Nomad Family Beach Review
Mexico (Part One)
San Pancho Beach
San Pancho Beach is located about an hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta if you do not hit any traffic. It is located along a small town named San Francisco, but most people refer to the town as San Pancho as well.
Pros: San Pancho Beach is rarely crowded. There are several restaurants that line the back of the beach where you can get excellent food and drink service. If the beach begins to get somewhat crowded, it will usually be along the portion with the restaurants, leaving the majority of the beach pretty open. The town has plenty of fantastic restaurants and street food to try. Also, on the beach, there are typically people walking up and down that will freshly slice mangos, coconuts, and other delicious fruits and top them with lime juice, chamoy sauce, and chili powder at a very reasonable price! Also, you can pay to rent chairs and umbrellas that will be set up for you.
Cons: The waves at San Pancho Beach can be fairly large, which is good and bad. If you are a surfer, it is a great spot; however if you are not a strong swimmer or you have children with you, it is not a great spot for swimming.
Best Time to Go: During peak season, it is better to go early, especially if you are looking to get a spot at one of the restaurants or you want prime positioning for chair rentals. During off-peak season, any time should be fine. This is also a great beach to watch the sunset.
Bucerias Beach is another beach located north of Puerto Vallarta, but about half way to San Pancho and will be about a 45 minute drive from Puerto Vallarta. Bucerias is a large town with plenty of food and activities and has a large Canadian and US expat community.
Pros: There are tons of fantastic restaurants right along the beach where you can either sit inside or right on the beach. The beach is very large and there is typically plenty of room. Also, the waves are small here, so it is a great place to bring children. Additionally, there are people that offer horse back rides along the beach.
Cons: At certain times of the year, there can be sting rays and jelly fish. Sting rays rarely harm people; however, in this area, young sting rays will burrow into the sand and if you have the unfortunate experience of stepping on one, it will be extremely painful. Also, there will be a lot of people walking along the beach constantly trying to sell you local wares and toys, which can get annoying.
Best Time to Go: Like San Pancho, if it is peak tourist season, you may want to head to the beach a little earlier to ensure good seats, especially if you intend to sit at a restaurant. Also, it is a great place to watch a sunset.
Yelapa Beach can technically be accessed by driving, but that will require an vehicle suitable for off-roading over difficult jungle roads and will take several hours. The vast majority of people heading to Yelapa Beach access it by boat. Yelapa is a quaint village with winding, cobblestone streets located on a hill. The meandering streets will take you up to a beautiful waterfall where you can go swimming or sit at a restaurant and enjoy the scenery. You can access Yelapa by boat from Los Muertos Pier in Puerto Vallarta for a very reasonable price and a 45-minute trip along the coastline.
Pros: Despite the fact that Yelapa Beach is mostly accessed by boat, there are several good restaurants to choose from right along the beach that set out lounge chairs and have small tables. There is much more seating inside the restaurants. The beach is located in a mid-sized alcove where there are few waves, so it is great for swimming. There are also some very nice places to stay right along the beach if you decide to spend the night. You can also take part in some water sports here, such as parasailing and waterskiing. There is also plenty of beach space unoccupied by restaurants that you can utilize for picnicking or to avoid the crowds.
Cons: Yelapa Beach can be very touristy which, in of itself, may not be a bad thing for you; however, the beach can get extremely crowded by midday. Also, being a tourist location, you will be paying tourist prices, which are not bad compared to the US, but are definitely inflated by Mexico's standards. Also, the alcove can become pretty crowded with boats too. There are many people trying to sell local wares here.
Best Time to Go: The best time to head to Yelapa Beach is early! As I mentioned, the beach can become very crowded and there is not much space to sit on the actual beach because the retaurants' lounge chairs will typically go right up to the water. If you want to ensure comfort and a spot with a good view, I would recommend trying to catch the first boat that leaves from Los Muertos Pier (around 10 AM).
Mismaloya Beach is a 30-minute drive south of Puerto Vallarta and is located just before the highway curves away from the ocean and heads up into the mountains. Mismaloya is a small village with a few resorts along the beach.
Pros: Mismaloya Beach is a perfect spot to charter a boat for some snorkeling because a short way off the beach are Los Arcos, which is made up of 3 small islands with arcs that create small caves you can swim through. The fish here are plentiful and you will see a wide variety of them. This makes Mismaloya Beach uniquely suited for an excellent snorkeling experience. There are a couple of restaurants with seating that line the beach.
Cons: Mismaloya Beach itself is not great for swimming because there are many boats that are moored right inside this small cove and along the water line. Also, the beach is not very large, so it is not a particularly good spot to bring kids unless you plan on taking a boat out.
Best Time to Go: It is best to go to Mismaloya Beach in the morning to ensure that you can get a boat or a decent spot at one of the restaurants.
Los Muertos Beach
Los Muertos Beach runs along Old Town, one of the main tourist areas in Puerto Vallarta. It contains Los Muertos Pier, where you can board a boat to get to some of the smaller beaches along the cost, such as Yelapa Beach. The beach is lined entirely by restaurants and hotels.
Pros: Los Muertos Beach is easily accessible from many of the hotels and rentals in Puerto Vallarta. Because of the many restaurants that line the beach, it is not difficult to find any kind of food you may be looking for. Many of the restaurants offer seating on the beach. You can go swimming along Los Muertos Beach, but the waves can be large. If you are looking to avoid the large waves, right next to Los Muertos Pier is the best spot and is suitable for children. You can rent chairs and umbrellas in this area. If you are interested in doing any water activities, they are all offered here, including jet skiing, parasailing, snorkeling.
Cons: During peak season, this beach can get so full that you will not be able to find a spot. Also, because this is one of the busiest sections of the city for tourism, you will be paying inflated prices at all of the restaurants that line the beach. Also, there will be a ton of people walking the beach trying to sell you local wares.
Best Time to Go: Because of the high volume of people, you will want to arrive early if you are looking for a spot. Also, Los Muertos Pier is a great place to go at night when it is all lit up.
Punta Negra Beach
Punta Negra Beach is a small beach that is a 20-minute drive south of Puerto Vallarta. You can also easily catch a bus to here. There is not much in the surrounding area except for a couple of resorts at one end of the beach.
Pros: This beach is a local spot that is never crowded. You get a few mostly Mexican tourists from the resorts along the beach. There are no restaurants along this beach; however, there are two shacks where you can get some good food and ice cold beers for inexpensive prices. The water is typically pretty calm and good for swimming and the water will stay shallow for a bit of a distance out into the water. There is plenty of room along this beach to pick a spot. There are also rocks on one side of the beach that jut out into the ocean if you want to sit there. There will often be fishermen on these rocks. This is a very peaceful beach. There is rarely anyone walking the beach trying to sell you something.
Cons: You have to walk down several flights of stairs to get to the beach, so it can be a little difficult if you bring a lot of things with you. Also, there are no public bathrooms or changing areas here. If you are here after the sun goes down, walking back up the stairs can be a bit difficult too. Furthermore, the shacks selling food and drinks will typically close around 4 or 5.
Best Time to Go: Because there are not many people here, any time is fine, although, it is a very peaceful place to watch a sunset.
Camarones Beach runs along Cinco De Diciembre, which is the section of Puerto Vallarta just north of Centro. Being so close to Centro, the back of the beach is entirely lined with buildings, mostly consisting of hotels and restaurants.
Pros: Camarones Beach is one of the less crowded beaches in the main area of Puerto Vallarta. The restaurants also put out plenty of chairs or you can rent chairs and umbrellas as well. There are also some volleyball nets set up on the beach. Jet skiing is available here.
Cons: You can swim here, but the waves can be large at times, so caution is recommended.
Best Time to Go: Sunset is a great time to go, especially because you are located right in the middle of Banderas Bay, so you can see the entire bay very well.
Las Caletas Beach
Las Caletas is accessible only by boat and is about 40min south. It used to house director, John Huston. Now it is a resort type of location operated by Vallarta Adventures.
Pros: This is a truly beautiful and luxurious section of Banderas Bay. The beaches are small and may have hammocks. There are floating docks with private hammocks as well and among many sections of the resort there are kids adventure parks with activities and exotic birds. There are bars and a restaurant along the scenic walkways and a section with its own restaurant, beach and houses for weddings and events.
Cons: Because this is a resort type environment and adventure experience it can get quite expensive. However if you do decide to go you will not regret it as Vallarta Adventures sure does know how to entertain their guests!
Best Time to Go: If you want to have some time and space to yourself visit during the evenings in the off season. But don't arrive too late, this is a great place to dedicate the day to. Arrive as early as possible during tourist season.
Rosita Beach (Malecon)
Rosita Beach is bordered by the Malecon, which is the main pedestrian walkway that runs along the entirety of Centro, or Downtown Puerto Vallarta. It is lined with tons of restaurants and stores catering to the high volume of tourists. Although the Malecon runs the entire length of Centro, Rosita Beach covers only a small portion at the northern end.
Pros: It is easy to access any convenience you might want because of its location in Centro. One of the best parts of this beach is that you can see Puerto Vallarta's Flying Bird-Men of Papantla, possibly the oldest dance ritual in all of Mexico, where 4 men in traditional dress will hang upside down from a pole swinging around it until they reach the ground while a 5th man plays the flute on the top of the pole. It is truly an amazing experience.
Cons: The waves are typically rough along this beach. In addition, this beach can be rocky in some areas, which cuts down on the suitable areas to set yourself up; however, the beach is rarely crowded.
Best Time to Go: Sunset is a great time to visit this beach. Also, the Flying Bird-Men of Papantla will typically start their ceremony around noon and will repeat it continuously throughout the day.