advertisement
  • Golf: Master course designers Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman created six superb golf courses in the area, making it a mecca for the sport. Vista Vallarta wends through the jungle in the hills above the city; the Punta Mita Pacifico Golf Course uses the ocean as a water hazard (it has 8 holes near the waves); and the Norman Signature Golf Course at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta has a spectacular entryway over the longest golf-cart suspension bridge on the planet.
  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: The best time for underwater sports in this region is during the winter months. Summer rains cause runoff from the rivers, which can lower visibility. That being said, divers and snorkelers encounter a wide variety of sea life year-round, from manta rays to sea turtles to sea lions. Varied, too, are the diving and snorkeling spots in the region, which include the lava tubes and underwater caves of the Marietas Islands (see below) and intricate rock formations off of some of the area's most popular beaches. For the names of recommended dive shops, click here. Most hotels loan out snorkeling gear free of charge (or for a small fee).
  • Fishing: Another area where Puerto Vallarta (and its environs) shines. Enthusiasts can either surf-cast from shore, which nets snook, jack crevalles, and a few other species; or hire a yacht or skiff (known in these parts as a panga) to go after the big fish: marlin, amberjack, bonito, and more. For info on operators, click here. Note: Licenses are required to fish, but those will be taken care of by the captain of the boat you hire.
  • Visiting the Marietas Islands: Blue-footed boobies only reside in the Marietas and on the Galápagos Islands. They're just one of many rare species that call this small grouping of oddly shaped islands home. No humans do: the Marietas are far too rocky for habitation, having assumed their present form after acting as a bomb-testing spot for the Mexican government. But those bombings made this place a wonderland for vacationers, who clamber and scuba dive through the caves that were created. A top experience: jumping off your touring boat to swim through the small opening to "Love Beach," a small beach in the center of a circular island, blasted into existence long ago. For info on the operators who can get you here, click here.
  • Canopy Tours: That's another name for zipline tours, which are billed as scenic, but are all about adrenaline as you zoom from one treetop ledge to the next, dangling on a metal wire hundreds of feet off the ground. The El Eden Canopy tour is one of the most popular, and for good reason: Included in admission are entrance to the eco-park (where you can swim and kayak), a tequila tasting, and platforms that are all on the ground (so you're never hanging out over sheer drops). Also worthwhile: the Los Veranos Canopy Tour (14 lines to El Eden's 12) and Rancho Mi Chaparrita, where you can combine horseback riding with ziplining.
  • Vallarta Botanical Gardens: In response to poachers stealing orchids from the jungles of Jalisco (the region has the most species of orchids in Mexico), Richard Price and his mother Betty Price founded this garden in 2004. It's grown in scope every year, and now encompasses 20 acres of rose gardens, Mexican wildflower fields, carnivorous plants and, yes, orchids. Bring your bathing suit: At the end of one of the walking trails is a lovely stream for visitors to swim in. There's also a very good onsite restaurant. The garden is about a 20-minute drive from Vallarta.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.