Marietas Islands, located several miles off the North coast of the Banderas Bay is one of the frontliners when it comes to unspoiled natural beauty and gorgeous seaside vistas. This small group of uninhabited islands was formed by underwater volcano eruptions during the Cretaceous period and is now home to breathtaking landscapes, pristine beaches, and amazing flora and fauna. To preserve its natural beauty, it was appointed as “National Park Islas Marietas” in 2005 and a “Reserva de la Biosfera”, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2008. There’s plenty of opportunities here to explore the unique terrain, swim through cave formations and rock archways, and encounter amazing wildlife on land, water and air.
The infamous Hidden Beach
Folks from different parts of the globe are smitten by the incredible aerial shots of the Hidden Beach found off the Mexican coast of Puerto Vallarta. Who wouldn’t be? Just imagine seeing a luscious green island from atop with a huge cavity that reveals a piece of small sandy beach and turquoise waters of the Pacific rushing in. It’s like a small window to a mini paradise that only a few are lucky enough to visit.
You’ll need a permit to access this secluded beach and getting here requires swimming through an underwater tunnel. The journey may be a little challenging but seeing this beautiful site with your own eyes will most likely take your breath away.
When you get there, you can frolic in the sand, swim in the clear waters, and bask in the warm sunshine.That’s not all; you can also find a good spot to simply enjoy the quiet surroundings and reflect on your life. If you’re the type who is always busy with work and other obligations, visiting this divine place can help you commune with nature and find that inner equilibrium that you’re looking for.
Also known as Playa del Amor (“The beach of love”), this wide, sandy cavern is also a romantic place for lovebirds. Whether you’re a new couple getting to know each other, a newly married couple on your honeymoon, or long-time lovers, this place can spark or reignite your passion.
Here’s an interesting trivia about the place; some say that Playa del Amor is a “happy accident” because it is partly a result of military target practice in the early 1900’s. They say that the islands were once used as a government test site but due to the protest of a group of environmentalists including the renowned Jacques Cousteau, the Mexican government was pressured to cease the tests and turn it into a national conservation area where fishing and hunting are prohibited. As the years passed, nature took its course and weaved its miraculous hands on the areas devastated by the explosions. Nature “healed” the site by letting the tides wash out the debris and bring in sand, creating an Eden that we now know as the Hidden Beach. Isn’t it amazing how nature finds a way to make something beautiful out of a wreckage?
Birds of Marietas Islands
Its tropical and subtropical climates are ideal for breeding colonies of resident and migratory birds; like the different types of seagulls and terns that are often seen nesting in large groups on the edges of the islands during the last phase of the winter season.
You can also spot the Neotropic Cormorant, which gather in small groups on the exposed part of Marietas. They like to forage for food by diving underwater and targeting small fish.
Another familiar species in the islands are The Magnificent Frigatebirds which nests within the thickness of the Bromeliads. Unlike other birds that work hard for food by diving into the water for fish, the Magnificent Frigatebirds are bandits that often steal food from other winged predators.
Keep your eyes open for the Prairie Falcon, a raptor that glides over the islands in search of small mammals and birds. They are notorious for aggressively defending their nest sites against fellow birds of prey.
The Blue-footed Booby, noted for their bright blue feet and the Brown Booby are widely visible throughout the year. These flying predators like to fly in formation over the sea to scout for prey and swoosh down for the kill.
During the early phase of winter, you might be delighted by the sight of white pelicans in long formations flying over the islands. It’s cousin, the Brown Pelican, normally seen in small groups also reside in this area all year round.
Marine life population
The wealth of waters that surround the islands offer refuge for a variety of sea turtles such as the Olive Ridley, named after their olive green color of its shell and the Hawksbill sea turtles, named for their narrow, pointed beak. The Olive Ridley are considered vulnerable because they nest in very few places and susceptible to disturbances while the Hawksbill are prone to harvesting for their prized shell that is used in creating jewelry, hair ornaments and other decorative pieces. You might come across these sea turtles when you go snorkeling and you might even encounter manta rays, dolphins, and all kinds of colorful tropical fish.
During the winter, the bay serves as a stunning backdrop for the arrival of the majestic humpback whales as they make their way to these nutrient-rich waters to feed and give birth to their calves. Many visitors come here to enjoy whale watching tours in Puerto Vallarta to witness the seasonal migration of one of the biggest creatures in the face of the Earth.
Other species of Marietas
You might encounter some Mexican spiny-tailed iguanas around the islands which are gaining popularity as pets in the U.S. Despite laws to protect them, their number in the wild is decreasing because of hunting, loss of habitat and poaching for the pet trade.
Pack your bags and go
The Marietas Islands are an hour-long boat ride northwest from the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the best time to go here is early morning to beat the crowds. What are you waiting for, go ahead and book an Islas Marietas tour so you can explore this fascinating piece of paradise?