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Golf and sailing in Puerto Vallarta

By Sigurd Neubauer


For golf enthusiasts of all levels, Puerto Vallarta offers two world class clubs: Vista Vallarta and Marina Vallarta

Vista Vallarta has two courses; one is designed by Jack Nicklaus and the other by Tom Weiskopf. The Marina Vallarta course was designed by Joe Finger. 

Both clubs have 18-hole courses.

While Vista Vallarta is in the northern part of the city, on the Punta Minta peninsula that is home to the Four Seasons and St. Regis resorts, it is located on an idyllic foothill near the hotel zone and convention center.

The Four Seasons, however, has its own golf course but it is only available for resort guests and homeowners of the Punta Mita community

Known for its spectacular views of Puerto Vallarta, including of the Sierra mountains surrounding the city and the Bay of Banderas, the Vista Vallarta club opened in April 2001. 

“This club is best suited for the ambitious and skilled golfer,” explains Luis Bahena, the founder and CEO of Mexitravels.

Playing at Vista Vallarta is also a full-day activity, he adds.

For those enjoying the game – but who are not necessarily as experienced – “Marina Vallarta is the ideal club as its central location allows for a morning game followed by lunch at a downtown Marina Vallarta restaurant with ample time for an afternoon activity,” Bahena reveals.

The Marina Vallarta club, which opened in 1989, is in Marina Vallarta neighborhood. Nearby, in the exclusive Alta Vista neighborhood, Casa Yvonneka, among other distinguished villas, are located. 

Casa Yvonneka is a 14-bedroom villa overlooking Puerto Vallarta. Its proprietor is Yvonne Kalman, the ultimate Puerto Vallarta insider whose love affair with Mexico goes back to 1940.

Playing at Vista Vallarta is a full-day activity: Luis Bahena
The Vista Vallarta Golf Club sits on the idyllic foothills of the Sierra mountains. Photo credit: Puerto Vallarta Tourism

Surrounded by mountains, rivers and  lush forestry, Puerto Vallarta is idyllically positioned off Mexico’s Pacific coast. The city is also known for its numerous scenic hikes, which we have covered for you here.

Because Puerto Vallarta is surrounded by majestic nature, “one of the most popular activities” is embarking on a boat ride on the bay from where one can take in “the most spectacular views of the city,” Bahena explains.

“What makes a boating experience so magical is that Puerto Vallarta sits on a mountain surrounded by rivers and lush forestry, all of which can be devoured from one’s comfortable seat on the boat.”

From the boat, one can also witness the Sierra Mountains and various private estates overlooking the bay.

Describing the view in the morning as “simply stunning and beautiful,” Bahena pauses, and quips enthusiastically: “but in the afternoon, the view is amazing.”

The Bay of Banderas is known for its serene waters and spectacular views. Photo credit: Mexitravels

Private excursions – whether in the form of a sailboat, a yacht, or a power boat – are available from any of Puerto Vallarta’s four piers. 

The two northern piers are: Marina Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

From either of these piers, small panga boats depart for the Islas Marietas, which is a protected marine life reserve that hosts a significant amount of wildlife, including fishes. Snorkeling is a popular activity there, Bahena says. 

A panga boat is a modest-sized, open, outboard-powered, fishing boat. 

The small town of Sayulita, also on the Punta Minta peninsula, initially started out as “a small hippy town during the 1970s,” but has since evolved into a popular spot for surfing. Surf lessons are also available there,” the entrepreneur adds.

The two southern piers are Los Muertos and Puerto Mágico.

The Los Muertos pier, which has a structure resembling a sail and was designed in 2013 by Mexico’s José de Jesus Torres Vega. For history buffs, especially those interested in Hollywood’s ‘Golden Age,’ the structure replaced an older wooden pier depicted in the 1964 film The Night of the Iguana. It was filmed in Puerto Vallarta, starring Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon. 

For those interested in visiting Los Arcos de Mismaloya – another protected marine life reserve that is a natural sanctuary for pelicans and sea hawks – one can depart from either of the two southern piers. 

Private tours for sightseeing the bay are also available from Los Muertos and Puerto Mágico.

For those preferring to meet new people, or perhaps even a future spouse or romantic partner, Bahena recommends Puerto Mágico from where a catamaran power boat – which can host up to 200 people – departs. 

The pristine beach of Caminata Boca de Tomatlan a Colomitos. Puerto Vallarta Tourism

For those inclined towards adventure, Bahena recommends the pristine beaches of Caminata Boca de Tomatlan a Colomitos y Las Animas, Quimixto, and Yelapa, but they are accessible by boat only.

If one does not want to swim, Bahena recommends taking a powerboat to Yelapa, which is almost at the end of the bay and is accessible by boat only.

Yelapa is cut off from the Puerto Vallarta by the Boca de Tomatlan river, which provides the distinct impression that it an island, which it is not.”

On Yelapa, “the small town of Las Animas is truly idyllic where local Mexican life and culture can be fully experienced. It also has many local restaurants, all serving fresh food, especially fish from the bay,” he adds.

During the rainy season, he recommends, which runs from June to October, a short 15-minute hike to the Yelpa waterfall.

On the difference between a half-day (4 hours) and full-day excursions (6 hours), Bahena recommends snorkeling as a full-day activity.

He explains: “Los Arcos is a popular destination for snorkeling, but it can get crowded especially in the morning when an estimated 90 percent of excursions by private boats stop at the archipelago for the activity.”

The small town of Las Animas is truly idyllic where local Mexican life and culture can be fully experienced

Las Caletas is a pristine beach where Hollywood director John Huston (1906-1987) once owned a home. He purchased the property in 1962 after directing the previously discussed The Night of the Iguana.

Las Caletas is a secluded nature preserve with rich tropical wildlife and pristine beaches. Today, it is owned and operated by Vallarta Adventures.

It is only accessible through private tours, either through Vallarta Adventures or through Bahena’s Mexitravels, the entrepreneur reveals, who prior to launching his company in 2013, collaborated with Vallarta Adventures in various capacities.

During the day, a variety of activities are available, including at its own children’s adventure park. 

At night, it hosts one of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular activities: The Rhythm of the Night.

“The show, which takes place at an open-air theater in the middle of the jungle and has the capacity to host up to one thousand people, builds on themes from traditional Mexican culture and was created by Cirque du Soleil,” explains Bahena.

The Rhythm of the Night show is one of Puerto Vallarta's most popular activities, says Bahena. Photo credit: Mexitravels

What makes this experience so unique is that one will experience what he describes as “a magical sunset.” Then, once the night settles in, “there’s no electricity at Las Caletas; everything is lit by candles only.”

A buffet dinner is provided before the show begins, which runs from Saturday to Monday every week all year around.

It is the combination of authentic Mexican culture combined with numerous outdoor recreational opportunities such as swimming, boating, whale safari, hiking and golfing – among many other activities – that make Puerto Vallarta the high-value tourism destination that it has become. 

Puerto Vallarta offers the unique combination of authentic Mexican culture combined with numerous outdoor recreational activities such as golf, sailing and swimming
The Night of the Iguana, starring Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, was filmed in Puerto Vallarta in 1964
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