Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican beach resort town that sees millions of tourists each year. As one of the most enticing coastal destinations in the country, it offers sandy beaches, picturesque streets, stylish restaurants, and the popular malecón (boardwalk). For the more adventurous, there’s always scuba diving.
The Pacific Coast of Mexico is not exactly a top diving region within the country - unless you’re willing to travel to the remote islands or visit the Baja Peninsula, but Puerto Vallarta does stand out as the best diving destination along the mainland coast. The water around Puerto Vallarta is filled with corals, anemones, multicolored fish, jellyfish, and other sea creatures. Divers also enjoy a diverse and interesting topography that includes everything from caves to underwater mountains and reefs.
Los Arcos. Photo by Waywuwei
For the best visibility and warmest waters, June through October are the ideal months to travel to Puerto Vallarta, especially if you are a beginner.
To see the pelagic species and dive the offshore sites, then it would be best to visit anytime from November to May. The seas are calm but there may be some occasional rain showers. Whale sharks may appear during this period, too.
The water temperature around Puerto Vallarta ranges from 21° C/70° F during the winter to 29° C/84° F during the summer, peaking in August and September.
The intensity of the current varies from dive site to dive site and it is typically stronger around Los Arcos.
The underwater visibility in Puerto Vallarta is in the 15-meter (50-foot) range.
There are plenty of places where one can scuba dive around Puerto Vallarta, but the most famous dive location is Los Arcos, a protected area comprised of a series of rocky islets. Since fishing is illegal in the area, sea life is abundant. The dive sites are teeming with life that includes bucket-list animals like giant manta rays, spotted eagle rays, and sea turtles. Caves, arches, and tunnels have created the perfect playground for scuba divers.
Along the southern side of the Banderas Bay lies Majahuitas, a picturesque dive location with giant boulders and a variety of fish. Despite not being a protected marine park, it is not overcrowded with tourists and the impact of humans remains small. Nudibranchs, garden eels, octopus, and spotted eagle rays are among the highlights of the area. Large manta rays have also been spotted here.
Located on the edge of Banderas Bay, El Morro is a series of rock pinnacles where you can do some great wall, cave, and tunnel diving. Marine life is incredibly diverse, with everything from seahorses and octopus to dolphins and sharks, as well as some of the biggest eels you can see. However, El Morro is not for everyone; due to the strong currents and depth, it is suitable for experienced/advanced divers.
The Marietas Islands Marine Reserve is another untouched paradise that features an underwater mountain range. This small group of islands is a protected national park since the ‘60s thanks to the involvement of conservationist Jacques Cousteau. The clear waters, volcanic formations, tunnels, arches, spires, and caves have created an amazing diving location where tropical fish and giant manta rays abound.