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Riviera Nayarit Travel Guide

Riviera Nayarit Summary


  • Over 190 miles of beautiful beaches
  • Wide array of accommodation options for every budget and taste
  • Average temperature is 80°F, and temps rarely dip below 70°F
  • Rich culture
  • Outstanding cuisine, both Mexican and international
  • Whale-watching December through March
  • World-class golf courses and snorkeling
  • Marieta Islands are a bird and marine life sanctuary
  • Gorgeous jungle-meets-the-ocean scenery
  • Beautiful neo-Gothic, neo-Classic, and colonial architecture
  • Several off-the-beaten-path archaeological sites
  • Dozens of quaint little towns dot the region
  • Myriad water sports in Banderas Bay
  • Great surfing
  • Great rock climbing and hiking in Sierra Madre mountain range
  • Several great marinas, especially the Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
  • Well-paved roads, especially in the Southern and Central coasts
  • The Northern Coast is mostly virgin and gets little foreign tourism
  • Warm, friendly locals
  • Less touristy than Puerto Vallarta and other regions in Mexico
  • Kid-friendly activities, including a great eco-park in Nuevo Vallarta offering activities with dolphins


  • Northern region is over three hours from the airport
  • It can rain up to four out of seven days (but mostly at night) during the summer months
  • Few non-stop flights from the States
  • Some areas have lost the local charm to development
  • Slow buses connecting towns

What It's Like

With over 190 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, wonderful resorts, and world-class golf, it’s surprising that Riviera Nayarit is still somewhat under the radar. Punta Mita and Nuevo Vallarta are probably the most well-known places in this vast region, offering all the features of other resort communities -- including wonderful restaurants, several championship golf courses, and high-end resorts -- but Riviera Nayarit is also home to many charming little beach towns that are worth a visit.

The most developed area is located between Nuevo Vallarta (just a few miles north of bustling Puerto Vallarta) and Litibu -- but north of that the landscape becomes wilder and the jungle thicker. Even in the most populated areas the crowds are still smaller than at other Mexican beach destinations and the ambiance less party-oriented.

For those whose ideal vacation involves snoozing under a straw umbrella on a gorgeous sandy beach, the shoreline is beautiful and varied. The most popular beaches are on Banderas Bay, but it’s worth exploring the beautiful stretches of sand farther north. Sayulita and San Pancho are wonderful picks and offer good waves, but those with some extra time might also want to travel further afield into the wild regions bordering the state of Sinaloa, where there are some of the region's most remote stretches of sand.

However, Riviera Nayarit offers much more besides beaches. Visitors will also find myriad small towns with colonial architecture and Mexican culture; zip lining; surfing; hiking; and even rock climbing. While the rainy season is, well, rainy, showers usually only take place in the evening for a couple of hours; the temperatures rarely dip below the 70s at night and the high hovers above the 80s during the day year-round, so outdoor activities can be enjoyed even in the off-season. The region is also on the migration path of several types of whales, and whale-watching tours are one of the most popular activities between December and March, which is also peak season.

Riviera Nayarit's stunning archaeological sites don't get a lot of tourist traffic but are highly recommended. One of the best examples is Alta Vista, home to over 2,000 stone engravings (or petroglyphs) thought to have been carved some 2,000 years ago. The ancient settlements are mostly located inland, but can be reached easily from beautiful, interesting towns such as Tepic and Compostela, which offer a completely different experience from the seaside communities. With historic centers, museums and tons of local charm, this is where visitors can get a real taste of the traditional Mexican culture. This doesn’t mean there aren’t any tourist areas or souvenir shops here, but fewer foreign tourists venture inland.

Where to Stay

Riviera Nayarit offers myriad accommodation options, from beachfront resorts along Banderas Bay and all the way to Punta Mita and Litibu, to small inns in charming little towns, such as San Pancho. Those looking to splurge might want to consider the luxurious resorts in ritzy Punta Mita. Sayulita is also home to a couple luxury resorts, with secluded locations just outside the town and private beaches.

Visitors looking to explore Sierra Madre mountain range might want to consider heading inland and stay in Tepic or one of the quaint, historic towns around it.

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