If you are looking for adventure and exploration outside of the tourist areas around Puerto Vallarta, a day trip north could be just what you need! This adventure is not for the faint of heart, rather it is an idea for those who want to push outside of their comfort zone to see some truly beautiful scenery and experience real local life in coastal Mexico.
Playa Del Toro is a tiny, hidden beach in the municipality of Compostela in the state of Nayarit, about two hours north of Garza Blanca. This virgin beach boasts crystal clear turquoise waters, radiant sands, gentle waves, lush vegetation, impressive rock cliffs, and a small waterfall. It is only 200 meters long and 30 meters wide, and very private, due to the effort needed to reach it. You can swim, snorkel, hike, admire the landscape, and enjoy the waterfall and the magnificent view.
There are no restaurants, restrooms or services at Playa del Toro, so you will need to be prepared to pack in and pack out everything you require.
Getting There – The Drive
Highway 200 North to Los Ayala
You will need to drive north to the town of Los Ayala and then either hike or take a small boat to reach the hidden beach. This is a great adventure for those vacationers who rent a car in Puerto Vallarta, but it is also possible to take a bus, taxi or Uber. If you take a taxi or an Uber, it’s a great opportunity to practice your Spanish with the driver!
There are two different routes you can take, depending on whether you prefer a more leisurely trip up the coast, or the shorter, more direct route.
Head north on Highway 200 from Garza Blanca. You will pass through Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Mezcales and Bucerias.
Continuing from Bucerias, you can either continue north on Highway 200 straight to Sayulita (the shorter/inland route), or head west on Highway 200 through the coastal towns of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, Litibu and then Sayulita.
Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle or Sayulita are all good places to stop for lunch. All of the coastal towns have public beaches, but the beaches in Punta de Mita can be a little trickier to access. If you want to go to the public beach in Punta de Mita, you need to make sure to avoid the gated hotel zone, as only hotel guests are allowed in that area. The public beach in Punta de Mita can be found along the Anclote Avenue, which is the street the beach restaurants are on.
Continuing north along the coast from Sayulita, you’ll pass through the towns of San Francisco, Lo de Marcos, Monteón, and by turning left you’ll finally end up in the town of Los Ayala, which is your final destination. Total driving time from Garza Blanca to Los Ayala along the coast is 2 ½ hours. Total driving time when taking the shorter, inland route is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The beach at Los Ayala is family friendly, with crystal clear turquoise blue water, quite clean and not overpopulated. There are a few beach restaurants with palapas, umbrellas, tables and chairs on the sand. This is a great place for a family outing.
Getting There – The Hike
3 Hidden Beaches
If you are ready for more adventure, grab a bottle of water and some snacks and continue on to the three hidden beaches of El Beso, Vista Shambhala, and finally, Playa Del Toro.
All three beaches are only accessible by boat or by hiking. You can hire a small boat, or panga, on the main beach at Los Ayala to take you to the three hidden beaches, or you can walk there yourself through the jungle along a dirt trail.
If you choose to hike, look for the path going up the hill from the beach, to your left if you are facing the ocean.
The hike is about 30 minutes through the jungle, medium-level of difficulty. It is ok for children if they are used to hiking. Be aware that there are no services or facilities on this this trail.
After hiking for 5 minutes, you will encounter the first hidden beach, Playa El Beso. Continuing through the jungle walking for another 5 minutes, the next hidden beach is called Playa Vista Shambhala. This is a very tiny beach with sand and rocks.
Continue hiking about 30 minutes past Playa Vista Shambhala along the coast, and you will find Playa del Toro.
Keep right to stay on the coastal trail to get to Playa del Toro, or take the trail going up the hill to the left to reach a rock cliff lookout point called El Mirador de Playa del Toro. The view from atop the rock cliffs is amazing.
The total distance from Playa Los Ayala to Playa del Toro is 4 kilometers, or about 2 ½ miles.
If you understand Spanish, watch this video about the journey to these 3 hidden beaches.
Please remember to practice safety first, respect the natural environment, keep this magical place clean and free of trash, and enjoy your adventure!