Monday, June 24, 2024

The best Puerto Vallarta beach clubs for every budget

Puerto Vallarta may appear to be a full-fledged city these days, but at its core, it’s still a laid-back beach town. And with every fantastic beach town comes fantastic beach clubs. Puerto Vallarta is no exception. The beaches that rim the Bay of Banderas are practically humming with one option after the next when it comes to posting up for a day at the beach. Here, tourists and locals alike can kick back on the sand to enjoy a good meal and beautiful Bay of Banderas views. 

With so many beach clubs to choose from, it can be difficult to weed out which ones are worth it, particularly when it comes to quality and price. To save you some time, I’ve pulled a few of my favorite beach clubs in Puerto Vallarta, which run the gamut in terms of price and vibe. From the laid-back, local spots to the swanky, luxe destinations, and the ones known for their epic parties, these are the best beach clubs in Puerto Vallarta. 

The beaches at the Bay of Banderas are some of the best in Mexico. (Táu Beach Club)

El Solar

Whenever I return to Puerto Vallarta after a long time away (or even a short time away), my first stop is always El Solar. This Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood beach spot is a favorite among locals and visitors in the know for a reason. It’s small and unpretentious, the service is friendly and it is right on the beach. What more do you need from a great local beach club?

What El Solar lacks in fancy amenities it makes up for with toes-in-the-sand chairs, great food and a fun music mix. You won’t find infinity pools or bottle service here — but that’s exactly why its guests are so devoted. Its prime slice of beachfront has both sunbeds and chairs in the sand, as well as a raised deck in the bar area with high-top tables. Tip: The tuna poke and Baja shrimp tacos are two of the best things on the menu. 

If you are looking for a more traditional dinner option, neighboring restaurant Barracuda is a dedicated dining space with proper tables, including tables on the beach. It serves the same menu as El Solar, as well. If you go for sunset, you’ll have one of the best views in town.

Note that both El Solar and Barracuda are cash only.

Once the sun goes down, El Solar comes alive with a vibrant atmosphere. (El Solar/Facebook)

Mangos Beach Club

Just down the beach from El Solar is Mangos Beach Club, another one of Puerto Vallarta’s best beach clubs. Yet another local favorite for its low-key, minimum-frills energy, Mangos Beach Club serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner from a smattering of shoreline tables and lounge chairs.

This Puerto Vallarta beach club has one of the best locations, in the heart of Cinco de Diciembre on a stretch of white, fluffy sand. Guests can also sit at one of the tables in the elevated restaurant section, which has proper tables and chairs. The menu here is beach favorites and comfort food, like chilaquiles, seafood cocktails, grilled shrimp and fish tacos. It’s an easy, comfortable and super convenient beach club for a fun afternoon.

Swell Beach Bar

Amid the chaotic fray of Zona Romantica’s bumping beach bars and clubs, Swell Beach Bar sits tucked away snuggly out of the spotlight. With a prime location directly on Playa Los Muertos, this humble beach spot serves great food and strong drinks with fast service. Guests can grab beachfront chairs or sit tucked back in the sandy, palapa-covered courtyard. No matter where you choose, reservations are strongly recommended during the busy months because of this beach club’s central location.

The food at Swell is good and unpretentious. It’s everything you want from a beach club — burgers and fries, burritos and tacos, nachos, fajitas, salads and ceviche. Drinks are strong and are refreshed often. Guests who love Swell love that when they come back multiple times, the staff take notice. There’s something about being appreciated as a repeat customer that makes you feel like you’ve carved out a section of paradise for yourself.

Swell is a great place for simple, but delicious, food. (Swell Beach Bar PV/Facebook)

Mantamar Beach Club

It’s impossible to mention the Puerto Vallarta beach club scene without talking about Mantamar Beach Club. Arguably the trendiest beach club in town, Mantamar is truly the heart of the beach action in Puerto Vallarta, particularly for the LGBTQ community.

The scene here is all about the party and luxury amenities, from multiple levels of shady Bali beds, to the oceanfront pool and rows of turquoise chairs and umbrellas on the sand. The bar serves supremely strong drinks and fresh, delicious beach food, including some of the best sushi in Puerto Vallarta. Perched at the very tip of Playa Los Muertos, this beach club has one of the best spots of sand in town — and it throws one heck of a party.

From the week-long New Year’s Eve celebrations to the Pride events, and a year-long calendar of DJs and pool parties, Mantamar is always at the center of attention, and a really fun spot to socialize and let loose. 

However, considering that this is one of the fancier beach club options in Puerto Vallarta, there is a price to pay, but that can vary depending on whether or not it’s a holiday. A typical day pass costs 500 pesos and includes 200 pesos of consumption from the restaurant. Prices can go up considerably if the club is throwing a party. Cabanas during New Year’s Eve week, for example, were 15,000 pesos to rent.

Mantamar is a Puerto Vallarta institution. (Mantamar)

Táu Beach Club

The vibe gets a little fancier in the Marina section of Puerto Vallarta at Táu Beach Club. This swanky oceanfront playground has chic beach cabanas, beautiful pools and jacuzzis, and an elegant restaurant and bar area.

For guests of adults-only Casa Velas, the beach club is included with the room rate. Visitors who want a day pass will pay a lofty 2,000 pesos per person, but that price includes a credit of 800 pesos for food and drink. The price also includes access to the showers, Bali beds, pool concierge and a private parking area. 

You’ll find more tourists here than locals given the price point, unless it’s residents of the expensive condo towers within the Marina. Still, the service is impeccable and the views are hard to beat. 

Casitas Maraika

If you’re up for an adventure — and I highly suggest being up for one — consider a trip out to Casitas Maraika. This boho-chic beach escape boasts its own stretch of sun-bleached sand surrounded by thick jungle and wild, untamed coastline. 

Hippie chic and hidden away from the public, Casa Maraika is a great choice for a romantic day out. (Casitas Maraika/Instagram)

A collection of palapa-topped bungalows (available for rent) set the scene. These colorful casitas have dreamy views out over the electric-blue colors of the Bay of Banderas and the lush green jungle behind it. Each bungalow has its own name and unique design.

But visitors don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy Casitas Maraika. The bungalows have a central beach club and bar that embodies that hippie-chic vibe, with rustic wooden tables perched atop terraces that flow down to the strip of private beach. Book activities like surf lessons or snorkeling, enjoy yoga or the calendar of live music events. There is even a spa for massages and treatments.

That said, it does take a little extra leg work to get to Casitas Maraika. Visitors can take the water taxi from the fishing village of Boca de Tomatlan to Playa Las Animas and walk from the pier. The other option is to do a beautiful coastal hike. The trailhead starts from Boca de Tomatlan and runs along the jungle-covered mountainside, weaving in and out of one beautiful beach after the next. The trail ends in Las Animas, but not before it passes directly through Casitas Maraika.

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at drillinjourneys.com.

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