While planning activities in Perta Vallarta we explored various blogs and Trip Advisor articles on visiting Las Marietas as well. Like with most things when it comes to Vallarta, the options were limited. We ended up on a group tour, sharing seats with strangers, being entertained by the crew, drinking margaritas, and soaking in the sun. So that was nice and relaxing. Was the entire boat tour worth it? In full transparency, I wouldn’t do it again and would have rather paid a little more for a private boat. But seeing Las Marietas is something I would strongly recommend. At the end of this story, you can decide if the public tour is something you might enjoy as well.
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About the islands
Islas Marietas is uninhabited and protected. Only a small number of people are allowed to be in the area per day. No one is allowed to dock or step foot on land. The secret beach, which fronts the Instagram posts and tour brochures, is technically forbidden and can only be accessed by boat during low tide. Some tours, however, can take you there on an excursion. The original island formations were volcanic and rich with marine and land life.
In the 1900s Mexican military conducted a series of bombing tests on the islands. These explosions created new caves and rocky formations. After the national outrage, the government decided to close the island and protect it against any fishing, hunting, or human activity in order to preserve the corals and sea life. The island is stunning to look at from the distance. But the boats do get close enough to notice some of the seabirds nesting on the coast.
About the group tour
To see Las Marietas we went on the Eco Discovery Tour early Friday morning. The tour is operated by Vallarta Adventures and was a bit of a mess organizationally. The agenda did not include a pickup and overall was not very clear. I had a rough idea of what we were doing and just sort of went with it as the day went on. To start, we had to find our way to the marina and then stand in line to get checked in and pay a couple of additional city fees. A half-hour or so later, we boarded the boat.
Ten minutes into the ride we stumbled upon a couple of whales – a mother and a baby whale. With the rising sun as a backdrop, it was a great way to start the day. The boat ride was very rocky and breakfast was served while we were on the waves. Navigating up and down the stairs to get food or drink was challenging. On more than one occasion I was fearful of being thrown off the boat. A few people got very nauseous. As we began to approach the island the waves soothed a bit and everyone geared up to get off the boat for snorkeling.
Our second stop got canceled due to bad weather. To make up for a lost experience the tour crew decided to take us around Puerto Vallarta shore to see the coast while the members of the team put on a costume show on the boat front. There was no mention of the show in our vague agenda so we had no idea what to expect.
What we got was a set of short lip-sing and dress-up performances, and yet another lap dance for a birthday girl the crew picked out from the crowd. The birthday girl, let’s call her Brenda, had no hesitations in knocking down tequila shots with the dancers and took the tray of shots as a sign of an about-to-happen boat party. The rest of the audience, some still nauseated, sparingly took part in the tequila shooting but made no effort to move from their seats despite Brenda’s enthusiastic encouragement. We docked shortly and like strangers that we were people calmly found their way out of the marina.
A few tour options for your next visit
Expedia: Marietas Islands Discovery Tour*
Expedia: Puerto Vallarta Islas Marietas Eco Discovery*
A range of tour options can be found on Viator*
In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoVallarta19