Mismaloya is the beach where it all started, a beach that changed the future and destiny of a whole Mexican town, from a small picturesque sleepy fisherman town to a large world-renowned tourist destination. Read more history.
Before John Huston's arrival to Puerto Vallarta, prospecting locations for the upcoming movie "The Night of the Iguana" in 1963 and then Mismaloya Beach, the town and the area was just a typical one by the sea, known by a few adventurous artists and travelers.
Some may wish it had stayed that way, more so Huston, who had unwittingly made the place famous, later on, moved further down the coast to Las Caletas to avoid the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the developing city.
When the movie director and the Hollywood movie stars were chosen for the film production arrived, everything changed for the little town, the world media arrived, Vallarta started to appear on the map, even more so when some of the stars, and the director himself, chose to make the town their home and stay there for years.
As you can imagine, this beautiful beach is now quite famous in Puerto Vallarta, and, as stated, was the main set for the movie "The Night of the Iguana", a John Huston movie based on the work of Pulitzer winner theater playwright, Tennessee Williams, that starred Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner.
Puerto Vallarta in the early 1960's
It was the film, the famous director and the torrid and at the time scandalous real-life romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that overnight transformed Puerto Vallarta from a fishing village, only known to locals, into a striking and picturesque Mexican destination and eventually into the world-famous tropical destination it is today.
John Huston directing "The Night of the Iguana"
Mismaloya itself is both a small village (the name is derived from a Nahuatl word Michmaloyan that means "place where you can catch fish with your hands") and a small sandy beach on a beautiful jungle-fringed cove, 9 miles south of Puerto Vallarta (20 minutes by bus) located at the point where the Mismaloya river runs into the Pacific Ocean.
Located between Conchas Chinas and Boca de Tomatlán, just past Los Arcos National Marine Park. See the map.
You'll find several humble restaurants here, mainly small palapas at the edge of the sea that offer cold "cervezas" and fresh grilled fish, on the other end of the cove there is a large resort, Barceló Puerto Vallarta, that in the past was known as "La Joya de Mismaloya". For some time now what remains of the Iguana movie set is no longer open to the public. There seems to be some work in the area, so maybe it'll open up in a newly renovated format, so we hope.
Another famous movie was shot nearby, further up the valley from Mismaloya beach, the 80's action movie "Predator", with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The area used for the movie was at El Eden, they also did some shots of the heroes arriving on what is Boca de Tomatlán.
So the tropical lure of Mismaloya has lots to offer, now it's time for a 21st-century movie in the area, any bidders?
As with all beaches in Jalisco, Mismaloya has its own special charm and offers quite a few attractions for all tastes and ages. It's a beautiful place that is created by the Sierra Madre Occidental hills that end up in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Mismaloya has a unique beauty, which made it become a favorite among tourists and locals. It's surrounded by jungle, where the Mismaloya river meets the sea and is approximately 900 ft (300 meters) long (some say 500 meters, time to get out our measuring tape).
A beautiful setting of sand, sea and palm trees, surrounded by the mysterious mountain jungle that is populated by a surprising variety of birds, armadillos, deer, jaguars, pumas and many other species (read more about Puerto Vallarta's biodiversity), all this makes an exceptional backdrop for Mismaloya.
This beautiful beach with gentle and clear emerald-green water is also a favorite for those who enjoy sports such as Stand-Up Paddle (SUP), scuba diving, water skiing, and sailing. The golden sand is of intermediate grain, not very soft, but not as rough as what's found on the beaches in Yelapa. You will find yourself cleaning your swimsuit from time to time, though.
Half a mile north of Mismaloya and in the sea you'll spot the ecological reserve of Los Arcos, this set of granite rock islands are inhabited by various aquatic species and birds and is a favorite for snorkelers, scuba divers and day cruises in the bay, the park is clearly visible from the beach at Mismaloya. There is an astounding variety of colorful sea life to be found underwater in the Arcos area.
Los Arcos Marine Park
If you choose to just relax and enjoy the sun or the shade of a palm tree and soak in the view and the tropical weather, enjoy it with a delicious cocktail and some good sunblock cream, if you don't tan easily. There several restaurants that offer good sea food and fish dishes, they also share their beach chairs, bathrooms, showers and parasols if you eat and drink with them.
If you want some more action, take the road that goes up the valley by Barceló, after walking some 300 yards you'll first find a Tequila factory, Mamá Lucía, where they offer a tequila tour and tasting and some 700 meters further along you'll find the Vallarta Zoo, where you, unlike normal zoos, are invited to touch and pet the animals (not the dangerous ones though). If you are a real hiker or have some type of vehicle you can also drive to El Eden, which we've already mentioned.
To get to this beach you have to start off from Puerto Vallarta's romantic zone, at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Constitución streets is the bus stop if you want to use public transport. There you take the orange buses marked Mismaloya / Boca. They charge around half a dollar, a very reasonable amount if you ask me. Another option is to take an Uber or taxi, they will take you to the same place that is in front of the Barceló Hotel, a few steps from the bus stop, you will see some stands that offer tours and activities, in between these and the Barceló, to the right, there is a cobblestone street that takes you directly to the beach, along the river edge, there is no way to get lost, it's about 600 feet from the highway to the beach itself.
If you choose to drive to Mismaloya, you need to follow Highway 200 South, once you leave the Old Town (Viejo Vallarta / Romantic Zone) the road runs between the hills on the left and the ocean on your right, the road is curvy but paved and is not a dangerous drive at all. Once you are passing Los Arcos (on your right, the large rock formations in the sea), the next valley and cove are Mismaloya, take a right before the tour stands by the Barceló resort, follow the cobblestone road to the right to the beach. We recommend you go early to the beach so you can find parking and avoid haggling with the locals over space.
As you can see, Mismaloya beach offers various options for the active tourist, as well as those that only come to relax. So if you want to relax a bit, enjoy film-like scenery (well, it’s been in a movie…), to reminisce the halcyon days when the beach was a hidden and secluded gem, only accessible by sea, the beach of the famous hot scenes (for its time) that John Huston captured in his movie, then it’s time to add to Mismaloya to your list of Puerto Vallarta attractions.