After spending a week in the Puerto Vallarta region in rainy season, after visiting it before in the dry season, the most astounding thing to me was how much the water changes from beach to beach depending on the month. This time of year, it’s raining every day or two for at least an hour, so the silty rivers are bloated and running down the Sierra Madres. Where most of them empty out—in the middle of the bay—this has a major impact on the beaches and the water itself.

I stayed first in the Nuevo Vallarta area, where crews were busy removing limbs and tree trunks that had washed ashore and the water (pictured here) was closer to brown than blue. It’s still a great beach, and not as chocolate brown as in Puerto Vallarta’s center, but certainly not postcard blue.

The next shot is from the beach in front of the Four Seasons Punta Mita and this far up the bay it’s a very different story. The beaches are powdery white, the sea is clear blue, and visibility is good enough to go snorkeling.

That’s kind of expected, but here’s the odd thing: if you go a bit south from Puerto Vallarta to where Garza Blanca Resort is (review coming soon), close to Mismaloya, the water gets clear blue again and the beach is white. See the photo below. There are still a few streams emptying out here, but the water is coming through the jungle (clear) and apparently the currents move toward the middle of the bay and Nuevo Vallarta. So if crystal clear water and a white beach are important to you and it’s the rainy off-season, head to the end of the bay up north or head south.