Afternoon of Paradise at Playa Las Gemalas South of Puerto Vallarta

Play Las Gemalas, a small beach located 15 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta by bus, is a slice of heaven. With soft light-colored sand and silky clear water, this public beach is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

I found this beach by accident when google searching snorkelling in Mismaloya. I followed a few threads on trip advisor with then led me to Playa Las Gemalas, describing how beautiful it was and that it was about number 17 on the top list of things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

Getting there is easy with a few options. You can take a taxi or catch a bus like we did, for 8 pesos per person. The bus stop in Old Town is located on the corner of Basillo Badillo and Constitution street, right next to the OXXO. The bus is orange and white and will say Mismaloya on the windshield. This bus passes the beach as it heads to Mismaloya. Tell the bus driver you are going to Playa Las Gemalas and he will drop you off at the Best Western Plus. It’s about a 15 minute bus ride.

Busses going south, Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan, start from the South Terminal at Constitución and Basilio Badillo. For 80 pesos, you can't beat it.

Busses going south, Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan, start from the South Terminal at Constitución and Basilio Badillo. For 80 pesos, you can’t beat it.

I recommend picking up some snacks and water before your trip as the beach has very few vendors. Also, pack some towels, sunscreen and maybe a book if you like.

What you will need for an afternoon at Playa Las Gemalas: towels, sunscreen, book or iPod, sunglasses, snacks, water, cerveza and food if you are staying a long time as there are no vendors.

After the bus drops you off at Best Western Plus, walk back to Condominiums Playa Gemala and you will see a hidden staircase to the beach. The staircase is long and uneven so be careful. We counted, there are 110 steps but the prize at the end is worth it.

The bus drops you off at Best Western. Walk back to this condo complex.

The bus drops you off at Best Western. Walk back to this condo complex.


The sign to the entrance of the staircase to Playa Las Gemalas.

The sign to the entrance of the staircase to Playa Las Gemalas.


Staircase to heaven

Staircase to heaven


110 uneven steps to the Playa.

110 uneven steps to the Playa.

Once you get to the beach, find a shade spot under the tree to lay your towel down and head to the water.

Grab a spot under the tree for shade.

Grab a spot under the tree for shade.


Soft clean sand and silky clear water

Soft clean sand and silky clear water

Finding this beach was a wonderful surprise for us. I have never been to the Caribbean but I was told it was almost the same. We swam out quite far and were diving down, eyes open, and touching the bottom. The water is crystal clear and we could see nothing but light sand, even some sea shells. We also just floated on our backs, legs and arms spread like a starfish, letting the sun warm our face.

Cross the road to catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta. It comes frequently.

Cross the road to catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta. It comes frequently.

Venture outside of the tourist zone and head to Playa Las Gemalas. This little beach really is a great surprise and quite different from Los Muertos or other beaches right in Puerto Vallarta.

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Boca de Tomatlan

Man, when I’m at my home in Canada I find it so hard to write about Puerto Vallarta. The funny thing is not a day goes by where I’m not thinking of those scenic beaches, our beautiful condo and pool, the warm weather and the food…good lord, the food. Ok, I have to stop there or I’ll drive myself crazy.

Anyway, I’m sitting here at home watching House Hunters International on HGTV where a young man from Cranbook travels to Taiwan to pursue his dream of becoming a travel writer. What does that have to do with me? Well, nothing really other than it got me thinking of my neglected blog and devoted followers (all 9 of them) aching to be stimulated with my fantastic writing skills and adventures in Puerto Vallarta. You know who you are!

So I trundled upstairs to our office, opened up iPhoto and started going through my pictures of Mexico to get the creative writing juices flowing. And what popped out but Boca de Tomatlan of course! This small and authentic fishing village, located about ten miles south of Puerto Vallarta, is worthy of it’s own little post on “Part Time In PV”.

Street view in Boca

Street view in Boca

Shops in Boca

Shops in Boca

Now this little village was never on my bucket list but, since it was the pick up point to get to the Ocean Grill Restaurant and we were here anyway, why not explore? I highly recommend taking some time to peruse the few streets, have lunch with a cerveza or two and relax on its pleasantly quiet little beach. It’s a perfect day trip to escape the sometimes high energy Los Muertos beach in Puerto Vallarta. To get here, simply take one of the buses in Old Town that have Boca de Tomatlan or Mismaloya written on the front or side windows. We caught ours on the corner of Basillo Badillo and Insurgentes and paid a fare of 7 pesos.

Bus in Puerto Vallarta to Boca

Bus in Puerto Vallarta to Boca

I did a little reading up on this quiet little village and discovered that, even though I did not see any, Green Macaws and wild parrots live in the area. If you’ve read my other posts, which I’m SURE you have,  you’d have noticed I’m getting quite the collection of exotic bird pictures! Well, exotic to me and my fellow ex-pats that is.

Not a wild parrot or Green Macaw, but beautiful nonetheless

Not a wild parrot or Green Macaw, but beautiful nonetheless

Another interesting fact about Boca is that it’s located where the Horcones River empties into Banderas Bay; fresh water emptying into the salt water ocean. I’ll have to take note if the water feels less salty due to that. Next trip I’m bringing my swim trunks and will let you know!

Quiet beach to eat, drink and relax

Quiet beach to eat, drink and relax

Sayulita Day Trip

There are many excursions one can make in a day and if you have the time, I’d recommend heading north to a small town called Sayulita. This  small little fishing village is 25 miles northwest of Vallarta and draws surfers from around the world with its clean waters and rolling waves.

Sayulita beach

There are many ways to get to Sayulita from Vallarta and the one we chose was by bus. Cheap and reliable, the bus will get you there and back for $25 pesos. If you catch the bus from the airport, cross over the highway using the pedestrian bridge and you’ll see the Compestela bus thats white and green. You’ll see the name Sayulita written on the windshield so it’s easy to locate. The bus ride takes about 45 minutes so once you’re on, sit back and relax.

Sayulita beach

To catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta, head to the Salud Clinic located on the main road into Sayulita. Again, the bus ride is 25 pesos and about 45 minutes. They will drop you off at the major malls and if you want to get to Old Town just transfer onto a city bus for a fare of $5.50 pesos.

Do some shopping

Once in Sayulita you can head to the beach, maybe take a surf lesson, wander the streets and do some shopping or just relax and read a book. We didn’t know what to expect so we had some lunch and did some shopping before heading back to Vallarta. But I’d recommend bringing your swim trunks and a towel so you can go swimming.