Last Updated on February 5, 2023 by Janine
The hike to Las Animas beach from Boca de Tomatlan is a wonderful, moderate, beach-side hike near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here’s how to make it happen.
Las Animas is a beautiful beach located south of Puerto Vallarta along the Bay of Banderas, and you can reach it by boat or hiking! If you’re looking for an active adventure, I highly recommend that you hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas! It’s a moderately easy, free hike that takes you along the coast and through some beautiful jungle sections and stunning sandy beaches while allowing you to soak up incredible views and spot all kinds of birds!
I did this hike with my brother and sister-in-law on our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, and it was definitely one of the highlights! My brother spotted several new species of birds, and we all enjoyed the scenery and the adventure!
The hike to Las Animas isn’t challenging, but there are a lot of ups and downs near the beginning, including some steep stairs. There were a couple of short scrambly parts in the middle when we descended from the bluffs to Colomitos Beach and again when we hopped over large rocks on the point between La Troza and Playa de Caballo. For the most part, the trail is a packed dirt path with some sections of concrete or stone and stretches of beach walking.
The hiking trail is well-defined and relatively well-marked. It would be tough to get lost since it largely follows the shoreline. Experienced hikers will have no trouble here.
All in all, the total time of our hike to Las Animas was about 2.5 hours, including several pauses for birding and a 15-minute break for snacks at Colomitos. You could easily stretch it out, stopping to spend time at each beach along the way. Instead, we opted to spend several hours after hiking at Las Animas beach before heading back to Vallarta.
Start your hike to Las Animas beach as early as possible as the trail and beaches will be less crowded, and ideally, you can get some of the hiking done before the sun becomes too hot. Then you can relax on the beach in the afternoon with a cold cerveza in your hand!
We left Vallarta around 9 am and got back around 4:30 in the afternoon.
It’s a beautiful hike and well worth enjoying the jungle and getting a different perspective on the coastline.
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What to take with you
- Water bottle – You’ll be able to purchase water in Boca de Tomatlan or once you reach Las Animas. If you’re not carrying your own reusable bottle with you, pick one up in Boca before you begin the hike.
- Sunscreen – Sunblock is essential for a hike along the water. I recommend Raw Elements lotion because it is reef-safe and water-resistant. For more biodegradable sunscreen reccos, check out this blog post.
- Sunglasses – These polarized sunnies are perfect for a beach-side hike.
- Hat – Hats are so handy for protecting your face from sun glare, especially near the water. This one folds up so you can stuff it in your daypack when you’re not using it.
- Comfortable footwear – The trail to Las Animas isn’t overly difficult, but there are some steep steps, tree roots, and a couple of scrambly bits with boulders. Shoes or sandals that fit snugly to your foot and have good traction would be ideal. Choose based on your comfort level. I did the hike in Birkenstocks, and it was okay, but next time I’d opt for Chacos or flip flops with a good grip (my birks have none– I went barefoot on the bouldery sections). Running shoes or even Vans slip-ons (they have great grip) would be a good alternative.
- Trail snacks – We picked up a couple of muffins from the bakery on Basilio Badillo before heading to the bus stop. We could have made it without them, but it was nice to have a snack on Colomitos beach during the hike.
- Bug spray – The jungle sections of the hike did have mosquitos and other nippy bugs. Definitely pack bug repellant, so you don’t end up covered in itchy bites like I was! I used this brand on a Costa Rica hiking trip, and it works like a charm.
- Swimsuit – You’ll want to take advantage of the opportunity to swim at the idyllic beaches along this hike, so don’t forget to pack your swimsuit. I bought a new Left on Friday swimsuit for this trip, and I will forever be loyal to them for their comfortable, flattering suits.
- Beach towel – You’ll want a towel to sit on and dry off after swimming. I took my Tofino Towel, but a quick-dry travel towel or sarong would have been a great alternative!
- Daypack – Any daypack will suffice for carrying all of your accessories. I recommend the Osprey Daylite pack because it’s compact, comfortable, and comes in tons of fun colors.
- Binoculars – If you’re hoping to see birds, don’t forget to bring the binocs!
Related Reading: My Puerto Vallarta packing list outlines everything you’ll need for a trip to this region!
Getting to Boca de Tomatlán from Puerto Vallarta
The starting point for the hike to Las Animas is located in Boca de Tomatlan, a small fishing village about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta.
You could take a taxi or Uber, but it’s super easy to take the bus to Boca de Tomatlan from the Romantic Zone in Puerto Vallarta, and I don’t think the bus ride takes any longer than traveling in a private vehicle.
Catch the bus in front of the Oxxo on Calle Constitución and Calle Basilio Badillo.
You’ll see plenty of people lining up to catch the bus, so there won’t be any confusion about where to get on.
Bus fare is 10 pesos per person, and the journey from Puerto Vallarta to Boca de Tomatlan takes approximately 1 hour.
The bus should say Mismaloya or Boca de Tomatlan on the windshield. Some buses (including the one we took) only said Mismaloya, which is a town about halfway to Boca de Tomatlan. Our bus went all the way to Boca, though. If you’re unsure, just ask someone for clarification. It seemed like every bus leaving from this spot went to both Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan.
The buses appeared to come about every 15 minutes. Don’t be surprised if a huge line of people is waiting to get on. You’ll be surprised how many people they can pack on board. We managed to get seats, but there were tons of people packed on board standing up. Many people hopped off along the way to head to work at resorts (I’m guessing based on their uniforms), visit different beaches, and so on, so the bus wasn’t extremely crowded for very long.
Boca de Tomatlan is the last stop, so you’ll know you’ve arrived when everyone gets off the bus.
Related Reading: For more tips on what to see and do around Puerto Vallarta, click here to see all of my Jalisco content!
Finding the trailhead
Once you arrive in Boca de Tomatlan, follow the street down the hill toward the mouth of the river. It’s only 3 or 4 blocks to the water. Many of your fellow passengers will be headed toward the trailhead or to catch water taxis at the river mouth.
At the bottom of the hill, along the river, there’s a public restroom, which you may want to take advantage of before hitting the trail. There’s a 10 peso fee to use it.
You’ll probably encounter a few people trying to sell you on taking one of the panga boats to Colomitos or Animas. This is always an option!
We declined and told one of these water taxi salesmen that we intended to hike there, and he kindly directed us to the trailhead. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
If you want to pick up any provisions for the hike (water, snacks, beer), take advantage of one of the little abarrotes places in Boca– it’s your last chance!
When you’re ready to hit the trail to Las Animas, follow the river away from the beach until you reach the pedestrian suspension bridge. Cross it and then follow the river back toward the bay. Eventually, you’ll start seeing signs for Colomitos or Las Animas. Follow them!
There will be a few sections of the trail where you walk past houses and vacation rentals. At some points, you may feel like you’re walking through people’s yards. Don’t worry– you’re on the right path.
As you leave Boca de Tomatlan, you’ll find yourself on a bluff at the mouth of the bay. You’ll see a large wooden lookout structure that makes a great photo opp!
The trail will then wind into the jungle as you cross high bluffs before winding down toward Playa Colomitos. The first section is the most strenuous part of the hike, as you will go up and down as you cross headlands along the coast.
If you’re interested in birding, you’ll likely spot several species here, including Military Macaws (Guacamayas). And if you don’t see them, you’ll definitely hear them!
Playa Colomitos is the first beach you’ll come to on the hike to Las Animas. It’s a tiny, picturesque beach located about halfway between Boca de Tomatlan and Las Animas. It took us about 50 minutes to get there, including a 10-minute bird-watching stop.
On blogs, Colomitos was touted as a private escape, but water taxis and snorkel tours were dripping people off here when we arrived. Either the secret is out, or others visited outside of high season. There were probably about 20 others there when we arrived at 11:30 am.
We didn’t mind, and the beach was big enough to accommodate, but if you expect to have it yourself, think again.
Note: If you’ve had enough hiking, you can catch a water taxi from Colomitos to Puerto Vallarta or Boca de Tomatlán. I’m unsure what the prices would be– probably about $100 MXN to Boca and a few hundred to Puerto Vallarta.
There’s a small restaurant called Ocean Grill at Playa Colomitos, but it seems to specialize in fresh seafood and operates by reservation only. It was closed when we passed, so I can’t tell you much about it, but if you’re interested in a secluded dining experience, it may be worth a look!
Leaving Colomitos, you’ll proceed up some steep stone steps and back into the jungle for a bit.
There is a tiny beach about a 5-10 minute walk from Colomitos. This one had a couple of hikers but was otherwise empty. It was absolutely beautiful and still a little shady in some sections at this time of day. This is probably a good option if you’re looking for a more secluded beach!
The second half of the hike, after Playa Colomitos, is a little easier going (after the initial climb off the beach). It should take about an hour (plus any time you stop to swim or rest).
Eventually, you’ll come to La Troza, a beautiful beach that’s home to Casitas Maraika, a beach club and boutique hotel popular among locals. As you come out of the jungle to La Troza, you’ll pass some really impressive palm trees! Or, at least, I thought they were impressive– they were super lush with huge fronds!
Supposedly Saturday is the major party day at Casitas Maraika, but they have a restaurant where you can get food and drinks most days. My research tells me this is a popular place for hikers to stop. But we didn’t spend any time here; we just hiked on by along the cement boardwalk out front!
Playa de Caballo
The last beach before Las Animas is the stunning, white sand Playa de Caballo. It looked like there were a couple of small hotels along this beach, but mostly it was beautiful and undisturbed. We took our shoes off and walked along the shoreline with the gentle waves lapping our feet.
This might be just the place if you want to beat the crowds. It’s a large beach, and most other hikers and tourists are focused on Colomitos or Animas, so you’d have Playa de Caballo (mostly) to yourself. But there are no restaurants or coco vendors here as far as I could tell, so that might be a deal breaker.
Las Animas Beach
Playa Las Animas is the next beach after Playa de Caballo. The beach is lined with restaurants, and there’s a pier located right in the center of the beach.
Lots of snorkeling tour boats bring passengers here and let them off to have lunch at the restaurants along the beach. Playa Animas can be a bit of a scene (in a fun way)! There are also water taxis bringing passengers from Boca de Tomatlan, Vallarta, and probably other places along the coast.
Upon arrival, we stopped at the first of the local beachfront restaurants and treated ourselves to fresh cocos under an umbrella. A couple of friendly kittens came out and lounged on our beach chairs while we drank!
Later, we moved further down the beach toward the pier to sprawl in the sand and go swimming.
We didn’t spend much time vetting the restaurants along Las Animas beach. We figured they’d all be similar. We went to a spot called El Coral for lunch. We had a delicious meal of fish tacos, aguachile, and cold cervezas!
The beach at Las Animas is gorgeous and less hectic than Los Muertos back in Vallarta when it comes to beach vendors, making it a great place to spend the afternoon.
How to get from Las Animas to Puerto Vallarta
To get back to Puerto Vallarta, we opted to return to Boca de Tomatlan via water taxi and then take the bus back to Vallarta. The water taxi back to Boca cost $100 MXN per person, and the bus cost 10 pesos, so it seemed like a pretty sweet deal.
I read that, supposedly, there are water taxis that go directly from Las Animas to the Los Muertos pier in Puerto Vallarta (and this had been what we originally planned to do), but the taxis we spoke to were based in Boca. The boat driver quoted $1800 MXN (total) to take the three of us from Las Animas Beach to Puerto Vallarta, so we turned him down and went to Boca instead. I suspect a Vallarta-based water taxi would cost around $300 or $400 MXN per person, but this is just an educated guess.
The water taxi ride from Las Animas to Boca takes about 10 minutes. Though, we were the first few people in the boat. Once they had us on board, they did a quick lap around the bay to try and round up a few more passengers. In the end, about five more people got on, and we all headed to Boca de Tomatlan.
Back in Boca, we walked up the hill to the bus stop where we’d originally gotten off. The bus was already waiting, so we hopped on and a few minutes later we departed. It couldn’t have been easier!
FAQs about the Las Animas hike
How long is the hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas
The total distance of the Las Animas hike is about 2.5 miles (4 km).
How long does it take?
The hike itself takes approximately 2 hours (we did it in a little less), but you will undoubtedly want to stop to enjoy the beaches and the views along the way. Plan to add at least 30 minutes worth of stops along the way, and more if you want to take the time to picnic or swim at Colomitos Beach!
How much will it cost?
There is no fee to access the trail, so your only expenses will be transportation, food, and bathroom fees. The bus between Puerto Vallarta and Boca de Tomatlan costs 10 pesos each way. The water taxi from Las Animas to Boca cost us $100 MXN each (though one provider quoted $120 MXN, so be prepared to negotiate). I’d budget $150 MXN per person to be on the safe side. The restaurants on the beach had typical tourist prices. I would budget $300 – $400 MXN for a meal and a beer or two at Las Animas beach.
Based on these numbers, this day trip should cost approximately $500 – $600 pesos per person.
Is it safe to hike alone as a solo female?
The hike to Las Animas beach seemed safe, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it alone. There were probably about ten other hikers on the trail with us on a Monday, and I suspect we would have seen even more hikers if we’d gone a little later in the day.
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