Scuba Diving in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is a Beach Resort City located in Jalisco, Mexico. But before it became a tourism-driven economy, six important steps were taken by the Mexican government to make Puerto Vallarta a major tourist destination, namely:
- resolving land disputes;
- extensive US media coverage;
- transportation improvements;
- status elevation from Municipality to a City;
- showcased a new City Image;
- massive development on resort hotels
We believe that all these influences had made scuba diving in Puerto Vallarta a lot easier and enjoyable in the recent years, not to mention the already vibrant reefs of Puerto Vallarta which is your main ingredient for an incredible underwater adventure.
Diving Conditions in Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta is considered as the leading tourist destination on the Pacific coast of Mexico when it comes to scuba diving. Most of the dive sites are located within the Bay of Banderas, while some sites are located in offshore islands.
Dive sites within the bay are popular with newbie divers as these sites are protected from strong current while offshore sites are for experienced divers wishing to go for a mild drift dive.
Boat diving is popular in Puerto Vallarta. While speed boats are often used nowadays, some dive operators still use wooden panga boats for the reason that it gives you more leg room especially when you do the backroll entry.
When it comes to diving in a perfect condition, November to May is considered as the best months to go diving in Puerto Vallarta. These are the months that the surrounding waters are warm with temperature averaging at 84°F (26°C) and at its calmest.
Underwater visibility is generally clear in Puerto Vallarta where it can reach 30 meters (100 feet). However, this condition can slightly deteriorate during the winter months as the waters are naturally loaded up with microorganisms in an event called the algal bloom.
Despite having somewhat turbid visibility due to high plankton population, this, in turn, has attracted large filter feeders that feed on them and has become an added attraction to your underwater adventure - the whale sharks and manta rays.
Best Dive Sites in Puerto Vallarta
For purposes of geographical bearing and ease of locating the dive sites, we will assign Banderas Bay as our main reference point.
1. Marietas Islands
Location: Northwest offshore from Banderas Bay
Formerly the ground zero for military bomb testing, Marietas Islands is now a national park where all its resources are now protected under Mexican law. As a result of the bombings, Marietas Islands is filled with cracks and crevices both on land and water where you can clearly see these depressions when you go diving courtesy from its crystal clear waters.
Your entry point is right on top of the reef that slowly fringes down to the deep. At the tip of the slope, you can go deep diving following a vertical limestone wall that drops all the way down to 75 feet (22 meters) deep and ends in a sandy seafloor filled with massive boulders. During your 45-minute underwater time, you will see a lot of tropical fish like moorish idol, snappers, breams and surgeonfish where each type of fish swims in groups called a school.
Side trip after diving:
- Do not forget to visit Playa del Amor (also called as Hidden Beach or Beach of Love) which is a sun-drenched crater within Marietas Islands that is filled with fine white sand
- Whale watching - just in case you were not able to see whales or dolphins on your way to Marietas Islands, you can always request your boat captain to take you to the nursing and breaching grounds of the humpback whales.
2. El Morro
Location: Northwest of Marietas Islands
Located on the outskirts of northern Banderas Bay is a secluded rocky protrusion popular for experienced scuba divers. You will start diving by plunging in the water near the rocky walls of El Morro. Regardless of where the current leads you, you will arrive at one of the many underwater caves.
In general, El Morro has a cave entrance on each side of the island and a small cavern in the central portion. Most of the cave's wall, especially the ones near the entrance are encrusted with sea fans and sponges with the visible population of red shrimps crawling within this unique ecosystem.
Drift diving is a popular fad when you are not inside the cave where you can ride along mild to moderate current. As you cruise along with the current, you will never miss seeing the thick school of jacks or the passing by of giant manta rays, which in most of the times, will come close to your dive group as they are often interested in our presence.
3. Los Anegados
Location: in between Marietas Islands and El Morro
A small rocky protrusion in between Marietas and El Morro is another famous site for experienced divers. It has a similar bottom topography with El Morro, except that it doesn’t have any underwater caves. Instead, you will be exploring archways and overhangs filled with marine critters like gobies, soldierfish, and squirrelfish.
At the edge of this overhang is a drop off that leads to 30 meters (100 feet) deep where many have considered this as the highlight of the dive - shark interaction. But not the aggressive species, only the gentle nurse shark.
4. Los Arcos
Location: South end of Banderas Bay
Los Arcos is a small protruding granite island located in between Mismaloya beach and Las Gemelas Beach. You can quickly identify this island courtesy from the substantial natural arch carving on the base that has created an opening. Since 1984, it has been declared as a national marine park which allowed its marine resources to flourish in abundance.
When you go diving in Los Arcos, you will see that it has uneven underwater terrain. Your entry point will usually start at the shallow sandy area that leads to a large coral mound. At the edge of the mound is a small wall that drops to a depth of 40 feet (12 meters) and ends in a sandy bottom where several smaller mounds can be found. This micro mound has created an underwater trail where you can swim in between rocky structures while interacting with tropical fish like angelfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, and pufferfish. You can also interact with large marine inhabitants like the spotted eagle rays and sea turtles.