Marieta Islands, Mexico

Photo: Marcin Klapczynski [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Marcin Klapczynski [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Aww, Puerto Vallarta! You’ve been exploring Zona Centro (the Old Town center), the lively boardwalk, and your relaxing resort all week. The weather has been perfect with sun-filled days and cool ocean breezes. While the gorgeous golden-sand beaches are bordered by green hills on one side and the warm Pacific water on the other. Now you’re thinking about a day trip.

The Marieta Islands are just a one-hour boat ride northwest of Puerto Vallarta. The uninhabited archipelago, which was created by volcanic activity, used to be a military testing site. The bombings created caves and rock formations. After Jacques Cousteau started protesting in the 1960s, the explosions eventually stopped. The islands were later named a national park, where fishing and hunting are prohibited. They’ve since become a popular destination for snorkelers, kayakers, and sunbathers.

From the boat, you start to see brown rocks poking out of the blue-green water. Two dolphins race alongside the boat. Blue-footed boobies, with their distinctive feet, dive into the water in search of lunch. The only thing missing this time of year: humpback whales. The huge whales travel from Alaska to give birth in the warm water between December and March.


By now, you’re itching to get in the water yourself. Don flippers, a mask, and a breathing tube to go snorkeling. You immediately see two large sea turtles, a bunch of manta rays, and even an octopus when you put your head underwater. Paddle around the islands in a kayak to see the rock formations and those bright-footed birds up close. Paddleboard into deep caves where your voice echoes inside. Then find the hidden beach in one of those caves.

Playa Del Amor, that hidden beach, can only be accessed during low tide. As the water recedes, move through the water tunnel. When it opens up, you’re surrounded by rocky walls. The sun is shining overhead. While a small beach seems to be pulling you toward it. You walk out of the water and collapse onto the sand. You have the little beach all to yourself—at least for a few minutes. It’s going to be quite hard to top this day trip.

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