Daytime bay cruises generally begin with a quick jaunt to Los Arcos Underwater Preserve, off Mismaloya Beach. There's about a half hour for snorkeling or swimming—sometimes with legions of little jellyfish in addition to the turtles that feed on them. Cruises then proceed to Yelapa, Quimixto, or Playa las Animas, or to Islas Marietas for whale-watching (in winter), snorkeling, swimming, and lunch. Horseback riding is usually available at an additional cost (about $15).
There are plenty of tours available; our list contains some of the most popular and professional.
Buy your ticket from licensed vendors along the boardwalk at Los Muertos Beach, online, or through area tour operators. Prices are fluid; like car salespeople, the ticket sellers give discounts or jack up the price as the market allows. Full-day booze cruises cost about $40-$55 per person, including open bar, Continental breakfast, snacks, and snorkeling and/or kayaks. Two-hour sunset cruises with open bar cost about $25 per person. Dinner cruises cost $55-$85. Expect to pay a small port fee (15 pesos, a little more than $1) at the maritime pier; it is not included in the cost of the ticket.
Marigalante. A true sailing vessel that has circumnavigated the world more than once, the Marigalante has a pirate crew that keeps things hopping for kids and teens with games, snorkeling, kayaking, or banana-boat rides during a seven-hour day cruise. The five-hour dinner cruise, with open bar, snacks, and pre-Hispanic show, is for adults only and has some bawdy pirate humor. Women who don't want to be "kidnapped" may prefer the day cruise or another operator. Both tours cost $85 for adults and about half that for kids under 12. Buy tickets online at a discount or from licensed vendors in town. The boat embarks from Terminal Marítima, across from Sam's Club on Boulevard Francisco M. Ascencio, in Marina Vallarta. Av. Politecnico Nacional 78 Int 304, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48338. 322/223–0309; 322/223–0875; 866/915–0361 from the U.S.; 866/954–5984 from Canada. www.barcopiratavallarta.com.
Vallarta Adventures. Possibly Vallarta's most famous and popular adventure tour operator, Vallarta Adventures has something exciting for everyone: adrenalin pumping canopy tours in the jungle, spectacular whale watching in winter, romantic sunset sailing tours for adults, themed dinner shows for families, and many more. Safety is taken very seriously, and all tours are guided in English and Spanish (when necessary) by a very friendly and entertaining staff. Av. Las Palmas, 39, Nuevo Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, 63735. 322/297–1212 in Nuevo Vallarta; 322/221–1477 in Marina Vallarta; 888/526–2238 from U.S. and Canada. www.vallarta-adventures.com.