This area offers some of the best beaches in Mexico, I prefer the Pacific to the Caribean as the waves are bigger and stronger and are more fun to swim in. The water is not as clear, but you can still snorkel and dive to see plenty of fish and wildlife. You can also spot whales and dolphins.
There are different areas that offer different options depending on what you might be looking for.:
To the north you have Sayulita and San Pancho. Although they are full of digital nomads from Europe and USA, they are very relaxed small towns, not that developed with small hotels and small restaurants and bars. I stayed in San Pancho and really liked it. You can walk from San Pancho to Sayulita along the coast and then taking a little path.
To the east you have Punt Mita and along that coast you will find fancy and exclusive hotels.
South of Punta Mita, you will find the Islas Marietas. It is a beautiful island with secluded beaches. You can take day trips from Puerto Vallarta. Access to the island is limited to a few people per day and only certain days a week. Ask in the tour if they think you might have access to the island.
Puerto Vallarta is a big city that runs along the coast, you can find plenty of big and small hotels. The city centre is nice to go out in the evenings and has plenty of restaurants and bars. Further south, is the “zona romántica”, This is the old town that is now the LGBT district. It is a nice area to stay, but it is a “party” zone. Further south on the road to Boca de Tomatlán are small hotels, some quite exclusive, with beautiful views fo the coast. This is a quiet area with limited transport options, you will need to get a taxi.
In my opinion the best area is the coast is between Boca the Tomatlán and Yelapa. It is a vrigin area with no road access. I waked/hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Quimixto, it is a total of 8.2km, the path is clearly signed, a bit dusty with some areas where you have to walk on wood paths. I recommend wearing trainers and not flip flops and bring plenty of water. If you prefer, you can hire a boat Taxi per ride or day that can take you from beach to beach.
To get to Boca the Tomatlán you can get a Taxi from Puerto Vallarta. From there the trail starts as you cross the river. there is a very small bridge. Your firs stop will be Colonitos, which is beautiful. I had breakfast there. From there you can continue to other beaches, some are private, but you can find access to other ones. I stopped at Las Animas. I could easily stay all day there, but after a dip and beer continued to Quimixto. The beach around Quimixto dock is not that nice, compared to the one before. There is a very fancy hotel before Quimixto town and a beach. I recommend stopping there. From Quimixto there is no further path to Yelapa. You will need to hire a boat or get the boat bus. Be careful as the last boat back to Puerto Vallarta is not to late, think around 6pm. I hired a boat in Quimixto with a very friendly guy called Araña this is his phone: 3221663492. He took us to see whales, dolphins and dive in “Los Arcos” island and dropped us in Puerto Vallarta dock, in the zona romántica.
Here is the map of the trail