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  1. There is no snorkeling on Puerto Vallarta beaches. There is an excursion boat takes you to an OK area for couple of hours. You need to get away from town.

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  2. Puerto Vallarta doesn’t have any really good snorkeling unfortunately. You’ll see snorkeling booze cruises advertised everywhere. The people selling these cruises all claim that you will see beautiful coral reefs, they will show you pictures and brochures laden with amazing coral reef images. But if you look at them a bit closer you can see that they are all pictures of Indo-Pacific reefs (with clouds of Anthias fish around Acropora corals in psychedelic colors or Anemones with Clown fish).

    Unfortunately there is literally nothing like that around Puerto Vallarta.

    Los Arcos Marine Reserve used to be kinda good (with no hard corals aside from encrusting Porites panamensis) with some sea fans, lots of Eastern Pacific tropical fish such as King Angels, Cortez Rainbow Wrasses, and Yellow-Tailed Surgeonfish, Indo-Pacific strays such as Moorish Idols, Guineafowl Puffers, and Long-Nosed Butterflyfish, as well as the odd turtle or Mobula Ray.

    But from the first time I snorkeled there over 25 years ago to the last time (2018) it appeared to have really gone downhill.

    Most of the pretty tropical fish had been replaced by aggressive Cortez Chubs and Sergeant Majors that are attracted to all the bread being tossed into the water by the tour boats. Also the rising pollution level, evidenced by the outrageous fecal coliform counts at the hotel zone beaches, appears to be fueling a population explosion of jellyfish. They don’t seem to sting but it is kinda gross constantly bumping into them.

    Similarly, the meager collection of small Pocillopora verrucosa coral heads at the Islas de Marietas off Punta de Mita have been trashed by people standing on them while trying to better adjust their leaky rental masks or cheapo beach store crap, or boat anchors being dropped willy-nilly.

    But there are now mooring buoys out there and the water clarity is night and day different than near-shore around Puerto Vallarta. The Islas de Marietas would be my bet for a spot to take a Puerto Vallarta snorkeling boat tour to. A fair bit pricier than Los Arcos but you will see more tropical fish, a few actual live corals, and definitely more rare Indo-Pacific fish.

    The biggest tour operator in PV really pushes their tours that make a stop at Majahuitas for snorkeling. Pretty much just a pile of boulders with a lot of very common fish being attracted by the fish feeding. It might be fun for kids that have never snorkeled before but if you have even a little bit of experience elsewhere you will quickly grow bored here.

    Interestingly, when I visited Majahuitas in 2018 with my 11 year old son, we witnessed some very dangerous sea life there. We heard a lady yelling to her friends to “Come over to see some beautiful eels.” I thought that would be cool to show my son, but when I saw the “eels” I realized they were Pelagic Yellow-bellied Sea Snakes. Interesting but potentially deadly. There were at least a dozen snakes so we high-tailed it to the boat and I told the snorkel guide about the Serpientes del Mar. He shut down the snorkel portion of the trip right then and there. He didn’t tell anyone about the snakes, just that we needed to cut the snorkeling short.

    So there are my thoughts on Puerto Vallarta snorkeling. Not any good off the shore near the city. The rocks at Playa Conchas Chinas MIGHT be OK if it’s a really calm day. But there is no coral, just a few damselfish and the tangs eating the copious algae growing strongly due to sewage and agricultural runoff.

    I have never done the cool 1/2 hour hike from Boca de Tomatlan to the beautiful little hidden beach at Colomitos Cove. You can take a cab or cheap bus to Boca de Tomatlan and then just follow the signs across the bridge and over the little point through the jungle. But go early because the secret is out and by the afternoon it is covered in Instagrammers taking selfies.

    A fellow snorkeler told me it was actually not a bad place to shore snorkel from cheaply. The adventurous forest walk is half the fun, if you are nervous about trying it there are loads of kids in Boca de Tomatlan that will guide you there cheaply even though it is well sign-posted.

    But I haven’t done this yet so I can’t comment too much on it. I go down to Puerto Vallarta every few years because it is so fun, beautiful, awesome restaurants, and wonderful beaches. We don’t go there for the snorkeling, I just happen to love snorkeling around this amazing planet so much that it would be weird to go somewhere and not spend at least some of the time looking down in the water.

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  3. I forgot to mention good companies in my comment on Puerto Vallarta snorkeling.

    Chico’s Dive Shop and Mismaloya Divers are both really good and professional. In PV the diving companies are far better to use than the “snorkeling” companies, who are really just trying to sell you a booze cruise. You get blitzed on cheap liquor, deafened by unce-unce-unce bass music, and stop at Los Arcos for half an hour. Not a real snorkeling trip.

    Vallarta Adventures is the biggest tour operator in PV, they offer snorkeling tours to the Islas de Marietas as well as zip lining, cultural tours to the beautiful colonial town of San Sebastian, food tours, awesome boat tours to gorgeous Yelapa village that do stop for mediocre snorkeling at Majahuitas. Pretty much anything you are looking to do in PV.

    One of the good things about them is they almost always have deals if you get more than one tour. We paid for two tours and got a third tour free. We paid for zip lining and the Islas de Marietas tour, and then got the Yelapa / Majahuitas snorkel tour for free. Which was a real bargain because we wanted to do a few different things.

    If you sign up to the Vallarta Adventures email newsletter I believe they give you a special coupon or deal. They are the PV tourism juggernaut but they didn’t get to be so big by being crappy to deal with!

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  4. Last time I was in Puerto Vallarta, I snorkeled at Conchas Chinas, which wasn’t bad and is close to town. There’s also Colomitos Beach, which you can access by hiking. I’ve only hiked and not snorkeled there, but probably a good option too.

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  5. At Mismaloya, you can snorkel along the left side of shore (as you face out) and all the way to the point. I have seen some very interesting things, including an eagle ray. As long as it’s sunny, and the waves not too rough, there is generally a wide variety of fish, I don’t know the varieties enough to name them, pufferfish? Also the long, super skinny ones, needlefish? And plenty of other colorful fish.

    Not to lecture, but I will. Please snorkel this one with a partner if you plan to go all the way to the point. Just to be safe.

    There is a lagoon at Costa Sur Resort that has some pretty good snorkeling, but it’s only open to guests. So check it out if you stay there.

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