When Taylor of The Simple Sol asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico, I said when and where. I packed up my Away luggage (I have the Away carry-on in black & it has charging stations!) with all my beach outfits & accessories and away we went! This was officially my first time in Mexico so I was so excited to learn about the culture, cuisine, and things to do in the state of Nayarit.
Riviera Nayarit is celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017 and has expanded from 100 miles of white sand beaches to 192 miles, adding the longest black sand beach in Central and South America. Riviera Nayarit is framed by the majestic Sierra Madre Mountains and includes the resort town of Nuevo Vallarta, historic village of San Blas, exclusive celebrity hideout Punta Mita, “boho-chic” surfing haven Sayulita, and the picturesque fishing village of Banderas Bay.
I had so much fun exploring Riviera Nayarit in Mexico – Sayulita, Punta Mita, San Francisco, and Marietas Islands!
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HOW TO GET TO RIVIERA NAYARIT
Fly into the Puerto Vallarta Airport (Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR)). Riviera Nayarit is just a short 10-minute car drive north of PVR. Don’t forget to exchange US dollar to pesos at the airport.
TIP: Do not lose the FFM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple), your tourist card from immigration. If you don’t have it when you depart, they will fine you.
QUICK TIPS FOR RIVIERA NAYARIT
- Riviera Nayarit is located on the Pacific West coast just north of Puerto Vallarta whereas Cancun is on the Caribbean east coast on the Yucatan Peninsula.
- Tepic is the capital and largest city of the western Mexican state of Nayarit
- The hottest months for Riviera Nayarit are July, August, and September when the highs can reach into the 90s. The rainy season is from late June to early November.
- Don’t drink the tap water – it isn’t safe for consumption.
- Use reef-safe, biodegradable sunscreen.
- Riviera Nayarit’s coastline includes Rincón de Guayabitos, Alta Vista, La Cruz de Huacanaxtle, Litibú, San Francisco, Sayulita, and more.
BEST HOTELS IN RIVIERA NAYARIT
FOR ALL-INCLUSIVE: Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills Resort & Spa
The first resort that we stayed at in Riviera Nayarit was the all-inclusive Grand Sirenis Matlali Resort. Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills Resort is set within its own ecological reserve surrounded by tropical plants with two restaurants (Brazilian steakhouse/Japanese restaurant and a buffet restaurant), 3 pools, and 2 jacuzzis. The all-inclusive service includes buffet meals, restaurant dinners, 24-hour room service, mini bar, alcoholic & non-alcoholic drinks, beach club, table tennis, sports, gym, and wi-fi.
ROOM RATES: Start at $180
La Cruz de Huancaxtle, sirenishotels.com/en/riviera-nayarit-hotels/grand-sirenis-matlali-hills-resort-spa/
FOR ALL-INCLUSIVE BEACH RESORT: Villa La Estancia
Villa La Estancia is an all-inclusive resort in Nayarit with two restaurants, a two-level pool with waterfalls and a swim-up bar, three 12-person tubs overlooking the beach, and Tatewari Spa located on the Pacific coastline.
You’re given a seashell bracelet that gives you access to both Villa La Estancia and its sister resort next door, Flamingos, is the family-friendly for those looking for a family vacation.
ROOM RATES: Start at $245
Nuevo Vallarta, villagroupresorts.com/resorts/villa-la-estancia-riviera-nayarit
OTHER OPTION: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO PARTY: W Punta de Mita
It’s always a scene at the W and W Punta de Mita is no different. Gorgeous rooms, private beach, shimmering outdoor pool, green mosaic walkway that features over a million tiles, a ceviche bar, AWAY spa, and the W Living Room – where the party gets started every night with a live DJ. The hardest decision you’ll have to make at the W Punta de Mita is whether you want a jungle room or an ocean view.
ROOM RATES: Start at $315
Punta de Mita, starwoodhotels.com
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T WANT TO LEAVE THE RESORT: Four Seasons Punta Mita
Four Seasons Punta Mita is a beautiful luxury hotel with beachfront/ocean views, full-service spa, nuna infinity-edge pool that faces the Pacific Ocean, 10 tennis courts, 2 golf courses, 3 additional pools, and two private beaches. It’s dog-friendly and kid-friendly!
We spent the day sipping cocktails poolside.
ROOM RATES: Start at $500
Punta Mita, fourseasons.com/puntamita/
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SPLURGE: Imanta Resorts Punta de Mita
Imagine a private pool and private beach with a room view that overlooks the Pacific ocean that is situated in the middle of the jungle. Imanta is truly an experience and every honeymooner’s dream. If you get a spa treatment in their jungle spa, the staff picks fresh banana leaves for you.
ROOM RATES: Start at $840 a night, up to $8000+ for the suite.
Punta De Mita, imantaresorts.com
OTHER OPTION: St. Regis
TOP THINGS TO DO IN SAYULITA
Shop in Sayulita
Originally a tranquil fishing village, Sayulita has blossomed into a popular shopping destination in Riviera Nayarit with a thriving hipster-surfer scene. Grab tacos (liver & onions is the local favorite) at a taco stand before exploring all the little shops and stands. We grabbed a seaside lunch at Don Pedro’s (the grilled lobster is so good!) and ice cream afterward. It’s hard to not spend an entire day at Sayulita!
Just a few miles down from Sayulita is Litibú, a new development with pristine white sand beaches.
Ride a panga to the Marieta Islands
The only way to the Marieta Islands National Park is by boat. We took a 30-minute panga ride with Vallarta Adventures to the Marieta Islands, which was quite the adventure. The Marietas Islands were formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity and then were used by the Mexican government for military testing.
The islands are now a protected national park and protected against any fishing, hunting, or human activity. Home to at least 92 species of birds, including the blue-footed booby, the Marieta Islands is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder. I highly recommend asking about the hidden beach and if it’s open on the day you go.
Snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean
I couldn’t go to Mexico without jumping into the Pacific Ocean. The water was freezing cold but it was totally worth it!
Ziplining in Riviera Nayarit is a popular activity because of all the jungle. Canopy zip lining is a safe ecotourism adventure activity that is eco-friendly that allows you to explore (with minimal impact) Mexico’s emerald green Pacific Coast rain forests in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Canopy Adventure Park has both ATV and zipline tours.
Mercado del mar
Stop by Mercado de Mar at Marina Riviera Nayarit – it’s the biggest in the Mexican pacific that was built in 2007. You can see the freshest catch from local fishermen in the morning!
Explore San Francisco, Nayarit
San Francisco, also commonly referred to as San Pancho, is a Mexican pueblo located in the state of Riviera Nayarit. Walk along the cobblestone streets in this quiet, quaint small town is surrounded by both jungle and beach. The shopping here is cheaper than Sayulita!
Go whale watching
The best time to enjoy whale watching tours in Riviera Nayarit Mexico is from mid-December to the end of March. Large humpback whales migrate back to the warm Pacific Ocean waters of Banderas Bay for the winter months to feed, mate or give birth.
Stop by El Koko Loko
Stop my coconut stand in Riviera Nayarit!
Day trip to Bucerías
Bucerías meaning “place of divers”, is a small beach resort town in Nayarit on a stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast, Riviera Nayarit, on the Bay of Banderas, between La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Nuevo Vallarta. People like visiting Bucerías because it’s not as touristy.
Dinner & drinks at El Alquimista
To truly to experience Mexico, you have to a Mezcal or two and the best place is El Alquimista Cocktail Room of Israel Diaz, the mixology ambassador of Riviera Nayarit. Order the chicharrón de pescado and ask for grasshoppers in your Mezcal cocktail!