When you arrive in Punta Mita, it is very likely that you will want to spend your days lounging on the beach, cocktail in hand, unwinding from the stresses of everyday life! And we absolutely recommend this. However, it should be noted that the area surrounding Punta Mita offers some incredible and unique sights to see. Whether your interests are focused on natural wonders, cultural highlights or historical perspectives, there is a broad scope of sights to see. The Bay of Banderas is home to the Isla Marietas National Park, one of the most biologically diverse sanctuaries in Mexico. You might also want to participate in the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, or watch the majestic humpback whales up close from a boat. If history and culture is more up your alley, take a day trip to San Sebastian, Tequila. Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita offer visitors some more locally focused, cultural experiences. For those of you who love action and adventure, join one of the local tour operators for a day in the jungle. Here are some of our top picks!
Isla Marietas National Park
A quick Google search of this stunning natural wonder will have this understated gem on top of your “to do” list when you visit Punta Mita. Often described as a “mini Galapagos”, the exquisite Isla Marietas teems with unique and wondrous species including the blue footed boobie, hundreds of fish species, turtles, stingrays, humpback whales and dolphins. It’s easy to understand how Jacques Cousteau fell in love with this small archipelago, and started a movement to protect them. The only way to access the islands is with a local guide operation – visitor numbers are limited in order to protect the islands. Spend the day kayaking, snorkeling & exploring the undersea caves and the world famous “hidden beach”, Playa Escondida.
Banderas Bay Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Every summer, thousands of female sea turtles land on the beaches of the Banderas Bay to build nests and lay their eggs. The process by which turtles reproduce is truly one of natures wonders. Female turtles arrive on the shores in the exact same spot each year, and build hidden nests, where she deposits her eggs for protection until they hatch 45 to 70 days later. The most amazing part of this is that the mother returns to sea right after laying her eggs, and she never sees her offspring. When they have broken free of their shells, the hatchlings make their way towards the sea in groups. Most never make it to the ocean due to predators and human factors such as poachers and light distractions. Only one in a thousand baby turtles survives into adulthood. A partnership between the Punta Mita tourist industry and local biologists helps ensure survival of turtles by helping the tiny creatures reach the ocean on their challenging journey.
About half an hour’s drive from Punta Mita is the groovy surf town of Sayulita. While Punta Mita is a very refined, world class resort destination, Sayulita is more of a hippy seaside town with colorful locals, a vibrant surf scene and an abundance of shops and restaurants. Sayulita attracts a different crowd than Punta Mita, with visitors shunning golf greens for SUP, and swanky boutiques for funky local markets. You can easily spend a day here exploring hidden beaches by kayak, or sitting on the beach enjoying a margarita, soaking up the scene.
France can have it’s Champagne… Mexico has Tequila! If you are up for a more ambitious day trip, the town of Tequila is about 3 hours drive from Punta Mita, and gives you the chance to experience one of Mexico’s most coveted national treasures. Located in the province of Jalisco, about 60 kilometers from Guadalajara, the town Tequila produces it’s namesake drink from the blue agave plant, which is native to the area. Visit the National Museum of Tequila, or take a tour of some of the oldest Tequila distilleries in the world. Companies such as Spirit Of Jalisco offer tours of the various distilleries, and can also include private transportation, authentic cuisine and boutique hotels.
Buried deep in the heart of the Sierra Madre Mountains, San Sebastian Del Oeste is a colonial town that has remained largely original, thanks to it’s off the beaten path location. This hidden treasure will undoubtedly leave you with some very authentic memories of Mexico. Just under 2 hours drive from Punta Mita, San Sebastian was settled in 1605 by colonial Spaniards. This secluded 17th century mining town reached its peak of prosperity in the 1700s, when over 30,000 people inhabited the area. Over the years, the town’s population fluctuated wildly as gold and silver were mined intermittently between the 1600’s and the 1930’s. Today, just 600 people remain in this beautiful mountain village now cultivates coffee and agave. The village seems largely untouched by time with it’s cobblestone plazas and crisp white haciendas.
When you land at Puerto Vallarta airport, it’s understandable that you might want to head straight to the Punta Mita peninsula to enjoy some serious beach action. And we can’t blame you! However, if time allows it, the city of Puerto Vallarta is thriving with art, culture, food, wine, shopping and nightlife. The life of Puerto Vallarta is centered around El Malecon, an iconic seaside boardwalk in the old town. A stroll along the promenade gives you a taste of the area, with vendors, restaurants, hawkers and some impressive sculptures creating a colorful experience! If you are on a romantic getaway, don’t miss the bars, restaurants and shops of Zona Romantica at night. Other highlights include the Church Of Our Lady Guadalupe, Vallarta Botanical Gardens and Old Vallarta. There are also numerous notable events that happen in the city every year including Mexico’s premier culinary event, the Festival Gourmet Internacional de Puerto Vallarta in November.
Huichol Village Tour
Dwelling in the foothills and highlands of the Sierra Madre Mountains are the Huichol Indian people – an indigenous community that has remained largely intact despite the fall of the Aztec empire, the Spanish invasion and the ever encroaching influences of the modern world. The Huichol Indian people are direct descendants of the Aztecs, who have managed to maintain their unique way of life for generations. This includes upholding their traditions, beliefs and ritual practices that pre date Christopher Columbus. You can take a day trip into the mountains to visit a Huichol community, and discover their rich history and culture. A prominent part of their culture is the magnificent artwork they produce which features traditional techniques including intricate beadwork and hand made yam work that are legendary for collectors. The Huichol people depend on the sale of their artwork for their cultural preservation and survival.
If you have an itch for a day of adventure, you can join one of the local tour operators for a day in the jungle. Activities include zip lining through the jungle canopy (Vallarta Adventures has the longest and fastest zip line in Mexico at $1200 meters, reaching speeds of up to 100kms/hour), rappelling of an elevated treetop platform, off roading through the jungle or zooming down a hillside waterslide. Some tour operators also offer horse back riding through the jungle.
Whale Watching Tours
The Bay of Banderas is thriving with magnificent creatures, including the majestic humpback whales that migrate through the bay from mid December until the end of March. Vallarta Adventures offer a Whale Watching Photo Safari, giving you the chance to get up close and personal with these awe inspiring gods of the sea. Hopefully you will have the privilege of viewing the whales as they thrust themselves skyward, arching their backs in one of nature’s most incredible displays.
Of course, this is just a taste of some of the wonderful sights you can see during your Punta Mita vacation. There are many more that we hope to mention in future posts! To book your Punta Mita escape, call our team on (+1) 800-970-7541. We offer a premium selection of the finest villas in the area offering the highest levels of luxury, service and amenities. To browse our vacation rental properties, please visit our Exceptional Stays listing page.