If you ride all the way to Playa Mismaloya, you will not be disappointed, despite the oversized Hotel Jolla de Mismaloya crowding the beach. Follow the dirt road just past the hotel to the intimate little curve of sand and lagoon where the cool, clear Mismaloya stream meets the sea. A rainbow of fishing lanchas (boats) lie beached around the lagoon’s edges, in front of a line of beachside palapa restaurants.
Continue a few hundred yards past the palapas to the ruins of the Night of the Iguana movie set. Besides being built for the actual filming, the rooms behind those now-crumbling stucco walls served as lodging, dining, and working quarters for the dozens of crew members who camped here for those eight busy months in 1963.
Stop for food (big fish fillet plate, any style, with all the trimmings, $8, or breakfast eggs from the restaurant’s own hens) or a drink at the Restaurant las Gaviotas palapas across the river.
Alternatively, for food and nostalgia, go to the viewpoint John Huston Cafe off the ocean side of the highway, on Mismaloya Bay’s south headland. (Or, if the John Huston Cafe is closed seasonally, visit the similarly spectacular view at Le Kliff restaurant, tel. 322/228-0666, www.lekliff.com , 10 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, by the highway about three miles south of Mismaloya.)
For still another Mismaloya treat, visit nearby Chino’s Paradise  (11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily). Follow the riverside lower road that forks upstream at the north end of the bridge across the road from the hotel. Arrive in the mid-morning (around 10) or late afternoon (around 3) to avoid the tour-bus rush.
Chino’s streamside palapas nestle like big mushrooms on a jungle hillside above a cool, cascading creek. Adventurous guests enjoy sliding down the cascades, while others content themselves with lying in the sun or lolling in sandy-bottomed clear pools. Beneath the palapas, Chino’s serves respectable but uninspired seafood and steak plates and Mexican antojitos.
For a more rustic alternative, follow the road another mile uphill to El Edén (until about 5 p.m. daily), a jungle swimming hole, complete with food, palapas, a natural pool, a Tarzan-style rope swing, and a forest canopy ride.
Fishing, especially casting from the rocks beneath the movie set, and every other kind of beach activity are good at Mismaloya, except surfing and boogie boarding, for which the waves are generally too gentle.