Trip Report Trip Report - Puerto Vallarta Oct 15 to 21, PV Ocean Tours

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Guitarcrazy

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Trip Report, Puerto Vallarta Oct 15 to 21



My wife and I just returned to Puerto Vallarta after a 4 year absence. We have been there quite a few times, but in the last 4 years we have predominantly been going to Cozumel. We booked flights on United (not my favorite, but had award availability and better schedule). We arrived in PV on schedule and had no issues in Customs. No questions were asked about cameras or scuba gear, and we were quickly outside at the Cab Stand.

We booked our stay at the Grand Park Royal south of Puerto Vallarta as it is close to Mismaloya, where we would be departing for our dives. We have stayed at the GPR in Cozumel several times, and have always enjoyed it there. The hotel is a nice property, and the service was great. They were very meticulous about mask wearing when in public areas. We are vaccinated and don’t worry too much about masks, but if we went to the buffet table and forgot to put on a mask one of the staff would politely remind us to put one on.

The food was pretty good. Not exceptional, but it compared well to many all-inclusives we have visited. There are 3 sit down restaurants, the buffet restaurant, and a rooftop bar with a tapas menu. We tried them all and had no trouble finding something we liked in each restaurant. The rooftop bar and pool is an additional cost, but for some reason they gave us access for no additional charge. I am not sure if it was because we booked direct through the hotel vs. a travel agency or website, or if it was because we have visited other GPR locations, but either way we appreciated the access. The drinks there were all top-shelf, and it was never crowded. We rarely saw more than 3 or 4 other couples when we were there. The hotel has a secluded beach and street vendors aren’t able to access it, which was very nice. We happened to luck out and a sea turtle hatch occurred while we were walking on the beach and we were able to watch them make their way to the ocean.

The hotel has a couple of pools by the beach, swim up bar, kids play areas, and lots of loungers and shady beds. We were obviously not there in the high season, and we never had a problem finding a place to sit. The room was pretty spacious, and had been recently remodeled. It is very nice with a huge bathroom and walk in shower large enough for two.

We dove with PV Ocean Tours, led by Marc Pearsey. He is a British ex-pat and he has been running the business since approximately 2016. The cost is a bit higher than Cozumel as diving is not as prevalent in PV, and they don’t have nearly as many operators there as in Cozumel. The tanks are more expensive, and Nitrox is much harder to find, but these are just the cost of doing business in an area not known as much for diving.

The dives depart from Mismaloya Beach, which puts you very close to the best dive sites in PV. If you depart from the PV Marina you have around a 45 minute boat ride just to get to the first of the typical dive sites. They have a newer panga-style boat that is very large and has seating for more than a dozen. We dove Majahuitas, Los Arcos, Yelapa, and the Wrecks north of Mismaloya. We were planning to dive El Chimo, but the timing of our Covid test made us reschedule to yelapa and Los Arcos. It turned out better that way as we saw some great wildlife at both locations.

The water was unbelievably warm, easily the warmest water I have ever dove. My Shearwater said the water ranged between 85 and 87 degrees for most of our dives. There was a thermocline at varying depths, and when you went below the temperature dropped 7 or 8 degrees. I was almost happy to go below the thermocline as I was very warm in my 3 mil suit. The visibility varied from probably 20 feet on the worst days, to 40 or 50 feet on the good days. Certainly not the crystal clear water you find in Cozumel, but we got used to it quickly and really enjoyed the dives.

We saw several Manta rays, Eagle Rays, and huge school of Devil Rays, an Electric guitar ray, tons of fish, macro life, innumerable eels, many octopus during the day, and a white tip reef shark. We were very excited to see the white tip as it was our first encounter with one. He has taken up residence in a small cave area north of Los Arcos, and we were able to see him again later in the week when we dove the site again. It was an impressive array of wildlife and we enjoyed it immensely.

We love the topography of Puerto Vallarta, and the city offers a lot that you don’t find in Cozumel. We are looking at possibly snow birding to Mexico or other warm climate soon, and PV is a good candidate. I will still probably go to Cozumel more often than other locales for diving, but we will not be waiting 4 years to go back to Puerto Vallarta.

We dove 5 days with PV Ocean tours, and we only had other divers on 1 day. The other days it was just my wife and I with Marc, Chuy (divemaster and marine biologist), and Captain Alonso. I am sure that they were not making much if anything taking only the two of us each day, but they were always happy to go out and found us a ton of great animals to photograph. Marc is a pretty accomplished underwater photographer and spent a lot of time helping me with my camera setup. I purchased a strobe last winter and have not had a lot of success with it. We found that my fiber optic cable had a crack which made the strobe fire intermittently, and it finally completely broke during the wreck dive. This was actually a good thing as I was able to cut the end and repair the cable, so it worked flawlessly for the rest of the trip. The videos and photos are not as dramatic as in Cozumel or Roatan where the visibility is much better, but still took some decent shots.

All in all we really enjoyed the visit and can’t wait to go back. Whale season starts in November so maybe we will have to come back later in the year next time. The water gets a lot colder then, so a 7 mil suit may be preferable in December or January, but the chance of seeing whales makes it an appealing proposition. I highly recommend diving with Marc if you find yourself in Puerto Vallarta. They are very accommodating, focused on safety, and a lot of fun to dive with. I will add some photos and videos a bit later. Thanks for reading.


 

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Redfoot

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Very cool- I saw a guitar ray when I did the Atlanta Aquarium dive and thought it was so cool.

I am extremely jealous of the sea turtle hatch you saw! That is incredible. Was it at night or early AM?
 
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Guitarcrazy

Guitarcrazy

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The sea turtle hatch was around 5 in the afternoon. We stayed at Dreams in PV about 10 years ago (now a Hyatt Ziva) and they always did a sea turtle release in the evening. We were surprised to see them that early in the afternoon, but it was very cool to watch.
 

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drrich2

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I agree, we don't see many Puerto Vallarta trip reports, so a good, detailed one is extra nice. Got a few follow up questions:

1.) You used PV Ocean Tours; their website isn't as informative as I'd like (though I may've missed some things). Do they offer just 2 dives/day, or is an afternoon dive or two an option?

2.) You said Nitrox is much harder to find; did they have it, and is there a practical reason to get it? I like to use Nitrox when it's free, I'm doing 4 dives/day or very deep, nearly square profile dives with a lot of time spent deep.

3.) Any idea whether they had tanks larger than 80-cf, such as the 100-cf AL tanks?

4.) You are considering 'snow bird' options; if you were just going for a dive trip, would you still consider Puerto Vallarta a good choice? In terms of overall trip costs (e.g.: stay, dive, airfare), did it compare decently against other dive trips for you?

5.) I wonder how typical viz. of 20 - 50 feet is? And how that varies with time of year?

6.) It's worth noting for newer divers that Puerto Vallarta is a coastal city bordering the Pacific Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea, so divers will see different creatures there.

7.) Can you elaborate upon that 'lot?' Many people enjoy walking (and especially eating) in San Miguel in Cozumel. What might they look forward to in Puerto Vallarta?

Thanks for the trip report! Good to see.

We love the topography of Puerto Vallarta, and the city offers a lot that you don’t find in Cozumel.
 
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Guitarcrazy

Guitarcrazy

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Hi Rich, I am pretty sure that Marc would do almost anything you wanted. I wanted to do a night dive, but we did not as the lower visibility would have made it less enjoyable. On lower vis night dives I have found you spend most of your time making sure you don't lose your dive buddy and less time enjoying the wildlife. I forgot to mention earlier that Marc also offer 'valet' diving so we left our gear with him each day, only taking our computers, cameras, and masks. Much easier than schlepping everything back and forth from the hotel.

We did not get Nitrox. In Cozumel it is very easy for ops to get Nitrox and change tanks. Most shops get the tanks swapped for them at the marina. In PV each op has to take their tanks in to get filled, and then return after each days dive, so it is a more time intensive process. Especially if you depart from Mismaloya. I don't believe Marc has any tanks dedicated to Nitrox so he said it would be substantially more expensive to source them, so we did without. To be honest, we never really needed it, except it may have been nice on the wreck dive, which was '80 to '90 feet, and no real shallow water option for before or after the wreck.

I don't believe he had any larger capacity tanks available, but I did not ask.

If I were only going to dive, there are certainly better locations. Cozumel is easily much better for pure diving. It is interesting to see something different though. The huge school of Devil Rays was a sight to see, and the Mantas are always impressive. The White Tip was also really cool, although that is probably not as common a sight as the others. The cost of airfare and accommodations was less than we pay for Cozumel, but the diving was maybe 20% more expensive. Coming from Montana we don't have as many flight options so we have a hard time flying into Cozumel, but we can always get into PV same day.

I think 40 to 50 foot vis it probably pretty normal. The low vis day was the worst I have seen, but then again I have only dove in PV on two different trips, so my sample size is small. I did speak with Marc yesterday and he said that the water just turned a bit colder and more green, so I think we timed it right.

Puerto Vallarta is a larger city, and has larger city offerings. The Romantic Zone has a ton of nice bars, restaurants, cabaret shows, drag shows, live music shows, etc. I didn't realize that it is considered one of the most LGBT friendly international cities, so if that makes you uncomfortable you may not want to visit the Romantic Zone. PV also has a Zoo, ziplining, mountain hikes, hidden waterfalls, atv rides, etc., etc. Cozumel is still my favorite easy dive location, but for other activities PV has much more to offer. If you live on the west coast it seems a no brainer for a long weekend. We dove with a young woman from Portland and she had a direct flight to PV, went diving one day, and flew home the next. Very short but fun weekend trip for her. I hope that helps.
 

Johnoly

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Thank you for the detailed report!!
 

Hardisk70

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Never been but going next week! Thanks for all the details……
 

Johnoly

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Never been but going next week!
Please add from your trip your ...LIKES...DISLIKES...&...TIPS
Some of us are planning PV trips and starving for little known tidbits that divers like you find topside & waterside.
 
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