Mismaloya is the beach where it all started, a beach that changed the future and fortune of a whole little Mexican town, transforming it from a small picturesque sleepy fisherman town to a large world-renowned tourist destination. Read more about Puerto Vallarta's history.
All the beaches in the State of Jalisco have their own special charm and endless attractions for all tastes and ages, but this time we'll concentrate on Mismaloya and its beach. It's a beautiful location that is the result of the fusion of the rolling Sierra Madre Occidental hills that fall into the warm Pacific Ocean waters.
Only some 9 miles down along the southern coast of Puerto Vallarta, you'll find this paradise-like beach (and is approximately 1000 ft / 350 meters long) where you can enjoy various activities that will surely brighten up your Mexican vacation even more.
Mismaloya itself is both a small village (the name is derived from a Nahuatl word Michmaloyan that means "the place where you can catch fish with your hands") and a small sandy beach on a beautiful jungle-fringed cove.
Before John Huston's future arrival to Puerto Vallarta when he arrived prospecting locations for the upcoming movie "The Night of the Iguana" in 1963, the town and the area was just a locally known little beach paradise by the sea, known only by a few adventurous artists and travelers.
There was no road from Vallarta to Mismaloya, there weren't even plans to have one, the only way you could get here is how you currently go to small towns further down south along the edge of the Banderas Bay.
Time has passed and now both John Huston and even "The Night of the Iguana" are starting to seem like ancient history. Though we still have Anjelica Huston and Danny Huston, John Huston's daughter and son, to remind us of this illustrious movie backdrop.
Even so, this beautiful beach still enjoys a bit of fame in Puerto Vallarta because it was the movie set for "The Night of the Iguana" in the mid-'60s, a John Huston movie based on the work of Pulitzer winner theater playwright, Tennessee Williams, that starred Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, and Ava Gardner.
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 immediately transformed Puerto Vallarta from a fishing village, that nobody knew about, into a striking and picturesque Mexican destination and eventually into the world-famous tropical destination that it is today.
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.
Though some may have wished it had never been discovered (even Huston, who unwittingly had made the place famous, complained about the change), the wheels were set in motion and Puerto Vallarta's bright future was further established by Francisco Medina Ascencio, the State Governor, who invested heavily in PV, the airport, highways, telephone lines and more.
John Huston, who initially established himself in town decided later on to move further down the coast to Las Caletas and avoid the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the developing tourist town.
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 northern part of the cove there is a large resort, Barceló Puerto Vallarta, that in the past was known as "La Jolla de Mismaloya", it's the only beachside hotel & resort here (there isn't space for more either).
You can walk all the way to the southern end of the beach and take the small trail under the arch along the edge of the bay. This was a road built specifically to run the bus that appears in the Iguana movie. Up the hill here to the left is where the remains of the Iguana movie are located.
It was open to the public up until the '90s, there was even a restaurant there, it's been closed for a long time. Now whatever 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 '80s action movie "Predator", with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was shot at El Eden, they also did some shots of the heroes arriving on what is now 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?
Though most people won't need much more than the beautiful setting of sand, sea and palm trees, the mysterious surrounding mountain jungle populated by a surprising variety of birds, armadillos, deer, jaguars, pumas and many other species (read more about Puerto Vallarta's biodiversity), where the Mismaloya river meets the sea, for some is just an exceptional backdrop for their trip to Mismaloya.
You'll immediately notice that this beautiful beach offers gentle and clear emerald-green water that is also a favorite among those that enjoy different watersports, for example, Stand-Up Paddle (SUP), scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing (not so common now), and sailing. The golden sand is of intermediate grain, not very soft, but not as rough as what you'll find on the beaches further south, like Yelapa. You will find yourself flushing out your swimsuit from time to time, though, unless it's very tight.
From the southern part of Mismaloya beach, half a mile north and in the sea you can see the ecological reserve of Los Arcos (also known as Los Arcos de Mismaloya). This set of granite rock islets are inhabited by an impressive variety of both land and aquatic species and is a favorite for snorkelers, scuba divers, in the past fishermen, and now mostly day cruises around the bay. There is an astounding variety of colorful sea life to be found underwater in Los Arcos (The Arches) area which is why there are tours that go there from the beach, this is a recommended family outing.
If you choose to just relax and enjoy the sun or the shade and soak in the view and tropical weather, don't forget to enjoy it with a delicious cocktail, "cerveza" and some good sunblock cream, if you don't tan easily. There several small rustic restaurants that offer good and fresh fish dishes and shellfish. 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, into the little town of Mismaloya. 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 yards further along you'll find the Vallarta Zoo, where you, unlike normal zoological gardens around the world, are actually invited to touch and pet the animals (not the dangerous ones though) and are provided with snacks to feed the animals (no more DON'T FEED THE ANIMALS signs).
If you are a real hiker or have some type of vehicle you can also drive to El Eden, which we've already mentioned is a beautiful location further up the road where they shot "Predator", the movie. Right beside it, there's another ecological park called Edenva, it offers a more natural and pristine experience, especially when you walk up the trail to the different and beautiful natural pools created between the boulders and the nice fresh creek.
It's also worth mentioning that Mismaloya is also a starting point for tours and trips further south. The beaches of Quimixto, Yelapa, Majahuitas and Las Animas, are not only wonderful and quiet but beautiful and idyllic, you should definitely take the time to visit them too, take into account that they are only accessible by sea.
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. Here you'll find a bus stop where the public transport buses start their trip down south.
You'll recognize them because they are orange and white and are clearly marked Mismaloya / Boca. They charge around $0.50 USD, a very reasonable amount if you ask me. If in doubt, just ask.
You can also ask the driver to tell you when you have arrived at Mismaloya, but a good tip is to know that when you pass the Los Arcos islets (on your right and in the sea), you are one mile from the beach.
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.
Mismaloya is 9 miles south of Puerto Vallarta (20 minutes by car, 25-30 minutes in public transport) 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.
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 on film…), 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.