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The Nogalito waterfall hike in Puerto Vallarta is not that popular. Dan and I went in the high season and only saw four other people on the river.
This secluded hike is difficult – it’s more of a scramble up the rocks in the river than a walk on a trail – but it’s incredibly peaceful and the payoff of getting the Nogalito waterfall and swimming hole all to yourself is 100% worth the effort.
If you’re done the more popular hikes in PV like Animas Beach and the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, then the Nogalito waterfall should definitely be on your itinerary – this is everything you need to know to get there!
The small beach and swimming hole at Nogalito falls – your reward for making the upriver hike!
But first, let’s start with the stats.
- Location: Nogalito, Puerto Vallarta (20 minutes from Puerto Vallarta)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: About five miles
- Time: About four hours from start to finish
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The Nogalito welcome sign – this is your cue to get off the bus and the starting point of your trek to the falls
How to Get to Nogalito from Puerto Vallarta
First, catch the bus to Boca de Tomatlan at the Oxxo on the corner of Basilio Badillo and Calle Constitucion in the Zona Romantica neighborhood. The ride costs 10 mxn / .50 usd per person and the trip will take about 15 minutes.
You need to get off at Nogalito, and the best way to do this is to keep an eye on your GPS and track when you’re getting close to the point on your map. Keep in mind that the bus will just drop you off on the side of the main highway and you’ll need to walk from here into town (but it’s not that far).
On the bust, look for the large blue ‘Bienvenidos to Nogalito’ sign on the left side of the road or simply stand near the driver and ask him to tell you when you’re at Nogalito (which is what we ended up doing).
Some weird art at the start of the trail
How to Find the Nogalito Waterfall Trailhead
The walk from the bus stop to the trailhead is about 30 minutes – 15 from the bus stop to town and then 15 from town to the Canopy Restaurant where the trail begins.
After you get off the bus in Nogalito, follow the paved road into town.
Once in town, keep following the road until you see a sign to turn left for the Canopy Restaurant and zip-lining center – that’s where you’re heading!
You’ll turn left onto a shaded road and keep walking about 15 more minutes, passing a tequila tasting restaurant and going up a hill with the river on your right.
Hiking up the river bed. Dan did this in 95% of my photos.
You’re actually going to have to go into the Canopy Restaurant and Zip-lining center, and turn left in front of the bar to go down through the zip-lining area, down the stairs, and to the river.
This is the start of the trail. It goes along the river for a bit before disappearing. When it stops, you have to begin hiking in the water for almost all of the rest of the way.
A shop owner in Nogalito told us that the Canopy Restaurant might try to charge us a 150 mxn / 8 usd ‘minimum consumption fee’ (that we could use for their food and drinks) and we did see a sign saying that, but they didn’t care and let us pass through without a problem.
If they do try to charge you and you don’t want to pay, you can also enter the river through their parking lot instead.
Lots o’ rocks. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
How to Hike to the Nogalito Waterfall
Once you’re in the river it’s as easy as following the water upstream.
The hike is slightly uphill most of the way and the water was deep and rushing in some places, even though we did it in the dry season.
If you’re going in the rainy season, parts of the river may not be passable. But in December, we had no problem hopping from rock to rock and eventually just walking through the water as well.
The hike took us an hour from entering the river to arriving at the waterfall and on the way we went through a really impressive pass with giant rock walls on both sides. (But I’m a pretty slow hiker and take a lot of photos, so you can probably do it faster.)
The rock wall pass (and my personal favorite part of the Nogalito hike)
The Nogalito Waterfall & Swimming Hole
The great thing about the Nogalito Waterfall is the small swimming hole and beach.
Bring a lunch because the tiny stretch of sand is the best place to sit for an hour and forget that the rest of the world exists.
But first, you need to cool down in the freezing but refreshing swimming hole. The waterfall runs into a shallow pool that is blocked by two giant boulders, so you have to swim through the water to get to it, and going behind the boulders really feels like a secret world.
The deeper swimming hole is in front of the boulders, outside of the falls pool, but both or nice to take a dip in.
The falls (which you can see in the back and I promise are more impressive in real life). They’re just hard to photograph without a waterproof camera because you have to swim through the boulders to reach them.
We spent about an hour swimming, eating, and relaxing on our tiny private beach before hiking back to Nogalito and catching the bus back to Puerto Vallarta. If you get started early, this is a great half day trip.
Plus, it’s on the coastal bus route with tons of beaches so if you finish around noon you can hop on the bus to any of the nearby beaches like Conchas Chinas or Mismaloya to spend your afternoon on the water before heading back to Puerto Vallarta.
Honestly, we were too exhausted from the hike (wading through water and climbing over rocks makes the four miles feel much longer than they are) and just headed home for a much needed shower and afternoon nap instead.
Enjoying one more quiet moment on our private beach before hiking back to Nogalito
What to Pack for the Nogalito Waterfall Hike
Because the Nogalito waterfall hike is through the river and kind of far from civilization, you need to pack a little more than usual.
I wore my swimsuit and hiked in these sandals. If you have water shoes, that would be better, but hiking boots are sure to get soaked and I don’t recommend them.
Besides this, I brought the only day pack I’ll ever use (because it comes with a lifetime warranty!) with:
- Water (at least one liter per person)
- Snacks and packed lunch (you can buy tamales to-go at the bus stop)
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Bug spray
- Cash for the bus
- Towel to chill on the ‘beach’
- A change of clothes (if you don’t want to hike back in your wet swimsuit)
Ready to go?
Finally, join our new Sustainable Hiking Collective on Facebook to connect with the international hiking community, discover new destinations, join virtual trail cleanups, and take part in monthly sustainability challenges.
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