Playa Los Muertos (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, between the river and Venustiano Carranza (where you can find Daiquiri Dick's) in what is called Romantic Zone (Old Vallarta) the beach, is called Olas Altas beach and from Venustiano Carranza to the south it's called Los Muertos.
The beach is very popular among families, the locals, and visitors from the neighbor cities and states.
Foreigners that enjoy the local culture also hang out here as do the expats, it's lively, full of traditions and a great place to drink a beer and watch the sunset.
Now with the new pier, the place is a fun mix of old and new, traditional and modern, you have to visit it and you'll see what we are talking about.
There are three different explanations for the sinister name the beach.
Version One: this beach was near a ranch called "Las Peñas" where gold and silver from the Cuale mines was later embarked, one day the local Indians ambushed the transport ship work crew killing them all and leaving the beach covered with dead men, thus, Playa Los Muertos.
Version two: with a little more Hollywood influence, even includes pirates, these were responsible for the slaughter, and they ambushed the muleteers that brought the minerals, thus, Playa Los Muertos...
Version three: The last 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 digging up bones in ceramic pots, a local Indian tribal custom when they buried their dead. The most recent evidence supported by Archaeologist Dr. Joseph Mounjoy backs this last theory.
This is all fun enough, but Playa Los Muertos is the top attraction in Old Vallarta, the beach is crowded compared to the rest of the beaches in Vallarta and even the Bay, 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.
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, so it's a gourmet dinner enjoying one of the famous and romantic Vallarta sunsets and now with the colorful and impressive pier too, picture perfect.
El Púlpito at the end of Los Muertos beach
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 bathers, 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 1960's, 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 1950's, 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 and Playa del Sol, 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