What to do in Puerto Vallarta: Vallarta Adventures Marieta Islands Snorkeling Review
If you’re looking for a fun activity while in Puerto Vallarta, call up the boys at Vallarta Adventures and book a snorkeling trip with them. They treat you right, make the all day adventure fun, and take you to some pristine spots to view the abundant Mexican coral and tropical fish.
Vallarta Adventures Boat Ride through Banderas Bay
Our day started early so that we could get to Vallarta Adventures first thing in the morning. They serve breakfast there, which helps to save some time. The breakfast wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was good enough to get our day going. It consisted of tropical fruits (watermelon, papaya and pineapple), sweet breads, yogurt, cheese, and that amazing fresh-made Mexican cottage cheese that I fell in love with so much. They then herded us to our boats, handed us a life jacket, and told us to pick a seat anywhere on the open deck vessel. I ended up being the only person on the boat that actually put on the life jacket, so I left it on just to be funny. I laughed, but I think most everyone else wondered what was wrong with me.
Still sporting my life jacket, we followed the coastline across the bay into Puerto Vallarta proper, where we picked up some more passengers, and even got to see some pirate ships! Sure, they were just show ships for some theatrical performance, but they were cool and exciting none the less.
With a full boat, we were ready to make the hour long trip out into Banderas Bay for our Marieta Islands snorkeling destination. I found that my life jacket served me better as a seat cushion than it did as a life float, helping me to ride in comfort as I enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Banderas Bay is beautiful, and at roughly 100km long (according to Wikipedia), it is one of the largest bays in all of Mexico. Its beauty and long coastlines make it a tourist hot spot, but humans are not the only creatures that love this bay. Dolphins, sea turtles, all sorts of seabirds, and Humpback wales visit the bay and make it their home for at least part of the year. Add to that the Sierra Vallejo mountains to the north and the Sierra Cuale mountains to the south, and you have a picture perfect destination that is hard to beat.
After an enjoyable 10km boat ride, our island destination was in sight. What an interesting place Marieta Islands is. The islands were originally formed many thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, and have never been inhabited. They are protected from the Mexican government, and no one can legally set foot on them. However, snorkeling and diving is allowed and done daily. This protection came about solely through the conservation efforts of Jacques Cousteau. In the early 1900′s the Mexican government began conducting military testing on the islands. Many bombings and large explosions took place on the islands causing amazing caves and rock formations to be created. But in the late 1960s, Jacques Cousteau discovered that the island waters were a major breading ground of humpback wales, motivating him to start an international conservation effort that put enough pressure on the Mexican government for them to eventually turn the islands into a national park and protect them against any fishing, hunting or human activity, including missile and bomb attacks. How glad I am that this conservation effort happened. It saved the wales, kept a home for hundreds of thousands of birds (including seagulls, pelicans, and the blue-footed booby), and saved a unique and beautiful place for us all to enjoy.
Snorkeling at Mexico’s Marieta Islands
Our boat finally came to rest in a little cove, and we were handed our snorkeling gear and given detailed instructions of how to not die. This was actually the first time I had been snorkeling, so I listened, rolled my eyes, then promptly jumped in the water. The tropical Mexican water was very warm, and felt great in the hot sun. The water had visibility of over 60 feet, but I don’t think we had depths of more than 40 feet where we were at. Everything was so clear and colorful, I was in awe. The fish were amazing, and I even got to see an octopus! I dove down to try to touch/hold it, but it swam into some rocks as I reach for it, and I couldn’t get to it.
My only complaint with Vallarta Adventures is that the snorkels they gave us didn’t have the top valve on them to keep the wave water out. Every time I hit a wave, I’d get a mouthful of seawater. I eventually changed the angle of my tube a bit, which helped, but did not completely fix the problem. Couple this with my mask not getting a good seal around my nose because of my facial hair, and I’d only get about 60 seconds of snorkeling in before I’d have to spit water, blow my nose, and clean out my mask. Regardless, I had a great time and look forward to snorkeling again sometime. I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the experience myself, so I borrowed the following from different travel sites and such. These all appear to be exactly where we were at, and show pretty much exactly what we saw.
Marieta Islands Beach
After about nearly 2 hours of snorkeling, Vallarta Adventures herded us all back on the boat and took us over to a small secluded beach on the island. This beach is apparently the only place on the island where you can step foot. And stepping foot literally means foot, no shoes allowed! The beach was walled off by natural rock walls, and there were signs posted “no shoes, no climbing, no leaving the beach.” Vallarta Adventures left us there for an hour, which was too long. But it gave us a chance to play in the surf, which ended up being a total blast. We let the waves toss us to and fro, which often filled our shorts with ground seashells. Many others in the group joined us, and it was all fun and games until I got hit with a powerful sneaker wave and completely took out some Asian lady. Everyone had a good laugh though, and we all headed back in for more.
When Vallarta Adventures finally came back for us, we were all hot, sticky, and really needing some water to drink.
Vallarta Adventures Boat Served Lunch
The crew had some big drums full of soapy water for us to clean up with, which I took full advantage of to clean all the seashell bits and sand off my head, arms, and hands. This was in preparation for the buffet style lunch spread they had out for us. It wasn’t amazing food by any means, but it sure felt good after a long day of swimming and being in the sun. They provided cold cut sandwiches with several types of meats, cheese, and vegetable toppings (including delicious pickled peppers), potato salad, and a canned tuna and corn salad that was actually a perfect balance of protein and carbs for my hungry body.
But the best thing they had to offer ended up being the fresh pina coladas. I’m not a drinker, so we had ours all virgin. But honestly, these were probably the best pina coladas I’ve had. I must have drank 10 of them. Here’s their recipe:
- Canned Coconut Milk (2 parts I think)
- Cow’s Milk (1 part I think)
- Canned Pineapple Juice (3 parts I think)
- Blended to desired thickness with ice (there’s were left fairly loose)
Dolphins, Sea Turtles, and Blue-footed Booby Birds at Banderas Bay
Our hour ride back to shore was more exciting than the ride out, thanks to all the marine life we got to see. There were sea turtles all over the bay. It seemed like they were all in pairs mating or something. I wish they would have been with us snorkeling, but it was cool to see them swimming in the bay regardless.
However, the real excitement for me came from the dolphin pods that suddenly decided to swim along with our boat. They were awesome! And with my polarized sunglasses, I could see their beautiful skin perfectly cutting through the clear blue water. They would swim, jump, and dart here and there, sometimes in pairs and sometimes alone. This was the first I’ve seen dolphins in the wild like this, so I was especially excited. I took many pictures of the amazing underwater show before me, not thinking that my camera was not polarized. All I got were pictures of the water, no dolphins within. If only I would have thought to put my sunglasses over the camera lens. Oh well. I still got some cool shots of them surfacing.
The Vallarta Adventures guides pumped up some music and were trying to encourage us to dance and party. Most of us were too tired to do so, but then our MC starting talking about boobies. “Hey, I like boobies. How about you sir, do you like boobies? Mam, have you ever seen some boobies before?” He went on like this for a bit, and we were thinking to ourselves that things are a little different in Mexico. Then he pointed out the Blue-footed Booby flying next to our boat.
The Blue-footed Booby is a long-winged sea bird found in the tropical and sub-tropical region of the Eastern Pacific Ocean coastline from California to Peru. They breed mostly on the Galápagos Islands, and were studied at length by Charles Darwin there. Their most notable feature is the bright blue pigmentation of their feet. They’re a pretty cool bird. Wikipedia has a good read on them.
Puerto Vallarta Vacation Fun
I had a great time in Puerto Vallarta, and I’m glad we booked a snorkeling trip with Vallarta Adventures. They did a great job of providing a fun filled day of pristine water activities, and took full advantage of the beautiful scenery and marine life around them. I recommend them and the snorkeling at Marieta Islands to anyone.
The Bald Gourmet goes snorkeling for the first time in Puerto Vallarta, and drinks perfect pina coladas.
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