Located in the mouth of Banderas Bay are the beautiful Las Marietas Islands, about 22 nautical miles west of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Formed by volcanic activity over thousands of years, the islands are a nationally protected bird sanctuary, also providing shelter for countless marine species.
After years of scientific research and an intensive effort to legally protect this archipelago, first championed by Jacques Cousteau, it was finally pronounced a national park, Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, in 2005. The park spans almost 1,400 hectares.
On one of the islands is Playa de Amor, more commonly known as Hidden Beach. To reach this secluded paradise, visitors need to swim through a short tunnel, opening up into the stunning beach seen here. There are a number of tour operators providing day trips to this ecological marvel.