The small, uninhabited Marietas Islands are located in the Bay of Banderas off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Making up a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve, the islands are famous for their abundant wildlife and provide a chance to escape the crowds of many Mexican beach resorts, hop on a boat, and explore the islands’ natural delights.
The islands are a haven for creatures such as dolphins, manta rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, and blue-footed boobies. Boat tours allow you to see the wildlife, but visitors are only allowed to set foot on one area of the government-protected islands, a strip of sand dubbed the Hidden Beach. Snorkeling and scuba diving tours from Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta are the most popular ways to experience the islands and their coral reef, while whale-watching tours also run in winter.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Diving and snorkeling tours typically last three to five hours, but some longer options include other activities such as kayaking.
- Diving tours often require PADI certification; if you are not certified, look for a beginner option.
- There is a cap on the number of daily visitors, so book your tour in advance.
How to Get There
It takes about 45 minutes to travel by boat from Punta de Mita to the Marietas Islands. Due to strict government protections, you must take a boat tour from a licensed tour operator.
When to Get There
Whale-watching season runs from December through March. For snorkeling and scuba diving, June through September offers the best visibility and warmest temperatures.
Conservation in the Marietas Islands
The Marietas Islands are an MAB Biosphere Reserve, meaning they are part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere program to improve the relationship between humans and the environment. Because the islands have become increasingly popular, causing interference and possible damage to the ecosystem, the Mexican government authority known as the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) has closed the islands to the public in the past. Efforts may be made to prevent future damage in a variety of ways, so enjoy visiting while you can and keep in mind the fragile nature of this important ecological environment.