If you’re a nature lover, one day trip you cannot miss from Puerto Vallarta is a tour to the Marietas Islands or Isla Marietas. Designated as a national marine park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, these stunning uninhabited islands are home to some of the best landscapes and wildlife-watching opportunities around the Bay of Banderas.
All excursions to the islands, including the hidden beach tour, must be arranged with a certified tour guide so be sure to plan ahead if you want to check out some of the amazing eco-adventures Islas Marietas has to offer. This post will explain everything you can do on the islands and how to book a tour here!
What to expect on a day tour to Islas Marietas
We booked this all-day tour to Islas Marietas from Puerto Vallarta which was so much fun! We met the tour guides at the cruise port in Puerto Vallarta and set off the islands around 9am. Islas Marietas are 22 miles (36km) west of Puerto Vallarta, so it takes about two hours to get there.
Continental breakfast was included in the tour which was buffet-style. The views are gorgeous along the way – keep your eyes peeled as we saw dolphins jumping out of the water!
During the winter months, it is common to see humpback whales in the bay since this is a centuries-old breeding ground for them.
Before arriving at the islands, we were given the option to do an eco-tour around the island and or visit Secret Beach (limited permits were available).
I opted for the eco-tour which took us around the islands to check out the incredible wildlife. Afterward, we hopped in the water for a guided snorkeling tour and then went back on the boat for deli-style lunch. Paddleboards and kayaks are also available to take out to explore the serene water if you’re feeling like more adventures!
We then had some time to explore the beautiful beaches on the island, and those who secured permits to Secret Beach got to explore that.
Around 2pm, we headed back to Puerto Vallarta for the journey home which went much faster as they give you unlimited alcohol on the way back. It was my friend’s birthday and the staff went out of their way to show us a good time. We played drinking games and by the last hour, the boat turned into a massive dance party. It was one of my favorite days in PV!
If you are looking for a cost-effective way to see the Las Islas Marietas and all they have to offfer, this tour of Las Islas Marietas is a great choice.
Snorkeling and diving at Islas Marietas
The snorkeling at Islas Marietas is easily the best I did in Puerto Vallarta. The water is crystal-clear, and seeing the rock formations underneath gives you a whole new appreciation for how special these islands are.
Although I wasn’t lucky enough to see them, I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon to see giant rays and sea turtles gliding through the water here. I only saw schools of fish, but still really enjoyed the snorkeling.
Marietas Island Eco-tour
One optional activity to do at Islas Marietas is an eco-tour around the island. It was an additional 200 pesos (10 USD) and absolutely worth it. On land, you can spot the blue-footed booby and some 90 other bird species. It actually made me feel although I’d been transported back to the Galapagos Islands! It’s a great way to take in the landscapes of the island, as we also visited a collapsed sea cave.
Hidden Beach Tour
These stunning islands are home to one of the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta – Playa Del Amor which is commonly known as Hidden or Secret Beach.
Playa Del Amor is an incredible underground crater beach. Someone posted a photo of it a few years ago that went viral and as a result, hundreds of people started visiting the beach every day. This caused negative environmental impacts and the government imposed limits on the number of people that could visit each day to protect it.
Now, only 116 people are allowed to visit the beach each day via a permit system. If your heart is set on going, you should book your permit in advance as they do sell out.
We just booked the regular tour and on the boat over the captain let the boat know that two permits were available that day for an additional 50 USD. I didn’t go as it was my roommates birthday and she wanted to go with her friend that was visiting. But they loved it and said it was worth the extra money!
Don’t be disappointed if you can’t get a permit to go on the beach – the islands are still worth visiting on their own. There are other beaches you’ll get to visit on the Marietas Islands which are stunning!
What to bring on a tour to Islas Marietas
- Biodegradable Sunscreen
- Light sweater
- Waterproof case for your phone or GoPro
- Extra cash for dock fees and photos (they have a photographer there). On top of your ticket, there is an additional 28 pesos fee to enter the marina and 100 pesos to access the islands (government fee).
When planning your itinerary to Puerto Vallarta, be sure to leave a day for a tour to Islas Marietas! These stunning islands are one of the most picturesque places to visit in the Bay of Banderas.