Puerto Vallarta is one of the most exciting and versatile destinations in the Mexican Pacific, offering travelers everything from action-packed city streets to stunning powdery beaches.
But this year, one of the city’s most famous nearby attractions is in better shape than ever. The Marietas Islands, a group of uninhabited islands off the coast of the state of Nayarit, boast an astonishing array of flora and fauna that is recovering rapidly thanks to new conservation efforts.
Although strictly protected by local and state laws, travelers can still catch a glimpse of the popular destination – and even swim in its hidden beaches – by booking one of the few guided tours available to visitors.
With Puerto Vallarta skyrocketing in popularity this winter, here’s why these Mexican Pacific islands should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Strict Environmental Policies Replenish Island Nature
Prior to 2016, travelers had free access to the stunning Marietas Islands off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. Until then, the remote destination was a hit with travelers, but its popularity came at a cost.
Mass tourism led to a rise in environmental pollution, endangering endemic species of exotic wildlife and damaging the island’s delicate geology.
Consequently, authorities implemented stringent regulations, limiting access to the pristine islands in an attempt to salvage what was left of their beautiful nature.
@touristtolocal Hidden Beach @ Islas Marietas 🌴🏖 #islasmarietas #mexico #puertovallarta #mexicocheck #hiddenbeach ♬ Palm Trees – Tundra Beats
In 2023, however, things are much different, and the Marietas Islands are thriving thanks to forward-looking environmental policies.
Although the eco-wonder still remains closed to the general public, travelers in the region have the unique opportunity to visit the islands through a select number of tour providers that meet ecological requirements.
According to Jorge Castrejón, the head of the Islas Marietas National Park, more work is being done to further preserve the unique nature found in the protected area. In a media interview, the director added that last year, officials closed access to Playa Amor due to erosion present on the otherwise idyllic beach.
@thesalamancas Must do in Puerto Vallarta Mexico! #fyp #foryou #travel #mexico #travelbucketlist #traveltiktok #traveltips #traveldiaries ♬ Paradise – TELL YOUR STORY music by Ikson™
Despite ongoing restrictions, several tour companies currently offer high-quality and sustainable tours to the paradisiacal islands, where travelers can spot not only majestic whales but also manta rays, dolphins, and sea turtles.
This top-rate tour by Eco Explorer costs just short of $100 per person and lasts between 4 to 6 hours depending on sea conditions.
During the guided tour, travelers are allowed exclusive access to enjoy the wondrous beauty of the Marietas Islands, where they can admire views of the ragged coastline and swim amid colorful fish.
@amstardmc Paradise found! 🌴🌊 Crystal clear waters, stunning coral reefs, and unique wildlife make this a must-see destination 🏝️✨😍 Who's adding Marietas Island to their travel bucket list? 🙋♀️🙋♂️ #MarietasIsland #HiddenBeach #TravelGoals #ParadiseFound #LiveItWithAmstar ♬ original sound – Owen
The Marietas Islands are famed for its mystical hidden beach, which is situated underneath a wide cavern, granting a stunning photo opportunity for a lifelong souvenir.
But even when booking a tour with a certified tour company, travelers should still follow certain guidelines, such as avoiding strictly protected beaches or littering.
@whereisjennnn The tour is around 3 hours total ✨ take some vinegar so you sont have to do number 1 on somone or yourself😆 #puertovallarta #islasmarietasnayarit #nayarit #mexicotraveltips #bestbeaches #hiddenbeaches ♬ Calma (Remix) – Pedro Capo X Farruko
Visiting the Marietas Islands is just one of the many popular tours travelers are booking in Puerto Vallarta this year.
Other eco-activities include whale watching – by boat or from shore – as well as snorkeling and scuba diving.
And for those who would rather enjoy the city’s culture, downtown Puerto Vallarta is an excellent alternative to heading out to sea.
@mzjaney 5 minute swim from the boat to the cave to get into Marietas Island (Hidden Beach) Our tour guide had to tow us in but we did it lol #mexico #travel ♬ Love & Reggae – Collie Buddz
Despite a recent sinking that led to the evacuation of nearly 25 occupants last week, boat tours in Puerto Vallarta are generally safe and reliable.
Travelers are advised to book with reputable companies with the appropriate environmental licenses and excellent reviews.
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