A few days before we left Puerto Vallarta, we took a really fun day trip that was eventful enough to warrant its own post. And, if you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta, you can use this as a guide to get to a really fun remote beach.
Step 1 – The Bus to Boca
The hike to Las Animas was on both our radars before even arriving in Puerto Vallarta. For me it came up in December when I was researching Christmas gifts for Chad. Although there are tours like the one we did to Mismaloya and Los Arcos that I talked about in my Puerto Vallarta – We’re Home post (in fact, offered by the same tour group, though they only go as far as Colomitos), it seemed like it would be doable on our own. And it was!
The starting point for the hike to Playa Las Animas is the town of Boca de Tomatlán, which is just a couple towns farther south from Mismaloya and is actually the last stop on that same bus line (we confirmed this with our Los Arcos guide when we did the snorkel tour).
We’re early risers anyway, so we were able to get to the bus stop in front of the Oxxo by about 8 a.m. and got into the long line to board the next bus. At that time of day, it was pretty much 100% locals in line other than us. We had to stand in the aisle for the first part of the ride, but within about 20 minutes the bus had cleared out enough for us to get seats for the rest of the journey. We reached Boca by 9 and found it to be the charming, sleepy town we’d been hoping for in Sayulita. From the bus stop, you simply walk down the hill into the town and you’ll find the small beach and tons of fishing boats. We were really charmed and spent a little time wandering its few streets and waterfront before setting off for the trailhead.
Step 2 – Hike from Boca to Colomitos
You reach the trail by crossing the river. There are two bridges across and we went for the one farther from the beach (upriver) that was kind of a suspension bridge. The start of the hike is a narrow trail past a bunch of homes and businesses along the river (mostly homes) and occasionally it feels like you’re walking through someone’s backyard. Once you reach the mouth of the river again, you can see the small Boca Beach on the other side, which is a nice photo opportunity.
Most of the trail to Colomitos Beach is directly along the coast, though occasionally it veers inward. This part of the trail is 1.25 miles long and is very well marked with signs that point toward Colomitos (and back to Boca in the other direction). There are some cool landmarks like an abandoned building with a private funicular from its dock that looks like it was going to be a luxury hotel. And the coastal views are gorgeous.
Finally you hike down a steep incline and across some rocks to reach Playa Colomitos. It’s a very small beach with a single restaurant, but some people make it their destination or stop there for a swim. We chose to keep going toward Las Animas after a short snack break above Colomitos.
Step 3 – Hike from Colomitos to Madagascar to La Troza to Los Caballos to Las Animas
After Colomitos, you hike past three other beaches before reaching Las Animas. The total mileage (according to the sign) between Colomitos and Las Animas is 1.8 miles. But it’s a lot of up and down and occasionally treacherous ground so it took us another hour. The hike to Colomitos was also a bit slower than our usual pace, probably 45 minutes, so I’d plan for two hours total hiking between Boca and Las Animas. Though it’s only 3 miles total, it feels like a workout!
We enjoyed seeing each of the small beaches between Colomitos and Las Animas. Madagascar was a bit smaller than Colomitos but then they got progressively larger. There were additional homes and businesses along the way, all only reachable on foot or by boat. We generally had cell phone service at most of the beach, but they are pretty remote. It was a beautiful and memorable hike.
Step 4 – Enjoy Playa Las Animas
Las Animas is far bigger than the other beaches and has tons of restaurants and bars along the beach. I’m not sure whether there are hotels there too, but there were very few people around when Chad and I arrived at 11 a.m., though all the restaurants were set up and appeared to be open. We walked along the whole beach to try to choose a good spot to patronize where we could get some drinks, eat a little something, enjoy our beach time, and ideally not have to pay extra for lounge chairs and an umbrella (which tends to be the case in Puerto Vallarta and Sayulita from what we’ve seen).
We tried to do a little Google research but the reviews everywhere were good. The first place we tried at the far end of the beach, which seemed like it would be quietest, was not keen on us only having drinks to start (i.e. they wanted to charge us for lounge chairs unless we ordered food too) so we wandered back up toward the stone pier and picked a place with very comfy looking loungers called Restaurant Las Animas. There we were told that as long as we were consuming something, we could have loungers and an umbrella for free, so we ordered two beers and were the first to choose our chairs for the day. It was perfection.
We enjoyed seeing the boats in front of us and all the pelicans in the water in front of us (we truly love pelicans). After a while, Chad got in the water to swim with the pelicans, something he didn’t even know had been on his bucket list. The pelicans didn’t seem to mind. Within an hour pretty much all the other lounge chairs had been taken by other customers, so we were glad we got there early.
We spent a fun couple of hours at Las Animas beach, periodically playing in the water. It was much less wavy than Puerto Vallarta or Sayulita, though there were a couple big waves to watch out for. Restaurante Las Animas proved to be a great choice – the service was excellent throughout our time there, the food we eventually ordered was good (tostadas with ceviche and shrimp, then later quesadillas), it had clean modern restrooms, and the final bill (including a number of beers, an excellent mojito, and a mandatory service charge that was less than I probably would have tipped given the choice) was less than $50.
Step 5 – Water Taxi Back to Boca (then Bus Back to PV)
Perhaps the best part of Las Animas beach is that you don’t have to hike back to Boca if you don’t want. There are water taxis that depart several times an hour. When we were ready to go back, we walked down the pier and found one boarding right then. The cost is just 120 pesos per person, cash upfront that you pay when you board. It took maybe 15 minutes (probably less) to get back to Boca and was a fun way to end our day.
We’d thought when we first saw Boca that we’d want to spend time there before heading back to Puerto Vallarta but after all the sun and swimming (and beers) we were ready to be driven home. So we walked past the beach, through the tiny town, up the hill, and onto the bus. We had changed from our wet swimsuits into shorts before leaving Restaurante Las Animas, so we were comfortable on the bus. Since Boca is the first stop, we had our pick of seats and it was a comfortable ride back to Puerto Vallarta.
I would recommend spending a day visiting Playa Las Animas to anyone who visits Puerto Vallarta and wants a little adventure. If you don’t like the idea of the three-mile hike, you can also take the water taxi from Boca to there (that’s how most people arrived when we were there). But the hike was really beautiful and made us feel like we’d earned our day in paradise.