If you travel south in the Banderas Bay (Bahía de Banderas), you’ll find a protected area, that through the years has become a regular attraction, not only for the different day cruise ships in Vallarta but also for those that enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling.
We are, of course, talking about the now famous Puerto Vallarta islands of “Los Arcos” (The Arches) or "Los Arcos de Mismaloya" (The Arches of Mismaloya).
Don't confuse "Los Arcos Marine Park" with "Los Arcos" on the Malecon, the latter are arches that are located in downtown Puerto Vallarta and are a tourist attraction right beside the main square. You can read about "The Puerto Vallarta Arches" in a separate article.
These small beautiful granite islands protruding from the sea surface, visible even from downtown PV, which are protected as a National Marine Park since 1984.
People visit Los Cabos in droves and include the typical boat trip to the arch they have on the tip of Baja California, here in Puerto Vallarta we have much more than one arch and you can even sail, paddle or maybe even swim through them! So stop visting Cabo :-) (just joking).
This beautiful Los Arcos National Marine Park is located out at sea between two beaches, Mismaloya beach, and Las Gemelas. At the park, you’ll find caves, deep tunnels, arches and a striking reef.
It is said that the waters around the islands are also the deepest in the bay, with a depth ranging from 9 to 480 meters (30 and 1,600 feet).
This wonderful place is also a protected area for various seabird species that breed there, some of these include penguins, various species of parrots, pelicans and other sea and land birds.
Mirroring the land-based cornucopia, marine life biodiversity in the sea around the park is also considerable, you'll really enjoy a snorkel or scuba dive in the area, the water is quite clear and you can see different species of fish, mantas, rays, sea turtles, pufferfish and other marine life.
Los Arcos is a place that is visited by many boats every day, they stop by this national park and all visitors have the opportunity to enjoy and marvel at the stunning scenery while doing their favorite activities.
After the tour in Los Arcos, ships continue their journey south so their clients can also enjoy the beautiful beaches that can only be accessed from the sea, such as Quimixto, Majahuitas or Yelapa beach.
In the past, not so long ago these huge rock formations were called Las Peñas (The Rocks), in fact, all of Puerto Vallarta was called that way, Las Peñas or Peñitas precisely because of these the large rock formations near the sea limits, and in years prior the name was “El Carrizal”.
It was close to these small islands that "The Night of the Iguana" movie was shot by director, screenwriter, and actor, John Houston, at Mismaloya Beach, you can actually see Los Arcos appear a few times in the wide shots from this 1964 movie.
The Los Arcos Marine Park is not the only one in the bay, there’s another one at the Marietas Islands, one of the world’s protected biosphere reserves established by the UNESCO.
The Marietas Islands are an archipelago consisting of four land masses: two islets and two islands. The first and largest is 130 feet high (43 meters) and 1500 feet (700 meters) wide. The second is 160 feet high (54 meters) and a mile wide, approximately.
You can enjoy a swim, scuba diving and snorkeling can also be practiced here, it is also very common to see people doing underwater photography and climbing up the cliffs.
Snorkeling in Los Arcos
Don’t miss out on this natural sanctuary that has virtually no contact with civilization and where you can find species such as humpback whales, dolphins, giant manta rays, seabirds, turtles, swallows and other birds that enjoy the protection of this archipelago.
If you are in your plans come to visit Puerto Vallarta or you're in this magical place, we recommend that you take the opportunity to get to know these wonderful and unique places where you can enjoy an unforgettable experience.
Scuba Diving, Los Arcos
So, if you are planning to visit Puerto Vallarta, or you already are here in this tropical paradise, take the time to visit and enjoy these marvelous and unique protected ecosystems, where you will get to know firsthand and in a real natural setting, the unique local nature and take home a memorable and enjoyable experience, plus lots of photos and videos to enjoy once and again.