Puerto Vallarta is a sports lover’s paradise offering an endless array of outdoor adventures under the warm Mexican sun. Water sports enthusiasts can choose from every imaginable activity from snorkeling and scuba diving to kayaking, sailing, water skiing, and surfing. The abundant marine life in the warm Pacific waters of Banderas Bay are known to be a fisherman’s paradise offering some of the best deep sea sports fishing around. Those in search of harder adventure can go mountain bike riding, opt for a jeep safari or go horseback riding in challenging terrains. There are also soft adventure tours of the jungle surrounding Puerto Vallarta from canopy tours to eco hikes. And, of course, all of the more traditional sports including tennis and world-class golf are also on offer. Following is a brief description of the many adventures that await travelers in Puerto Vallarta.
An adventure filled tour of the back roads of Puerto Vallarta, a ride on an ATV (all terrain vehicle) will prove a fun-filled experience. The tour takes riders to the rural countryside and along dirt roads and through rivers. It is recommended to bring old clothes and sneakers for this excursion as drivers end up completely covered in dust and mud.
The natural beauty of Banderas Bay provides a picturesque backdrop for bungee jumping, overlooking the verdant slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the emerald blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. At this permanent bungee jumping structure, located on the south shore of the bay, on the road to the small village of Mismaloya, the more adventurous can take advantage of this extreme sport and let their inhibitions loose by jumping 120 feet below, towards the water.
Canopy tours remain one of the most fun ways to see and learn about the varied tropical flora and fauna of the rainforest surrounding Puerto Vallarta. Three canopy tour options are offered around Puerto Vallarta and all are located within ecological reserves that contain a wealthy biodiversity. The adrenaline mounts as one zips from treetop to treetop, hovering over the canopy of the lush vegetation of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The jungle vegetation and bird life look spectacular from this truly privileged vantage point. Each canopy tour, Vallarta Adventures, Canopy Tours de los Veranos, or Canopy Tour El Eden, offer a different thrill including tours on a total of 14 cables, lines over 1,300 feet long, or 90 feet above the forest floor.
The Sierra Madre Mountains around Puerto Vallarta are home to some of the largest biodiversity in North America. Various local tour companies offer nature walks to explore the different flora and wildlife of the region that include hikes on rocky terrains and repelling. Some of the sightings that visitors can look forward to include orchids and bougainvillea, dyewood trees, parrots and several types of migratory birds, iguanas, and armadillos.
Fishing / Fly Fishing
The abundant marine life in the waters of Banderas Bay are known by fishing experts to offer some of the best deep sea sports fishing in the world. Fishing enthusiasts also have the option of fresh water fishing in the rivers that wind through the Sierra Madre Mountains. Various specialized operators offer deep sea fishing excursions on established fishing fleets. Panga boats can also be rented at some of the more popular beaches around Banderas Bay. Some of the wide varieties of fish that can be caught in the area include marlin, sailfish, snapper, yellowfin tuna, rooster fish and dorado (mahi mahi). Puerto Vallarta also hosts an annual fishing tournament every November.
Puerto Vallarta is fast becoming one of Mexico’s premier golf destinations. The resort town is currently home to seven world-class golf courses; all framed by beautiful vistas of the Sierra Madre Mountains and the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean and include jungle-rich layouts. These include two Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses (Four Seasons Punta Mita and Vista Vallarta) as well as a Tom Weiskopf Signature Design (Vista Vallarta). The course at El Tigre was designed by Robert von Hagge, while Roy Bechtol designed Mayan Palace. Puerto Vallarta also played host to the inaugural edition of the PGA’s Puerto Vallarta Blue Agave Golf Classic in March 2006. The Blue Agave Golf Classic was the first Champions Tour event in Mexico since the MasterCard Classic at Bosque Real Country Club in 2004. Puerto Vallarta also hosts an annual golf tournament every November.
A memorable excursion for those who love horseback riding, half-day or full day excursions on horseback provide a challenging experience through diverse terrains amidst some of the finest scenery surrounding Puerto Vallarta. Riding high atop the mountains, through trails of lush tropical vegetation, canyons, streams and waterfalls, these excursions will also allow witnessing life in picturesque jungle villages, relaxing by refreshing cascades, and stopping for a swim in the river. Horseback riding excursions can also be combined with visits to working ranches where visitors can savor a traditional Mexican barbecue lunch.
A great way for more adventurous types to experience Puerto Vallarta’s authentic Mexican culture while discovering the area’s rich biodiversity, jeep safaris combine visits to traditional towns outside Puerto Vallarta with nature walks, and drives through mountain streams and the dense forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The tours are conducted in all terrain vehicles and offer a wide overview of all facets of life in and around Puerto Vallarta, from interacting with the locals in small towns and suburbs to exploring the flora and fauna of the Sierra.
Puerto Vallarta offers some great sea kayaking. Most often, sea kayaking can be combined with snorkeling or simply experienced on its own. The azure waters of Banderas Bay are home to an abundant marine life and kayaking tours allow for spotting various species of vibrantly colored tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays and eagle rays along the sea surface.
Several mountain biking tours allow for the more adventurous to discover some of Puerto Vallarta’s neighboring locales from a different angle. Mountain biking tours, led by professional guides, are offered to several locations such as Yelapa, San Sebastian, Emiliano Zapata and Las Juntas y Los Veranos, amongst others. Tours are offered according to levels of difficulty and riders can experience many thrills from enjoying beautiful scenery cruising along more relaxed tracks to uphill and downhill rides, riding along trails used for silver and gold mining in the 1700s, or crossing streams under the jungle canopy.
A thrilling way to catch breathtaking views of Puerto Vallarta and the Banderas Bay, parasailing is offered at numerous beaches and major hotels around Puerto Vallarta. Visitors can chose from either beach or boat take-offs and see the sights from above.
Sailing cruises provide an adventurous way to spend a day relaxing in the sun or for those who prefer a more active vacation, to go swimming and snorkelling in protected coves or catch a glimpse of dolphins and humpback whales. There are also romantic sunset cruises for a memorable evening under the stars. All cruises offer a briefing on the sport of sailing before departure so that everyone has an opportunity to enjoy and participate in the ride.
A variety of dive sites around Banderas Bay offer world class diving options for both beginners and experienced divers. The complex marine ecosystems of Los Arcos National Marine Park and the Marietas Islands contain large reserves of marine wildlife. Divers can explore underwater caves, canyons, reefs teeming with tropical fish, and see turtles, octopus, sea horses, dolphins, manta rays, jacks, yellowtails and sailfish. The waters of Banderas Bay are also home to whales, dolphins and wahoo that can be spotted almost year-round. Many specialized operators offer scuba diving excursions and offer various levels of PADI certification.
Banderas Bay, with its warm blue waters, beautiful coral reefs, natural rock formations, and abundant marine life is a magnet for snorkelers and scuba divers. There are numerous snorkeling options in the Puerto Vallarta area, whether close to shore in Mismaloya, Yelapa or Majahuitas, or on exciting boat trips to secluded islands such as the Marietas or the Caletas. The rich marine life that the area houses include turtles, spotted eagle rays, needlefish, and many varieties of tropical fish. A lot of the snorkeling tours can also be combined with sea kayaking or simply relaxing on a deserted beach.
Surfing and Windsurfing
With over 60 places to surf along the Banderas Bay, including many secluded surf beaches, the Puerto Vallarta area is a true surfers’ paradise. The best surfing conditions are usually found in the late summer and early fall when hurricane season often drives huge swells ashore all along the Pacific coast. Some of the more popular locales for surfing include Ipala and Las Peñitas (on the Cabo Corrientes coast south of Tehualmixtle), Playa el Tecuán, Playa la Manzanilla, and Barra de Navidad (at the jetty). Farther north, Sayulita is very popular with surfers as well as Playa Matanchen, near San Blas.
Tennis is a popular sport in Mexico and Puerto Vallarta holds no exception. Tennis lovers will find an excellent option of courts around town, from open air to covered, clay and asphalt to synthetic grass. Most of the clay courts are turned around several times a week to ensure their freshness. Some of the more popular tennis courts are located within hotel complexes such as the Hotel Continental Plaza Tennis & Beach Resort, the Sheraton Buganvillias, the Playa de Oro Resort, and Los Tules Resort. Many of these hotels offer tennis instruction courses, host annual tennis tournaments and also allow non hotel guests to use their installations at a fee.
Water Skiing and Jet Skiing
The calmer waters off the coast of Puerto Vallarta allow for some exciting water skiing, while catching spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, the picturesque towns along Banderas Bay and the verdant slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Most resorts along the beach as well as concessions on the more popular beaches allow for water and jet ski rental by the hour or the half-hour.