Where to See Crocodiles in Puerto Vallarta - Estero el Salado
I didn't really stop to think about crocodiles in Puerto Vallarta until I saw a 'Beware of the crocodiles' sign whilst taking a leisurely walk along the main beach. Even then I was unconcerned until I found the aforementioned crocodile sunning himself by the public pathway to that beach.
Read more about that in: Puerto Vallarta - Expectations and Reality
Then I started to research where I might be able to see some Puerto Vallarta crocodiles in a safe environment and came across Estero el Salado. It's an urban estuary located inside Puerto Vallarta, so access is super easy. If you're coming in on a cruise ship, you could just walk there from the harbour and if staying in a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, it's easy and cheap to get a taxi there. The entrance point is not very obvious online, this is where you need to go:
This is the Estero el Salado entrance area, so you know what to look out for on your way:
To visit Estero el Salado, you will have to book yourself on a boat tour - there are several timeslots during the day and you can choose and book on the the website of the estuary. Given how hot it can get, I would recommend the 9am timeslot - the guide said you would see more animals around when it's less hot. The tour costs 300 pesos per adult (cheaper if you are a local) and the payment is made in cash on arrival.
What to expect of the tour? Well, at the start of the tour you get an intro to the estuary and the animals you can see there and then you board a boat and off you go through the mangroves in search of baby crocodiles and birds. The boat driver will stop occasionally, so you can get a better look at the animals hiding among the branches. You then get off the boat and walk to an observation tower for a view over Estero el Salado from above. It is a bit of a climb up the stairs, so be mindful if you have difficulty walking, but that's the only part of the tour where walking is involved.
After taking in the view (and possibly some vultures up close), you board the boat again and head back to the starting point of the tour, where you can see a bigger crocodile and get a chance to hold one of the babies in your hand! That was one of the most memorable things of the whole Puerto Vallarta holiday for me personally - so special and unlikely to be possible in many other places!
To get a better idea of what you can see at Estero el Salado, check out my short video:
If you want to take a taxi back when you're done with the tour, you can walk to the Galerias Vallarta shopping centre (about 10-15 minutes) and in front of it is a guy directing the taxies, so he can help you get one.
Honestly, Estero el Salado is such a great place to see crocodiles in Puerto Vallarta on your vacation, I can't recommend it highly enough. I would have back again and tried a different timeslot had my first visit not been towards the end of the vacation. It's definitely a must-do tour if you like wildlife - we saw more birds here than on the Sierra Madre hiking tour.
If you are feeling more adventurous and want to see some large crocodiles as well, then a good option would be the University de la Costa crocodile preserve in Boca de Tomates just north of the Puerto Vallarta airport (not to be confused with Boca de Tomatlan, which, confusingly is also by Puerto Vallarta, but in the other direction). I felt like the sight of our local big croc was unsettling enough, so decided to pass on Boca de Tomates, especially since the crocodiles in the area are not limited to the preserve and research of the area digs up advice not to go swimming on that beach... Plus it is further out of Puerto Vallarta and I wasn't sure how easy it would be to find a taxi there to go back to the hotel.
Wherever you decide to go, I hope you enjoy your stay and that your encounters with Puerto Vallarta crocodiles are memorable for the right reasons! For some more ideas of things to do in the area, have a look at my other posts below: