Hiking in Puerto Vallarta: from beaches to jungles to waterfalls

Julia Holland | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Puerta Vallarta and the surrounding beaches are a series of inlets connected and separated by mountainous jungle. Some of the beaches are only accessible by boat, while others have marked paths connecting them to the main port of Puerto Vallarta or Boca de Tomatlan. All the beaches along the Bay of Banderas back up into the mountains, where there are more extensive hikes upwards towards giant waterfalls and natural swimming holes. If you are an avid hiker or enjoy beautiful nature strolls, then you will find endless opportunities to embark on epic hikes. Many trails are short, easy hikes, but for outdoors enthusiasts and extreme hikers looking for a challenge, I recommend combining my two favorite hikes: La Caminata de Colomitos and Las Animas to Quimixto. 

© istock/Daniel-Avin77

Colomitos, Las Animas, and Quimixto are all beaches along Banderas Bay that you can access by boat or hiking through the mountains that separate them. Since these three beaches neighbor each other, it is easy to combine the hikes for a full day of trekking with stops at the beach. These combined hikes would be close to 20 km through the mountainous jungle and across various beaches that end in a spectacular waterfall.

La Caminata de Colomitos

La Caminata in Spanish means "the hike" or "the walk". Colomitos is one of the first beaches you will encounter south of the port city Tomatlan, and it is a beautiful virgin beach that you will have all to yourself. You can walk on a marked trail through the mountains from Tomatlan to Colomitos in around thirty minutes. You can continue walking to the next beach after Colomitos, called Las Animas. This will be an additional hour and a half, so if you want to hike from Tomatlan to Las Animas, it will be two hours one way. 

© istock/Daniel-Avin77

The hike through the jungle is incredibly green and wild, and you will encounter plenty of clearings in the foliage that reveal small private beaches to stop and take a dip. If you do not want to walk the full four hours, you can always take the water taxi from Las Animas to back Tomatlan.

Las Animas to Quimixto to Cuale Waterfalls

Once you get to Las Animas, you can take an hour or two to enjoy this amazing beach before venturing onto the second half of the hike: Las Animas to Quimixto to Cuale Waterfalls.

Starting in Las Animas, this 9.8-kilometer trail is partially paved, although it can be tricky at some points to follow because it meanders through a hotel zone and private beach houses before you get to the continuous forest. There are plenty of hotel employees and locals that will point you in the right direction, though. 

© istock/Daniel-Avin77

You will walk along the beach from Las Animas to Playa Quimixto for a large portion of the hike before meeting up with the river. I would also recommend stopping to swim at Quimixto because it is far more secluded than Las Animas, and you will want to refresh yourself before hiking uphill into the mountains. 

There is a river that flows out to the beach at Quimixto, alongside which is a trail that will lead you the last leg of the way to Cuale Waterfalls. Once you reach these majestic falls, you are free to swim and relax in the various large pools surrounding them. 

You can hike all the way back to Boca de Tomatlan, or if you have had enough hiking for one day, you can hike back down to Quimixto beach and get the water taxi back to Boca de Tomatlan (a 15-minute ride). Bring plenty of sunscreen and water. You can bring a picnic and snacks or buy lunch at one of the many beachside restaurants at Las Animas beach. 

© istock/teodorapopa

Beach vacations do not have to be all about relaxation. There are plenty of adventures for nature lovers and athletes to get their thrills in paradise. Hiking in Puerto Vallarta is both strenuous and relaxing because you can spend hours swimming at each beach you come upon, and the icing on the cake is arriving at these incredible freshwater pools surrounding a waterfall in the jungle

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