One of the many reasons Jalisco is such a wonderful place to visit and live – aside from the human element of culture – is that it has some of the finest beaches in the world. The perpetual buzz of Puerto Vallarta’s restaurant and party scene will continue to draw travelers but the best beaches are found outside of the city. It would be a shame to travel all this way and not leave the all-inclusive resort. The finest Jalisco beaches require a little bit of adventure.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Puerto Vallarta but traveling just a few minutes south of the city you will find crystal clear waters and remote enclaves. The coast of Jalisco is almost as diverse as the rest of the state. Puerto Vallarta is the second largest city in the state of Jalisco. Just a few hours away, there are completely virgin beaches on the Pacific coast with immense natural beauty.
Remote fishing villages preserve important contributions to rural Mexican culture. Seafood just tastes better with your toes in the sand and Jalisco has a fine culinary tradition that is worth exploring off the beaten path.
I have lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco since 2009 and the beach is a big part of why I love living here. Even before I moved here, I spent a lot of time exploring the coast of Mexico looking for surf. Now that I have a family we spend a little more time in the resort area but my favorite type of beach has always been remote. The more off-roading the better. I want to help you find the right coastal areas for your needs from luxury hotels to remote camp sites.
An Overview Of The Best Beaches In Jalisco
The state of Jalisco is divided into 12 different regions of which two are coastal. The Costa-Sierra Occidental Region includes Cabo Corrientes and Puerto Vallarta. The Costa Sur Region includes Cihuatlán, La Huerta, and Tomatlán.
Because there are so many beaches in Jalisco I am going to organize them by municipality from south to north finishing with Puerto Vallarta. I have a detailed article about the beaches in Puerto Vallarta so this article will only briefly mention some of my favorites in that municipality. I want to focus on the lesser-known towns along the Costa Alegre.
Up until recently, most of the Costa Sur and Costa-Sierra Occidental regions of Jalisco were off the grid. There was very little development from Colima up to Puerto Vallarta.
In 2023, Governor Enrique Alfaro inaugurated a highway from Autlan de Navarro to Villa Purificación and Chamela that took 125 years to complete. Costa Alegre is set to become a major tourist destination over the next ten years. Both the federal and state governments have infrastructure projects planned to build an ecologically focused destination.
I keep hearing rumors that politicians like Marcelo Ebrad have purchased large tracts of land and are spending more and more time in the region. That says that the area is safe.
With further ado, let’s have a look at the most stunning beaches in Jalisco.
Best Beaches In Jalisco Map
It is about a four-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad but there are dozens of amazing places to stop along the way.
Ciuhuatlan Municipality Jalisco Beaches
Ciuhuatlán is the smallest municipality along the Costa Alegra. It runs from the Colima state line through most of the Melaque Jungle. This includes Barra de Navidad, San Patricio Melaque, Cuastecomates, and some hard-to-access beaches in the Melaque Jungle.
This area has a lot of history and was very important to the Spanish crown in the 16th century.
1. Barra de Navidad
After Puerto Vallarta, Barra de Navidad is the most famous beach town in Jalisco. It sits right on the southernmost point of the Jalisco coast. There is a large natural harbor that has been used since the Spanish era. In fact, this is where the Spanish built their ships to launch the Asian trade routes in the 16th century.
Once the trade route was established, the port of Acapulco eclipsed Barra de Navidad but there is a lot of history around here.
The small town of Barra de Navidad is little more than a sand bar. Surfers play in the small waves next to the jetty while families play in the calm waters in the lagoon. There are plenty of sport fishing charters leaving from the small marina.
The region is famous for excellent Jalisco-style food. The zarandeado whole fish at Restaurante Colimilla is worth the drive alone. It is easily one of the best restaurants in Barra de Navidad. Technically, the restaurant is in the state of Colima but the state line runs down the hightide mark so if you get a table on the beach you will be in Jalisco.
There is a water taxi that shuttles tourists around the lagoon and to the Grand Isla Navidad Resort. The resort is owned by one of the most important families in Jalisco who built The Autonomous University of Guadalajara and the luxury Andares development in Zapopan.
Personally, I love the Grand Isla Navidad Resort but I know some people who call it a monstrosity because it is so much bigger than everything else in the surrounding area.
My wife interned here in college and it was where we took our oldest son to the beach for the first time. It is a special place that I would like to return to with the kids as they grow.
The resort is older but has aged well. It isn’t run down but still has some 1990s technology like phones in the bathroom that come off as funny and dated. It was built with high-quality materials, has lots of fine tile work, and the grounds are majestic. There are enormous parota trees that look to be more than 100 years old.
Barra de Navidad is easily one of the best beach towns in the state of Jalisco and needs to be on your list when deciding on your next vacation.
2. San Patricio Melaque
More often than not you will hear people call San Patricio Melaque just Melaque. The town is located on the far side of the bay from Barra de Navidad but they are separated by a small lagoon. Melaque is bigger than Barra de Navidad and there are more accommodation options.
One of the first things you will see in Melaque are the ruins of the Hotel Casa Grande which was destroyed by a large earthquake in 1995. I can’t fathom how nothing has been rebuilt in this stretch of prime real estate in almost 30 years.
The beach in Melaque is nice but the shorebreak makes it rough for little kids during much of the summer months. There are a number of beachfront restaurants serving seafood and a great time.
There is a nice boardwalk on the southwest section of the beach
Cuastecomates is a tiny town with one of the top beaches in Jalisco. The beach is famous for being wheelchair accessible and one of the first beaches in Mexico designed specifically for people with mobility issues. The crystal-clear waters are calm and perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Little kids will love playing on the dark sand beach.
There are only a few places to stay in Cuastecomates but the La Quinta Gran Bahía Cuastecomates is one of the best family resorts in the area. It is right on the beach with great pools, parks, and seafood. The rooms are older but they are clean and ideal for families that will be spending all day in the water covered in sand. Much like the beach, the resort is very welcoming.
A little way to the north of Cuastecomates is a small beach called El Ranchito that has a super fun surfing wave. If you happen to be in the area and there is swell, you should check it out.
La Huerta Municipality
La Huerta represents the most important stretch of new developments and luxury resorts in the Costa Alegre. It includes the Manzanilla Bay, Tenacatita, Costa Careyes, Las Islas Cocinas, and Punta Perula.
Costa Careyes is one of the most elite beaches of Jalisco for Hollywood celebrities and European royalty. Besides having one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, the area was developed with an eye for modernist design with a colorful Mexican touch. The rich and famous do not need to worry about paparazzi around here.
4. Playa Tamarindo
Playa El Tamarindo is a perfect example of how the big resort hotel groups are betting on Jalisco. The Four Seasons opened a new ultra-luxury resort in 2021. While the resort was planned well before the pandemic, the big opening was blunted by ongoing travel restrictions.
The best way to describe the beach at Tamarindo is secluded. People come here for the beach and not the towns. Celebrities looking to get their pictures taken opt for Punta de Mita so they can make day trips to Sayulita.
Tamarindo is about enjoying turquoise waters in the Pacific Ocean and the vibrant shades of green that decorate the Melaque Jungle. It is a great place to relax in luxury.
The beach is not easily accessible to the general public. Unless you are staying at the luxury resort, the only other way to get in is by boat.
5. La Manzanilla
La Manzanilla is not the same place as Manzanillo. It is only one letter apart but they are two very different places. Manzanillo is the port city in Colima one hour to the south. La Manzanilla is the largest town (still very small) in Tenacatita Bay.
In recent years the area has become more and more popular for camping. There is a crocodile sanctuary on the north end of town and an ultra-luxury Four Seasons resort on the south end of town.
The town of La Manzanilla is where many campers stop to pick up supplies once they are already in the bay.
6. Boca de Iguanas – Best Jalisco Beach For Camping
Boca de Iguanas sometimes referred to as Boca Beach, is in the back of the Tenacatita Bay on the far side of the estuary from La Manzanilla. While La Manzanilla has a little town with a mini supermarket, a couple of restaurants, and even an art gallery, Boca de Iguanas is almost exclusively campsites.
The area is popular with RV campers because many of the campsites have been designed to accommodate larger vehicles. The campsites have electricity, bathrooms, and a couple of simple restaurants. This is by far the most popular camping beach in Jalisco because the waves are usually small and it is very well taken care of.
Playa La Morita, Tenacatita Beach is the very tip of the bay and requires an extra 20 minutes to get there from La Manzanilla. This is easily one of the most beautiful beaches in Jalisco with golden sand and blue water.
Tenacatita is a peninsula so there is water on both sides of the point. While there is some wild camping, it is more of a day-use beach. The campsites are not as nice as the ones in Boca de Iguanas.
There are a bunch of simple food cart/palapa restaurants set up on the beach with shade umbrellas, tables, and chairs. The food is just ok and many of the restaurants are set up to sell more alcohol than food.
The highlight of Tenacatita is the tide pools. At low tide, the reef is exposed and there is a wealth of marine life to explore.
8. Arroyo Seco – Secuded Jalisco Beach
The beach at Arroyo Seco is little more than a gravel turn-off from the Puerto Vallarta-Manzanillo highway. There are no signs, just a bus stop. I don’t know if calling Arroyo Seco a town is the correct term. Maybe a village or a ranch. It looks like there are no more than 30 families living next to some orchards and 200 meters away from the beach. There is no cellular service and no wifi.
There are two main beaches accessible from Arroyo Seco: Playa Chica and Playa Grande. Playa Chica has no development. It is a day-use beach with some fun beach break waves that boogie boarders will enjoy. Playa Grande is on the south side of town and has some simple restaurants, beach houses, and a campsite. There is an estuary on the south side of the beach with some trails that lead to Tecuan Beach and the Villa Siempre Domingo Hotel.
Arroyo Seco is an ideal place for nature lovers because the development is so small.
9. Costa Careyes – Most Exclusive Jalisco Beach
Costa Careyes is a legendary section of the coast that helped put the Costa Alegra on the map. Founded in 1968 by a visionary Italian real estate promoter named Gian Franco Brignone, the property has been a magnet for Hollywood and European royalty. It was revealed to the rest of us in Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 Kill Bill: Volume 2 and only recently attracted mainstream attention.
The Costa Careyes region is made up of a number of bays, dramatic cliffs, and inspired architecture. The people who developed Careyes love art and there are a number of modern pieces like the Copa del Sol that will leave you thinking about your time there for years to come.
Careyitos Beach is the most elite beach with two mansions perched on either side of the bay: Sol de Oriente and Sol de Occidente. There are beach clubs residences, and a polo field right up on the beach.
The complex includes 13 km of beachfront property and 35,000 acres of the Chamela-Cuixmala Reserve. The whole idea was to create exclusivity by limiting development.
Every accommodation option is a good choice. In many instances, it isn’t about money but about who you know. You should jump at the opportunity to stay here. Careyes is a special place.
10. Punta Pérula
Pérula is a classic Mexican fishing village that stands in stark contrast to Costa Careyes. The buildings are simple, only the main road is paved, and there is still a lot of farming in the vicinity. Most people coming through this way are planning boat rides out to the islands.
The beach is very nice with light-colored sand, crystal clear water, and excellent seafood restaurants lining the shore. There is a small boardwalk on the west side of the beach where you will find the main concentration of restaurants. The boardwalk runs along the river up to the docks where dozens of water taxis ferry tourists out to the islands in the bay.
11. Islas Cocinas
The Islas Cocinas have one of the most beautiful beaches in Jalisco if not all of Mexico. The water is crystal clear and moves between shades of turquoise and marine blue as it gets deeper. The main beach on the big island has a sand bar connecting two parts of the island with gentle waves splashing from both sides.
Most of the people that I know who have visited both the Islas Cocinas and the Islas Marietas say that Islas Cocinas is better because you can hang out all day. The boat rides to the Islas Marietas are much more restricted in their time.
Tours of the Islas Cocinas are designed to enjoy the beach during the day, set up an umbrella, and bring a cooler. There are three different beaches on different sides of the main island including one nude beach called La Escondida.
The Chamela Bay is a national treasure. It is a little out of the way to get here but it is worth the effort. Pérula is two and a half hours south of Puerto Vallarta, five hours from Guadalajara, or two hours from Manzanillo, Colima. This is the type of beach that will make you fall in love with Jalisco.
The Tomatlán Municipality is rural, to say the least. It has a good deal of coastline but there are no towns of any significant size on the coast. There is a very famous religious pilgrimage to the Pueblo Mágico of Talpa de Allende every year in the spring. As you head inland from the coast many people are surprised to see maple forests and virgin landscapes.
12. Chalacatepec Airport
The administration of Governor Enrique Alfaro has been putting a lot of emphasis on the sustainable development of the Costa Alegre. The Chalacatepec Airport is a small local airport that is working to give more options to the rural community.
The beach at Chalacatepec is a nature preserve and sea turtle camp. The area is stunningly beautiful but the waves are rough and it isn’t the best place to let the kis swim.
Watching the sea turtles scamper into the water is a cool event that most people will enjoy.
Majahuas is an estuary where the Tomatlán River empties into the sea. There is a sea turtle camp with some ramshackle shacks and lots of palm trees. There are no accommodations other than camping around here.
Cabo Corrientes Municipality
Cabo Corrientes is one of the most isolated municipalities in Jalisco. Many of the best beaches are accessible only by boat. The most popular beaches of Tehualmixtle and Mayto require a long drive down a bumpy dirt road.
There is a saying about tourism in the Baja California wine country, “Good roads, bad tourism. Bad roads, good tourism.” The fact that it takes a little more effort to get there thins out the crowd and rewards those willing to work for it.
Tehualmixtle is another classic Mexican fishing village with a great restaurant. The beach is nice with clear water and small waves. there are a couple of very simple hotels and a guy who does fishing charters.
When you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Downtown Puerto Vallarta, think about heading out to the ranches. These are the typical towns that haven’t changed much in the last 50 years. High season in Puerto Vallarta doesn’t mean much out here.
Mayto is just a kilometer away from Tehualmixtle and has the best hotel in the region. If you are driving all the way out here it is worth hitting the beach at both Mayto and Tehualmixtle. The white sand beach and turquoise water are just begging you to go for a swim.
The biggest draw in Mayto is the sea turtle camp. Sea turtle eggs are collected from a large section of the coast to protect them from predators and incubate them until they hatch so the baby turtles can be released into the wild. Watching hundreds of baby sea turtles scurry to the ocean will make your day. Everyone gets excited to see the baby sea turtles but most of the programs are designed for kids.
16. Faro de Cabo Corrientes
The southern tip of Banderas Bay is quite a contrast to the northern tip at Punta Mita. The Rivera Nayarit has a different development model. Much of Cabo Corrientes was communal Native land without the golf courses and mega-resorts.
The lighthouse at the tip of Cabo Corrientes holds an important purpose. Bahia de Banderas is a major thorofare for recreational vessels. From pleasure cruisers to sport fishing, the entrance to the bay is full of rocks and this lighthouse has helped many of them navigate safely for decades.
It is not an easy trek to make it out here but there are some lovely beach coves on either side of the lighthouse.
Both Playa Corales and Playa Bonita seem to be frozen in time. They are smaller beaches but have the same white sand and clear water that dominates Cabo Corrientes.
Be careful of the surf because it can be wild. Banderas Bay is sheltered from the open ocean swell that Cabo Corrientes blocks. The tip of the peninsula is a focal point for swell energy during the summer.
17. Yelapa Beach
Visiting Playa Yelapa is one of the most sought-after tours from Puerto Vallarta one would think that it was in Puerto Vallarta. Water taxis whisk vacationers from the Los Muerto Beach Pier across the bay to this favorite destination in Cabo Corrientes.
The town of Yelapa sits in the back of a medium-sized bay with beautiful blue water. Lush jungle greenery covers the surrounding hills and a respectable waterfall feeds an estuary on the beach.
While there are no roads leading to Yelapa, there is more beachfront development than many of the beaches on this list. The restaurants on the beach have better shade umbrellas and lounge chairs than food.
Quimixto is probably the most underrated beach along the water taxi route from Los Muertos Beach Pier. Both the hotels and the restaurants in Quimixto are better than anything in the region. There is a small waterfall just up the river and one of the best surf spots in Puerto Vallarta.
I don’t think you can call Quimixto a town. There is a dock, a bar, a couple of restaurants, and hotels. Quiet would be an understatement.
If you surf, this is one of the best beaches in Jalisco that needs to be on your list.
19. Playa Las Ánimas
By far the most popular hike in Puerto Vallarta is the Boca de Tomatlá to Playa Las Ánimas route. It is a challenging hike that is so rewarding because of the beach at the end. Beer never tasted so good after a strenuous hike.
There are no roads to Playa Las Ánimas so vacationers must walk in or take a water taxi from the pier. There are a number of water sports operators offering banana boat rides and renting kayaks.
Restaurant El Caracol is a massive thatched roof palapa with better drinks than food. You are paying for the location which is beautiful and sure to enjoy.
Puerto Vallarta Municipality
I have written extensively about the best beaches in Puerto Vallarta and the Banderas Bay. The beaches that I have listed here are some of the finest in Jalisco.
The beaches in Puerto Vallarta are different from the rest of the state. The vibe is urban rather than rural. In my opinion, the beaches within the city are usually not as enjoyable as the beaches outside of the city.
20. Boca de Tomatlán
Boca de Tomatlán is more of a harbor than a beach. This is one of the main departure points for water taxis shuttling vacationers out to the beaches in Cabo Corrientes. It is a good deal cheaper to take the water taxis from Boca de Tomatlán than it is from the Playa de los Muerto Pier.
Besides, the small harbor, there is a great beach over here. There is very little swell energy that makes it all the back into this corner of the bay so it is perfect for little kids.
The beach is small, and may not be as exciting as the beaches in Cabo Corrientes but I know some people that have been staying in this area and loving the local beach.
21. Mismaloya Beach
The name Mismaloya conjures up images of a more romantic era. It is impossible to talk about Mismaloya without mentioning the 1964 John Huston film that was shot here. Ava Gardner and Richard Burton were superb in the film but it was the sheer presence of Elizabeth Taylor on the set that drove everyone crazy.
The movie put Puerto Vallarta on the map. Richard Burton has just finished filming Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. The pair ended up getting together even though they were both married to other people.
The salacious details of two of Hollywood’s biggest stars shacked up in a no-name fishing village in Mexico was more than the tabloids could handle. Paparazzi from across the globe descended on Purto Vallarta hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple.
You have to visit Mismaloya while you are in Puerto Vallarta. Watch the movie before you come and make sure to get some pictures.
22. Playas Gemelas
This is my favorite beach in Puerto Vallarta. We have some friends with an apartment in the tower and this is where we spent our honeymoon. I make it a point to visit Playas Gemelas no matter where I am staying in Puerto Vallarta. My dream is to buy one of those million-dollar houses across the street in Sierra del Mar.
Gemelas means twins in Spanish. There are two small beaches on either sie of the Girasol Condominium building. Public beach access is directly north of the Girasol parking lot. Parking is tight around here so a lot of people like to take the bus.
What makes Playas Gemelas such a beautiful beach is the clear water, the white sand, and the tall shade trees. It still feels secret when compared to the masses of people on Playa de los Muertos.
23. Conchas Chinas
Conchas Chinas is just steps from the Zona Romantica and Playa de los Muertos but it is a world apart. The cliffs at Amapas separate the party scene of los Muertos from the quieter Conchas Chinas.
The beach at Conchas Chinas has a lot of reef mixed in with sandy beaches. Low tide exposes the reef and the tide pools are a lot of fun to explore.
Hotel Conchas Chinas and Linda Mar are both great places for families to stay. The beach is perfect for kids.
24. Playa De Los Muertos – Best Jalisco Beach for Parties
Playa de los Muertos is the party beach in Jalisco. It sits directly in front of the Zona Romantica tourist neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta. It is one of the most famous LGBT+ friendly vacation destinations in the world.
Unfortunately, it is also one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in Mexico. Developers appropriated the neighborhood and built some massive multi-use properties with more bars than were needed.
While I love walking the boardwalk and eating at great restaurants it isn’t the best family beach. The area has a reputation for excessive drinking and open drug use.
25. Las Glorias Beach
Las Glorias is Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone. You can find some of Puerto Vallarta’s most treasured institutions like Los Tules Resort, Fiesta Americana, Secrets, and the Sheraton Buganvilias.
I have only stayed here once but I love the location. It is right across the street from the local Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods with the best food in town. We walked everywhere from the Sheraton.
My only complaint is the quality of the beach is just ok. With so many world-class beaches so close, we used the pool at the hotel and went elsewhere to play at the beach.
Jalisco Beaches Frequently Asked Questions
These are a few of the most common questions that I see about the beaches in Jalisco.
Are there beaches in Jalisco?
Yes, two of Jalisco’s twelve regions are on the coast. The beaches of Jalisco run from Puerto Vallarta down to Barra de Navidad. There are five diverse municipalities loaded with incredible beaches.
Is Nuevo Vallarta a part of Jalisco?
No, Nuevo Vallarta is the old name for the municipality of Nuevo Nayarit which fall in the state of Nayarit. The beaches of Nuevo Vallarta border Jalisco but fall on the north side of the Ameca River, which divides Jalisco from Nayarit.
How far is Guadalajara from the beach?
Guadalajara is over 200 km from the beach. The closest beaches to Guadalajara are in the States of Colima and Nayarit. Puerto Vallarta is the closes beach to Guadalajara as the crow flies but the Sierra Madre Mountain range makes the drive very slow.
It takes about 4 hours to drive from either Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta or Barra de Navidad.
What is the best airport to get to the beaches in Jalisco?
Puerto Vallarta is the best airport to access the Jalisco beaches. Manzanillo is another option but it is a much smaller airport with fewer flights. Flying into Manzanillo may require a layover in Mexico City.
Final Thoughts On The Best Jalisco Beaches
I love writing these articles. Jalisco is a special place and these articles allow me to really dive into the history and culture.
Many people say that Jalisco is representative of the Mexican national identity because of tequila, mariachi, and rodeo. I would like to add the Jalisco beaches to the list of what makes Mexico such a rad place to travel and live.
If you are willing to explore, there are a lot of incredible experiences. Don’t get me wrong, the all-inclusives are cool too but they miss the heart of Jalisco. I recommend renting a car and exploring a bit. I don’t think you will regret it.