Located at the northern side of Bahia de Banderas (Banderas Bay), the Marietas Islands are the centerpiece of a wildlife sanctuary and aquatic preserve, where the rocky islands and the surrounding waters are protected by the Mexican federal government. The Marietas Islands' surrounding waters, with thriving coral gardens, is home to a stunning amount of aquatic species, including a dazzling spectrum of tropical fish, as well as marine turtles, and massive manta rays.
The world-renown marine biologist, Jacques Cousteau, first brought the world's attention to the stunning beauty and remarkable biodiversity of Banderas Bay and the Marietas Islands during the nineteen-seventies. After Cousteau documented this region's wide array of undersea life and unique geographic formations and islands on his television program, scuba divers from all over the globe flocked to Puerto Vallarta to witness the undersea world firsthand. And scuba diving enthusiasts have continued to be drawn to the amazing Marietas Islands. These craggy islands were originally created by volcanic activity which, along with wind and water, has created a great number of nooks, caverns, and coves on the island. The world-wide popularity of this incredible marine reserve has greatly contributed to the continued growth of Puerto Vallarta as a tourist destination. Not only scuba divers visit these breathtaking islands; snorkelers, kayakers, and eco-enthusiasts also enjoy visiting this federally protected marine park.
Like divers, snorkelers are astounded by the splendor of the submerged reefs and its inhabitants, including the King Angelfish, the Sergeant Major, the Cortez Chub, the Giant Damselfish, the Moorish Idol, and the Rainbow Wrasse. Kayakers enjoy exploring the island via the water, where they can get a close-up view of the rocky outcroppings, caverns, and coves. Kayakers can get a better view of nesting sea birds, including the Frigate Bird, the Egret, the Heron, the Sea Gull, the Pelican, the Brown Booby and the Red Billed Tropicbird. You may even spot some of the Earth's few Green Macaws. The Blue-footed Booby can only be found nesting on two places in the world, the Galapagos Islands and the Marietas Islands.
This area of Banderas Bay has also been known as a favorite gathering place for those playful clowns of the sea, the Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins. These intelligent marine mammals may accompany your boat as you approach the islands. They love to surf in the wake of seafaring vessels. Another marine mammal that you may spot in Banderas Bay is the enormous Humpback Whale. These warm-blooded cetaceans visit Banderas Bay every winter to birth and nurse their calves.