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Boasting some of the best diving on the Central Pacific Coast of Mexico, you might happen upon whale sharks or giant manta rays in Puerto Vallarta.

Highlights

Humpbacks at El Chimo

This small fishing village to the south of Puerto Vallarta is home to spectacular drop-offs and hosts humpback whales and calves from April to December.

Los Arcos National Marine Park

At the deepest point in Banderas Bay, Los Arcos National Marine Park features caves, deep tunnels, arches and a healthy reef full of marine life.

Giant Moray Eels at El Morro

With depths up to 150 feet (50 meters), El Morro is more technical than most sites in Puerto Vallarta. It boasts huge manta rays and moray eels.

Mantas and Whale Sharks

At the Marietas Islands advanced divers can see larger species who ride the currents from the distant blue, including mantas and whale sharks.

Diving in Puerto Vallarta

Quick facts

Puerto Vallarta is the main diving destination in the Pacific Coast of Mexico although most of the dive sites are quite a distance from the resort area. Half of the dive sites are within the Banderas Bay while the other half surround offshore islands such as Los Arcos and the Marietas Islands. Underwater environments include caves, tunnels, rock formations and coral reefs.

Currents within the bay are mild and perfect for introductory dive courses. Advanced divers looking for a challenge can travel to the offshore islands where currents are heavier but the reward is greater.

Most diving in Puerto Vallarta takes place from small motorized speed boats, although some operators still use wooden pangas for their easy backwards roll.

Keep in mind that a 16% tax is levied on all scuba diving operations in Mexico.

When to go

Pelagic species are most easily seen at offshore islands from November to May. June to October feature the warmest water temps and best visibility.

November to May

November to May is considered the best time to dive offshore sites in Central Mexico, because the sea conditions in the Pacific are calmest during these months. The weather is good too; generally it’s sunny with occasional rain showers.

Manta rays can be seen throughout the year, but during the winter months, divers also have the chance of spotting a whale shark.

At this time, however, visibility is negatively impacted is by the very plankton blooms that attract the mantas and whale sharks. These are most common around the full moon.

If you love diving with pelagic species, book your holiday between November and May.

Elsewhere in Mexico, November to May is considered high season for general tourism, causing an increase in the prices of flights and accommodation.

June to October

June to October are the offseason for liveaboards and diving in the area. However, at this time, the water warms significantly, reaching 84°F (26°C) in August and September. For many divers, especially beginners who will find the open ocean sites difficult to reach, the summer months are an ideal time to dive.

In addition, visibility is at its peak from June to October. It’s also low season for tourism throughout Mexico, meaning you should find excellent deals on accommodation, airfare and excursions. However, you will have to battle the hot and humid summer weather while topside.

If you’d prefer to look elsewhere, try Caribbean diving for a change. The season on the east side of Mexico is year-round.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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Where to dive

Beginners should stay in Banderas Bay near Los Arcos while advanced and tec divers can head to El Chimo, El Sequial or La Corbetena in the open ocean.
    USD 2,307Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
    USD 2,926Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers
    USD 1,900Per person for 7 nights for 2 divers

    Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta

    Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta may be even more popular than scuba diving. Most companies run snorkeling tours to Los Arcos where an aquarium of fish awaits. The Majahuita coves are also popular due to their protected habitat and excellent visibility. The more distant Las Marietas are another great location for topside spotting.
    Within the Bahia de Banderas, the underwater preserve known as Los Arcos is the most popular stop for dive operators. Majahuitas is a close second as it features a coral-covered wall off a remote and beautiful beach. Other dive sites in the bay include Las Marietas, Colomitos and Las Caletas. Further afield from the Bahia de Banderas, Chimo and El Morro attract advanced divers. Here you can see larger species who ride the currents from the distant blue, including mantas and whale sharks. El Sequial and Corbetena are the furthest afield and offer the best opportunities to spot sharks and sailfish.

    What to see

    Puerto Vallarta features a wide range of marine life from tiny to huge. In terms of pelagic species, lucky scuba divers can see whale sharks, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, sailfish, manta rays, and dolphins at the open ocean sites like El Sequial and El Chimo. You might also see schools of grunts, puffer fish, damsel fish, moray eels, nurse sharks, loggerhead turtles, green turtles and hawksbill turtles around the brightly colored sponges and stony corals. Seahorses and octopus love to hide out in the walls and crevices. Humpback whales and their calves are sometimes seen near El Chimo and Las Marietas from April to December.

    Calendar

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    Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

    Location

    Sitting on Mexico’s Pacific coast, the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta is Jalisco’s second largest city. Named after the former governor of Jalisco, each year Puerto Vallarta hosts millions of tourists who come in search of sandy beaches, lush jungle and year-round warm weather.

    Unlike many other tourist destinations in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta was a thriving city before tourism reached it. During the 18th-Century, the town grew to support coal mining operations in the Sierras. Finally in the mid-20th Century, Puerto Vallarta’s gorgeous surrounds were discovered as a tourist destination. The city’s international airport opened in the 1970s and resort development began in earnest. Today, the coastal city is a unique blend of resort culture and modern city.

    Other attractions

    As a top international tourist destination, Puerto Vallarta has a wide variety of activities to keep everyone entertained. For the adventurous, head into the mountains to one of the many outdoor centers for a day of mountain biking, zip lining and abseiling. For a more laid back activity, take a stroll along the El Malecon Boardwalk enjoying the many restaurants, shops and sand sculptures along the beachfront. A small journey south along the coast is the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, home to a vast array of flowers and trees and set in the picturesque Sierra Madre Mountains.

    Getting there

    There are plenty of ways to get to Puerto Vallarta. Probably the easiest is to fly into Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, just north of Puerto Vallarta proper. It is also possible to fly into and travel overland from any of the surrounding cities or even from the United States via the well maintained toll roads.

    UTC-06:00

    Time zone

    MXN

    Currency

    +52

    Calling code

    127 V

    Electric volt

    A, 

    B

    Plug type

    PVR

    Main airport
    x

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