Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Beach, Deadman's Beach or Beach of the Dead, the reason for this sinister name further down in this article) is the most popular, the best known and the most visited beach in Puerto Vallarta.
You'll find it south of the Malecon and the Cuale river. The first part of the beach in the Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta) between the Cuale river mouth and Venustiano Carranza street (where you can find Daiquiri Dick's) is called Olas Altas beach and south of Venustiano Carranza it's called Los Muertos beach.
This beach is very popular among families, the locals, and visitors from the neighbor cities and states.
Visitors that enjoy the local culture also hang out here as do the expats, it's a lively place, full of traditions and a great place to drink a beer by the edge of the sea, with your feet in the sand and just watch the, now famous, sunsets.
The spectacular pier was finished and inaugurated in 2013, so now the place is a fun mix of old and new, traditional and modern, we recommend you visit it and find out what we are talking about.
There are three different explanations for the sinister name (Deadman's Beach or Beach of the Dead).
This beach was located near a ranch called "Las Peñas" (the original name of the town) where gold and silver from the Cuale mines in the Sierra would be embarked, one day the local Indians ambushed the crew of transport ship killing them all and leaving the beach covered with dead men, thus, Playa Los Muertos.
Now with a little bit of Hollywood influence, the legend now even includes pirates. Instead of Indians, now it was the pirates that were responsible for the slaughter, they ambushed the muleteers that brought the minerals up from the Sierra, thus, Playa Los Muertos...
The last version of the reason for the name and the one that seems to be the correct one is that the beach was a sacred cemetery of the local Indians. This was first noticed when residents started building by the beach and started digging up bones in ceramic pots, a local Indian tribal custom when they buried their dead. The most recent evidence provided by Archaeologist Dr. Joseph Bode Mountjoy Harris of the University of North Carolina supports this last theory.
This is all very interesting, but Los Muertos beach is mainly the top attraction in Old Vallarta, the beach is crowded compared to the rest of the beaches in Pto. Vallarta and even the Bay area, but that also means that if you enjoy people watching, you'll have fun here: vendors, activities, food, beers, parasailing, a swim in the ocean (the waves aren't big), build castles in the sand with your kids, stroll downt the beach to El Pulpito or Las Pilitas, the list goes on.
Then you can also enjoy the restaurants, bars, and cafés, at night there are quite a few very good ones right there on the beach. You can enjoy a gourmet dinner right here, a romantic one too with the famous Vallarta sunsets and now with the colorful and impressive pier as a backdrop... picture perfect!
El Púlpito at the end of Los Muertos beach
Walk down the beach and visit the original Seahorse statue at Las Pilitas, continue down the beach over El Púlpito and visit Las Amapas Beach during the day, you can even enjoy a picnic there, something we think is very romantic.
Los Muertos is certainly not a beach for those looking to relax and get away from it all, but if you want action, sun, sand, food and lots to do, this is it, the heart of it all.
Excerpt from History of Los Muertos Beach
By Professor Carlos Munguía Fregoso, a Puerto Vallarta Historian.
"On the hills east of Playa Los Muertos lived the fishermen who, every morning before sunrise, would come down with sails and oars over their shoulders to go fishing. One of them, "El Gaviota", had a "chirito" - a dug-out canoe - that, for a few pesos, he would rent to the young boys learning to be sailors.
At the foot of the hills, there were several "palapas" - palm-frond huts - such as Cloro's or Murillo's where coconuts, soft drinks and the occasional glass of "raicilla" were sold. Farther to the south the leafy manzanilla trees provided shade for most visitors, but some unfortunate swimmers developed a severe rash from being near the tree.
Los Muertos Beach is the most popular beach in Puerto Vallarta. Up until the 1960s, it was the favorite place for Vallarta families and their Sunday picnics. They would gather in the shade of a palm-frond lean-to and eat the tacos they had brought from home in straw baskets, or the tacos that they bought on the beach, adorned with a little bit of shredded cabbage and seasoned liberally with "Tomatlán" sauce.
While the adults, sitting in beach chairs, or reclining on woven palm mats, chatted, the children, under the ever-vigilant eyes of their parents, would play in the bay's crystalline waters.
During those years, the only water that ran into the bay was the water from the palapa belonging to Cloro because he had showers there. The water came by gravity-flow from Las Canoas (up along the Cuale River) and was only used to rinse salt and sand off the bathers. Instead of the unpleasant smell of gasoline and sun-tan lotion, the beach was fragrant with the smells of salt-air breeze.
Sunset at Los Muertos
At the end of the 1950s, when more tourists began arriving in Puerto Vallarta, the local authorities tried to change the name of the beach. They suggested names like "Las Delicias" (The Delights) and "Playa del Sol" (Sun Beach), but tradition won out and to this day it's still Los Muertos Beach. Many people are curious with regard to the name of the beach and how it came about, a name that, oddly enough, native Vallartans associate with happy childhood memories, not with funerary events."
When reminded of his life and work as a Vallarta historian, Mr. Munguía rekindled:
"Memories are leaves carried by the Autumn winds, deep scars created in time by past experiences, the sun's reflections and ghosts of days gone by. They are music that delight you in those slow hours far from what we love. They are the happiness of a man that remembers the years he lived in Vallarta".
Professor Carlos Munguía Fregoso passed away December 6th, 2004.
Nice views of Los Muertos Beach in Old Vallarta