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Islas Marietas & Punta Mita

Photo courtesy of Vallarta Adventures Photo courtesy of Vallarta Adventures

New year, new experiences.

One of the many beautiful attractions in the Banderas Bay are the Marieta Islands (it’s strange writing both of those places in English…). I visited around the Marietas once before on a sightseeing tour while my friend played his flute. I even saw a whale and blue-footed boobies, but never had the opportunity to go snorkeling or experience all the Marietas had to offer. Needless to say, on New Years day, when I got the opportunity to go to Islas Marietas with a group from Mexico City, I jumped at the opportunity. New experiences? New people? This is what traveling is all about.

Being from Mexico City and that we were in Sayulita, my new friends were on Mexican time and we ended up leaving for our  day trip mid-afternoon. A great option for exploring the Islas Marietas is taking a small charter boat from Punta Mita and Omar Zuñiga Carillo — new friend and amazing artist in Mexico City with cool Converses — had a recommendation for a boat leaving from there. We took two buses from Sayulita to get to Punta Mita (with an easy transfer in Bucerías) that cost no more than $3 USD each way and maybe takes 40 minutes. Unfortunately our charter boat contact fell through as we came too late in the day and we were directed to an office that seemed to manage the boats. They had more bad news for us: everyone on the beach was waiting for a boat, and the latest  tours are coming in now; it seemed highly unlikely that we would get on a boat, but we could wait until 5pm when the last tour went out and see what we could do. This definitely did not look promising and while our friends went for a drink to kill the time, I decided to check out the beach (our days revolved around laying in the sun, playing in the waves, and eating food with enough spice that I had stomach problems and  didn’t see any reason to break our cycle).

Luckily, in that Sayulita-style way of everything working out if you just let it be, when 5pm rolled around, we were able to find us a charter and bargain it down to around 1700 pesos for the six of us!

Punta Mita, Mexico. 2015

I was shocked to learn that some of the amazing caves and rock formations synonymous with the Marieta islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are actually not natural, but the results of explosions from military testing conducted by the Mexican government in the early 1900s. However, since the 1960s the government declared the islands a national park, protected from any hunting, fishing and human activity. Due to this protection, marine life has flourished on the Marietas, making it a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, whale-watching and catching glimpses of other gorgeous aquatic life native to the bay. Visitors are only allowed to set foot on one secluded beach on the island, the holed out cave beach often seen in pictures, Playa del Amor or Playa Escondida. Some sources say this beach was formed by the collapse of volcanic rock and the sea created a cave overtime — maybe it’s up for debate why this rock “collapsed.” Either way, it forms a gorgeous beach that during low-tide, you’re able to swim into — it’s a short tunnel, roughly 50ft with only 6ft of airspace between water and rock. After a 20-25 minute boat ride our boat captain dropped us off at the edge; with our guide and cameras in a waterproof jar, we swam into Playa Escondida. It’s a pretty easy swim and they insist on everyone wearing a flotation device. The waves also push you through the tunnel, which is awesome because my endurance is crap, and knowing this, friends made a game of dragging me backwards.

Despite the other tourists around, the beach, with the sun about to set and the sounds of the waves lapping against the cave walls was an incredibly experience at the same time peaceful and full of elation. I was grateful to share it with my new friends. We played around on the beach before our guide announced it was time to go back. We were losing daylight and panted back to the boat.

Remember, we took the 5pm boat? Saying I was freezing, was putting it mildly. We were all chattering, but as we took a tour around the island, I would not trade that 5pm boat for the world. We were there for sunset. And sunset at the Marietas is simply magical. A little bit of perfect in this world.

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