Puerto Vallarta doesn't lack for beaches: There are some 40-plus in the city or within easy driving distance. In no particular order, some of the best are:
- Playa de Los Muertos: Ignore the somber name—this is the liveliest beach in the area, set right off PV's Old Town. The sands are lined with palapa-shaded restaurants, clubs, and bars. Every five minutes or so, another pick-up volleyball game starts, or a parasailer soars by, or the roar of a jet ski cuts through the bustle on the beach. Everyone comes here—locals and vacationers, families and singles, straight and gay sun worshippers. In this tolerant, happy city, the beach party is open to all.
- Boca de Tomatlan: This charming fishing village, just a 10-kilometer (6-mi) drive from Puerto Vallarta, draws beachgoers with its calm, swimmable waters, relative quiet (for true peace you'll need to go somewhere a bit more remote), and friendly taco stands and watersports-rental shacks. Regular public bus service between PV and the town is available.
- Playa el Tecuán: Unadulterated beauty, serenity, and wildlife-viewing opportunities—those big perks offset the fact that this beach has no facilities whatsoever (no toilets, no restaurants, nada). Though too rough for swimming, the waves are catnip to serious surfers.
- Yelapa: Accessible by boat, this handsome, quarter-mile-long beach slopes gently down to the water. Most day visitors (there are some hotels nearby) divide their time between playing on the sand and taking a jungle hike to the Cascada Cola del Caballo (Horse Tail Waterfall), which has a small pool to swim in at its base.
- Sayulita: Beloved by surfers, this groovy little town has the beach at its heart, and lots of cute restaurants, bars, and shops line the streets that dead-end at the ocean. The shore break is the perfect spot for beginning surfers to stand up for the first time. A left point break in the bay offers up more challenging waves. Sayulita is a pleasant, 40-kilometer (25-mi) drive from Puerto Vallarta.
- Playa Mismaloya: No longer the pristine and deserted cove portrayed in the 1964 movie The Night of the Iguana, Mismaloya still has its charms, including good snorkeling and lots of services. The latter include massage therapists who stroll the beach looking for customers, fish shacks serving up meals plucked fresh from the sea, kayak rentals, and more. The beach is about 13 kilometers (8 mi) from Puerto Vallarta and accessible by public bus—though you'll have to walk a dirt road from the bus stop to the sand.