Having recently returned from an eleven day vacation to Puerto Vallarta, I have nothing but positive things to say about the plenitude of things to see and do there. That being said, sometimes the busyness of this popular resort mecca can get a little overwhelming, particularly if you are the sort of person that likes to get away from the crowds and the bustle of city life and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the forest.
After a few days of shopping, crowded beaches, and about fifty lengths of the Malecon I was ready for an escape into nature, so I took to the internet to see if there were any local trails worth exploring. The first recommendation I stumbled across was a “hike” up to El Eden from the nearby village of Mismaloya. I convinced my wife and my mother-in-law to check it out, but it turned out to be nothing more than a long walk up a dirt road to a cool little restaurant located on the site they used to film some of the classic 80s action movie, Predator. A nice enough journey in its own right, but hardly the hiking experience I’d been looking for. Back to the old drawing board.
After more digging I came across another possibility: Hiking from the village of Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas. It was described as a moderate hike through forest, following the shoreline. My wife agreed to check it out, despite the fact that she hadn’t enjoyed our jaunt up to El Eden very much.
In order to get to the village of Boca de Tomatlan we caught the same bus that we’d taken to Mismaloya a couple of days previous. The bus to Boca is one of the orange and white ones, and the departure point is at the corner of Badillo and Constitucion, with buses leaving every eight minutes.
The bus ride lasted roughly 30 minutes, and it was impossible to miss our stop as Boca de Tomatlan is the end of the line for that particular route. We piled off, and headed down to the beach to find the trail head. We reached the sand and headed left to where the river flowed into the ocean. We peeled off our sandals and forded the river mouth, picking our path carefully to keep to the shallowest section possible. Note that this is a slow, lazy river and even though the tide was in it wasn’t exceptionally deep. Do not let this “river crossing” put you off considering the hike. It is a negligible inconvenience. Alternatively you can start in town rather than at the beach and cross the river by bridge if you so choose.
Once across the water we quickly found the stairs heading up and to the right and started our trek towards Las Animas. The first part of our journey saw a bit of climbing (up stairs) but nothing strenuous at all. The weird part was that we were seemingly walking through people’s properties at times, and though we didn’t encounter any property owners we did feel a bit conspicuous as we crossed their decks, and under their balconies as we made our way down the trail.
After a few minutes you get out of civilization and are enveloped by the canopy of forest. Though it climbs fairly high above the water the trail continues to hug the coastline, affording hikers magnificent ocean views. You continue to pass through the occasional property along the way and at times it isn’t 100% clear where to pick up the trail again. We managed to muddle our way through without taking a wrong turn.
Though wildlife isn’t anywhere near as abundant as what we’ve seen on our hikes in Costa Rica, we did come across one forest denizen on our trek. This iguana wasn’t about to concede the right of way for us and he seemed unfazed as we stopped within inches of him to take his picture.
Not much further on we began a relatively steep descent, heading down to the beautiful Playa Los Colomitos. It was still relatively early in the morning, and we certainly hadn’t worked up much of a sweat yet, but we still couldn’t resist taking a dip at this gorgeous beach. The beach is sheltered in a small bay and the water is calm, warm and crystal clear. There were several parrot fish cruising around in the shallows, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. It would have been cool to have some snorkel gear with us to get a better look. Maybe next time.
We spent about 20 minutes hanging out on the beach before gathering up our things and proceeding. The trail is easy to pick up on the other side of the beach with a relatively steep set of stone stairs clearly cut into the cliff-side. A couple of minutes of climbing brought us to a very rickety looking foot bridge. However, its appearance is deceiving as it is actually quite sturdy, and there are hand rails for those that don’t trust the trestles.
After we reached the top of that hill it was pretty much smooth sailing all the way to Las Animas. We descended right down to another beach, where there were several cool rock formations, an interesting little sand cave, and opportunities for finding shells (my wife’s favorite vacation hobby). As we approached Las Animas we were forced to cut through yards again, but at this end of the trail there were small signs clearly indicating the direction we needed to go. Just before reaching the end there was one last long trek across a long beach. The sun was getting high in the sky at this point, so this was the warmest part of the journey. About this time the Pacifico craving came on 🙂
We arrived at our destination expecting Paradise on Earth. Okay, maybe not. Las Animas was about what we expected – a nice beach (though not in the class of Los Colomitos), cut in half by a pier for tour boats and water taxis to dock. There were a number of restaurants along the sand and as we walked by each a representative would rush out trying to entice us to grab a table at their establishment. We checked out a few until that Pacifico craving became too strong and we ducked into the shade to relax and enjoy our just rewards.
I ordered the chicken quesadilla to go along with my cervezas, and my wife ordered the whole Mahi-mahi. The quesadillas were okay, but the fish was absolutely out of this world! Cooked in garlic butter until crisp on the outside, but still tender and flaky on the inside it was worth the journey just for the couple of forkfuls my wife would spare me.
After lunch we explored the rest of Las Animas, such as it was. It really didn’t offer anything beyond the other Mexican beaches we’d been to so far, but when we strolled out to the end of the pier we did notice a profusion of colorful fish swimming around the pilings and again lamented a lack of snorkel gear.
At that point we started to think about heading back. We’d originally planned to take a water taxi back from Las Animas to Boca, but since our hike in had taken less than 90 minutes, including a stop at Los Colomitos and multiple pauses for photo ops we decided we might as well just hike back.
Despite the fact that it was much hotter at this point and we were traveling on full bellies we managed to make it back to Boca in roughly an hour. When we arrived at the river mouth the tide had dropped and the water was only ankle deep at the shallowest point.
All in all it was a great little day hike. No, it certainly wasn’t a trek through wild jungle, but it did get us out of the noise and pollution of the city, and the ups and downs were strenuous enough that it was a good workout to boot (particularly if you hike both ways). If you are in Puerto Vallarta and looking to get away from it all, if only for a day, the hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas is definitely worth checking out.