Puerto Vallarta lies at the centre of the Bahía de Banderas, prime beach territory easily explored via rental car, or with more time, public bus and water taxi. Indeed, for the more peaceful and scenic beaches further south – Playa Las Animas and Yelapa are the most appealing – a boat is the only means of access.

To the north, over the state line in Nayarit, the bay arcs out to Punta de Mita, some 30km away. A summer preserve for Guadalajarans and a winter retreat for motorhome vacationers from the north, these gorgeous beaches offer facilities in just a few spots – Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías and Punta de Mita – leaving miles of secluded sand for camping and some excellent surf breaks.

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