Hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas – Beach Hopping in Jalisco

Venture along Jalisco’s rocky coastline and you’ll find various sandy alcoves and pretty stretches of beach sitting along the blue waters of the Pacific. There are many great things to do around Puerto Vallarta, and hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas is an adventure we definitely recommend if combining some hiking with beach time sounds like fun to you! This is a great way to see some of the towns and natural spaces in the area and the beaches along the way are beautiful and much quieter than those right in Puerto Vallarta. Here are the details needed for the hike!

Hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

Getting There and Back

When heading to Boca de Tomatlán from Puerto Vallarta, you have a few options:

  • Bus: This is the most budget-friendly way to reach Boca. Catch the bus here in front of the Oxxo on Calle Constitución. They are generally white and orange and should say Boca or Mismaloya in the front window. Buses are frequent and only cost 10 pesos per person – just pay the driver when you hop on. The bus stops at the edge of Boca. Hop off and walk down into the town to find the start of the trail.
  • Water Taxi: You can also reach Boca de Tomatlán, Las Ánimas, and some of the beaches in between by water taxi from the Los Muertos Pier. We have heard mixed things about catching a water taxi from here. Some people said the ticket vendors required them to buy a roundtrip ticket but weren’t around or tried to make them pay again for the return trip and others said they were really upcharged. But, many others had no issues buying a roundtrip ticket. It costs around 240-270 pesos one way to get all the way to Yelapa, so it should be less than that, depending on your destination.
    There are the official water taxis that run on a schedule and should have set prices. Click this Yelapa page or this Puerto Vallarta page for a bit of reference on the water taxi system. There are also some other boat operators whose schedules and prices may vary. If possible, check the updated schedule with the vendor you buy from during your visit to make sure you arrive to Las Ánimas, Los Muertos Pier, Boca, or wherever you need to catch the boat from at the right time. Note that some don’t operate on Sundays.
  • Taxi or Uber: This is the most expensive way to get around. But there are taxis and Ubers you can catch from Puerto Vallarta to take you 30 minutes down the road to Boca de Tomatlán. This isn’t an option for the beaches further south of Boca as they aren’t accessible by road.

To return from Las Ánimas, you can either hike the trail back to Boca de Tomatlán, then catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta, or you can take a water taxi to either Boca or Puerto Vallarta. You’ll see various water taxis and tour boats just pulling up to the pier and shore on Playa Las Ánimas.

Coastline views on the water taxi ride back to Boca
Coastline views on the water taxi ride back to Boca

How we got around:

In the morning we caught the bus to Boca, hiked to Las Ánimas, then caught a water taxi that afternoon back to Boca to catch the bus back to Puerto Vallarta. Other than hiking the trail both ways and just using the bus to get to and from Boca, this was the cheapest way to go about it.

The first water taxi we approached in Las Ánimas was trying to charge us 200 pesos per person to just ride to Boca, which is only a 10-minute boat ride away. We declined that offer, then asked another. The cost to reach Boca was cheaper than the price he gave to get all the way back to Puerto Vallarta, even with the bus cost factored in, so this is what we opted for. The boat ride cost us 100 pesos per person.

We didn’t buy tickets in advance or talk to vendors before arriving to Las Ánimas and therefore didn’t know how many boats there would be, if they’d be full, or when the last boat was. So we showed up mid-afternoon to be sure to give ourselves plenty of time to catch one and not end up stuck in Las Ánimas or having to hike back after the last boat.

The water taxi dropped us back on the main beach in Boca
The water taxi dropped us back on the main beach in Boca

Hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

Hike Overview

Hike Type: Moderate trail – can be done as a one-way hike or out-and-back

Distance: 3.9 kilometers (2.4 miles) one way from the bridge in Boca de Tomatlán

Duration: About 1-2 hours of active hiking one way, but we spent most of the day hanging out on the beaches

Fees: There are no fees to hike here or enjoy the beaches

Points of interest along the trail

The Hike

Hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas was such a fun adventure and a great way to enjoy some of the beaches in the area. Here’s a deeper look at the hike and some of the stops along the trail.

Boca de Tomatlán

Our adventure started upon hopping off the bus in Boca. We walked down into the town in search of the bridge that leads across the river towards the start of the trail. Supposedly, there used to be a larger pedestrian bridge, but it was destroyed in a hurricane.

Crossing the river in Boca de Tomatlán
Crossing the river in Boca de Tomatlán

We crossed on the wooden walkway and strolled through the residential area towards the mouth of the river. There are some signs along the way pointing towards the trail to Las Animas and Playa Colomitos.

As we reached the edge of town, we made it onto more of a trail as we climbed up the hillside. The trail continued through a wooded area as we wound along the coast and descended towards the first beach.

Strolling through Boca de Tomatlán
Strolling through Boca de Tomatlán

Playa Colomitos

Playa Colomitos is a small, but very pretty beach tucked in a cove. The water is generally calm and nice for a dip. This beach can get busier later in the day, but when we arrived, there was only one boat that arrived to drop off a family.

There’s a bar on the beach and the Ocean Grill restaurant sitting at the edge of the cove as well.

We enjoyed the beach for a short bit before climbing the steep steps up the cliffside. While walking through the forest, we saw a coatimundi! Before we knew it, we were already descending towards the next beach.

Playa Madagascar

We soon found ourselves on another small stretch of beach dotted with large boulders. Playa Madagascar is also quite tranquil and beautiful. We placed our belongings in the shade of a boulder, swam, and hung out here for a while. This was one of our favorite beaches along the trail.

The trail up to this point had steep inclines and declines on a dirt path covered with rocks, roots, and some sections of loose dirt. The first portion of the trail was definitely the most difficult, but after Playa Madagascar, it is much flatter and easier as it winds along the coastline.

Playa Madagascar - hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

La Troza

We’re not exactly sure what the next beach is called as it isn’t marked on Google Maps, but La Troza Beach Resort sits right along it. This small resort offers spa services, kayaking, organized tours, a restaurant, etc. It looks like a beautiful place to stay!

On the far end of the beach is an old concrete pier. We took some photos there and enjoyed the views before continuing to the neighboring beach.

Playa Iguana

Playa Iguana is a beach with many boulders. It’s narrow, but pretty, and there are some shaded areas up against the trees. We didn’t hang out here long, but just continued along the coast.

Casitas Maraika is a hotel and restaurant that sits on the west end of the beach between Playa Iguana and Playa Caballo. This resort also offers organized tours, water sport activities, spa services, and more. If you’re not staying there, you can get a day pass if desired or stop to eat and grab a drink at the restaurant and bar. We have heard that the food is quite pricey, but good.

Playa Iguana - hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

Playa Caballo

We didn’t eat at any of the restaurants along the way, but instead found a shady spot under a palm on Playa Caballo and ate our packed lunch. Playa Caballo was our other favorite beach along the hike with its long stretch of soft sand and pretty palms.

Despite being close to Las Animas and there being a couple restaurants/hotels on either end of the beach, it was not crowded at all. The water was calm the day we were there, which was perfect for cooling off one last time before finishing up the hike.

Playa Caballo - hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

Las Ánimas

Our adventure ended at Las Ánimas. This was by far the busiest beach, making it our least favorite of the beaches along this hike. That’s not to say that it isn’t a nice beach to spend time at! There are various restaurants lining the sand and quite a few vendors walking around. Many tour boats and water taxis were pulling up to the pier and shore.

If you have a while before your water taxi or are looking for a beach with more amenities, this would be a great place to hang out for a while and grab a drink or bite.

Las Animas

What to Bring

You won’t find many amenities when hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas. Both towns are small, but you can buy water, snacks, or grab a bite to eat if desired. There are a handful restaurants/hotels by a couple of the beaches along the way as well. However, services aren’t as abundant as at the beaches closer in to Puerto Vallarta, so we’d recommend bringing most of what you need for a hike and beach day with you.

Water: Bring enough water to stay hydrated during the hike. There aren’t vendors at the beaches along the way, but you may be able to buy some water in Las Ánimas, Boca, and the few restaurants if needed.

Snacks/Packed Lunch: We packed a lunch. But, you can also grab a bite at the restaurants in Boca, the couple options in Las Ánimas, or at the few restaurants by the beaches along the trail.

Cash: Bring cash to pay for the bus, water taxi, restrooms, or anything else you may buy on your excursion. Some of the restaurants accept card.

Comfortable Shoes: The trail is a bit rocky and has tree roots and loose dirt in spots, and you’ll be walking through sand in other sections. Bring comfortable walking shoes with decent tread. We wore our Chacos.

Beachwear: We’d recommend just wearing your swimsuit since there aren’t public facilities along the way. Bring a towel, snorkel, or any other beach gear you may want.

Sun Protection: Some portions of the trail and beaches lack shade, so bring along your sunscreen, sunglasses, and hat.

Bug Spray: We didn’t encounter many bugs during this trip. But depending on the time of year, bug spray may be a good thing to bring along.

Camera: If you’d like to capture your adventure!

Matt hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

Extra Notes on Hiking from Boca de Tomatlán to Las Ánimas

We’d recommend that you start your hike early. Some of the beaches along the way are fairly small and can get a bit more crowded later in the day. Tours also stop at some of these beaches, and it’s nice to be there before they begin to arrive. Starting early also means you’ll be doing less hiking right in the heat of the day.

Most people start in Boca de Tomatlán and end at Las Ánimas. But you could also hike this route in the opposite direction. We think this would be a good option if you’d like to spend time at Las Ánimas because this is the most popular of the beaches in this area and starting here earlier would provide a quieter experience. If you do opt to start at Las Ánimas, note that it is only reachable by boat, so you’ll have to take a water taxi there from Boca de Tomatlán or Puerto Vallarta.

Boats along the mouth of the river in Boca de Tomatlán
Boats along the mouth of the river in Boca de Tomatlán

The rip tides along this stretch of coast are often quite strong. Even though the waves may not appear rough, the undertow poses a different hazard. These beaches along this trail are a bit remote and there are no lifeguards, so always use your best judgement before taking a dip and keep a close eye on kids if you bring them.


Tours are an option if you aren’t comfortable hiking the trail on your own or you want to enjoy some of these beaches without having to hike to them at all. There are various tour options from Puerto Vallarta and Boca, whether you’re looking for a guide to accompany you on the trail or an organized boat tour to take you to some of the beaches in the area. Boat tours will also often include other activities, such as snorkeling or a stop at Yelapa Waterfall.

Many tour operators can be found in Puerto Vallarta. Operators may also approach you in Boca. Alternatively, you can book online through sites like Viator, Get Your Guide, or individual operator sites.

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