the beach with fresh food and cold beers. You can camp out under an umbrella or on a chair, as long as you make a purchase from them. The “pie ladies” or women who make and sell pie here are famous for their delicious pie.
There is also an impressive and beautiful waterfall at the south end of town that is easy to get to and definitely worth a visit.
The southern Puerto Vallarta beaches are perfect for Instagram-worthy photos. It amazes me how few people visit these Puerto Vallarta beaches when they are so accessible from town. Hope you enjoy exploring them as much as I did!