Most of the horseback-riding outfits are based on family ranches in the foothill towns of the Sierra Madre, such as Las Palmas. Horses are permitted on the beach in smaller towns like Sayulita and San Francisco, but not in Vallarta proper, so expect to ride into the hills.
Outfitters pick you up either from the hotel or strategic locations north and south of town and return you to your hotel or to the pickup point. Short rides depart morning and afternoon, while longer rides are generally in the morning only, at least in winter, when the sun sets earlier.
Ask at the beachfront restaurants of tiny towns like Yelapa, Quimixto, and Las Animas, south of PV, to hook up with horses for treks into the jungle. Horses are generally well cared for; some are exceptionally fit and frolicky.
Boana Tours. Three-hour, $45 horseback adventures with Boana Tours include one-way transportation to a ranch outside the city, a little more than an hour on a horse, a snack, and two drinks. You can take a swim in the river before returning on your own to PV. Daily tours at 9:15 am and 2:15 pm. Torre Malibu, Carretera a Mismaloya, Zona Romántica, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, 48399. 322/222–0999. www.boana.net.
Club de Polo Costa Careyes. Though the trail rides here are expensive at $100 for 45 minutes, you know you're getting an exceptional mount. Trips leave in early morning or around sunset. Km 53.5, Carretera 200, Carretera a Barra de Navidad, Careyes, Jalisco, 48983. 315/351–0320.
Rancho El Charro. Rancho Charro provides transportation to and from your hotel for rides to rivers and waterfalls. Choices include three-hour ($62), five-hour ($82), two different trails for average or experienced riders), and all-day rides ($120). Calle Vicente Guerrero 99, El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. 322/224–0114. www.ranchoelcharro.com..
Rancho Manolo. The friendly folks at this family-owned property take you into the mountains they know so well. The usual tour is to El Edén, the restaurant-and-river property where the movie Predator was filmed. The three-hour trip includes about an hour each way on horseback, with an additional hour for a meal, which is not included, or for splashing in the river. The cost is just $30—definitely a good deal. Km 12, Carretera 200, at Mismaloya Bridge, South of Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, 48934. 322/228–0018.
Rancho Mi Chaparrita. This ranch has very nice, healthy horses willing to run (or walk, if you ask them politely). Ride on the beach, in the tropical forest, or a combination of the two for $25 an hour. There's a four-hour horse ride ($85) up to Monkey Mountain, with a short break at the top for photo ops and a stretch. Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez 14, Sayulita, Nayarit, 63732. 329/291–3112. www.michaparrita.com.
The owners of Galeria Arte 550 (322/222–7365 www.yourcreativeawakening.com) offer unique tours combining art and adventure. Visits to the mountains and the botanical gardens, whale-watching trips, or other activities provide a springboard for journal drawing and artistic expression in clay, tile-decorating, or other media. Students can arrange their own accommodations or book a package at the new B&B House of Wind and Water : lovely lodgings in a neighborhood most tourists never see, along the Cuale River on the east side of Highway 200.