Puerto Vallarta is a beach resort city on the Pacific coast of Mexico. It’s a popular destination for those seeking sun, water sports, and nightlife. But it’s not exactly known for its trail running.
I had been to Puerto Vallarta many times over the years to visit my sister who lives in the area, but it wasn’t until a visit in 2018 that I discovered this little gem that has since become my favourite local trail.
Boca de Tomatlan Trail to Quimixto Falls
I first heard about this trail during a visit with my girlfriend Audrée in February, 2018. The trail start in Boca de Tomatlan, a small fishing village located 25 kms to the South, about a 45-minute drive from downtown Vallarta.
The trail is about 9 km one way with 830 metres of cumulative elevation gain, ending at Quimixto Falls. You’ll pass by a number of resorts and through the small town of Quimixto. Assuming you arrive no later than mid-day, there should be lots of options for returning via boat taxi from either Quimixto or Playa Las Animas, should you want to avoid making the 18 km round-trip.
Note: While I would consider this trail to be ‘beginner’ to ‘intermediate’ in terms of difficulty of terrain and overall risk for an ‘experienced’ hiker or trail runner, you should be comfortable with distances of 20-30 kms over 4-6 hours of time on feet, and always carry the essentials.
Getting to Boca de Tomatlan
It’s possible to get to Boca de Tomatlan by bus or taxi, but we were lucky to be able to my sister’s truck so we could get to the trailhead first thing in the morning. Our goal was to beat the heat, aiming to be back at our car by noon.
From the main parking lot at the marina, the trail head can be found at a little bridge near where the bay narrows into a shallow channel. Once you cross, simply follow the path along the water, weaving around homes and small resorts. Eventually, you’ll hit what feels like a trail, as you begin to climb up and over a mix of stones, pavements and dirt.
Boca de Tomatlan to Playa Las Animas
It’s difficult to get lost on the trail, as there aren’t really any intersections or turns. But there are a few times when it feels like the trail disappears altogether, particularly when you’re forced to find your way around some of the many boat access-only resorts.
With a little patience, you should have no problem finding your way.
Playa Las Animas to Quimixto
We arrived at the popular Playa de Las Animas in less than an hour to find it deserted. It would be a couple more hours before the hoards of tourists began to arrive by boat.
This is when we met a new friend – a dog that we assumed was a stray. He seems excited to meet people with as much energy as him and immediately glued himself to our sides.
Finding the trail again from Playa Las Animas to Quimixto is actually the hardest part of the entire route. You want to avoid the rocks at the end of the beach, and instead climb up in between a couple of structures to find the trail again. It feels a little bit like you’re trespassing here, but it’s just for a few moments and the trail is very obvious once you do find it again.
Quimixto to Quimixto Falls
Once you arrive in the small beach town of Quimixto, you’ll need to navigate your way to a river crossing and on to the trail up to the waterfall. This part isn’t easy, so you may need to ask a local, “donde es la cascada?”.
From the river, it’s a 1 mile climb to the waterfall where a restaurant awaits with food, cold drinks, and coconuts to help you rehydrate and replenish your electrolytes for the return trip.
Watch a video of our adventure to Quixmixto Falls from my YouTube channel below.
What happened to the dog?
After seeing the video many people have wondered, “what happened to the dog?”
Trust me, we grew quite fond of our new friend, and even began discussing strategies for possibly rescuing him. The first step would be to find out if he had an owner, which we planned to do on our way back through Playa Las Animas where we first ran into him. My plan was to at least buy him a steak for lunch.
On our way back through Quimixto we passed a group of hikers heading the other direction towards the falls. Unfortunately, our little friend must have been growing tired of us and decided to follow them from then on instead. We’d spent two hours on the trails with him but that would be it.
Check out our route on Strava below.