Wondering How to Keep Busy?
Published Sep 21, 2005 - (Updated Dec 21, 2012)
Knowing what we do about all the activities that are available to indulge in, it only seems fair that we give you a sampling of our favorites.
- Fishing: The world's your oyster on this 24-mile-wide, 11,800-foot-deep bay where you can fish anywhere, but some places are better than others for catching jack cravel, pargo, roosterfish, bonitas, yellow fin tuna, dorado, sailfish and more. And just outside the bay, the sport fishing is every bit as good as in renowned fishing Mecca Cabo San Lucas. June through November tend to be the best months for snagging giants, the biggest game found at Corbeteña and El Banco, 38 and 55 miles off shore, respectively. That's where feisty, delicious denizens of the deep like black, blue and striped marlin, yellow fin tuna and sailfish really give you an exhilarating run for your money.
- Swim with the Dolphins: What a trip! Anyone who does it raves about it and plans to do it again. The 90-minute experience begins with an orientation about dolphin physiology and communicating with them, followed by interacting with the animals in ways that feel comfortable to you - they're accustomed to being petted, hugged and rubbed. Most people quickly connect with one in particular, swimming and playing with their new friend until they kiss goodbye! Ensuring non-swimmers aren't left out; the Dolphin Encounter is pretty much the same except you stand on a submerged platform. The ultimate is to spend an entire day with the dolphin trainers, gaining never-to-be-forgotten insights into these marvelous creatures. They, in turn, may even teach you a thing or two.
- Boat Tours: You'll be amazed how stunning Vallarta and the undulating Sierra Madre look from the comfortable perspective of a well-equipped boat. Whatever you're in the mood for, there's a tour to please - a wild booze cruise, a sedate sunset one or discover myriad hidden places, including director John Huston's much-beloved refuge, Las Caletas. Watch for whales on the hour-long voyage to this enchanting jungle haven with a South Seas feel and golden beach on its own cove. This other-worldly sanctuary has everything for the perfect day in the tropics, including parrots, orchids, an enticing jungle trail, all kinds of watersports, hammocks strung between rustling palms and really good food and drink, just one example of the breathtaking nature accessible here only by sea.
- Whale Watching: One of our biggest thrills is to see the ocean parting as humpback whales breach in the bay - as many as 300 of these majestic mammals making babies on our doorstep from November to April. Experts believe their frequent, dramatic leaps - up to once every 40 seconds for several minutes - are about courtship or displaying strength when challenged. A protected species, by the time they arrive here they've already made the long, dangerous migration from the Arctic feeding grounds to which they return every year. So we do what we can to take care of them while they're here, including licensing only a limited number of tour boats that can take you to see them up close - a moving and exciting experience for even the most blasé. P.S. It can't hurt to keep your eyes peeled when you're on your ocean-view balcony, either!
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving: There's at least as much going on beneath the surface as above it here, Banderas Bay chock full of coves, reefs, steep-walled drop-offs and arches that are home to all manner of brilliant marine life and made to order for exploration. Dive sites range from tranquil waters suitable for beginners and resort course divers to challenging, world-class sites where giant manta, large schooling fish, sharks and endangered turtles roam. Highly qualified dive instructors offer Learn to Dive classes and all levels of PADI certification programs for everyone 10 and older.
- Surfing: More and more surfers are finding their way to nearby Sayulita, an idyllic fishing village half an hour north of PV, where the waves are fine and a women's surfing camp holds week-long programs every month throughout the year, focusing on learning to surf or doing it better, along with yoga, massage and hiking in the nearby jungle. And five minutes further north in San Francisco, nicknamed San Pancho, is an adventure resort with surfing an important component, trips organized to the really big waves near San Blas.
- Horseback Riding: With amazingly diverse tropical flora and fauna to discover, playing cowboy for two hours or two days can be a lot of fun - and educational, too! Perfect for first timers, brief rides along pristine beaches at sunset or into the tropical rainforest on healthy, sturdy horses that originally belonged to the Mexican Calvary - a thoroughbred quarter-horse mix. Saddle-hardened veterans might prefer more extensive journeys, arriving in intriguing colonial towns the way the Conquistadores did.
The really great thing about riding here is that the ranches are at the edge of the jungle. So, shortly after mounting you're surrounded by tropical birds, flowers, plants and trees, rivers with waterfalls adding to the enchantment. And before you know it, you're coming up to a village where you'll be served a traditional Mexican meal and icy cold drink.
- Canopy Tours: Fly safely above the tree canopy a la Costa Rica, while taking in its immensity from a unique vantage point. With the assistance of experienced guides, adventurers from seven to 70 sail from tree to tree and platform to platform on a network of pulleys and cables in the midst of wild vanilla beans, orchids and strangler figs, bright-hued parrots chattering about the strangers amongst them. An excellent family outing, anyone in reasonable physical condition can do this. But if you're afraid of heights, you could choose to see it as a kind of Outward Bound experience. Besides, one of the tours ends right at a palapa bar - the perfect spot for toasting this great adventure and all those yet to come.
- Golf: With weather as perfect as it gets and seven world-class golf courses, Vallarta earned recognition as an ideal place for this sport with the much-televised 2002 World Cup Golf Championships. Play where the pros did, the two beautiful 18-hole par-72 Vista Vallarta championship courses giving you breathtaking marina, town and bay views. Technically you could conquer a different course every day of the week - one of which has its challenging third hole on a small island just off the coast!