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This definitive ranking of the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta scores them in three categories:
- Ease of reach – how difficult is it to get to this beach without a car?
- Insta-worthiness – how beautiful is this beach?
- For an all-day hang – how convenient is it to spend a day here? Is there food, drinks, and infrastructure in place?
I visited each beach on this list and ranked them from 1 – 12 in each category, with one being the worst and 12 being the best. Then, I added up the scores to find the winner!
Use this guide to discover the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta and make the most of your vacation in this Mexican paradise!
12. Playa Malpaso
Ease of reach: 1
For an all-day hang: 2
Total Score: 4/36
Sorry Playa Malpaso, but you are the worst beach in Puerto Vallarta.
Playa Malposo requires a 1.5-hour bus to Sayulita (catch it in front of the HSBC bank on Francia street) and a short a trek through the jungle to reach it. Because this beach isn’t particularly beautiful or special in any way, I didn’t think it was worth the effort.
Plus, there are no restaurants, shops, or bars nearby, so you need to carry in everything that you want for the day here. That’s gonna be a no from me, dawg.
11. San Pancho
Ease of reach: 2
For an all-day hang: 5
Total Score: 9/36
San Pancho was also pretty difficult to reach. We took the 1.5-hour bus to Sayulita and then walked through the jungle for two hours to reach this small town (although, you can take a bus or taxi from Sayulita to San Pancho and skip the hike instead).
The beach was small, there was no shade if you don’t want to buy a chair/umbrella, and the waves were strong – more for surfing than for swimming.
The town of San Pancho is tiny and cute and even has its own brewery. As a day trip, it’s worth visiting along with Sayulita, but if I just wanted to lay on a beach and do nothing all day, it definitely wouldn’t be my first choice.
10. Playa Caballo
Ease of reach: 7
For an all-day hang: 3
Total Score: 13/36
Like Playa Malpaso, Playa Caballo has almost zero infrastructure, so you should bring in anything you want to eat or drink for the day. But if you forget it’s not a big deal because Playa Las Animas is only ten minutes away.
To get to Playa Caballo, take a bus to Boca de Tomatlan where you can either:
- walk for two hours to Playa Caballo on the (highly recommended) Las Animas Beach Trek
- take a water taxi to Playa Las Animas and walk ten minutes to Playa Caballo
Either way, the beach will probably be empty (it just looks crowded in this picture because we happened to arrive at the same time as a large Couchsurfing meet-up) and it’s a relaxing place to hang for the day with no vendors bothering you.
9. Conchas Chinas
Ease of reach: 10
For an all-day hang: 4
Total Score: 18/36
Conchas Chinas is a popular beach with the locals – every time I asked our Uber driver where we should go, they almost always recommended it.
Conchas Chinas isn’t the most beautiful beach in Puerto Vallarta but it gets extra points because it’s so easy to reach on foot from Puerto Vallarta. Simply go up the stairs at the end of Muertos Beach and follow the Puerto Vallarta Beach Walk for about 30 minutes to get there.
There are a couple food vendors here for the basics and it’s not too crowded or busy, so all in all, Conchas Chinas is a pretty good choice for a relaxing beach day in Puerto Vallarta.
8. Playa Colomitos
Ease of reach: 6
For an all-day hang: 1
Total Score: 19/36
Playa Colomitos is one of the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta because it’s so unique: this tiny cove has enough space for two or three people, and the fact that it’s only accessible by foot makes it all the more magical.
Water from the mountain rivers flows into the cove so it’s cool and refreshing for a dip after walking here from Boca de Tomatlan on the Las Animas Trek. If you don’t want to go on foot, you can catch a water taxi to Colomitos in Boca as well.
The only reason Playa Colomitos is at number eight on this list instead of number one is because you can’t hang out there all day. It felt crowded when I was there with three other people, and it would be claustrophobic with much more. Plus, there’s only one (expensive) restaurant there and a small stand selling drinks, but nothing else.
Stop by Colomitos on the Las Animas Trek to take some photos and enjoy a quiet moment (go in the morning to avoid the crowds), but don’t plan to spend all day here.
7. Las Animas Beach
Ease of reach: 8
For an all-day hang: 7
Total Score: 21/36
I’m conflicted about Las Animas beach.
I loved the walk from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas, but the beach itself was a little too built up for me.
If you want bars, restaurants, vendors, shops, jet skis, and all the other touristy beach staples, Las Animas is perfect for you. Plus, it still retains some charm because it’s only accessible by foot or boat (Like Playa Caballo and Colomitos, you can hike here from Boca or take a water taxi to reach it).
I liked Las Animas, and it’s a great beach in Puerto Vallarta… but it’s not the best.
Ease to reach: 3
For an all-day hang: 9
Total Score: 21/36
I really enjoyed my day trip to Sayulita.
It requires a 1.5-hour bus ride from Puerto Vallarta (again, you can catch it in front of the HSBC bank on Francia street), but there is a ton to do in this hippie surf town. Shop at the boutiques, get breakfast at the bakeries, photograph the colorful streets (they’re so popular you can even book a Sayulita photography tour), and, finally, go for a swim at the beach.
It’s not super beautiful (the sand was kind of gray when we went) but Sayulita has bigger waves than PV so it’s a hotspot for surfing – if you want to take a class or rent a board, this is the place.
You can also combine your Sayulita day trip with San Pancho, an even smaller town a few minutes down the coast. Dan and I hiked there through the jungle that separates the two but you can take a five-minute taxi as well.
The Sayulita / San Pancho day trip was a highlight of my six-week stay in Puerto Vallarta so if you like hiking, surfing, good food, and quiet escapes, come to this beach!
Ease of reach: 9
For an all-day hang: 6
Total Score: 23/36
Mismaloya was constantly advertised as one of the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta during my stay so I had high expectations. Unfortunately, this beach fell short.
The stretch of sand is really small, so while it makes for a totally beautiful cove for photography, it’s not that great for an all-day hang. You have to buy food or a beach chair at one of a few restaurants here if you want someplace to sit, but they’re all super busy because big tours come through all day to take the boats out on the water.
So, Mismaloya was anything but peaceful and instead of enjoying the wide-open sky and sea, I felt hemmed in between the dark restaurants and the water line that came up to them.
If you want some pretty beach photography or to go out snorkeling on a boat ride down the coast, come to Mismaloya. If you just want to stretch out on the sand, the next four beaches are better choices.
4. Playa Amapas
Ease of reach: 11
For an all-day hang: 8
Total Score: 25/36
Playa Amapas is next to Los Muertos beach but remains almost deserted because no one climbs over the rocky staircase to reach it.
If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a super peaceful and secluded beach just steps away, literally, from the Zona Romantica and crowded Malecon.
Playa Amapas is pretty underrated because you feel like you’re in you’re own little paradise, but still have shops, food, and bars within easy reach when you need more beer and snacks on the beach!
Ease of reach: 4
For an all-day hang: 11
Total Score: 25/36
I feel like you will either love or hate Quimixto.
I love it because it’s basically empty all the time. We got hassled by zero vendors (which is heavenly during an extended stay in Puerto Vallarta) and it’s fairly easy to reach with a bus ride to Boca de Tomatlan and a 20ish-minute water taxi to Quimixto.
We spent our morning hiking to the Quimixto waterfall and swimming in the freezing pools, ate lunch at one of two restaurants on the beach, and then grabbed a few beers from the local market to settle into the sand undisturbed for a few hours.
At the very end of the beach, you can also find a small but lively beach bar at the Xinalani Boutique Hotel, so Quimixto is kind of like a choose your own adventure on how secluded you really want to be. Use this Quimixto travel guide to see it for yourself!
2. Los Muertos Beach
Ease of reach: 12
For an all-day hang: 10
Total Score: 26/36
Los Muertos beach is smack in the middle of the city – find it spread down the coast in front of the Zona Romantica – and accessible by foot or a quick Uber ride from anywhere in Puerto Vallarta.
That means it’s the most crowded PV beach on this list and there are a lot of vendors to hassle you. We tracked them for a few hours and found that we got asked to buy something every two minutes in the most crowded parts of the beach.
But, if you go all the way down to the end near the rock wall, you can have a much more peaceful experience in a much more beautiful setting.
Even if you do stay in the restaurants and beach bars along the bustling boardwalk, Los Muertos is great for people watching and getting everything you could ever need – from shrimp on a stick and cold beer to gourmet meals and fancy cocktails – delivered straight to your fingertips.
For an absolutely zero effort beach day, Los Muertos is a top choice and a must-visit for any trip to Puerto Vallarta.
Ease to reach: 5
For an all-day hang: 12
Total Score: 28/36
Yep, Yelapa is the best beach in Puerto Vallarta!
It’s easy enough to reach without a car – take a 45-minute bus to Boca and then a 30ish-minute water taxi to Yelapa – and it’s freakin’ beautiful.
It has plenty of restaurants, bars, and beach chairs to choose from but is much less crowded than Muertos and Animas.
For me, Yelapa walks that perfect line between quiet and relaxing (without being completely dead) while still having enough infrastructure to enjoy your day. The whole time I was here, I felt like I was at hidden beach in Puerto Vallarta, far, far, away from reality.
Oh, and did I mention there’s a waterfall only 15 minutes away?! Bliss.
The case is closed: Yelapa is the best beach in Puerto Vallarta, and this Yelapa guide will get you there. Whether you’re on a short trip or in the midst of a long-term stay, make sure your fit it into your Puerto Vallarta itinerary! (If you’re feeling crazy, book a camping trip in Yelapa to extend your stay in paradise.)
Map of the Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta
Use this map to plan your trip and find even the most hidden beaches in Puerto Vallarta. Each of the 12 beaches in this guide are marked above and can be reached in two hours or less from the city center.
Go south to Boca to visit: Mismaloya, Colomitos, Playa Caballo, Animas Beach, Quimixto, and Yelapa.
Go north to Sayulita to visit: Sayulita, Malpaso, and San Pancho.
Muertos, Amapas, and Conchas Chinas are in the Old Town of Puerto Vallarta.
Surf board rental on San Pancho beach
Discover the 12 Best Beaches in Puerto Vallarta With This Guide
If you just want a beach that’s easy to reach, go to Los Muertos. For the most beautiful beach in Puerto Vallarta, visit Playa Colomitos, and for the best all-day hang with no worries or a single reason to get up off your beach chair, Yelapa is, again, the top choice.
Have you visited the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta? Whether you agree with my take or think I’m totally wrong, let me know in the comments below.
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This article is part of the Puerto Vallarta Planner Series. Read the rest below:
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