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 three-hour ATV tours ($75 for one rider, $95 for two) that head into the hills behind Vallarta. The stop at Rancho Las Pilas includes 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 ($130 for one rider, $190 for two). Calle Basilio Badillo 400, Col. E. Zapata, Puerto Vallarta, 48380. 322/223–0392.
Ecotours. It's a downtown PV–based operator (with a second office at Marina Vallarta) whoseofferings include hiking, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, bird-watching, whale-watching, and turtle tours. Puerto Vallarta. 322/223–3130 or 322/222–6606. www.ecotoursvallarta.com.
Puerto Vallarta Tours. This company offers tours that are available from other area operators, but we recommend it for its excellent Web site, 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. Puerto Vallarta. 322/222–4935; 01800/832–3632 in Mexico; 866/217–9704; 866/464–6915 from U.S. or 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, and diving and snorkeling outings. Puerto Vallarta. 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). Puerto Vallarta. 315/355–6777. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vallarta Adventures. It's a well-respected operator with 20 years' experience, two offices, dozens of tours, and a staff of some 350. It's often used by high-end hotel concierges and cruise-ship activity directors for canopy tours, hiking, sailing, dinner-show cruises, Sierra Madre expeditions, and dolphin- and whale-watching cruises. Puerto Vallarta. 322/297–1212 in Nuevo Vallarta; 322/221–0657 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 ($75) and horseback riding trips ($25 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 ($95). The company rents boogie boards, surfboards, and paddleboards and give surfing lessons and four- to six-day surfing packages. They also offer snorkeling and whale- or wildlife-watching excursions around the Marietas Islands. Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez 14, Sayulita, 63732. 329/291–3112. www.michaparrita.com.
Wildlife Connection. Based in downtown PV, 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. Puerto Vallarta. 322/225–3621. www.wildlifeconnection.com.