Want to see an abundant array of marine life? Keep reading for the best snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is home to some incredible snorkeling. For your best chance to see incredible wildlife such as sea turtles and giant manta rays, plan to visit one (or more!) of these best spots for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
After reading this post, you will know the best places for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta plus:
- Sea conditions during winter months and summer months
- Marine life you can expect to see
- How to get to popular spots without a tour
- Top snorkeling tours in Puerto Vallarta
- Where to book a private boat
- & more!
Many snorkeling-enthusiasts overlook the Pacific Coast of Mexico in favor of calmer waters in the Caribbean. However, with the information in this post, you will be able to plan your snorkeling trip for the best visibility of amazing underwater life.
Overview of Banderas Bay
Before we jump into the best spots for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta, if this will be your first trip to this part of Mexico, here’s some background info about the Bay of Banderas (Bahía de Banderas in Spanish) to help you orient yourself.
This guide relies on your understanding of Banderas Bay for the locations of the best places for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. It’s not a bad idea to get your bearings!
Shared by the Mexican states of Jalisco and Nayarit, Banderas Bay has a coastline stretching approximately 62 miles in length. The northernmost point is Punta Mita while the southernmost point is Cabo Corrientes.
Puerto Vallarta is the primary resort destination on the Bay of Banderas (and where you will find the offices of most tour operators), but there are lots of beautiful beaches on this stretch of coastline worth exploring.
Whale season in Puerto Vallarta
The bay itself is home to a vast array of marine wildlife. Most famously, Banderas Bay is an important breeding and birthing ground for humpback whales. The whale watching season is Puerto Vallarta is between December and March.
Banderas Bay is also home to sea turtles, eagle rays, moray eels, sea urchins, manta rays and bottle-nosed dolphins. Colorful coral reefs and dramatic rock formations make spots along the Bay of Banderas the best places for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Los Arcos National Marine Park
Located south of Puerto Vallarta, Los Arcos National Marine Park is one of the best places for snorkeling in the area.
This protected area boasts a diverse array of marine life including eagle rays, moray eels, giant manta rays and schools of colorful tropical fish. It’s not uncommon to see giant sea turtles floating on the surface or diving beneath the waves.
Los Arcos National Park is named for the arch-like island rock formations. As it’s one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Puerto Vallarta, you may have to contend with crowds.
During the winter months, Los Arcos National Marine Park is busiest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
How to get to Los Arcos National Park (without a tour)
Catch a bus to Mismaloya Beach & hire a water taxi (panga) to take you the rest of the way. Just be sure to pack your own snorkel gear.
Heading south along Banderas Bay, Colomitos is a small beach just beyond Boca de Tomatlán. The underwater rock formations on either side of the inlet are home to tropical fish, colorful coral, sea urchins and more.
For travelers visiting Colomitos without a snorkel tour, don’t forget to bring your own mask, fins and (of course) snorkel since this tiny beach on the south side of the bay doesn’t have any facilities for renting gear.
How to get to Colomitos (without a tour)
From Boca de Tomatlán, it’s a 45-minute hike to Colomitos. If you prefer a boat ride, you can hire a water taxi to take you there.
Situated beyond the well-known Las Animas beach but before Yelapa, the sheltered Majahuitas Cove is one of the best spots for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Set against a lush jungle backdrop, Majahuitas is a great place for seeing dolphins, humpback whales, sea turtles, eagle rays and moray eels.
As with many of the other locations in this Puerto Vallarta snorkeling roundup, be sure to bring your own gear if you’re not part of one of the many snorkeling tours that visit this spot.
How to get to Majahuitas (without a tour)
Schedule a water taxi to drop you off and pick you up later.
Las Caletas Beach Hideaway
One of the top places to snorkel in Puerto Vallarta is actually owned by tour operators. Vallarta Adventures owns Las Caletas, so if you want to snorkel here, you will need to join one of their tours.
The popular Las Caletas Beach Hideaway Tour is a full-day outing that includes a gourmet lunch and open bar. If you need a break from snorkeling, there are kayaks and standup paddle boards for you to use.
Located on the northern edge of Banderas Bay near Nueva Vallarta, the Marietas Islands is a top pick for incredible snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
Las Islas Marietas are a cluster of four uninhabited islands. The fact that the islands are situated where three water currents converge make it a popular spot for snorkeling due to all the fascinating sea creatures who call it home.
You’ll be busy checking out all the amazing underwater sea life like moray eels and schools of colorful tropical fish, but make time to push up your snorkel mask for a bit of birdwatching. The Marietas Islands are home to the blue-footed booby.
How to get to Marietas Islands (without a tour)
The best option is to hire a private boat. From Puerto Vallarta, the boat ride takes approximately an hour depending on sea conditions. Another option is to take a bus or Uber to Punta Mita & hire a private boat from there.
Note: If you’re hoping to visit the Instagram-famous Hidden Beach on Marietas Islands, know that they limit the number of daily visitors. If you’re thinking of paying for a snorkel tour, ask the tour operator ahead of time if access to the Hidden Beach is included.
Best Time for Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta
Water conditions can vary a lot depending on the time of year. For the best visibility, the winter months and springs months are optimum for snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta.
During these times of the year, the water is likely to be clearer and sea conditions calm due to less rain. However, the water temperature can be on the chillier side.
This post gives you a full breakdown of the weather in Puerto Vallarta during different times of the year.
Visiting Puerto Vallarta during the summer months? It’s still a good time to go snorkeling!
In the summer months, you might have to contend with a bit of rain, but you also won’t have to deal with as many people. Some tour operators even offer deals on snorkeling tours during the slower summer months.
Best Snorkeling Tours in Puerto Vallarta
While you can certainly visit most snorkeling spots in Puerto Vallarta on your own, it might be more convenient to join a tour.
There is no shortage of tour operators in Puerto Vallarta. Whether you’re looking for a sunset bay cruise, private boat tour or group snorkeling trip, you can reserve your trip ahead of time online or meet with tour operators at their offices in Puerto Vallarta.
Below is a rundown on the top snorkeling and boat tours in Puerto Vallarta:
- Jet’s Boat Tours
- Offers private tours of Los Arcos National Marine Park
- Great choice for serious snorkelers
- Dressel Divers
- Offers daily (except for Monday) tours of the Marietas Islands
- Available for snorkelers and scuba divers
- Eco Tours Vallarta
- Organizes hiking and snorkeling tours to Colomitos
- Tours run year round Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
- Mike’s Charters and Fishing
- Charter a private boat to the best snorkel spots in Puerto Vallarta
- Other offerings include a sunset trip charter and private bay tour
- Marigalante Pirate Ship
- Sail on authentic Spanish galleon
- Day trip includes a stop for snorkeling at Majahuitas
- Vallarta Adventures
- Vast offering of snorkel tours including a Marietas Islands excursion
- Their tour is the ONLY way to snorkel at Las Caletas
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Final Thought on the Best Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta
Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean is a unique experience worth making the trip to Puerto Vallarta. For clear waters and the best visibility, the best time of year to plan your snorkel trip is the winter months or spring months.
With some of the best snorkeling spots on the Pacific Coast such as Marietas Islands National Park, Colomitos & Majahuitas, Puerto Vallarta is a great snorkeling destination.