Hiking Puerto Vallarta's Waterfalls
Puerto Vallarta offers a limitless amount of adventure & exploring above the sand & unda da sea. Though the beaches are the reason most travelers choose Vallarta, the jungle offers just as many sights to see & things to do, with short day trips or all day excursions, & almost free!
Each of the waterfalls on this list are located on the southern end of Puerto Vallarta. The climate in this part of Banderas Bay is much more tropical & includes a lush jungle, crystal clear swim holes, cascading waterfalls & tons of local wildlife.
To get to any of these enchanting waterfalls, you'll need to catch the orange bus located on the corner of Basilio Badillo & Calle Constitucion, or take a taxi/Uber directly to your destination. The bus stop is called 'Parada de Camiones a Mismaloya', or in English 'Truck Stop to Mismaloya'. All taxi & Uber drivers will be familiar with this stop.
Once you're at the bus stop, just ask your bus driver to tell you when you arrive at your destination. Most bus drivers in PV do not speak any English, so simply say words like "Chico's Paradise" or "El Nogalito", and they will nod yes and let you know when to get off the bus. Each direction will cost you 8 pesos, but try not to overwhelm the driver with large bills greater than 20 pesos.
What to bring:
- Light hiking clothes
- Bug Spray
- Lots of water
- Bathing Suit
- Tennis/Hiking shoes
- Water shoes/Flip-Flops
- Camera gear/Go Pro
- Extra batteries
- Small first aid kit
1. Nogalito Eco Park
This waterfall hike will take you about an hour in each direction from the Nogalito Eco-Park parking lot. The trail starts & stops often along the way, so expect to walk in or along the river for a good part of the journey. I hiked this in flip-flops, but I recommend closed-toed tennis shoes for beginner & intermediate hikers.
The best spot to begin this hike is in the small town (pueblo) of El Nogalito where the Eco-Park begins. The bus will not take you to this spot, so if you get off at the bus stop expect to walk for a good 25 minutes before you get to the entrance of the park, then an hour to the first waterfall. You can always Uber or taxi to here from centro for around 150 pesos.
On the map:
Tips & Highlights:
The halfway point is bordered by these magnificent rock walls! Lined above by a lush green forest & the bright sun, it was a breathtaking day of adventure & exploring.
Everybody say cheese! During rainy season (July-Oct) this pathway is full of water and harder to walk through. This photo was taken in mid-July and the water was low.
Strong jungle vines hanging down that mis amigos are monkey-ing around on.
The waterfall is slippery, but the toughest can climb it. Above it is another gorgeous swimming hole & several other waterfalls a few kilometers ahead.
2. Palo Maria
Difficulty: Moderate to Intense
This hike varies in options. There are a total of 7 waterfalls to see on this hike, however depending on your skill level you may only be able to reach one or two... the challenge is yours!
Take the orange bus to the Palo Maria beach stop, then hike up the mountain from there. The hike follows between the river & hotel Garza Blanca, with a mostly rocky riverbed so I recommend closed-toed shoes. .
After a roughly 45 minute hike over large rocks & a dried up riverbed, you'll reach the first waterfall & swimming hole shown above, frequented by locals who do awesome cliff diving off the rocks into the pool.
On the map
Tips & Highlights:
Above the first swimming hole is this rock wall that reaches a height close to 50 feet. In order to reach the next waterfall, you must conquer it. The rocks are slimy & the cable that is bolted to guide you is slippery in your wet, clammy hands, but it's worth it.
There are a few spots where there is nothing to hold on to & no where to step, so I only recommend this to experienced climbers. The locals, however, use this rock as a jumping point right into the swim hole - bare foot & ballsy.
This is the second waterfall you reach after you've conquered the rock wall. There is rumored to be 7 waterfalls in total, however I've only made it to the first two. Each has their own rock walls to overcome & would require a full 10 hour hiking day to be home by dusk.
Now, please excuse me for a moment, I need to pull out the old bucket list and add the other 5 waterfalls...
Ok, I'm back!
The clear water swim holes were cool, clean & refreshing after our rigorous hike through the jungle & over rocky cliffs. The water is deep enough to jump into without worry & clear enough to snorkel. The earlier you arrive the better - there will be many less visitors in your way.
A day definitely deserved.
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Getting to Yelapa is half the fun! This is a full day trip that will have you traveling by foot, bus & water, still costing less in transportation fee's than most all day excursions around the world.
Once you're on the orange bus in centro, ask your driver to let you know when you've arrived in Boca de Tomatlan. Once there, you'll be approached by several people asking if you need a boat ride to Yelapa, Las Animas, Playa Colomitos, etc. The prices are about the same no matter who you choose, so I wouldn't waste the energy trying to negotiate. You'll pay between 60-80 pesos per person for a round trip ticket, varying during different times of the year.
Tips & Highlights:
Yelapa is a charming little town, with culture as close to old Mexico as you can find in this part of Jalisco. Your boat will arrive at the center of this crescent beach, where you'll be greeted by the locals offering beach chairs, umbrellas & icy cold cerveza. Follow the beach headed south & look for the entrance to the path of the waterfall that will be hiding in between two houses. Don't be afraid to ask someone to point you in the right direction.
I consider this an easy hike because the path is paved the entire way, lined by adorable little houses & stunning Mexican architecture. And though this is rather easy hike, it is straight up the mountain & can be very hot in the middle of the day. Early morning is the best time to start any hikes in Mexico to avoid the heat, foot traffic & dusk.
Take the opportunity to stop & get some good pictures of all the local wall art you'll see along the way. There is usually a couple ladies that have set up stands to sell their homemade jewelry, pottery, artwork & other nifty little trinkets you might want to bring home.
Arriving at the waterfall is the end of the road, but when it's flowing it is beautiful. You can swim in the small pond below it & take the opportunity to get some great shots of your experience. This waterfall is best if seen between May-Oct to ensure there is enough rain run-off to make it worth the hike.
4. Chico’s Paradise
Chico's Paradise, an off the beaten path eco-tour hot spot that features two restaurants, zip lining & a killer swim hole. I've rated it as a very easy hike because you enter the eco-park almost immediately after you step off the bus & follow the restaurants & boardwalks down to the river.
On the map:
Tips & Highlights:
This cute little photo worthy bridge lays above the river, where you can look down to see the waterfalls & look up to watch this zip liners zipping by.
This little waterfall is the perfect spot to dive off of, the water is deep & cool & it's easy to climb to. We were sitting having lunch at one of the restaurants when we saw the locals doing this. Great entertainment!
The smooth rocks indicate that the river water can get pretty high some parts of the year. We visited in mid June & the water was pretty low.
The over haning rocks are a great spot to relax, get a tan, drink a couple beers while zip liners fly above your head, admiring all that Chico's Paradise has to offer.
5. The Falls at Playa Colomitos
This small waterfall is hidden in the hills behind playa Colomitos on the popular nature hike that runs from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. The hike from Boca to Colomitos takes about an hour, riddled with natural root-built staircases, breathtaking color contrasts & lush jungle. It's a rigorous hike, so be sure to bring good shoes, bug spray, sunscreen & swimwear.
Boca de Tomatlan
On the map
Tips & Highlights:
There are a few signs & maps to guide you along the trail from Boca de Tomatlan to Playa Colomitos. Each star on the map represents your current location. There are two paths to take to get to the beach, one that mostly follows the ocean & the other that is more inland. I've only hiked the ocean side so far, but the views are truly spectacular.
Be sure to bring a lot of water with you on this hike, it's rather rigorous for beginner hikers. Always start your hikes as early in the day as you can. If you make it all the way to Las Animas, you will be able to purchase lunch & drinks from the beach bars, but I recommend bringing extra snacks.
For those who are too exhausted to hike home or want to spend more time enjoying the beaches & falls along the way, you can catch a water taxi back to Boca de Tomatlan or even all the way to Los Muertos Beach in Puerto Vallarta for under $100 pesos.
Contrary to popular U.S. propaganda, Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest cities in the world, and recently ranked the safest city in Mexico by AARP.
Each of these hikes are protected eco-parks, safe for the visitors & focused on conserving the wildlife & culture of Mexico.
There are wild cats & crocodiles in the jungles of Mexico, but don't often frequent the areas of these falls. Be mindful on your journey & watch your step & you will be ok.
For tips & advice on how to stay safe while traveling abroad, refer to my safety tips here.