Your Quick Guide to the Towns and Cities of Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
If you’ve reserached travel to Mexico in recent years you’ve undoubtedly come across the term, “Riviera Nayarit.” This relatively new branding of Pacific Mexico runs nearly 200 miles from Puerto Vallarta in the South, to San Blas in the North. The region’s near perfect weather, expansive beaches, and perhaps most importantly, distance from the violence that plagued other areas of Mexico have made it the fastest growing tourist destination in the country. Whether you’re looking for 5 star accommodations, or 5 miles of empty beach, it’s quite easy to find both.
There’s something for everybody in this diverse coastal region. Here’s a look at the most popular destinations in the region, and what they have to offer:
Often referred to as “Vallarta”, or simply, “PV”, this bustling Mexican resort town sits prominently along side the majestic Bay of Banderas. If you’re looking for a wide variety of nightlife, restaurants or shopping this is the spot. Highrise hotel and condo buildings dot the shoreline and a number of large resorts occupy the Northern portion of town. The city has exploded with growth in the past few years and judging by the number of cranes on the horizon, looks to be on track for much more. Puerto Vallarta is home to the regions only international airport and is the official gateway to the Riviera Nayarit. Frequent non-stop flights from cities along the Western United States and Canada bring many visitors looking to soak up that warm Mexican sun.
Neuvo Vallarta, Bucerias & La Cruz
The three of these towns make up the North end of the Bay of Banderas. Nuevo Vallarta is an upscale, resort community that houses a large golf course, and a number of the region’s newer resorts. Bucerieas is just far enough “out of town” to offer a number of budget accomodations. Those willing to forego more elaborate niceties in exchange for lower prices flock to this beachside town. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle sits on the very North end of the Bay and begins to hint at the luxury accomodations you’ll find just a little further down the road. A number of vacation homes, boutique shops, upscale restaurants and a revitalized Marina can be found in La Cruz.
Punta Mita & Litibu
The most luxurious accommodations in all of Riviera Nayarit, no questions asked. From the Four Seasons to the St. Regis, this is as nice as it gets anywhere in Mexico. 5 star resorts, world class golf courses, and a number of luxury Villas nicely tucked in between it all. Live like a celebrity (which you might just spot here) and enjoy extremely high end dining and pampering. You’re probably not going to experience much true Mexican culture from behind the community gates, but if your’e looking for an unrivaled, luxury destination, and don’t mind paying for it, look no further.
You’ll hear the locals complain that Sayulita’s getting too big, but the truth is; this once sleepy surfing town still has plenty to offer. Small boutique shops, a number of tasty restaurants, and a unique blend of Mexican and expat culture dot the streets. The beach’s tame, reliable waves make for excellent beginner surfing opportunities, A prolific amount of vacation homes provide lodging in the hills above town and a number of small scale hotels line the streets. It’s been “discovered”, and it’s certainly changed in the past 10 years (even in the past 5 years!), but that doesn’t mean it won’t still provide a good option for people looking for an alternative to Puerto Vallarta.
Guyabitos & La Peñita
Once you head North of Sayulita Mexican culture opens up tremendously. The majority of the tourist traps are behind you, and a vibrant, lively blend of local Mexican culture and people await. Rincon de Guabitos and neighboring La Penita offer a wonderful mix of retired expats and a thriving local economy. A majority of the “gringo” tourists here are visitors that have been coming for years. This region seems particularly popular with Canadians. Affordable second home options available for multi-month rentals make the perfect snow bird retreat. You don’t find much of the glitz and glamour available further South, but if you’re looking for a truly authentic Mexican vacation, you’re starting along the right track.
Everybody forgets about Chacala! This small little fishing village (reminiscent of an older Sayulita) sits 9 miles off the main hwy, just a little north of La Peñita. Perhaps the short drive is what keeps people from discovering this gem of a town. This community sits at the north end of a gorgeous, expansive, half moon bay. The town consists of a few small restaurants and some small scale services. An up-scale community sits perched up above town. This gated community has luxurious beachfront and hilltop accommodations available. A private beach and large pool provide extra incentive to splurge for one of these options.
Boca Chilla, Playa Tortugas, Costa Custodia
Once you head north of Chacala, the birds and wildlife start to outnumber the people. A 10 mile stretch of almost completely isolated beach stretches North along the coast here. There are competing names for this stretch of land, but whatever you call it, you can’t argue the fact that it’s nearly completely untouched, unspoiled, virgin beach. The expansive, natural shoreline is prime ground for sea turtles, and thousands visit each year to nest and lay their eggs. An old palm tree plantation at the north end of this stretch is where our small community sits. A number of up-scale villas fit nicely between the towering palms, and provide the perfect accommodation for enjoying this secluded, “away from it all” location.
Platanitos to San Blas
The stretch of coast that makes up the final stretch of Riviera Nayarit is sleepy Mexico at it’s best. A few small fishing villages mark the shoreline, but don’t blink or you’re sure to miss them. The Matanchen Bay makes up the majority of the coast here and became famous for having some of the longest, surfable waves in the world. The region was discovered by some of the sports pioneers in the 60s and 70s, and longed after for its great waves and relaxed pace of life. Little has changed.
San Blas marks the terminus of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit region. A colonial port town with rich history. The town has undergone many transformations over the years. Stop in and enjoy the company of an eclectic expat at the San Blas Social club for a true flavor of what this city’s all about. In addition to the history, the town and neighboring region is world famous for its bird population. A number of endemic birds are found in the mangroves, mountains and shorelines surrounding this lush, sub-tropical location. San Blas is a far cry from the lights and crowds in Puerto Vallarta, but a wonderfully unique spot to visit just the same.