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When you think of Puerto Vallarta, your mind probably jumps to visions of sunsets over the water and waves crashing on the shore, but on the other side of the beach, lush jungles cover the mountains and rivers wind through valleys. Exploring the wild landscape is one of the most unique things to do in Puerto Vallarta, and Estero El Salado is one of the most accessible outdoor activities in Vallarta, located between the Hotel Zone and the airport. This officially protected wildlife sanctuary is home to wild mangrove forests, a quiet river, and crocodiles: one of the Puerto Vallarta attractions that shouldn’t be missed.


An urban oasis, Estero El Salado covers 135 hectares of marshland where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and imagine what the land looked like centuries ago. Through it, a narrow river slowly meanders its way to the ocean, mixing salt and freshwater. Volunteers at the estuary work tirelessly to preserve the natural balance of the land in the midst of the growing city. One of their biggest projects is the conservation of crocodiles, many of whom have lost their natural habitats as new buildings are constructed along rivers. The estuary provides a home to crocodiles who are found out in the sea or wandering golf courses. Preserving a wild habitat for them and the other species of reptiles, crabs, and mammals makes this one of the most important Puerto Vallarta attractions.

These river crocodiles are small and hard to spot, frozen in the sun along the river, but tour guides are quick-sighted and will point them out to guests. Tours of the estuary are one of the most affordable activities in Vallarta, and the preserve is easy to get to on a city bus. During the tour, you’ll climb a tower in the middle of the park where you can take in a panoramic view of the mangrove forest with the city and ocean in the distance. Taking a tour also supports the conservation work, keeping the city clean and healthy, and learning more about the history and natural wildlife is one of the most unique things to do in Puerto Vallarta.


Among the most prominent features of the Estero El Salado are the mangrove trees with their complex root system on display. Growing up out of sediment deposits in saline water, their stilt-like roots are exposed and reach down into the water. The mesh of roots provides a home for crabs and oysters, and their unique structure helps protect the coastline from erosion and storms, making their conservation vital to the city. The trees have evolved to withstand the changing tropical temperatures, dry seasons, and varying levels of salt in the water, making them one of the most amazing natural Puerto Vallarta attractions. Part of the tour will take you on a boat through the river under the shade of these specially adapted trees.


Visiting Estero El Salado isn’t just one of the most interesting and unique things to do in Puerto Vallarta. It’s one of the activities in Vallarta that helps preserve the tropical ecosystem and protect the city. For a meaningful and fascinating day, tour the wild Estero El Salado.

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