Puerto Vallarta, together with the broader Banderas Bay area, offers a diverse collection of photo opportunities. From the activity-packed Malecón Boardwalk to the calming Punta Mita shores and the vibrant Sayulita streets, each spot tells a unique story. If you’re looking to capture the authenticity of the region, knowing the exact locations is key. This guide breaks down some of the top photo spots, from popular landmarks to hidden gems, ensuring you get the best shots, be it for an engagement photoshoot or an extravagant dinner party.
Southern Banderas Bay
The Southern Banderas Bay is a tapestry of rich tropical scenes that can give any photographer a real sense of Puerto Vallarta’s multifaceted beauty. These southern locations might be a bit more off-the-beaten-path than some of the spots in central Puerto Vallarta, but the journey to get to them, and the photos you’ll take, are absolutely worth it.
Mismaloya: This beautiful cove is famed for its role in the movie “The Night of the Iguana.” Today, its beauty is accentuated by the luxurious “Barceló Puerto Vallarta” resort that stands as a prime example of the region’s hospitality offerings. Just a short drive away is “El Eden,” a jungle spot known for its lush vegetation and the clear river that cuts through it – a true haven for nature photographers. Mismaloya Beach is a popular choice with its picturesque cove.
Boca de Tomatlán: This quaint fishing village is not just known for its authentic Mexican charm but also as the gateway to some of the southern beaches. It serves as the starting point for water taxis that venture further down the coast. While you’re here, make a stop at the “Ocean Grill,” a picturesque dining spot perched over the bay, offering not just delectable meals but also some unforgettable views.
Las Ánimas, Quimixto, and Yelapa: As you continue your journey down south, you’ll come across these gems. Each has its own unique charm, but some of the standout locations include the “Yelapa Waterfall” – a serene spot where fresh water cascades down into a welcoming pool. For those looking for an idyllic beach scene, “Majahuitas Resort” in Las Ánimas offers a secluded patch of golden sand framed by the verdant jungle – a true postcard-perfect scene.
Conchas Chinas: Conchas Chinas is often referred to as the “Beverly Hills of Puerto Vallarta” for its luxurious beachfront resorts. The area is known for its rocky shores and natural pools formed by the tide – an ideal spot for unique coastal shots. Additionally, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering lush settings and a diversity of flora and fauna.
Puerto Vallarta stands as a nexus of tradition and modernity. The city’s bustling atmosphere is perfectly balanced with its rich history, providing photographers a varied canvas.
The Malecón Boardwalk is one of the most iconic spots in Puerto Vallarta, the Malecón is a vibrant stretch with sculptures, street artists, and live performances. Capturing sunset photos here, with the famed “Boy on the Seahorse” statue or the colorful “La Rotonda del Mar” chairs, can be particularly striking. Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe is an iconic parish church, with its unique crown bell tower, provides a traditional backdrop, especially when illuminated in the evening. Zona Romántica is a charming neighborhood characterized by cobblestone streets and red-tiled roofs. Olas Altas street and Los Muertos Pier, especially during sunrise, can offer compelling shots. For those willing to hike, the Mirador de La Cruz viewpoint delivers panoramic views of the entire city and the bay. It’s a must-visit for landscape and aerial photography enthusiasts. A green oasis in the heart of the city, Rio Cuale Island combines nature with craft markets and cultural points, presenting varied photo opportunities.
Northern Banderas Bay
Northern Banderas Bay showcases a harmonious blend of modern luxury and bohemian charm, making it a captivating area for photography enthusiasts and travelers alike. From the upscale neighborhoods of Nuevo Vallarta, the quaint streets of Bucerias, the exclusive enclaves of Punta Mita, to the vibrant atmospheres of Sayulita and San Pancho, this region offers a myriad of landscapes, atmospheres, and experiences.
Nuevo Vallarta: Nuevo Vallarta, located just to the north of Puerto Vallarta, is synonymous with upscale resorts and pristine beaches. Known for its expansive marina and luxurious ambiance, some of its top-tier resorts include Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta. Both offer impressive architecture and meticulously landscaped grounds that serve as a fantastic backdrop for photos. The Nuevo Vallarta Beach itself is a vast stretch of golden sand, making it ideal for sunset photos, candid beach moments, or even drone shots capturing the grandeur of the resorts juxtaposed with the natural beauty of the beach.
Bucerias: Further north from Nuevo Vallarta lies Bucerias, which exudes a more traditional Mexican town ambiance. Its cobblestone streets, vibrant markets, and artisan shops provide a myriad of photo opportunities that capture the heart and soul of Mexico. The Bucerias Art Walk Plaza stands out as a cultural gem, especially for those interested in local art and culture. Meanwhile, Playa de Bucerias offers tranquility with its wide beach and gentle waves, making it a perfect setting for family photos or individual portraits against the backdrop of a setting sun. If you’re looking to capture the essence of old-world Mexico with a coastal twist, Bucerias is the place to be.
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle: A small fishing village that has seamlessly evolved into a quiet retreat for those looking to escape the hustle of busier towns, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle still retains its traditional charm. Located between Bucerías and Punta Mita, it’s a hidden gem on the Banderas Bay. As one of the more modern marinas in Mexico, Marina Riviera Nayarit is not only functional for sailors but also offers a picturesque setting with its state-of-the-art facilities surrounded by the natural beauty of La Cruz. Reflecting its roots as a fishing village, the Fish Market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is an authentic location where you can capture the daily life of locals. Early mornings here are bustling with fishermen showcasing their fresh catches of the day. A serene beach in La Cruz, Playa La Manzanilla offers a calm setting with its soft sands and gentle waves. It’s a more secluded spot, making it ideal for those looking to capture uninterrupted coastal shots or intimate moments.
Punta Mita: Further north along the Bay, Punta Mita is the pinnacle of luxury in Riviera Nayarit. Famed for its elite resorts, pristine beaches, and exclusive golf courses, Punta Mita’s upscale atmosphere offers prime photo opportunities. The Four Seasons Resort is not just a place to stay, but a location filled with picturesque spots. From infinity pools overlooking the ocean to palm-tree-lined pathways, it’s a visual treat. Managed by the Four Seasons, the Pacifico Golf Course is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world. The iconic “Tail of the Whale” island green is a must-capture. Similar to the Four Seasons, the St. Regis Resort oozes luxury and offers countless photo ops. Punta Mita’s private beaches are quieter than most in the Bay and offer stunning sunset vistas.
Sayulita: Sayulita is often termed the “bohemian jewel” of Riviera Nayarit. Famous for its vibrant streets, eclectic art scenes, and surf waves, this beach town has become a popular destination for tourists and photographers alike. Downtown Sayulita is filled with colorful buildings, artistic murals, and lively streets, capturing candid street photos here is a delight. Sayulita Beach is known for its long stretch of golden sand and surfers catching waves, it’s an ideal location for dynamic action shots or serene sunset pictures. Playa de los Muertos is a smaller, more secluded beach near Sayulita. It’s surrounded by rocky formations, making it unique for landscape shots. If you’re up for a hike, Monkey Mountain (Cerro del Mono) provides a panoramic view of the entire bay. The hike itself offers numerous natural frames for pictures. Photography Tip: Early mornings at Sayulita Beach can give you surfers in action with fewer crowds. It’s also the perfect time to capture the essence of the town as it wakes up, with local vendors setting up and the streets gradually coming to life.
San Pancho (San Francisco): San Pancho, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a tranquil beach town located just a few kilometers north of Sayulita. This serene village offers a more laid-back atmosphere compared to its bohemian neighbor, making it a favorite for those seeking relaxation alongside raw beauty. San Pancho Beach is a wide, golden sand beach ideal for long strolls, sunset shots, and capturing the local fishermen during their early morning or late afternoon routines. Offering a touch of elegance and distinction, La Patrona Polo Club presents opportunities for action shots during matches and showcases the rich equestrian culture of the region. As the sister venue of La Patrona Polo Club, Tierra Tropical Beach Club offers both beach and pool settings, stylish architecture, and luxurious amenities, perfect for elevated coastal photography.
From the beachfront of Sayulita to the marinas of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Puerto Vallarta and the Banderas Bay area are brimming with prime photo locations. Every nook, every street corner tells a story waiting to be captured. Remember, the best photographs aren’t just about the scenery but the emotion they evoke. So, as you explore, focus on the moments that resonate with you—whether it’s the sun setting over Punta Mita or the laughter shared with loved ones in San Pancho. This guide was just the starting point; the rest is up to you and your lens.
1. What are the most iconic photo locations in Puerto Vallarta?
Puerto Vallarta boasts several iconic photo spots including the Malecón, Los Muertos Pier, and the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
2. Where can I get the best sunset photos in Puerto Vallarta?
The Malecón and Conchas Chinas are renowned for offering stunning sunset views with the sun setting over the Pacific.
3. Which beaches in Puerto Vallarta offer the best photo opportunities?
We recommend Conchas Chinas, Punta Negra, or Bucerias beach.
4. Where can I capture Puerto Vallarta’s rich cultural and historic essence?
The historic downtown, with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and local markets, offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history and culture.
5. Can you find good photo spots throughout the entire Banderas Bay?
Absolutely. From the northern tip with spots like Sayulita and Punta Mita to the southern end with locations like Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán, there are photo-worthy sites all along the bay.
6. What’s the best time of day for photography in Puerto Vallarta?
For optimal natural lighting, the Golden Hour is ideal — it’s the time shortly after sunrise or just before sunset.
7. Are there locations in Puerto Vallarta perfect for drone photography?
Yes, areas like Los Arcos Marine Park and the coastline of Banderas Bay are spectacular when captured from above.
8. How do Puerto Vallarta’s neighboring towns compare for photography?
Neighboring areas like Sayulita, San Pancho, and Bucerias offer their own unique charm, from bohemian vibes to traditional Mexican streets, expanding the range of photo opportunities.