Introduction to Puerto Vallarta's South Shore
Beyond Conchas Chinas, several towns south of Puerto Vallarta are loosely grouped here as the South Shore for practical purposes. Some of them, such as Las Ánimas or Quimixto, are only accessible by boat. Others, such as El Tuito, are located within a different municipality (Cabo Corrientes) but close enough to Puerto Vallarta, geographically and interest-wise, to be considered here. Many of them are remote, with the jungle creeping right against the beach, making them ideal tropical settings.
Altogether, the South Shore offers a multitude of experiences and attractions that will undoubtedly appeal to visitors looking to spend a few hours or days away from Puerto Vallarta.
Neighborhoods & Neighboring Regions
Reachable by Land (listed north to south)
Best known as the setting for the movie that put Puerto Vallarta on the tourist map, director John Huston's "The Night of the Iguana," this is a beautiful small bay framed by tropical rainforest-blanketed mountains. More information about Mismaloya can be found on this page.
Boca de Tomatlán
A small fishing village by the ocean, Boca de Tomatlán is the most important departure point for water taxis (known locally as pangas) to reach destinations further south only accessible by water. Boca de Tomatlán is also the last oceanfront town reachable from Puerto Vallarta by public transportation (see Getting There for details).
Commonly referred to as "Boca," the town is very small and offers bare necessities. Several palapa-style restaurants along the beach serve basic food and beverages while you wait for your water taxi to depart.
Located south of Puerto Vallarta lies the municipality of Cabo Corrientes, marking the southernmost point of Banderas Bay. El Tuito, its capital, is a small town (population less than 4,000) located approximately 1,085 meters above sea level. Its name derives from the ancient Náhuatla language spoken by the Aztecs and means “little beautiful valley.” And a beautiful valley it is. As you drive into town, you will be immediately taken by the uniformity of its buildings, painted with a mixture of local clays that gives their walls a unique orange tinge. Cottage industries abound, from organic coffee and artisan cheese to raicilla, the local moonshine, not available legally until very recently. Easy to navigate, the cobblestone main road eventually leads to a semi-rectangular main plaza, where you will find most of the action, or lack thereof. Remember, this is a small town! Park your car right on the plaza, as just about everything you will want to explore is located within a two-block radius.
Reachable by Boat (listed north to south)
Las Animas is the first destination you'll reach by boat from Boca de Tomatlán. It is a quiet, swimmer-friendly beach, where sunbathers can relax in colorful beach chairs and choose from several rustic restaurants for Mexican fare.
Located south of Las Animas, Quimixto is one of the few South Shore beach destinations relatively untouched by the modern world and available for exploring at your own pace. Visitors can enjoy a relaxed peek into the “Vallarta lifestyle” of yesteryear, while PV residents consider Quimixto a fabulous place to unwind for the day.
Aside from enjoying the tranquil beach, a pristine 25-minute hiking and horseback riding trail through the lush jungle leads upriver to a cascading waterfall and natural pool perfect for a refreshing swim. A small number of beachfront eateries offer staple Mexican treats, along with icy beverages, while small tienditas, or convenience stores, offer chips and snacks.
Las Caletas is a minuscule, yet appealing beach that, for the most part, has been licensed to Vallarta Adventures to host a variety of their activities. From their daytime sea lion encounters to their spectacular evening Rhythms of the Night, the best way to enjoy Caletas is through their scheduled activities.
A beautiful, small cove with a private beach accessible to anybody arriving by boat. There are no services or amenities available in Majahuitas, unless you are a guest at the small hotel located therein.
This very popular South Shore destination features its own community page.
All the South Shore destinations listed above can be reached by driving along Carr. 200 South from Puerto Vallarta. Points only accessible by boat can be reached by water taxi from Los Muertos Beach pier or from Boca de Tomatlán. The furthest point, El Tuito, can be reached by car from Puerto Vallarta in less than an hour.
There is a very popular hike between Boca and Las Animas, such that visitors sometimes choose to hike to Las Animas in the morning and return to Boca in the afternoon.
Public transportation buses departing for Boca de Tomatlán can be boarded at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitución streets in Colonia Emiliano Zapata. Suburban buses departing for El Tuito can be boarded at the corner of Venustiano Carranza and Aguacate streets also in Emiliano Zapata.
Landmarks, Sights & Activities
- Los Arcos, a natural rock formation just off the coast, can be appreciated as you drive south along the highway. It is also a very popular diving, snorkeling and paddle boarding destination. Many day cruises make stops there along the way to points further south.
- The Puerto Vallarta Zoo in Mismaloya offers up-close and personal encounters with many species. Guidelines here are much more relaxed than in the US, so we do mean, up-close!
- The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a must-visit living museum, with an ample selection of local flora and fauna, hiking trails, dining, bird watching and much more.
- Explore the South Shore by land. This can be done on your own vehicle (we've prepared a nice article with suggested route, stops, etc.) or by taking the city bus to Boca de Tomatlán. The view along the road as it travels next to the ocean is spectacular at many points!
- Explore the South Shore by sea. Several activity providers offer daytime excursions that include stops at many of the aforementioned destinations. For those with little time on their hands, this is the best way to get a sense as to what Puerto Vallarta's South Shore is about, as far as these secluded destinations are concerned.
- Spend at least one night in the South Shore. To truly bond with the jungle and appreciate the variety of experiences you can have while visiting Vallarta, an overnight stay in the South Shore is a must. Our Guide to South Shore Destinations will give you a sense of what's available.
- Hike from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Animas. Not for the faint-hearted, but knowing that a cold cerveza or frozen margarita await you at the end of the journey will make the experience even more pleasurable. This article will give you all the details.
- Rhythms of the Night, Vallarta Adventure's unique night-time excursion, has no match in Puerto Vallarta. This article will give you a sense as to what to expect.
The beaches located between Conchas Chinas and Boca de Tomatlán (Las Estacas, Los Venados, Punta Negra and Gemelas) are detailed in our Beach Section along with those located in the destinations reachable by boat only. In a nutshell:
- Las Estacas - Accessible through the Dreams hotel
- Los Venados - Accessible through the Playa del Sol hotel
- Gemelas - Twin beaches, one of which is accessible through the Presidente hotel. Also features public access.
- Garza Blanca - Accessible through the Garza Blanca resort. Also features public access.
- Mismaloya - Accessible through the Barceló hotel, also features palapa-style eateries and a public access.
- Boca de Tomatlán - Water taxi departure point.
- Colomitos - Tiny beach along the hike trial from Boca de Tomatlán and Las Animas.
- El Caballo - Secluded beach before Las Animas.
- Las Animas - The perfect beach to spend the day away from Vallarta, particularly for small children due to the gentle surf.
- Quimixto - The only beach in the South Shore with a good surf break.
- Caletas - Accessible primarily through Vallarta Adventures tours.
- Majahuitas - Small, private beach with no amenities unless you are a hotel guest.
- Yelapa - Check out our Yelapa community page.
Where to Stay
Aside from the previously mentioned resorts, there are accommodations available in many of the South Shore destinations. A good idea is to check our Guide to South Shore Retreats for more information.
When you combine the boundless green jungle with the surf-splashed rocks of a coast interspersed with private coves, add a place to view the constantly changing palette of the bay, you have the South Shore, where rugged, low-density residences, as well as villas and other homes, dot the coastline on the curving road toward Barra de Navidad.
Along this coastline is where the region’s first gated hillside communities were built. Today, there are a number of them, offering mostly single-family residences or villas. Interspersed are small beachfront condominium projects. The views are so good that often real estate prices on the hillside rival those of the oceanfront homes. The South Shore is still relatively close to downtown, making it easy to frequent the restaurants or stroll the Malecon.