Road Trip: South
Do you have a car and a few hours to spare? Heading south from Puerto Vallarta on a road trip offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy picturesque ocean views from the scenic South Shore highway (Carr. 200 Sur). As the highway veers towards the mountains, a temperature change is gradually noticeable. Before you know it, and in less than 45 minutes, the road will be surrounded by pine trees! Several towns and local attractions can be explored along the way, encouraging you to return for more detailed explorations of each one.
Towns and Landmarks Covered
Here is a list of the important towns and landmarks you will pass along the way. Clicking on any of them will provide you with more detailed information:
- Los Arcos
- Vallarta Zoo (Zoológico de Vallarta)
- Boca de Tomatlán
- Las Juntas y los Veranos
- Vallarta Botanical Gardens
- El Tuito
It’s difficult to imagine that, even in the middle of Puerto Vallarta’s humid summer months, one can travel less than an hour and witness a radical change of scenery and temperature. As you set out from Puerto Vallarta, the winding two-lane highway travels through Conchas Chinas, one of our city’s neighborhoods originally populated by American and Canadian retirees. The road continues along the ocean, passing through several beaches, such as Punta Negra, Garza Blanca and Gemelas, popular with locals and visitors looking for a more secluded beach day. And for those who like to be pampered with cocktails and meals while burying their feet in the sand, several South Shore hotels offer day-pass service for a nominal fee.
As you approach Mismaloya, you won't miss Los Arcos on the ocean. An eco-reserve, Los Arcos is a favorite spot for diving, snorkeling and paddle boarding, not to mention a frequent stop made by boat tours heading south from Puerto Vallarta.
Right before Mismaloya, a small fishing village, Le Kliff offers one of Puerto Vallarta’s most dramatic sunset views, so you may want to stop there on the way back. But if you are in search for a basic Mexican breakfast, feel free to explore one of several beachfront eateries in Mismaloya. Three different companies offer tequila tours, and the Vallarta Zoo is just five minutes away.
The next town, Boca de Tomatlán, serves as the water taxi “depot” for many South Shore daytrips not reachable by car. At this point, the road veers away from the ocean and starts a steep climb into the Jalisco mountains.
At Las Juntas y los Veranos, you’ll find Chico’s Paradise, a popular Mexican restaurant, another tequila tour (Don Crispín) and a couple of popular canopy tours offered by Los Veranos Canopy Tour and Vallarta Adventures, respectively. Just beyond, the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens has quickly become one of Puerto Vallarta’s not-to-be-missed landmarks with its unique plant collections, lush gardens and peaceful mountain surroundings, not to mention a delectable restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. The Gardens, along with many of the places mentioned in this article, are spearheading awareness of the “Palms to Pines Highway” concept, inspired by California’s Route 74 in this website.
Drive 20 minutes past the Gardens and you’ll reach El Tuito, a traditional and quiet Mexican town, where, contrary to most towns mentioned in our Road Trip: North, very little English is spoken. Nonetheless, El Tuito is famous for its production of artisan panela cheese, among other native products.
Keep in Mind
- There is a lot to cover in the description above! But with everything being accessible by driving an hour or less, you can choose the stops that best suit you.
- Heading south is particularly appealing during the Summer months, as the temperature is noticeably cooler as you head up into the mountains.
Should you wish to continue exploring beyond El Tuito, a 45-minute drive west of the town, heading back to the ocean, will connect you with Mayto, Tehuamixtle and Villa del Mar, three beach towns in Cabo Corrientes where overnight accommodations are available. Cajón de Peña, a beautiful fresh water reservoir worthy of exploration (particularly for those who enjoy nature and water activities) is another excellent option, only 45 minutes south of El Tuito along Carr. 200 Sur.
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