Increasingly, ATV, dune buggy, and jeep tours are heading for the hills around Puerto Vallarta. Most rides are to small communities, ranches, and rivers north, south, and east of town. Sharing a vehicle with a partner means a significant savings.
You need a valid driver's license and a major credit card. Wear lightweight long pants, sturdy shoes, bandanna (some operators provide one as a keepsake) and/or tight-fitting hat, sunglasses, and both sunscreen and mosquito repellent. In rainy season (July–October) it's hot and wet—ideal for splashing through puddles and streams; the rest of the year is cooler and dustier. In either season, prepare to get dirty. Three- to four-hour tours run $80–$120; full-day trips to San Sebastián cost about $165 for one rider or $175 for two.
If you plan to gulp rather than sip on a tequila-tasting tour, please strongly consider riding two per ATV and designating one person as the day's driver. Doubling up is usually also the bargain rental option.
Adventure ATV Jungle Treks. This company leads daily ATV tours ($75 to 165$) that head into the hills behind Vallarta, Sayulita or beyond. Those that stop at Rancho Las Pilas include a brief tequila-making tour and tasting, but lunch there is optional and not included in the price. A four-hour tour combines this ATV trek with a canopy tour through River Canopy, along the Cuale River ($135 for one rider, $190 for two). Dune buggies and Polaris RZR tours are also available, and now there is also a convenient branch in Bucerias if you're based in Nuevo Vallarta or Bucerias itself. Calle Basilio Badillo 400, Zona Romántica, Puerto Vallarta, 48380. 322/222-8944. www.wildtreksadventures.com/.
Ecotours. A PV–based operator (with the main office at Marina Vallarta) whose offerings include hiking, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, bird-watching, whale-watching, and turtle tours. Proa 20, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, 48335. 322/209-2195. www.ecotoursvallarta.com.
Puerto Vallarta Tours. This company offers tours that are available from other area operators, but we recommend it for its all-in-one website, English-speaking operators and crew, and the convenience factor: through this one operator, you can book everything from canopy tours, ATVs, deep-sea fishing, and mountain biking to cruise tours, cultural tours, and bullfighting. Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. 322/222–4935; 866/217–9704 Toll free USA; 866/464–6205 Toll free Canada. www.puertovallartatours.net.
Sociedad Cooperativa Corral del Risco. Local fishermen at Punta Mita (aka Punta de Mita) have formed this cooperative, which offers reasonably priced fishing trips, surfing, whale-watching excursions, diving and snorkeling outings. Riviera Nayarit, Punta Mita, Nayarit. 329/291–6298. www.puntamitacharters.com.
Tours Soltero. Canadian expat Ray Calhoun and his wife Eva rent mountain bikes, snorkeling equipment, and boogie boards ($10 per day) and lead active tours from their base in San Patricio Melaque, a town next to Barra de Navidad south of PV. Typical excursions are snorkeling in Tenacatita with boogie boarding at Boca de Iguana, from 10 to 5 ($32), and a day trip to the state capital, Colima, which includes lunch and a stop at a typical hacienda-cum-museum ($60). South of Puerto Vallarta, San Patricio–Melaque, Colima. 315/355–6777. email@example.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.
Rancho Mi Chaparrita. On his family ranch, Luis Verdin runs a 13-zip-line tour ($79) and horseback riding trips ($30 per hour), or combine the two, accessing the ranch on Señor Verdin's lively, healthy horses via the beach and backcountry for a complete adventure (100 USD). The company rents boogie boards, surfboards, and paddleboards, gives surfing lessons, offers snorkeling, sportfishing and whale- or wildlife-watching excursions around the Marietas Islands. Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez 14, Riviera Nayarit, Sayulita, Nayarit, 63732. 329/291–3112. www.michaparrita.com.
Wildlife Connection. Based in Puerto Vallarta's marina, this Mexican-owned company does what its name implies: it connects you with wildlife (specifically birds, turtles, dolphins, and whales) on seasonal trips. It also leads snorkeling and photography outings as well as cultural tours. Without a doubt the most popular tour is the one where you can swim with wild dolphins in the bay. Oh, and unlike in most other tours, most of these are led by real biologists. Paseo de la Marina Sur #214, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, 48300. 322/225–3621 or 322/227–1645. www.wildlifeconnection.com.