Chances are that, if you arrived to our destination by air, the plane’s approach allowed for a brief glimpse of the lush vegetation that surrounds Puerto Vallarta. Indeed, and that can be appreciated all around Banderas Bay
. (If this was not the case, simply have a look at a Google map of the region!) Nestled all over the bay you'll find a number of unique destinations that are only accessible by boat. And while there are a variety of vessels with sizable passenger capacity available for touring and exploration around the bay, hopping on a water taxi is the best choice if you wish to get somewhere quickly and efficiently. We call them pangas
, and keeping a few tips in mind will help you explore exotic destinations around Puerto Vallarta
in true local style. In addition, a panga ride will truly allow you to enjoy the beautiful vistas of the entire bay that are only available from the water.
What They Are
Water taxis or pangas are nothing more than small motor boats, some of which can fit up to 20 or-so passengers. Most pangas are hooded, an important consideration—it's unlikely that any panga ride from one point on the bay to another will take over an hour to complete, but if you are sensitive to the sun, a hooded panga along with a hat are a definite plus.
Most pangas feature a crew of two: a captain in the back, steering the boat, and another person standing in front, keeping an eye for the waters ahead. Regulations call for pangas to carry enough life vests for each passenger. Beyond that, you will not find any other features or amenities on board.
Where To Catch One
The beauty of pangas is that they are beach friendly, such that they can pick you up and drop you off just about anywhere you want. That said, there are specific places where pangas are commonly boarded, particularly, those that offer regularly-scheduled departures:
- Los Muertos Pier—Although presently under construction, many pangas that depart from Los Muertos travel toward the different destinations located south of Puerto Vallarta, in the South Shore. Although slightly more expensive than Boca de Tomatlán and Mismaloya (see below). Departing from, and returning to Los Muertos is particularly convenient for those without a car to drive south, or for those that live in the Emiliano Zapata vicinity.
- Boca de Tomatlán & Mismaloya—Two South Shore fishing villages accessible by car from which a number of scheduled departures and arrivals take place. They are both also accessible via public transportation from Puerto Vallarta, and Boca de Tomatlán features a wider variety of departure choices, not to mention a pier which facilitates boarding and disembarking.
- El Anclote—A popular departure point for those in or near Punta de Mita. Pangas leaving from El Anclote offer a variety of excursions to the nearby Marieta Islands, along with transportation to several nearby surf points only accessible by water.
What To Bring
More often than not, you'll want to hop on a panga if you are spending a beach day away from the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta, such that you will only want to carry what you ordinarily would if you were going to the beach in town. However, if you are planning to overnight in Yelapa
or any of the small hotels located along Puerto Vallarta's South Shore, the panga crew will gladly help you with your suitcase. And when you consider that many locals do live in these destinations year-around, it's not unusual to see an occasional stove or refrigerator hauled along for the ride!
Keep in Mind
- Boarding and disembarking gracefully right on the beach is an acquired skill! That said, panga crews are more than happy to help you, making panga rides a great option for people of all ages, families with small children, etc. Wearing waterproof sandals doesn't hurt, either.
- Pangas captains will usually slow down or stop completely upon passing interesting wildlife along the way: from giant manta rays to dolphins and whales (in season), the sightings are amazing, particularly to small children.
- If you are heading south from Puerto Vallarta, and you want to capture some awesome photos of the coast along the way, you want to sit on the left (or port) side.
- Large groups traveling together often get better rates by chartering their own panga.
- When purchasing a round-trip ticket, make sure to remember the actual name of the panga and the departure time. Since pangas make brief stops at different spots along the way, you don't wish to miss your ride.