Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto Tour Review
Updated: May 9, 2020
This post marks a start to a new mini series on the blog - reviews of tours available from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. During my two-week holiday there, I went on four very different tours trying to incorporate a good mix of activities. I have paid for all the tours myself and am not incentivised by any tour company to write these reviews - these are just my honest impressions, which should hopefully give you some useful information.
So without further ado, let me kick the series off with a review of Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour.
Tour company: Vallarta by Boat
Price: The peso equivalent of USD40 per person (bought from a local shop) plus port fee (something like 25 pesos)
Places visited on the tour:
Though it is called Los Arcos, Las Animas, Quimixto, what it should really be called is Los Arcos, then Las Animas OR Quimixto. When you board the boat at Puerto Vallarta, they will tell you to make a choice – those who choose Las Animas beach don't get to see Quimixto waterfall at all. Those who choose Quimixto will come to Las Animas for lunch, but apart from eating won't get to spend any time on the beach. That wasn't made clear to us when we bought the tour and was a surprise after we got on the boat.
Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour summed up in one and a half minutes (switch on the speakers if you can, the video is cut to some fun music):
Reasons to do Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour:
- If you are saving your pennies - this is one of the cheapest tours around.
- If you want to experience the local ambience (the vast majority of the people on the tour were Spanish-speaking).
- If you want to pack several different activities into one tour (boat trip, snorkelling, walking).
Reasons to avoid Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour:
- If you don't like party boats (there will be loud music playing and silly games).
- If you've never snorkelled before and aren't a confident swimmer (it was my first time and, though everyone got given life jackets, I don't think Los Arcos, with deep and murky water made for the best learning experience).
- A bit of an obvious one, but if you get seasick easily. There will be a LOT of time during the day spent on the boat and the sea is choppy. You will not be able to get off the boat early and get a taxi home if you feel sick because both Las Animas and Quimixto are only accessible by boat, so you would still have to rely on a water taxi.
- Bring a supply of cash – you will need to pay the port fee; you will need a deposit for the snorkel equipment unless you are willing to leave your ID instead; though lunch is included in Las Animas, the drinks with the meal cost extra; horse-riding in Quimixto and some attractions on Las Animas beach are not included; you will need to buy something in the restaurant in Quimixto to get access to the waterfall; you can also buy a CD with photos of you taken by the on-board photographers.
- They will greatly exaggerate the difficulty level of the walk to Quimixto waterfall and push you to go for the horse ride. The walk is very easy and only takes 15 minutes tops, so save your money unless you are eager to ride a horse.
- If you are after non-alcoholic drinks, bring your own. The on-board bar serves horrid artificial-tasting juice.
- If you are planning on changing out of your wet swimwear after snorkelling, bring a large towel to hide under. The toilets on the boat are not for the squeamish.
Long review for the nitty-gritty detail:
My original plan was to do a short review with a video, but the short review turned into a whole lot of words. So if all you want is a brief summary, the sections above should tell you all you need to know. For more photos of Los Arcos and Quimixto, do check out my Puerto Vallarta sights section here. But if you like reading and want to get more details about Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour, read on.
There are no pickups for the tour (I will leave it up to you to decide whether that's good or bad), so you need to make your own way to the maritime terminal, go through security and pay a port fee before finding the Vallarta by Boat representative who will direct you to the correct boat. Incidentally, I thought I was being super efficient having tied a waterproof valuables container to my shorts for snorkelling in advance, only to have to untie everything at the security control so they could check it... Before going to board the ship, you also need to choose your lunch option from the list provided.
The boat itself was a large catamaran on our tour (but that's not the boat that Vallarta by Boat marketing material displays in Los Arcos, so they may vary I suppose). There were two decks, both with roof to provide shade - I would recommend finding a shady spot as the sun can get brutal. The toilets quickly went from just spartan and unappealing to absolutely disgusting (I will not bore you with the details, but suffice to say seasickness and upset stomachs had something to do with that).
As the boat sails out of Puerto Vallarta harbour, they explain how the tour is going to work. There are also two photographers on board offering to sign up for a CD with photos of you during the tour (at extra cost of course). We signed up and thought it was very good value for money and a great memory. They make the CDs ready during the sail back, so you get yours straight away.
Be aware that Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto tour is very popular with the locals, so announcements are made first in Spanish and then in English. There will also be loud and cheerful music blasting from the speakers to set the mood. After about 30 minutes, the boat makes a stop at Los Muertos pier to pick up more passengers and then heads to Los Arcos National Marine Park for the snorkelling session.
Los Arcos looked absolutely stunning as we approached - the little islands are very picturesque and if you have a drone, you will be able to take some great aerial shots. It was, however, also quite full with other boats so we stopped off quite far away from the arches, which I would have loved to explore.
To get snorkel equipment you need to leave a deposit in the form of either cash or an ID. No fins are provided, just a mask and a snorkel. It is also compulsory to wear a life jacket in the water, and they explain how to tie it around so that you are able to actually put your head under the water (no deposit needed for that). This is where it all started to go wrong for me.
It was my first time snorkelling and I am not a confident swimmer, so being in the water in the open sea is not something I take lightly. I suddenly started to panic that the life vest might slip off and tied it extra tight around the chest. The water in the Los Arcos National Park was full of jellyfish and quite murky, so the snorkelling experience wasn't how I'd imagined it to be. I also managed to swallow some water while learning to breathe through the snorkel. After a short period in the water, I began to feel quite sick. Whether it was the tightness of the life jacket strap, a jellyfish sting, seasickness or the water that I'd swallowed, we'll never know, but I had to abandon snorkelling and confine myself to the immediate vicinity of the revolting toilets until disembarking at Quimixto. I was far from the only person suffering, so this is something you should be prepared for.
After everyone gets back on board, the next quick stop is Las Animas beach, where those who have chosen not to go to Quimixto will disembark. As the catamaran is too big for the local beaches, all the embarking and disembarking on the tour (with the exception of Puerto Vallarta harbour) is done by using a small boat attached to it. Depending on the number of people, this may require several trips back and forth. Do listen to what the Vallarta by Boat crew tell you and watch where you put your hands and feet to avoid being crushed between the railings of the catamaran and the boat when getting on and off (they do take good care of you and help everyone board safely).
We chose to go to Quimixto and were very happy with that decision. Though Vallarta by Boat strongly encouraged people to get the horses to the waterfall, we chose not to fork out extra money for the horse and did not regret it. The walk is easy, picturesque and enjoyable. When you get to Quimixto waterfall, you have to pass through a restaurant and make a purchase in order to proceed (they do snacks and drinks). You can get in the water if you climb down some rocks, which a lot of people do to get some awesome photos, but that involves either leaving your things unattended up in the restaurant or risk getting them wet. For that reason we decided to stay on dry land.
After a bit of time in Quimixto you get back on the boat and go to Las Animas beach for lunch. The restaurant is right on the beach, so you eat overlooking the sea and with your feet in the sand, which is quite nice. I didn't think the food was particularly good, but, to be fair, I was still feeling quite queasy. Once everyone has eaten, they try and get you on the boat as quickly as possible for the ~1.5 hour sail back to Puerto Vallarta harbour. Not sure why, but we didn't stop at Los Muertos pier on the way back. It was full party mode all the way with lots of music and games, but I was too busy trying to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon to avoid getting seasick again to participate or even just watch.
Los Arcos, Las Animas & Quimixto is a cheap tour and you get what you pay for. You get a boat with spartan conditions and cheap alcohol and there are a lot of extras to pay for separately. However, you do also get to tick off several sights in one go, so it might be a good option if your stay in Puerto Vallarta is fairly short. All in all, even though the snorkelling experience didn't live up to my expectations, we got some fantastic photos on this tour and I don't regret going despite the fact that I spent a large part of the day feeling sick and miserable and was extremely happy to be back on solid ground at the end of the tour.