The 6,500-yard, par 71 course looks was designed by Joe Finger and opened in 1989. It appears deceptively small until you start stepping onto the tee boxes. It doesn’t take long to realize you’ve got a lot of yardage to cover though, most of it around bends, through tropical foliage, and over water hazards with steep banks. Slicing or hooking off the fairway here can set up some very difficult approach shots through thick–trunked trees and over rolling hills.
It’s hard to hurry on the Marina Vallarta course since there’s always something to look at out of the corner of your eye, like a beautiful crane with pink wings or two turtles ambling out of the water. The less pleasant side effect of all this marshy vegetation is that it’s heaven for mosquitoes; bring strong bug repellant.
This course is a five-minute drive from the airport, so it’s a good place to get a last game in before flying home. Bring a towel and shampoo—neither is provided in the locker room—and you can shower off before heading out.
Many local hotels offer golf packages that include greens fees at Marina Vallarta, though be advised you’ll still need to pay the $43 cart fee each time, which is split out separately. Rental clubs and a driving range are available. For more information, see the excellent Marina Vallarta Golf website.
Other Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit Golf Courses
Vista Vallarta is a favorite of local residents and returning tourists in the know. Built into the hills across 478 acres, the Vista Vallarta Club de Golf has two par–72 championship golf courses, both opened in 2001. One was designed by Jack Nicklaus, the other by Tom Weiskopf. The courses offer views of Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta city, and the Sierra Madre Mountains.
El Tigre Golf & Country Club is the closest course to most of the Nuevo Vallarta all-inclusive hotels (including Grand Velas) and is a grand facility with a large restaurant, bar, and gym. With extra–wide fairways but lots of lakes, El Tigre is forgiving to beginning golfers playing conservatively but can challenge experienced players who are more aggressive.
Flamingos Golf is the oldest and most mature of the area’s courses, built in 1970 and still extremely popular today. With rolling hills, lush foliage, and plenty of sea birds, this par–72 course near Bucarías is a favorite of vacationers staying in the many Nuevo Vallarta hotels. This is also one of the more reasonably priced courses in the area, running $76 to $140 (depending on time and season), including cart fees and a regular shuttle to area hotels.
More courses are planned for the Riviera Nayarit region in the future, extending north from the Punta de Mita peninsula. When these courses open, details and links will be on the official Riviera Nayarit website’s golf section.
By Timothy Scott.