Puerto Vallarta Watersports
Whale Watching Cruises
If you spot a large humpback whale punching through the surface while onboard a small cruise ship, it will take your breath away. Like Maui, Puerto Vallarta is one of the best places on Earth to experience that. Whale-watching season runs from early December to early March, when humpback whales migrate to Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay to have their babies. A number of tour operators feature the cruises for under $100 with reduced prices for kids, if booked online. Check there review before booking, but look for tours that feature knowledgeable bilingual guides, bottled water and lunch. Value shoppers should look for Whale Watching Tours whose guides are marine biologists. They are more expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Los Arcos National Marine Park
Go south around the Bahía de Banderas to a group of three small islands about 150 feet from the shoreline. These granite islands are called “Los Arcos” for their natural arches, and are visible from the centre of Puerto Vallarta. Los Arcos are best visited by boat or kayak. It is very appealing snorkelers and SCUBA divers. Some advanced divers go under the main arch, in water that drops over 1000 feet in places. The rocks have small caves that shelter sea turtles, rays, and puffer fish among its aquatic life.
Islas Marietas National Park
At the entrance to the bay is a pair of protected islands only visitable by boat. The Islas Marietas National Park was set up in the late 1960s to look after their rich. Before coming to Puerto Vallarta it’s worth finding out whether trips are allowed, as they’re often banned for months or years at a time to ensure the health of the islands and their reefs. Above the water you should get to see brown boobies, egrets, pelicans, frigate birds and the Galápagos blue-footed booby. If you’re snorkeling, giant damselfish, rainbow wrasses and Moorish idols are just some of a kaleidoscope of fish to observe. Access to the islands themselves is very limited, but at low tide you may be able to bathe at the “Hidden Beach”, a spectacular collapsed sea cave.
Bahía de Banderas is an advanced SCUBA diver’s playground with technical sites dotted around the bay. In humpback wale season, you could discover the drop-offs at El Chimno, south of Puerto Vallarta and see these whales and their calves from a safe distance. Do Not get too close, as that might be perceived as a threat to the whale mothers. El Morro is even more challenging and involves a descent into a cave, sighting manta rays and moray eels as you dive. Los Arcos and Las Marietas have caves, tunnels and reefs to venture through. The currents in the shallow part of bay are light, so if you’re new to diving, Puerto Vallarta is a good place to learn.