Embraced by the Pacific Ocean and the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, Riviera Nayarit is becoming one of Mexico’s most popular vacation destinations. Blessed with a coastline that stretches almost 200 miles, this natural Eden is getting a lot of favorable attention from tourists because of its charming beach towns, inclusive resorts, cultural attractions, rolling jungle hills, and rich marine wildlife.
Visit authentic beach towns
The quaint Mexican villages are one of the charming attractions of Riviera Nayarit. Each small village has its own special charisma and beauty.
Nuevo Vallarta is a town known for its long sandy stretch of beach that stands out because of its golden specks. Its warm waters and gentle surf make it ideal for both adults and kids. If you stroll around the town, you’ll see a flea market where you can score cute little keepsake items to bring home with you. If you want more adventure, you can go on an ATV tour to explore the nearby Sierra Madre jungle.
Bucerias, located 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, has old-fashioned cobblestone streets where you can find interesting street art and a large tourist market where you can get all kinds of souvenir items. Don’t be surprised to find Huichol artisans dressed in traditional attire selling products of their indigenous trades such as paintings, woven items, yarn art, carvings, and bead art in the streets. Do not miss the opportunity to visit the charming church in this little town – the Iglesia à la Señora de la Paz (Our Lady of Peace Church). Although there’s nothing lavish about this church, it’s simple beauty and serenity of the place are what makes it special. When you go inside, you’ll see an altar with a large image of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. There are several rows of simple wooden pews and kneeling benches where people can pray in peace. Visitors are welcome to enter the church as long as they dress appropriately and remove caps or hats and sunglasses to show respect.
You’ll also find the famous statue of a diver called El Buzo de Buceria near the church. The sculpture depicts a diver dislodging an oyster with a bar. The artist Octavio Gonzalez Gutierrez fashioned the face of his sculpture after a local diver named Ramón Barraza, who collected oysters for 40 years. This sculpture was placed at the Wind Square, in front of the main plaza in 2014.
You can do some shopping on the side at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle which is nestled on the North end of the Bay. This area is known for its vacation homes, boutique shops, fancy restaurants, and a developed Marina. Are you craving for authentic Mexican cuisine? Try local favorite dishes like the Pescado Zarandeado (fish stew) and Tamales de Camarón (shrimp tamales).
Ride the waves
Another place worth checking out is El Anclote at Punta de Mita, one of the great beaches along Banderas Bay which is perfect for surfing. It is known for its excellent swell for beginners where the break is usually slow and long, reaching the 500 meters on a good day. Intermediate and advanced surfers can also have their fun when the waves reach 5 to 6 ft.
If you’re not a surfer, you can still enjoy El Anclote by relaxing on the beach or wandering around the town. You can also watch the surfing action from one of the restaurants and try their famous local dishes like the ceviche and aguachile.
Go snorkeling to see the rich marine life
The coral reefs of Riviera Nayarit are classified as narrow fringing reefs, a common type of reef that grows near the coastline around islands. These dense and well-developed frameworks provide shelter to a variety of underwater creatures. The abundant sea life plus the surrounding warm waters make Riviera Nayarit perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
The nutrient-rich water is home to chock full of tropical fish such as king angelfish, puffer fish, jackfish, damselfish, needlefish, Moorish Idol fish, and more. Plankton feeders like manta rays and eagle rays may also be spotted flapping their giant “wings” in the water. Manta rays can reach up to 9 meters and weigh up to 2 tons but despite their massive size, they are generally harmless and safe to swim with. Manta rays are curious creatures and they are known to swim around divers. The diamond-shaped eagle rays which can reach over 9 feet wide an 8 feet long are easily distinguished by their dark color with spots. When you see one, it’s best to admire it from a safe distance because unlike the friendly manta ray, the eagle ray has a venomous tail spine that can inflict injury. You might also chance upon a moray eel slithering along the water. This snake-like creature with a massive-looking jaw has a potential to be dangerous so observe with caution.