Note: If you just want the essentials details on how to do this hike in Puerto Vallarta you can skip to the bottom for the condensed version.
If you’re interested in hiking in Puerto Vallarta along a coastal trail that winds in and out of lush vegetation and through gorgeous, secluded beaches then this day trip is for you.
In an attempt to create a well balanced lifestyle while living in Puerto Vallarta we enjoyed a weekly routine of work and play which included taking a day trip somewhere new at least once a week. Unfortunately due to circumstances (minor illness, new friends, lack of funds etc) we hadn’t done this since our trip to Sayulita so after a quiet weekend nursing a cold we decided to set out on a new adventure.
There is not much for hiking in Puerto Vallarta itself, but we had heard about a hike that follows the coastline from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. A trail dotted with quiet, tropical beaches and fabulous vistas that sounded absolutely perfect!
So we filled our backpacks with towels, sunscreen, snorkel gear and camera equipment and set the alarm for 7 am the next morning to get an early start on the day. The morning dawned perfect for a hike with very little humidity and just a few clouds to break up the sometimes intense heat of a fully clear day. Rainy season was pretty much over so we didn’t have to worry about the clouds opening up on us and the temperature was forecast to be a comfortable 85 degrees. Absolute perfection!
To get to the start of the trail in Boca de Tomatlan we had to take two Puerto Vallarta buses. The first bus was from our apartment in the Hotel Zone to Old Town (Zona Romatica). The second bus which goes to Mismaloya and Boca starts at the corner of Basillo Badillo and Constitucion. Of course if you are staying in Old Town you can just walk to the Mismaloya/Boca bus.
Despite our good intentions to start out early it was almost 9:30 when we arrived in Old Town and we just had time to pick up coffee and cold drinks at the OXXO right by the bus stop. (Side note: We normally do try to buy from local businesses as opposed to the big OXXO chain that is on every corner).
The bus ride is very pretty and passes several spots good for hopping off to access the beaches below. One of our favorites is the lovely quiet stretch of sand called Playa Gemelos (Twin Beach) which is a perfect place to escape the crowds in Puerto Vallarta.
Arriving in Boca de Tomatlan we walked down the hill into town and did a bit of exploring. There’s not a lot to do or see in Boca itself but there is a nice beach with a couple of restaurants and some pretty spots for photo ops. There are also a couple of stores where you can purchase drinks and snacks for the hike or a food stand where you can purchase a Torta to go (this is what we did).
Boca is also the spot to take a boat to Las Animas (if you don’t want to hike) or to Yelapa (much cheaper than taking the boat from PV).
Starting the Puerto Vallarta Hike from Boca
When we’d finished our little tour and had our tasty Torta in hand we made our way down to the river in search of the pedestrian bridge (look for a colorful set of signposts) which would take us to the trail. The trail starts to the right of the bridge and climbs gradually up some stone steps weaving past, and sometimes almost through, homes and guest houses for rent. We have no idea how much the casita rentals are but some of them looked really nice and had gorgeous views.
At the top of the initial climb we were able to get a great look at the Boca beach which looked pretty inviting after climbing the stairs. After this viewpoint the trail continues to climb into the jungle (definitely bring some good bug spray) and alternated between narrow dirt paths, little bridges and stone stairs.It’s fairly clear which way to go but at one point there is the option to take a trail down or slightly up and we recommend going up. There were also some markers on the trees (yellow and white) and the odd sign or arrow.
Our first stop on this journey was Colomitos beach, a small but lovely, secluded little bay with a clear cool stream running down to the ocean from the hills behind. The only thing that kept this beach from being completely private was the fact that the well-loved Ocean Grill is perched on the cliff just off the trail we had descended from. This restaurant is said to be very good and they offer a water taxi service which brings people to and from Boca for lunch at the Grill.
Update December, 2017: Unfortunately the Ocean Grill has been closed. The previous owner along with Wilson, the Great Dane, have moved on to open Litibu Grill near Punta Mita.
We opted to have a picnic on the beach with our Torta, bottled water, peanuts and oranges which was just fine with us. We spent about an hour here eating, snorkeling, taking photos and playing with Wilson, a huge black Great Dane who lived nearby. He’s even got a little floating island named after him!
To get back on the trail we had to cross the little stream and scramble up the rocks to some stairs carved into the stone. From here to the next beach the hike was a bit more difficult with lots of rough stone stairs and some very narrow paths with a slight drop off on one side. Don’t let this scare you though, it’s very doable for capable hikers of any age or fitness level.
You just need to be a bit cautious and stay aware of your footing. The effort is so worth it at you will be hiking through a lush green jungle of palms and vines filled with colorful flowers and butterflies before setting your eyes on the next stunning beach.
After a while the trail led us downhill again and we found ourselves on another beautiful and deserted stretch of beach with a fringe of palm trees along the sand. It looked like the photos on every brochure advertising a tropical beach vacation.
Nathan tried for a while to knock down a fresh coconut for us to crack open but we had no luck. Reaching the other end of a beach we found that we were not completely alone after all, there was a lovely casita perched on the sand which we are told is rented out for holidays. It was a two story house with a huge gourmet kitchen and beautiful living room and dining room on the ground floor.
Sadly we didn’t get to go inside but I could see it was well outfitted because the walls facing the beach were retractable and were flung wide open to the sea. I can just imagine cooking in that gorgeous kitchen with an unobstructed view of the shore and the ocean. Aahhh one can dream!
From here the trail meandered through alternating patches of jungle and beach with something new around every corner. We came across an area of construction workers at one beach…apparently they are working on rebuilding an old abandoned resort from the 70’s.
We passed by holiday casitas scattered throughout the trees and a small restaurant/bar overlooking the beach where we stopped for a cold cerveza. It was strange that they were even open as we were the only people in sight and I can’t imagine they get a lot of walk-by traffic but we were grateful they were!
Just before reaching Las Animas is the Hotelito Mio and Playa Caballo Resort. The beach was stunningly beautiful and the resort seemed very serene and idyllic. Even the staff on duty (although no guests were to be seen) had a very peaceful yet professional way about them. When we returned I did a bit of research and found out that this is an adult only boutique resort and spa (my kind of place) with only four mountain and four beach villas. The focus is indeed on peace and tranquility using the combination comfort and nature to create a place to relax and rejuvenate.
After trekking through a little more jungle we emerged onto Las Animas Beach…our final destination on the hike. We had actually been to this beach during our non stop fun with the gang back in early November when our guide had grilled the fish we had caught earlier in the day.
This is a popular spot for the many charter boats to drop their guests for lunch, so there are several beach restaurants with the hawkers out front all trying to sell you on their goods. The price of a beer or snack will get you the use of showers, banyos, beach chairs and umbrellas but of course being that you’re a bit isolated here the average prices are more than back in Puerto Vallarta.
Once we’d had our fill of fresh coconuts we grabbed a water taxi on the beach and headed back to Boca and then caught the bus to Old Town. As mentioned at the beginning of this post…it really was a perfect day!
Tips on how to do this Puerto Vallarta Hike
- The hike is considered moderate and is fine for capable hikers of any age but there are some steep stairs and grades to climb. It is not suitable for anyone who is not fully mobile.
- The hike takes about 2 hours without stops but you will definitely want to stop and enjoy some of the beaches and views and maybe a refreshment along the way.
- Wear good hiking shoes or sandals like these Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe.
- At a minimum take water, towels, sunscreen, bug spray and a camera.
- Catch the bus to Boca de Tomatlan from the stop in front of the OXXO at the corner of Basillo Badillo and Constitucion.
- Once in Boca walk down the hill from the bus into town. You can buy drinks and snacks here for the hike and take a look around town.
- Make your way to the river and footbridge at the foot of town. There will be a post with a bunch of signs; one will point to Las Animas.
- When you cross the bridge go right and follow the path past some houses above the river.
- The path will start to climb up into the jungle, there is a house at the top of the stairs and you will need to stay to the left of it.
- After about ½ mile the trail will descend steeply and you will emerge onto Colomotos beach. The Ocean Grill is perched on the edge of the cliff you just came from. It is rated as a top restaurant in Peurto Vallarta so it’s worth considering lunch there.
- If you don’t feel like hiking the rest of the way you can take the water taxi back from here.
- Otherwise after a swim and lunch look for some rough stairs carved into the rock on the far side of the beach and follow them up to the trail.
- This next part of the trail is the most difficult and you need to watch your footing as the path can get quite narrow and there is a slight drop off on one side.
- After a while you will come out of the jungle and from there the trail meanders through alternating trees and secluded beaches. There are also a couple of small restaurants where you can get a cold drink and maybe a snack but I would suggest you definitely take advantage of some time on a quiet secluded beach.
- Once you get to the Hotelito Mio at Playa Caballo you are just around the corner from Las Animas so if you haven’t had your fill of quite beach time turn around and get it now.
- Once in Las Animas you will have to run the gauntlet of restaurants vying for your business and maybe a beach full of day trippers from PV or a cruise ship.
- When you’re ready to leave Las Animas you can get a water taxi back to Boca at the end of the pier or take a ride from one of the independent boat owners walking the beach looking for customers. It will cost between 50 and 90 Pesos each depending on the season and how busy they are. We managed to talk a guy into taking us for 40 Pesos each but this was early December and there were very few potential customers. Once high season hits you’ll be looking at 80-90 Pesos. The other option is to hike back to Boca the way you came as long as you have 2 hours of daylight left, I wouldn’t recommend the trail in the dark.
Video of our trip:
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.