isla marietas

Nestled in the crystalline waters of the Pacific Ocean, a short distance off the coast of Nayarit, Mexico, lie the Marietas Islands (Isla Marietas).

These uninhabited islands have captured the imagination of travelers worldwide, thanks to their stunning natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and the allure of their hidden treasures.

As a protected national park, the Marietas Islands offer a sanctuary not only for diverse marine life but also for visitors seeking the serene beauty of nature, undisturbed by the bustle of modern life.

The importance of the Marietas Islands as a travel destination cannot be overstated.

Their unique ecological system hosts a variety of species that are rarely seen elsewhere, making it a prime spot for snorkeling, bird watching, and simply basking in the untouched splendor of the earth’s natural wonders.

The islands’ significance extends beyond their ecological contributions; they stand as a testament to successful conservation efforts, balancing human interest with the imperative of preserving natural beauty.

Among the islands’ most enchanting features is the Hidden Beach (Playa del Amor), a secluded paradise accessible only through a long water tunnel that opens up to a stunning beach enclosed by lush greenery and rocky formations.

The allure of this hidden gem, along with the islands’ overall mystique, has made the Marietas Islands a must-visit destination for eco-tourists, adventure seekers, and anyone looking to escape to a world of natural wonder.

In this comprehensive travel guide, we will explore the many facets of the Marietas Islands, offering insights into how to make the most of your visit to this extraordinary archipelago.

From the vibrant ecosystems beneath the waves to the conservation efforts that keep this paradise pristine, join us as we uncover the beauty and significance of the Marietas Islands.

The Appeal of Marietas Islands

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Natural Beauty and Unique Geography

The Marietas Islands are a marvel of natural beauty and unique geography. Formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, these islands boast rugged landscapes, stunning rock formations, and secluded beaches, including the renowned Hidden Beach.

Surrounded by the azure waters of the Pacific, the islands offer breathtaking vistas that are a magnet for nature lovers and photographers alike.

The dramatic contrast of the lush greenery against the backdrop of the ocean creates a paradise that seems almost untouched by human hands.

Biodiversity and Ecological Significance

The ecological significance of the Marietas Islands is profound.

The area around the islands is teeming with marine life, making it one of the best spots in Mexico for snorkeling and diving.

Visitors can expect to see a vibrant array of fish, coral species, manta rays, dolphins, and even humpback whales during the winter months.

Above water, the islands serve as a critical habitat for numerous bird species, some of which are endemic to the region.

This rich biodiversity is not just a draw for tourists; it’s a vital part of the islands’ appeal, showcasing the intricate balance of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Historical and Cultural Significance

While primarily known for their natural wonders, the Marietas Islands also hold historical and cultural significance.

The islands were historically used for military testing in the early 20th century, which led to their unique topography.

However, thanks to international outcry and the efforts of prominent figures such as Jacques Cousteau, the islands were declared a national park, protecting their rich heritage and natural beauty.

This history adds a layer of intrigue to the islands, highlighting the journey from a place of human impact to one of conservation and ecological reverence.

UNESCO Recognition and Conservation Efforts

The global significance of the Marietas Islands is underscored by their UNESCO recognition as part of the Biosphere Reserve of the Bahía de Banderas.

This designation is a testament to the islands’ unparalleled natural value and the ongoing efforts to preserve their habitats.

Conservation efforts on the Marietas Islands are a priority, with strict regulations in place to limit human activity and ensure the protection of the islands’ delicate ecosystems.

These efforts ensure that the islands remain a sanctuary for wildlife and a beacon of successful conservation practices.

The appeal of the Marietas Islands lies in their extraordinary natural beauty, rich biodiversity, and the concerted efforts to preserve these treasures for future generations.

As a testament to the power of natural wonder and ecological significance, the Marietas Islands stand as a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to experience the beauty of the world in its most pristine form.

How to Get There

isla marietas

Closest Major Cities and Airports

The gateway to the enchanting Marietas Islands is through the vibrant city of Puerto Vallarta, located on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Puerto Vallarta’s International Airport (Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport, PVR) serves as the nearest major airport, offering flights from various parts of the world.

Once in Puerto Vallarta, travelers can embark on the last leg of their journey to the Marietas Islands, which are situated about an hour’s boat ride away.

This city not only serves as a convenient entry point but also offers a glimpse into the rich cultural tapestry of the region, making it an ideal starting point for your adventure.

Options for Reaching the Islands

Visiting the Marietas Islands requires a bit of planning, as access to the islands is strictly controlled to protect its delicate ecosystem.

The most common way to reach the islands is through organized tours, which are available in two main types: private tours and group tours.

Private tours offer a more personalized experience, allowing for a tailored itinerary and often, a more intimate interaction with the islands’ natural wonders.

Group tours, on the other hand, are a more budget-friendly option and provide a social setting to meet fellow travelers.

Both types of tours typically include activities such as snorkeling, bird watching, and a visit to the Hidden Beach, depending on the conditions and regulations in place at the time of your visit.

Best Times to Visit

The Marietas Islands are a year-round destination, but the best time to visit often depends on what you wish to see and experience.

The dry season, running from November to April, offers sunny days and optimal conditions for snorkeling and diving, with clearer waters and abundant marine life.

This period also coincides with the humpback whale watching season, offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness these majestic creatures.

The wet season, from May to October, brings warmer temperatures and occasional rain, which can affect visibility underwater but also results in fewer tourists and a more private experience.

Regardless of when you choose to visit, the Marietas Islands’ beauty remains undiminished, promising an unforgettable adventure.

The journey to the Marietas Islands is as much a part of the experience as the destination itself.

From the bustling streets of Puerto Vallarta to the tranquil waters surrounding the islands, each step brings you closer to a natural paradise that awaits to unveil its secrets.

With careful planning and a spirit of adventure, your visit to the Marietas Islands will be an enriching journey that cherishes and respects the natural world.

Activities on Marietas Islands

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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

The crystal-clear waters surrounding the Marietas Islands are a snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, boasting an impressive array of coral reefs and vibrant marine life.

As you plunge into the underwater world, you’ll be greeted by colorful schools of fish, intriguing coral formations, and perhaps even playful dolphins or majestic sea turtles.

The islands’ protected status ensures that the marine ecosystem remains pristine, offering an unparalleled opportunity to observe the wonders of the ocean up close.

Whether you’re a seasoned diver or trying snorkeling for the first time, the waters around the Marietas Islands promise an unforgettable experience.

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

For those who prefer to stay atop the water’s surface, kayaking and paddleboarding offer serene ways to explore the perimeter of the Marietas Islands.

Paddling through the calm, azure waters provides a unique perspective of the islands’ dramatic rock formations and secluded beaches.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to spot marine life from above, such as rays gliding under the surface or fish jumping out of the water.

These activities are accessible to visitors of all skill levels, offering a peaceful yet engaging experience in nature.

Bird Watching

The Marietas Islands are not only a sanctuary for marine life but also a haven for bird enthusiasts.

The islands are home to numerous bird species, including the Blue-footed Booby, Red-billed Tropicbirds, and Magnificent Frigatebirds.

The untouched nature of the islands provides a perfect backdrop for bird watching, with several spots offering ideal vantage points to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or simply appreciate the beauty of wildlife, the avian residents of the Marietas Islands are sure to captivate.

Exploring the Hidden Beach

Perhaps the most iconic attraction of the Marietas Islands is the Hidden Beach (Playa del Amor), a secluded beach nestled within a crater, accessible only through a water tunnel.

Visiting this beach requires a permit and is often included as part of guided tours due to the delicate nature of its ecosystem and the effort to preserve its untouched beauty.

The journey to the Hidden Beach is an adventure in itself, requiring a swim through the tunnel at low tide.

Once inside, the beach offers a secluded paradise, surrounded by lush vegetation and crystal-clear waters, making it a must-visit for any traveler to the Marietas Islands.

Conservation Efforts

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History of the Islands’ Protection

The Marietas Islands have a storied past, transitioning from areas once impacted by military testing in the early 20th century to becoming a symbol of environmental conservation.

The transformation began when international and local activists, including the renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, advocated for the protection of these unique ecosystems.

Their efforts were successful, leading to the cessation of testing and the establishment of the islands as a national park.

This history highlights the power of conservation efforts and sets a precedent for protecting natural wonders worldwide.

Current Regulations

In recognition of the delicate balance of the Marietas Islands’ ecosystems, the Mexican government has implemented strict regulations to safeguard its biodiversity.

These measures include limiting the number of visitors to the islands each day and designating protected zones where no human activity is allowed.

Such regulations ensure that the impact of tourism is controlled, allowing the islands’ natural beauty to thrive for future generations to witness and enjoy.

These visitor limits and protected zones are crucial in preserving the Marietas Islands’ pristine conditions.

Role of Tourism in Conservation Funding

While regulations are essential for conservation, tourism also plays a significant role in the islands’ preservation efforts.

The funds generated from tour operations contribute to ongoing conservation projects, research, and the maintenance of the islands’ natural habitats.

This economic support is vital for the continued protection of the islands, illustrating how responsible tourism can aid in the sustainability of natural sites.

Visitors to the Marietas Islands, therefore, become active participants in the conservation of this unique ecosystem.

How Visitors Can Contribute to Conservation

Visitors to the Marietas Islands can contribute to the conservation efforts in several ways.

Adhering to the guidelines set by tour operators and respecting restricted areas are fundamental actions.

Additionally, tourists are encouraged to practice “Leave No Trace” principles, such as taking all trash back to the mainland, not disturbing wildlife, and avoiding the use of harmful sunscreens that could damage coral reefs.

By choosing responsible tour operators who contribute to conservation efforts and educating themselves about the islands’ ecosystems, visitors can ensure their impact is positive, preserving the Marietas Islands for generations to come.

Planning Your Visit

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Entry Requirements and Permissions Needed

Access to the Marietas Islands is regulated to protect its delicate ecosystems. Visitors must obtain a permit as part of a guided tour to enter certain areas, including the Hidden Beach. These permits are limited in number to minimize human impact, so it’s crucial to book your tour well in advance. Ensure that your chosen tour operator is authorized and follows all local regulations to guarantee a visit that supports conservation efforts.

Tips for Booking Tours and Accommodations

When planning your trip to the Marietas Islands, selecting a reputable tour operator is key.

Look for providers that emphasize eco-friendly practices and have positive reviews for their conservation support.

Since the islands are accessed from nearby cities like Puerto Vallarta, consider staying in accommodations that also practice sustainability.

Booking in advance is especially recommended during peak tourist seasons (November to April) to secure the best options and rates.

What to Bring

Preparing the right gear can make your visit to the Marietas Islands more enjoyable and eco-conscious. Essential items include:

  • Biodegradable sunscreen: To protect your skin while also preserving marine life.
  • Snorkeling or diving gear: Some tours provide these, but bringing your own ensures a perfect fit and reduces the risk of using single-use plastic equipment.
  • Reusable water bottles and snack containers: Stay hydrated and snack responsibly without contributing to plastic waste.
  • Appropriate footwear: Water shoes for swimming and sturdy shoes for exploring the islands.
  • Hat and sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun during your adventure.

Safety Tips

While the Marietas Islands are a stunning natural paradise, it’s important to respect the environment and prioritize safety:

  • Follow your guide’s instructions: Whether it’s regarding how to interact with wildlife, where to swim, or how to navigate the islands.
  • Respect wildlife: Keep a safe distance from animals both in the water and on land to avoid disturbing their natural behaviors.
  • Stay within designated areas: To protect both yourself and the islands’ ecosystems, stick to the paths and areas outlined by your guide.
  • Be mindful of the ocean conditions: Pay attention to currents, tides, and your own swimming capabilities.

Accommodations Near Marietas Islands

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Overview of Accommodation Options

The area surrounding the Marietas Islands offers a diverse range of lodging options to suit every preference and budget.

From luxury resorts that provide world-class amenities and breathtaking ocean views to eco-lodges that focus on sustainability and harmony with nature, there’s something for everyone.

Budget travelers can also find comfortable hotels and hostels that provide excellent value, allowing you to save your resources for exploring the islands.

Recommendations for Staying in Nearby Areas

While the Marietas Islands themselves are uninhabited and protected, nearby coastal towns offer convenient and charming accommodations.

  • Punta de Mita: Located at the northern tip of Bahía de Banderas, Punta de Mita is a luxury resort area offering upscale accommodations, gourmet dining, and exclusive beach clubs. It’s an excellent base for those looking to explore the Marietas Islands in style.
  • Sayulita: A vibrant surf town known for its laid-back atmosphere, colorful streets, and artistic community, Sayulita offers a variety of accommodations from boutique hotels to private villas. It’s perfect for travelers seeking a mix of beach life, culture, and access to natural attractions.

Tips for Booking

  • Best time to book: For the best rates and availability, especially during the peak season from November to April, it’s advisable to book your accommodations several months in advance. Last-minute deals can be found in the off-season but might limit your options.
  • Considerations for proximity to attractions: Choosing a stay in towns closer to the departure points for Marietas Islands tours, like Punta de Mita, can save you travel time and offer more convenience for early departures.
  • Check for sustainable practices: Many accommodations in the area are committed to sustainability. Look for lodgings that use renewable energy, water conservation measures, and other eco-friendly practices.

Unique or Sustainable Lodging Options

The region around the Marietas Islands is pioneering in eco-tourism, with several accommodations leading the way in sustainability without compromising on comfort or luxury.

Eco-lodges and green hotels often offer unique experiences such as organic gardens, nature tours, and workshops on sustainability, allowing guests to enjoy a vacation that aligns with their values.

Whether you’re looking for the indulgence of a luxury resort, the intimacy of an eco-lodge, or the affordability of a budget hotel, the areas surrounding the Marietas Islands cater to every need.

Travel Tips and Best Practices

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Local Customs and Etiquette

Understanding and respecting local customs and etiquette is essential for any traveler. In the communities near the Marietas Islands, like in much of Mexico, politeness and friendliness are valued. A few tips include:

  • Greetings: A simple “hola” (hello) and “gracias” (thank you) can go a long way in showing respect for the local culture.
  • Dress appropriately: When visiting local towns or rural areas, dress conservatively out of respect for local norms.
  • Be patient: Time may be perceived more fluidly here than you’re used to. Patience and flexibility are key to enjoying your experience fully.

Sustainable Tourism Practices

The Marietas Islands are a pristine natural area, and sustainable tourism practices are crucial to keeping them that way. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Leave no trace: Take all trash with you and dispose of it properly. Avoid leaving any sort of footprint that could harm the environment.
  • Support local businesses: Whenever possible, eat at local restaurants, shop in local stores, and use local tour operators. This helps ensure that your tourism dollars benefit the community directly.
  • Use eco-friendly products: Opt for biodegradable sunscreen, insect repellent, and other products that won’t harm the marine life or environment.
  • Stay on marked paths and respect barriers: This helps protect the natural habitats and ensures that wildlife can thrive without human interference.

Emergency Information (Local Contacts, Health and Safety)

Before embarking on your trip, it’s crucial to be prepared for any emergencies:

  • Local emergency numbers: Familiarize yourself with the local emergency numbers for fire, police, and medical services. In Mexico, you can dial 911 for emergencies.
  • Healthcare facilities: Know the locations of the nearest healthcare facilities to your accommodation and the islands. Travel insurance that covers medical treatment and evacuation is highly recommended.
  • Stay informed: Keep up to date with local news and weather forecasts, especially during hurricane season or if participating in water-based activities. Your tour operator should also provide safety briefings and updates.


The Marietas Islands stand as a testament to the stunning beauty that nature can offer—a place where the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean meet an abundance of marine life, unique geological formations, and secluded beaches that seem almost too magical to be real.

From the awe-inspiring Hidden Beach to the vibrant coral reefs teeming with life beneath the waves, the islands offer a range of experiences that are as enriching as they are exhilarating.

This travel guide has traversed the many facets that make the Marietas Islands a must-visit destination, highlighting not only the natural and cultural treasures awaiting discovery but also the importance of sustainable and responsible tourism practices.

The islands are more than just a travel destination; they are a delicate ecosystem that demands our respect and care.

marietas islands

How do you get to Marietas Islands?

To reach the Marietas Islands, travelers typically start from Puerto Vallarta, a popular coastal city in Mexico.

From there, you can book a tour with a licensed operator, which is the only way to visit due to the islands’ protected status.

Tours usually depart from Puerto Vallarta or the nearby towns of Nuevo Vallarta, Punta de Mita, and sometimes Sayulita, offering a range of options including snorkeling, bird watching, and visits to the Hidden Beach.

The tour operators handle the necessary permits and logistics for visiting the islands.

Can you snorkel at Marietas Islands?

Yes, you can snorkel at the Marietas Islands, and it’s one of the most popular activities there.

The islands’ marine protected areas are home to clear waters and abundant marine life, making them an ideal spot for snorkeling.

Visitors can explore vibrant coral reefs and encounter various species of fish, rays, and sometimes sea turtles.

Snorkeling tours are available and typically include equipment, making it accessible for both beginners and experienced snorkelers.

Can you go to Hidden beach Puerto Vallarta?

The Hidden Beach, officially known as Playa del Amor, is located within the Marietas Islands and not directly in Puerto Vallarta. Access to this beach is strictly controlled to protect its unique ecosystem.

Visitors can go to Hidden Beach by joining a licensed tour, which includes a boat ride from Puerto Vallarta or nearby areas to the islands.

Due to its popularity and the need for conservation, securing a spot on a tour that includes a visit to Hidden Beach requires advance booking and is subject to availability and weather conditions.

What animals are in the Marietas Islands?

The Marietas Islands are home to a rich variety of animal life, particularly birds and marine species.

Notable bird species include the Blue-footed Booby, Red-billed Tropicbird, and the Magnificent Frigatebird.

The islands’ marine protected areas harbor coral reefs and an abundance of fish, rays, sea turtles, and during certain seasons, humpback whales can be seen in the surrounding waters.

The diverse habitats make the Marietas Islands an important sanctuary for these species.

How long is the boat ride from Puerto Vallarta to Marietas island?

The boat ride from Puerto Vallarta to the Marietas Islands typically takes about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the type of boat and the specific departure location.

The journey not only leads you to the islands but also offers a chance to enjoy the beautiful vistas of the Bay of Banderas and potentially spot marine life along the way.

Where is the hidden beach in Marietas Islands?

The Hidden Beach, or Playa del Amor, is located on one of the uninhabited Marietas Islands, nestled in a crater created by volcanic activity.

This secluded beach is accessible only at low tide through a water tunnel that visitors can swim or kayak through, depending on the tour arrangements.

Because of its unique location and the effort required to reach it, the Hidden Beach has become a famous attraction for those visiting the Marietas Islands.

What animals will you see in Puerto Vallarta?

In and around Puerto Vallarta, you can see a variety of animals, especially marine species.

Dolphins and sea turtles are commonly spotted in the bay, and humpback whales can be observed during their migration season from December to March.

On land, you might encounter iguanas, various bird species, and the occasional opossum.

The region’s biodiversity extends to the surrounding jungles, where more exotic wildlife can be found.

Which marine animal is commonly found in the Marietas Islands?

One of the most commonly found marine animals in the Marietas Islands is the humpback whale, especially during their migration season from December to March.

Additionally, the islands’ waters are teeming with colorful reef fish, rays, and sea turtles, making them a fantastic destination for those interested in marine life.

The protected status of the waters around the Marietas Islands helps ensure these species thrive and are commonly observed during snorkeling and diving excursions.

isla marietas

(Island Expert)

Christian is a dynamic serial entrepreneur and a licensed real estate agent with a relentless passion for unlocking the potential of island real estate.Christian's expertise extends beyond entrepreneurship and property transactions.He possesses a profound expertise in crafting captivating content and persuasive copywriting tailored exclusively to the enchanting realm of island real estate.

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