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Riviera Nayarit Travel Guide - Plan your vacation in Riviera Nayarit

Leisure and Culture

  • What are the Best Beaches in Riviera Nayarit?
    Located on Mexico’s central Pacific coast, Riviera Nayarit’s extensive 200-mile coastline stretching from San Blas in the north to Puerto Vallarta in the South, has majestic seashores lined with verdant tropical jungles, deciduous forests and magnificent mangroves. From warm, shallow seas at Boca de Chila, El Anclote, Destiladeras, Playa Chacala and Nuevo Vallarta, to the impressive swells at Playa La Caleta, these seasides offer diverse experiences for families, watersport enthusiasts, and laid-back holidaymakers, making them some of the best beaches in Riviera Nayarit.
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      Playa Chacala

      Meaning “where there are shrimp” in Náhuatl, this sandy beach cove, bathed by mild waves, is suitable for swimming, fishing, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. Nestled between tropical jungle and sparkling sea water, its flat shoreline is easily walkable, while its coconut trees and thatch-roofed palapas provide ample shade to relax under and observe visiting dolphins and whales.

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      Playa La Caleta

      Some of the finest waves in Mexico are found 2 miles north of Playa Chacala at Playa Caleta. Accessible via a short panga boat ride or by 4-wheel drive, this pristine shoreline offers a moderate swell with large waves, making it popular among experienced surfers. It’s also excellent for scuba diving, snorkeling with sea lions, paddle boarding, and kayaking.

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      Boca de Chila

      Surrounded by lush mangroves and untouched estuaries, Boca de Chila encompasses over 4.7 miles of golden sand and warm blue water populated by aquatic birds and turtle nesting sites. During the low tide, shallow waters extend for several meters on the northern edge of the beach, which is perfect for swimming, body or skimboarding.

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      El Anclote

      Positioned on the northern tip of Bandera Bay with a backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains and facing aquamarine waters, El Anclote exudes natural grandeur. Like Boca de Chila, during low tide, it’s possible to comfortably wade 100 yards into the ocean and still be waist deep. Its tranquil waters are fitting for novice surfers and children, as well as saltwater fishing.

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      Destiladeras Beach

      A panoramic sight of the Pacific Ocean and views of the city of Puerto Valla on the opposite side of the bay, makes this 3-mile stretch of powdery white sand and warm waters, suitable for sailing and surfing, and one of the best beaches in Riviera Nayarit. A popular spot for families, its gentle gradient caters for long walks along the shore or beach ball games.

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      Nuevo Vallarta Beach

      This large 3-mile shelf beach in Bandera Bay with blue-green waters is excellent for snorkeling and parasailing, while its flat sand is easy to walk along during sunset. Further out where the seabed gradient deepens, visitors can spot humpback whales, dolphins, or embark on deep-sea fishing excursions

    • Don’t disturb sand mounds on the beach
    • Wash hands before eating or use waterless hand sanitizer to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Vendors tend to sell similar goods at local markets. Before buying, browse around to gauge general prices.  
    • Some beaches have better amenities than others. Before visiting, find out what to pack.
    • Ensure water safety and only drink bottled or purified water to avoid upsetting the digestive system, which can be caused by bacteria in Riviera Nayarit’s water.
    • Bartering is an expected custom. Be prepared to haggle for the most convenient prices.
    • The sand can be scorching, always take a pair of suitable beach sandals.
    • Use discretion when buying street food, especially if you don't know how long it’s been standing in the open for.
    • Remember, many artisans make their livelihoods at markets so you should always trade fairly.
    • Not all beaches have lifeguards. Depending on the beach, it's recommended to check the swell strength and level of swimming experience needed when trying out watersports.
    • Stay away from large buffets
    • Vendors prefer dealing with cash
    • The Mexican sun is strong. Use waterproof sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    • Don’t eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
    • Bring extra luggage to accommodate new souvenir purchases.
    • Make sure to use insect repellent during spring and late summer to deter mosquitoes and bugs.
    • Always inspect street food hygiene conditions before eating.
    • Street market operating times vary. Check with locals to ensure you visit at the correct time.
  • What are the Best Excursions in Riviera Nayarit?
    Internationally known as the “Cradle of the Mexican People,” Riviera Nayarit embodies a wealth of natural wonders and cultural riches. The remnants of indigenous Huichol heritage and Spanish colonial influence is found in traditions, architecture, and customs present in its idyllic fishing villages dotted along the coastline. Visiting the historic port San Blas, exploring the hidden beach on the Islas Marietas, tasting over 50 years of seafood culinary traditions in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, day-tripping to family-friendly Rincón de Guayabitos, and traveling to Sayulita to see beautiful petroglyphs are some of the best 1-day excursions in Riviera Nayarit.
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      San Blas

      Once a critical Spanish naval base, and now a tranquil fishing town, cobblestoned San Blas combines Spanish European and native Mexican history. Its 18th-century hilltop fort Fuerte de la Contaduria, its museum and the ruins of Templo de la Virgen de Rosario church, offer insight into the colonial history of Mexico’s Pacific Coast, while a short trip to the nearby rural village Sangatya gives visitors the chance to taste traditional cuisine and kayak through orchid-festooned mangrove estuaries.

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      Islas Marietas

      This uninhabited archipelago is home to the magical, hidden beach, Playa del Mor, whose crater-like shape is thought to be the result of government bomb tests. Located 35km north-west of Puerto Vallarta, Islas Marietas bustles with marine life, and its clear water is ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. Its draw-dropping natural beauty makes it one of the most sublime 1-day excursions in Riviera Nayarit.

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      Isla Isabel

      Seventy kilometers northwest of San Blas is Isla Isabel, a national park and treasured marine life sanctuary. A paradise for wildlife photographers, divers, and astronomers, who delight in studying the open night skies, Isla Isabel has over 92 species of birds and 79 species of reef fish, making it a bucket list destination for eco-tourists.

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      La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

      Founded in the 1930s by the Chávez family, it’s common to see fishermen in this seaside town arriving on shore with their catch of the day, destined to be prepared at one of the palapa-roofed restaurants along the La Cruz beach. Surrounded by seas populated with tuna, marlin, and mahimahi, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle has culinary traditions reaching back over 50 years offering holidaymakers exquisite seafood, as well as the usual, fun-filled water sports activities, including sailing.

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      Rincón de Guayabitos

      Meaning “corner of little guava trees” and found between the calm bay of Jaltemba and the rocky Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, Rincón de Guayabitos is one of the most visited seaside destinations in Riviera Nayarit. Go on an island adventure and swim in turquoise-blue waters at nearby Isla Coral and Cangrejo, or take a languid stroll down Avenida del Sol Nuevo to visit their artisan shops selling bespoke native Huichol goods.

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      Sayulita

      Proclaimed a surf destination in the 1960s, this boho-chic town was named Pueblo Magico by the Mexican government due to its strong Huichol heritage. Ascend the lush Monkey Mountain and view sacred cave paintings and refreshing waterfalls along the way. Arrange with locals to go on a fishing trip or visit the Huichol center to learn about the craft and significance of  Native American Indian beadwork.

    • Don’t disturb sand mounds on the beach
    • Wash hands before eating or use waterless hand sanitizer to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Vendors tend to sell similar goods at local markets. Before buying, browse around to gauge general prices.  
    • Some beaches have better amenities than others. Before visiting, find out what to pack.
    • Ensure water safety and only drink bottled or purified water to avoid upsetting the digestive system, which can be caused by bacteria in Riviera Nayarit’s water.
    • Bartering is an expected custom. Be prepared to haggle for the most convenient prices.
    • The sand can be scorching, always take a pair of suitable beach sandals.
    • Use discretion when buying street food, especially if you don't know how long it’s been standing in the open for.
    • Remember, many artisans make their livelihoods at markets so you should always trade fairly.
    • Not all beaches have lifeguards. Depending on the beach, it's recommended to check the swell strength and level of swimming experience needed when trying out watersports.
    • Stay away from large buffets
    • Vendors prefer dealing with cash
    • The Mexican sun is strong. Use waterproof sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    • Don’t eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
    • Bring extra luggage to accommodate new souvenir purchases.
    • Make sure to use insect repellent during spring and late summer to deter mosquitoes and bugs.
    • Always inspect street food hygiene conditions before eating.
    • Street market operating times vary. Check with locals to ensure you visit at the correct time.
  • What to Eat in Riviera Nayarit
    Unsurprisingly, the bulk of regional cuisine on Mexico’s Pacific Coast comprises an abundance of seafood with culinary influences from the native Huichola and European Spanish. From its warm seas come shrimp, oysters, and shark, to name a few, while its lush tropical forests produce the perfect climate for bananas, corn, and sugarcane, all of which are found in local gastronomy. Mexico is accustomed to spicy foods with strong chilies and citrus flavors—Riviera Nayarit’s cuisine is no different; many seafood dishes include a generous serving of lime juice and chilies. The variety of traditional Nayarit seafood dishes leaves food aficionados with a long list of delicious meals to choose from when deciding what to eat in Riviera Nayarit. Age-old meals such as Zarandeado fish are still enjoyed today along with a glass of pineapple tepache and agua de cebada. Here’s a brief guide to Mexico’s Pacific Coast traditional food, as well as some eating dos and don'ts in Riviera Nayarit.
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      The Best Traditional Food From Riviera Nayarit

      Zarandeado Fish served with Huichol salsa, is a 500-year-old Náhuatl delicacy and regional speciality. It’s prepared by splitting the fish—usually red snappers—in half, from head to tail, before marinating in lime and grilling it over mango tree wood and palm frond fire. Ceviche is also a favorite in Riviera Nayarit made with fresh seafood mixed with chopped onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, and lime, and served on a crispy tostada. Aguachile is another delicacy, similar to ceviche, that’s frequently eaten and prepared with scallops, shrimps, citric juices, and chilies, and garnished with cucumbers, avocado, and red onions. Sweet-toothed diners might try jericallas, a baked custard or torrejas, a pan-fried egg bread covered in piloncillo syrup, cinnamon, and sesame seeds, as well as sweet corn cookies called gorditas de maiz horneadas.

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      How to Make Shrimp Ceviche

      Mince together 2 pounds of shrimp (make sure to rid the shrimp of veins beforehand), 1 white onion, 2 to 3 seeded Jalapeno peppers, 2 peeled and seeded tomatoes and 1 large, ripe avocado.Squeeze a generous serving of fresh lime juice over the mixture, ensuring all the ingredients are covered. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally until the shrimp turns pink.

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      Liquors and Drinks You Must Taste in Riviera Nayarit

      The heat in Riviera Nayarit befits refreshing, tropical drinks such as pineapple tepache, which is made from fermented pineapple rinds soaked in sugar water and served chilled. Agua de cebada, produced by boiling barley grains is another commonly consumed drink along the coast during summer months, while tuba, a non-alcoholic drink made from the sap of coconut palms offers an exciting alternative to carbonated beverages.

    • Don’t disturb sand mounds on the beach
    • Wash hands before eating or use waterless hand sanitizer to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Vendors tend to sell similar goods at local markets. Before buying, browse around to gauge general prices.  
    • Some beaches have better amenities than others. Before visiting, find out what to pack.
    • Ensure water safety and only drink bottled or purified water to avoid upsetting the digestive system, which can be caused by bacteria in Riviera Nayarit’s water.
    • Bartering is an expected custom. Be prepared to haggle for the most convenient prices.
    • The sand can be scorching, always take a pair of suitable beach sandals.
    • Use discretion when buying street food, especially if you don't know how long it’s been standing in the open for.
    • Remember, many artisans make their livelihoods at markets so you should always trade fairly.
    • Not all beaches have lifeguards. Depending on the beach, it's recommended to check the swell strength and level of swimming experience needed when trying out watersports.
    • Stay away from large buffets
    • Vendors prefer dealing with cash
    • The Mexican sun is strong. Use waterproof sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    • Don’t eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
    • Bring extra luggage to accommodate new souvenir purchases.
    • Make sure to use insect repellent during spring and late summer to deter mosquitoes and bugs.
    • Always inspect street food hygiene conditions before eating.
    • Street market operating times vary. Check with locals to ensure you visit at the correct time.
  • What are the Best Things to do in Riviera Nayarit?
    Riviera Nayarit is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Its blue-green waters, crystalline beaches, sublime jungles and breathtaking mangroves filled with unparalleled biodiversity are fascinating places to explore providing some of the best things to do in Riviera Nayarit. Wondering what to do in Riviera Nayarit? Assist a delicate sea turtle release, surf the fun Pacific waves, enjoy vigorous scuba diving, snorkeling, and watersports, go whale watching, take a 4x4 eco-trip through the Sierra Madre Mountains or soak up the freedom of horse riding along one of Riviera Nayarit’s many beautiful beaches.
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      Experience a Sea Turtle Release

      Riviera Nayarit is a haven for endangered sea turtles. At Nuevo Vallarta, Playa Tortugas and Guayabitos, it’s possible for the whole family to assist with a turtle release. Being part of Mexico’s conservation efforts and holding a newly-hatched baby turtle before allowing it to swim freely into the sea, is one of the best things to do in Riviera Nayarit.

    • surfear-pacifico.jpg
      Surfing the Pacific Waves

      Since the 1960s, Nayarit's golden coastline has been a global surf spot. From Anclote to Sayulita, it’s blessed with numerous zippy reefs, perfect, and fun break beaches offering premier surfing for pros and beginners.

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      Scuba Diving, Snorkeling and Water Sports

      All of Riviera Nayarit’s main marinas offer an assortment of activities—from parasailing to kitesurfing, jetskiing, and kayaking—for water sports enthusiasts. Alternatively, dive into the aquamarine sea water and behold the array of marine life in the Pacific Ocean by scuba diving or snorkeling with turtles, sea lions, and whales.

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      Whale Watching

      Mid-December to the end of March is whale watching season. Book a boat tour out in Banderas Bay to see exquisite humpback whales as they breach and sing to each other, or get a glimpse of them from the shore in Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías, Punta Mita, Sayulita, and Guayabitos.

    • montanas-sierra-madre.jpg
      4x4 trips through the Sierra Madre Mountains

      Experience the thrill of active tourism in Riviera Nayarit by going on a 4x4 adventure tour starting at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Traverse the dense jungle, cross mountain streams, pass inland villages, and immerse yourself in an authentic wildlife journey.

    • montar-caballo-playa.jpg
      Horseback Ride on the Beach

      Horse riding is readily available throughout the region and one of the best activities in Riviera Nayarit for those who enjoy getting close-up with flora and fauna. Start trekking inland through natural mountain creeks and stop to take a swim in natural pools before trotting along the beach and feeling the refreshing sea breeze.

    • Don’t disturb sand mounds on the beach
    • Wash hands before eating or use waterless hand sanitizer to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Vendors tend to sell similar goods at local markets. Before buying, browse around to gauge general prices.  
    • Some beaches have better amenities than others. Before visiting, find out what to pack.
    • Ensure water safety and only drink bottled or purified water to avoid upsetting the digestive system, which can be caused by bacteria in Riviera Nayarit’s water.
    • Bartering is an expected custom. Be prepared to haggle for the most convenient prices.
    • The sand can be scorching, always take a pair of suitable beach sandals.
    • Use discretion when buying street food, especially if you don't know how long it’s been standing in the open for.
    • Remember, many artisans make their livelihoods at markets so you should always trade fairly.
    • Not all beaches have lifeguards. Depending on the beach, it's recommended to check the swell strength and level of swimming experience needed when trying out watersports.
    • Stay away from large buffets
    • Vendors prefer dealing with cash
    • The Mexican sun is strong. Use waterproof sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    • Don’t eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
    • Bring extra luggage to accommodate new souvenir purchases.
    • Make sure to use insect repellent during spring and late summer to deter mosquitoes and bugs.
    • Always inspect street food hygiene conditions before eating.
    • Street market operating times vary. Check with locals to ensure you visit at the correct time.
  • What to Buy in Riviera Nayarit
    Cora and Huichol handcrafts in the form of Oaxacan textiles, stone carvings, blue ceramics, and wicker accessories are coveted Riviera Nayarit souvenirs found at outdoor tianguis and farmers markets sprawled along the exotic coast. Most local markets are open during the winter-spring season, which runs from November to the beginning of May. Besides tasting local street food, other valuable items to purchase when shopping in Riviera Nayarit are Mexican fine art, ceramics, pottery, and silver jewelry.
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      Where to Shop in Riviera Nayarit

      These markets are highly-recommended for buying Riviera Nayarit souvenirs: the high-end market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, enormous Tianguis Market in La Peñita, and Bucerías Flea Market in Bandera’s Bay, as well as Puerto Vallarta which boasts the Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale, Pueblo Viejo Mercado de Artesanías and Old Town Farmers’ Market.

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      Mercado La Cruz

      Operating every Sunday, with over 170 stalls selling local handmade goods and sustainably produced products, Mercado La Cruz in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle draws artisans from all over Riviera Nayarit. Listen to live music and stroll along the beachfront, while purchasing bright Talavera pottery and delicate Huichol beadwork.

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      Tianguis Market in La Peñita

      The large, open-air Tianguis Market is the biggest mercado in Riviera Nayarit and only a half an hour drive from bohemian Sayulita. Open every Thursday; it’s worth a visit to buy bright Oaxacan wool rugs and detailed Huichol Indian yarn paintings.

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      Mercado Municipal Río Cuale

      Built between 1977 and 1979 in Puerto Vallarta, the Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale’s corridors host hundreds of vendors selling embroidered Huipil blouses, neat, hand-rolled cigars, hand-blown glass, lacquerware, and pottery made in the region using the same techniques used by 16th-century Spanish potters.

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      Pueblo Viejo Mercado de Artesanías

      Two blocks away from Mercado Municipal Rio Cuale is an old artisan market with vendors offering Riviera Nayarit souvenirs at affordable prices. Choose from a bonanza of earthenware such as plates, vases, and pots to multi-colored serapes,  traditional wooden masks, and Mexico’s famous Taxco silver jewelry designs.

    • mercadillo-bucerias.jpg
      Bucerías Flea Market

      Just off the main plaza in the tiny village of Bucerías on Banderas Bay is the Bucerías street market with dozens of stalls stocking traditional Mexican items, such a stone carvings, striking glass ornaments, local textiles and wicker baskets.

    • Don’t disturb sand mounds on the beach
    • Wash hands before eating or use waterless hand sanitizer to get rid of harmful germs.
    • Vendors tend to sell similar goods at local markets. Before buying, browse around to gauge general prices.  
    • Some beaches have better amenities than others. Before visiting, find out what to pack.
    • Ensure water safety and only drink bottled or purified water to avoid upsetting the digestive system, which can be caused by bacteria in Riviera Nayarit’s water.
    • Bartering is an expected custom. Be prepared to haggle for the most convenient prices.
    • The sand can be scorching, always take a pair of suitable beach sandals.
    • Use discretion when buying street food, especially if you don't know how long it’s been standing in the open for.
    • Remember, many artisans make their livelihoods at markets so you should always trade fairly.
    • Not all beaches have lifeguards. Depending on the beach, it's recommended to check the swell strength and level of swimming experience needed when trying out watersports.
    • Stay away from large buffets
    • Vendors prefer dealing with cash
    • The Mexican sun is strong. Use waterproof sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
    • Don’t eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.
    • Bring extra luggage to accommodate new souvenir purchases.
    • Make sure to use insect repellent during spring and late summer to deter mosquitoes and bugs.
    • Always inspect street food hygiene conditions before eating.
    • Street market operating times vary. Check with locals to ensure you visit at the correct time.