The massively popular tourist destination known as Hidden Beach in the Marieta Islands National Park, off the coast of Nayarit, will close for three months beginning Monday after an overload of visitors triggered concerns over environmental damage.
But in the wake of other concerns expressed by marine tour operators, another destination will be opened on another of the islands at some point in the next three months.
The National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) decided to close the park after Hidden Beach, also known as the Beach of Love, saw 2,500 visitors a day during Easter Week, the most recent vacation period.
The closure announcement was issued on April 14 and was followed by a huge increase in visitor numbers, with boats ferrying people to the islands from El Anclote, Nayarit, operating over capacity.
“Many more people have been coming. Above all there have been many families but couples as well, all fulfilling the wish of their loved ones to visit this place,” said El Anclote restaurant owner Juan Pelayo.
The popularity of the Beach of Love caught everyone by surprise. In 2012, 27,500 people visited. Three years later, that figure had increased by around 100,000 visitors.
That also meant a big increase in income for tour and fishboat operators. Pelayo, who in addition to his restaurant owns 15 boats, says business is up about 300% as a result of the destination’s new popularity.
The three-month closure period of the Hidden Beach is preliminary, and will allow Conanp to determine whether it should reopen the attraction and under what conditions. It has already indicated there has been extensive damage to the coral reefs in the area.
Meanwhile, tourists will be able to visit Isla Larga, Conanp chief Alejandro del Mazo Maza has announced. Visitors will be able to engage in watching birds, whales and other species at an alternative location that also will help compensate for the loss of income resulting from the Hidden Beach closure.
But Pelayo smells a conspiracy. He thinks the purpose of the Marieta Islands closure is to kill the town of Punta de Mita, located next to the residential and hotel zone of Punta Mita. “. . . we interfere with the plans of tourism developers in the area.”
The closure has provoked a response from Profepa, the environmental protection agency. It has announced the opening of a new regional office for Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and the Bahía de Banderas to focus on environmental issues in the area.