Islas Marietas National Park

Located in the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean, to the west of the Nayarit coast, Mexico, there lies an incredibly rich natural and cultural treasure: the Islas Marietas National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Islas Marietas), translated and known in English as Marietas Islands National Park. This remote archipelago, with its mighty diversity of marine life and endemic birds, paradisiacal beaches, and enigmatic underwater caves, offers a unique and unforgettable experience to all travelers and nature enthusiasts.


Islas Marietas National Park

History of Marietas Islands (Islas Marietas)

The Islas Marietas, a volcanic archipelago consisting of two islands (Isla Redonda and Isla Larga), have been shaped by volcanic activity over millions of years. Formerly used for military testing, the islands were declared a national park on April 25, 2005, with a total area of 1,383.01 hectares and have been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The involvement of notable figures such as Jacques Cousteau was instrumental in protecting this natural paradise.

Location and How to Get There

The Islas Marietas National Park is situated in Banderas Bay, 35 km from Puerto Vallarta, in the region known as Punta de Mita, with geographic coordinates: 20°41′56.4″ N, 105°35′6″ W. The islands can be reached through various boat tours and excursions, offering visitors the opportunity to explore this impressive ecological destination. Remember that access to Playa Escondida is regulated and advance reservations are necessary.

General Characteristics of Islas Marietas National Park

This national park covers an area of 1,383.010 hectares and includes a core zone and a buffer zone. The marine area comprises 1,311.85 hectares, while the terrestrial area extends to 71.16 hectares. Both areas host a rich biodiversity, both marine and terrestrial, with endemic and migratory species, and offer a variety of recreational and educational activities for visitors.

Geography and Biodiversity

Geological Formation of Islas Marietas

Formed over millions of years by volcanic activity, the Islas Marietas are a spectacular example of marine geological formations. Erosion over time has created unique features such as the world-famous Hidden Beach, a beach tucked away inside a cave accessible during low tide.

Marine Biological Diversity

The park is home to unparalleled marine biodiversity, including vibrant coral reefs and a wide array of fish species. The surrounding waters also serve as a passage for dolphins, sea turtles, and humpback whales.

Endemic and Migratory Fauna

The Islas Marietas are a sanctuary for numerous species of endemic and migratory birds, such as the Heermann’s Gull, the blue-footed booby, and the fork-tailed gull. It is also home to various species of reptiles and marine mammals.

Flora of Islas Marietas

Despite their arid appearance, the islands harbor a diversity of plants adapted to life in these challenging conditions. Here, you can find a variety of cacti and succulents, as well as shrubs and plants resilient to salt.

Tourist Attractions

Hidden Beach: The Beach of Love

Nestled within a cave and accessible only during low tide, the Hidden Beach, also known as the Beach of Love, is one of the main tourist attractions of the Islas Marietas National Park. Entry is limited to a specific number of visitors per day to protect its delicate ecosystem.

Activities: Snorkeling, Diving, Bird Watching, and More

The Islas Marietas are a popular destination for water activities such as snorkeling and diving, thanks to the rich marine life in the area. Bird watching is another popular activity, with many endemic and migratory species to observe. Kayaking and paddle surfing are also available.

Points of Interest for Photography and Nature Observation

In addition to the Hidden Beach, the Islas Marietas offer numerous opportunities for photography and nature observation. Coral reefs, cliffs, and birds in flight provide wonderful landscapes to capture.

Conservation and Environmental Education

Conservation and Protection Efforts

Thanks to conservation and protection efforts, the Islas Marietas serve as a sanctuary for many endangered species. Strict visitor control and a ban on commercial fishing have allowed the island ecosystems to thrive.

Rules and Regulations for Visitors

To ensure park conservation, visitors must adhere to strict rules. This includes limitations on the number of people allowed in certain areas, a prohibition on bringing food, and the requirement to use biodegradable sunscreen. Respect for wildlife is paramount.

Educational and Environmental Awareness Programs

The Islas Marietas are a significant center for education and environmental awareness, offering programs aimed at visitors to teach them about the importance of conserving marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Unique Experiences in Islas Marietas

Whale Watching Season

From December to March, the Islas Marietas become a privileged setting for humpback whale watching. These magnificent creatures come to the warm waters of the region to mate and give birth.

The Incredible Bird Migration

Bird migration is another spectacle not to be missed. You’ll witness flocks of birds traveling thousands of kilometers to breed, nest, and feed on the islands.

The Underwater World: A Glimpse of Marine Life

Beneath the water’s surface, you’ll discover a vibrant underwater world. From colorful coral and tropical fish to majestic manta rays and sea turtles, the Islas Marietas are a paradise for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.

Planning Your Visit

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Islas Marietas is between November and April, when the weather conditions are more favorable, and the sea is calmer. However, each season has its own charms and opportunities for wildlife observation.


In Islas Marietas, the climate is warm subhumid, with rainfall during the summer. The average temperature is above 22°C.

Visitor Recommendations

It’s important to remember that Islas Marietas is a national park, and all visitors must respect the park’s rules to protect its delicate ecosystem. Don’t forget to bring biodegradable sunscreen, water, and appropriate clothing for sun protection.

Accommodation and Nearby Services

While there is no accommodation on Islas Marietas, you can find a wide variety of hotels and lodging in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. Additionally, there are several restaurants, shops, and tourist services available in these nearby destinations.

Local Stories and Legends

Legends of Islas Marietas

Every corner of Mexico is full of stories, and Islas Marietas is no exception. From ancient legends of hidden pirate treasures to modern tales of discovery and conservation, Islas Marietas is rich in folklore and mystery.

Notable Personalities and Historical Events

Islas Marietas has been the stage for various historical events, including military tests in the past and the subsequent intervention of Jacques Cousteau, who helped end these tests and contributed to the creation of the national park.

Contribution to Economy and Local Culture

Impact on the Local Economy

Tourism in Islas Marietas plays a significant role in the local economy, generating employment and supporting nearby communities. Tour operators, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses benefit from the influx of visitors.

Contribution to Mexican Culture and Heritage

Beyond their natural value, Islas Marietas symbolize Mexico’s cultural heritage. They represent the country’s rich history, its commitment to conservation, and its deep connection to the sea and nature.

Additional Resources

Available Guides and Maps

To assist you in planning your visit, there are several guides and maps available. These resources will provide you with detailed information about Islas Marietas, including the best places to visit, the fauna and flora species you can expect to see, and the park’s rules and regulations.

Contact and Reservations

To book a visit to Islas Marietas, you can contact local tour operators. It’s important to remember that entry to the Hidden Beach is limited and must be reserved in advance.

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