The Marietas Islands and its hidden beach comprise a world sanctuary of biodiversity and a majestic rarity of nature, enclosed in a semi-dome of stone.
These islands are home to various bird species, including pelicans, frigate birds, and blue-footed boobies, as well as sea turtles and dolphins.
However, the most famous attraction of the Marietas Islands is the hidden beach, a secluded paradise hidden within a cave that can only be accessed by swimming through a small opening in the rock.
The Marietas Islands are a must-see for anyone visiting Puerto Vallarta, offering a unique and breathtaking experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
Here is everything you need to know about these extraordinary ecosystems of Nayarit.
How were the Marietas Islands formed?
The Marietas Islands are of volcanic origin. These islands were formed by volcanic activity under the sea over millions of years.
The volcano’s cone grew until the crater reached the top of the sea’s surface, so the island appeared.
This set of two islands (Isla Larga and Isla Redonda) is located in the Pacific Ocean, near the coastline of Nayarit, in front of Punta Mita.
The two islands cover an area of almost 54 km2, and depending on the starting point on the coast, the travel time to the archipelago is different.
How to get to the Marietas Islands
The Marietas Islands have one of Nayarit’s favorite tourist destinations.
To get to Playa Escondida, the carriers must drop off passengers a few meters from the beach, depending on the number of boats.
After you jump off the boat, you will have to swim to the hidden beach, with the mandatory use of a life jacket.
You can only go to Playa Escondida with an authorized boat, often on a tour that stops at other places of interest, since the maximum stay on the beach is half an hour to reduce the environmental impact.
What to do in the Marietas Islands
Apart from enjoying the incomparable hidden beach for 30 minutes, some exciting ecotourism activities await in the Marietas Islands.
The main beaches on Isla Larga are Playa del Muerto and La Nopalera.
It should be noted that ecotourism activities are somewhat restricted because it is not allowed to tour the national park, and visitors must stay in the authorized beach areas of the archipelago.
Although the colonies of the beautiful bird species have been reduced, you will surely be able to admire seagulls and, probably, the dazzling blue-footed booby.
Sighting of marine animals
While on the boats, you can spot dolphins, humpback whales (in the season from late November to late March), and other marine species.
Diving and other water sports
There are reef diving areas where you can admire the extraordinary aquatic biodiversity of the Marietas.
Specimens such as the blue-yellow-tailed damselfish and the giant manta ray can also be observed.
It is also possible to practice kayaking and paddle boarding around the Islands.
How much is a trip to the Marietas Islands?
It depends on the starting point on the mainland coast and the activities and services included in the excursion.
Check out the GetYourGuide website for up-to-date pricing and packages suitable for you.
Regardless of the tour price, you must pay about 5 USD for state and federal permits.
The complete journey by sea from Puerto Vallarta is approximately 36 km, and its duration depends on the boat’s speed. On average, it can take about an hour.
As I mentioned earlier, the closest point to the archipelago is Punta Mita, which is 8 km by sea from the islands.
The entire land-sea travel time between PV and Islas Marietas, not including the waiting time for the boat departure in Mita, is approximately one hour and 15 minutes.
How to get to the Marietas Islands from Sayulita
Sayulita is a coastal town on Banderas Bay, but on the opposite side of Punta Mita from the location of the Marietas Islands.
The best way to get from Sayulita to the archipelago is to make the 18 km road trip to Punta Mita and board a boat there.
Another option is to make the overland trip from Sayulita to Bucerías (21 km) and board the boats that leave for the islands from this Nayarit town, which is also in Banderas Bay.
To get to the hidden beach, it is essential to swim through the tunnel (watch video) that gives access to the sandy beach since the boats cannot go through.
Some people who don’t swim well put on their life jackets and risk crossing the tunnel with the help of experienced people.
However, if you don’t want to take any chances, you can still go to the other beaches of Isla Larga, particularly Playa del Muerto and La Nopalera.
Best Hotels near the Marietas Islands
The closest hotels to the Marietas Islands are in Punta Mita, with accommodations for all budgets.
Punta Mita Suites & Hostel
Punta Mita Suites has an atmosphere of coexistence and relaxation, providing its services with conservationist criteria.
They have a recycling and composting program and other ecological practices. This is an excellent low-budget lodging alternative.
W Punta Mita
The W Punta Mita is known for its modern “hipster” ambiance and exceptional service.
All facilities and attractions are first class, including a pool, beach, and rooms. They serve excellent ceviches.
Hotel Meson de Mita
Meson de Mita is a clean and affordable hotel with simple and pleasant decorations and good attention from its staff.
This is a perfect place if you’re looking for a quiet atmosphere. Not as crowded or noisy as the big resorts.
Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa
This resort has a “family selection” section that is sensational for family groups with children.
The food in its restaurants is varied and excellent, and all the resort staff provides exquisite service.