Situated on one of the largest Bays in the world, Puerto Vallarta offers great water based excursions. Everything from snorkeling, deep sea diving and fishing, whale watching and more are readily available.
Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay has some really good snorkeling/diving coves, the equipment is readily available for rent and no special permits or skills are required. Most of the large inclusive hotels hotels provide snorkeling classes in their pools and include complementary use of the equipment. Some hotels even offer shuttles to the prime destinations. The best time for diving/snorkeling in the bay is in the Winter months when the water is significantly more clear than in the summer months.
Banderas Bay has two primary diving/snorkeling destinations: Los Arcos and Las Islas Marietas. The easiest spot to access is the underwater protected ecological zone off the Los Arcos Rocks just south of Puerto Vallarta. The area consists of a cluster of rock formations with towering arches and a major underwater cliff that brings Plankton up near the surface and therefore attracts enormous numbers of tropical fish. The tropical marine life here consists of angelfish, damsels, parrot fish, lobsters, puffer fish and the occasional visits from mantas and stingrays. The primary shove off is in Mismaloya and there are many ways to get here, by skiff, car, bus or hotel bus.
The best diving/snorkeling in the area is at the Northwest edge of the Bay at Las Islas Maretas which requires a 20 minute boat ride to the group of three islands. The area was recently declared a protected Marine Reserve giving protection to the dolphins, sea turtles, friendly giant manta rays, hundreds of tropical fish and the coral reefs that abound here. Prices are very affordable at $40-$50 per person.
Puerto Vallarta is renowned for it’s world-class billfishing. Marlin, Swordfish and Sailfish are all prevalent in the Bay as well as Tuna, Red Snapper and Sea Bass. Fishing goes on year long but the conditions are generally best during April to July and October to December. In November Puerto Vallarta plays host to the International Sailfish Tournament.
Anyone carrying a rod and reel in Mexico needs to have a fishing license whether the are fishing or not. Licenses are usually covered by the Charter Boats. No licenses are needed when fishing from the shore. Charters can be arranged dockside at the Marina Vallarta or at the co-opertative on the Malecon. The going rates are around $25-$40 per person per hour for trips of 2-3 hours.
Surfing in the Bas Bay is limited due to it’s calm waters. However, just north of the bay there are world class waves during the Summer and Fall seasons. With water temperatures of 75-78 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer, wet suits are not needed. Perhaps the best surfing can be found in San Blas, in Matanchen Bay, which once held the world record for the longest surfable wave, which traveled over one and a quarter miles.
Whale watching is best between the months of December and March when they come to the bay to spawn, bear their caves. In the bay the Humpback whales can be observed caring for their young, breaching out of the water, slapping their fins to assert their dominance, bobbing with their heads sticking out of the water, and of course a lot of talking.
Humpback Whale Life Cycle
Female humpbacks reach reproductive age between 5 and 8 years of age and produce a one calf once every 2 to 3 years. After 11 months of pregnancy, Humpback mothers deliver one big baby measuring about 15-foot in length and weighing 2 tons. Each mother nurses her calf with about 100 lbs of pink colored milk every day. A fully grown humpback whale reaches lengths of 35 to 48 feet long, weighs up to 65 tons and lives up to 50 years of age. Females are slightly larger than males. Throughout their lives, Humpback whales may travel 300,000 miles during their annual migrations.
Each whale makes the 6,000 mile trip from their summer feeding grounds off the Alaskan coast to Banderas Bay, which is the longest migration of any animal on earth.
A year long resident in the bay is the bottlenose dolphin which can be seen throughout the Bay