Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit Travel Guide
Nuevo Vallarta Summary
- Beach is less crowded than those in Puerto Vallarta
- Modern, clean, and lively town
- Dozens of accommodation options for every budget
- Great surfing spots, plus a lagoon with calmer waters
- Scuba diving hot spot
- Several popular golf courses within a short drive
- Almost three miles of sandy beaches
- Large marina with outstanding services
- Dolphin, turtle and whale sightings are frequent
- Short drive from the airport
- Easy access to other regions in Riviera Nayarit
- Few local restaurants and shops
- Rougher waters than in other areas in Riviera Nayarit
- Traffic jams during rush hour
What It's Like
Nuevo Vallarta was developed in the 80s as a resort community just north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. The area is home to numerous hotels and luxurious vacation rentals, and it attracts thousands of visitors every year with its sandy beaches. To keep up with the community's increasing needs, restaurants and shops continue to spring up (although there are still fewer restaurants in this area than in others). There are a couple of golf courses, as well as tennis courts, a wonderful eco-park, and several spas. A water park is also popular among families.
On Banderas Bay, Nuevo Vallarta is somewhat less crowded than Puerto Vallarta (about 20 minutes to the south), despite its focus on tourism. This is perhaps due in part to the rougher waters (that are great for surfing) and the high temperatures and rainfall, which both reach greater extremes in the summer months than in other nearby destinations. Dolphins and turtles also enjoy the relative seclusion of the area -- dolphins can be spotted and turtles lay their eggs on the shore. Dozens of whales can be seen every year, as well, mostly between December and April, when the massive migrations from the north to the south take place.
Surrounded by water and home to hundreds of private yachts, the area is one of the better-off in Nayarit after posh Punta Mita. While other destinations in the region have a strong small-town vibe, Nuevo Vallarta is a modern, clean town with wide avenues lined by palm trees -- but it is also more densely populated, so traffic jams can be a problem, especially during rush hour. Starbucks and international food and retail chains can be found in the downtown area, mostly near the Convention Center.
Where to Stay
Most hotels in Nuevo Vallarta are self-contained, all-inclusive resorts right on the beach. However, several golf courses dot the outskirts of the town, and many hotels have been built around them, catering to golfers as well as to beachgoers who don’t mind driving. The upside of this is that these resorts a little farther from the coast are usually quieter. The advantage of being on the beach is (aside from the beach itself) easy access to shops, restaurants and bars, as well as more hotels with ocean views.
Those looking to explore other towns in the region might want to stay as close to the main road as possible in order to minimize time spent in traffic.