Mexico is one of my favorite vacation destinations. It’s full of beauty, culture, sun and sand. But I recently fell in love with one particular area and my life is changed. Riviera Nayarit is my new favorite Mexican getaway spot and I think you need to know about it.
From the hotels to the activities to particular towns that feel downright magical, Riviera Nayarit is perfect for family travel, friend trips and romantic holidays.
I was recently hosted on a press trip to Riviera Nayarit so I could explore the area and share my thoughts and feelings on it with you. I never expected to fall in love the way that I did.
I am so lucky that this is part of my job and that I get to shout what I love from rooftops that sometimes overlook the Pacific Ocean at sunset…
I love visiting new places and there are so many different types of Mexican destinations.
Growing up, my family vacationed in Loreto, Baja, Mexico every summer. It was such an amazing way to enjoy sunny beach days, see another part of the world and try new-to-me things (like trying cow tongue and haggling on prices of hand-made souvenirs). Baja, Mexico is desert-like with big beautiful cacti, sand, and rocks formations.
For our family spring break trip to Riviera Maya (outside Cancun), I got to see another example of Mexican beauty. Located on the east coast of Mexico, where it meets the gorgeous Caribbean Sea, this area feels jungle-y and extra tropical. We had a great time and enjoyed checking out some of the area’s attractions (Xplor was CRAZY!).
So getting the chance to see this part of Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean side, was awesome! I truly adore Mexico so I was really excited to see yet another gorgeous spot. And Riviera Nayarit did not disappoint and felt totally different from the other places I have been.
(Image above is by Amanda SanMartin)
What the Heck is Riviera Nayarit?
Riviera Nayarit is an area of about 200 miles of beautiful Mexican coastline on the Pacific Ocean side of the country. It is made up of several different cities and is an area of Mexico that feels like pure magic.
While it features around 70 lodging options from homes to hotels, plus 23 “microdestinations” to explore, Riviera Nayarit is a tourist’s paradise for those people who don’t want their vacation to feel touristy.
And I’m completely smitten.
How Do You Get to Riviera Nayarit?
You know I love a good long weekend getaway from Southern California and this is a perfect destination for that! The flight is about 2 ½ hours from Los Angeles (a direct flight is ideal and will get your vacation started so much faster!).
Fly into Puerto Vallarta Airport then Riviera Nayarit is a short 10-minute drive north.
While Puerto Vallarta lies in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Riviera Nayarit is in the state of Nayarit and, as mentioned, just a short drive from the airport.
It’s always good to set up transportation before you arrive at the airport, as just like with most Mexican airports, there are tons of people there to “help” you (and try to talk you into buying a timeshare…)
The drive is really easy and you’ll quickly be on your way to full vacation mode.
There are so many reasons why Riviera Nayarit stole my heart. I’m going to share my top 15 reasons that I think you need to come and experience it for yourself.
15 Reasons Why I Love Riviera Nayarit
1. Puerto Vallarta Airport is stupid easy and quiet.
My hubby and I went to Cabo San Lucas for an anniversary a few years ago and just trying to exit the airport made me not want to ever return! A good airport makes a difference and I was shocked at how quiet the Puerto Vallarta airport was.
From getting luggage to going through customs, it was so easy!
The airport is really clean and pretty small making it super simple to navigate. And while there are people trying to “help” you, if you have instructions from your transportation company and a designated place to meet them, you can just breeze right through and ignore that mess.
Returning home was equally easy. The airport staff was friendly, there are several shops for souvenirs and restaurants to enjoy and again, there is a really clean and calm atmosphere (even with some tequila tasting in the duty-free shop).
2. It’s a super short flight.
I don’t like to waste days of vacation with travel so finding a direct flight is ideal. It gets you to Mexico in under 3 hours which means you can get started on your vacation quicker. While I typically try to fly out of John Wayne airport even if it’s more expensive, in this case, LAX makes the most sense.
I’d rather spend a little extra time in the car to LA, than sitting in a connecting airport for half a day since there aren’t any direct flights from Orange County.
This part of Mexico is closer to Southern California, since it’s on the Pacific Coast, making it the ideal spot to maximize your vacation time (although over the last few years they have added on a bunch of flights from the East Coast and Canada too).
3. It’s a short drive to paradise.
The Ameca River acts as the state line between Jalisco and Nayarit and it is a short drive from the airport. One of the first towns you will enter, in the state of Nayarit, is Nuevo Vallarta and this is where a lot of the hotels can be found.
And while the hotels may be clustered together right here, you don’t feel like you are in a normal “hotel row” situation.
The way the hotels are designed, you feel like you are tucked away in your own little Mexican hideaway. You have the conveniences of being near other hotels but there isn’t the feeling of hustle and bustle.
What I loved about where we stayed, Marival Distinct Luxury Residences (read my post on why I think this is the best all-inclusive resort for families in Riviera Nayarit) was that inside the property, you feel removed from the rest of the world. But outside, you saw families walking and enjoying their vacation.
There is no downtown vibe here, I didn’t see many shops or restaurants to explore, but it was a nice area that felt like home.
4. It feels safe.
I know a lot of people are concerned about their safety while traveling in Mexico. And I don’t pretend to know all the crime statistics, etc. What I do know is how I felt while I was here and moving throughout the area.
Nuevo Vallarta (where we stayed) has 3 ways in and out which helps to keep things feeling a little more monitored and not like a free for all. And Punta de Mita (where a lot of the luxury properties are located and where I am dying to explore more!) is even a little more secure with anyone visiting the area needing reservations or an appointment.
The largest town we visited, Sayulita, felt perfectly safe to walk around in. Of course, you want to mind your p’s and q’s when traveling to another country, but I never felt unsafe in any way.
Traveling on the highways felt fine. Stopped at stop lights was no big deal. It felt way more beachy and rural than Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. And I’m dying to go back!
5. It’s tropical but not, like, Caribbean tropical.
If you look on a map and zoom out a little, Riviera Nayarit is across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii and it kind of feels like it. It’s green with gorgeous trees and plants and cactus, but it doesn’t feel like Cancun or Baja. And I freaking loved it. It’s really hard to explain why I loved the landscape so much.
Driving on the little roads, from town to town, made my heart happy. Everything feels mature and like it’s been there for ages. I truly felt like I was in such a special part of the world.
6. The people….
Everyone we encountered was super nice and friendly. The hotel staff (at Marival Distinct), while great at hospitality – since that is their job, made it not feel like they were just doing their job. They just took care of you and felt like family.
The staff of Vallarta Adventures (Check out the fun excursions we did with them that were a great way to make vacation memories!) became fast friends. And the shop keepers and indigenous people selling their arts in Sayulita were friendly and wonderful.
7. Darling little road-side fruit stands.
On your drive to and from Nuevo Vallarta to Sayulita (about an hour drive), you’ll wind through a tree-lined highway dotted with cute little fruit stands. Along the way, you’ll encounter a few houses and what appear to be tiny neighborhoods, but the fruit stands will make you want to stop at each one for a colorful snack.
They feel like they were put there for tourists while at the same time felt totally natural in the surroundings.
8. Sayulita is dreamy.
I absolutely and 100% fell in love with Sayulita. Sayulita is a popular surfing destination and draws people from all over the world. It feels artsy with a boho vibe. It’s colorful and homey. There are touristy things to buy like woven bracelets and colorful dolls.
But there are also truly artisanal items like handmade leather sandals and gorgeous purses.
From the boutique hotels to the really well-designed restaurants, Sayulita is a place that I really want to explore more. In fact, I texted my husband while I was there and told him we were moving there.
From beachfront restaurants, adorable boutiques, and kind people, this is a town I think you’re going to love too!
You can read more from my friend Romy about why she loved Sayulita so much!
9. Activities to keep to keep you exploring.
I love a relaxing vacation. And, typically, when I go to an all-inclusive resort, I don’t want to leave it. I want to stay and enjoy all the things. But in Riviera Nayarit, you can stay at an amazing resort and still go out and explore.
Vallarta Adventures has a wide range of activities to help you get the most out of your vacation. The activities they have available gave us a great opportunity to see more of the area while feeling taken care of and even pampered! (Seriously, go read about our adventures with Vallarta Adventures!)
If you’re looking for golf, there are several courses. If you want to zip-line, you can do that too. There are cool nature reserves to check out, one of a kind islands and snorkeling. And also relaxing spas. There is something for everyone here.
10. Riviera Nayarit is loved by reality TV.
If you know me at all, you know that TV is my favorite “me” time. And reality TV is my fave guilty pleasure. Riviera Nayarit’s beauty can be found in all kinds of shows. I mean, Bachelor in Paradise is filmed here! It was super fun to come to the area and try to figure out where things were filmed or where people stayed.
I’m a nerd and love that kind of stuff! Maybe it’s my TV/Film background (very short-lived) but I would love to come back and do a round up of all the places we’ve seen on TV!
11. Tons of events for even more of a community feel.
While we didn’t get to attend any special events while we were in town, Riviera Maya hosts all types of events that are a perfect addition to your vacation itinerary. From food-focused events to car shows and corn festivals, there is something for everyone.
Events like these are great because they often have entertainment, and provide a great way to meet more local people and learn more about the area.
12. There’s a truly gorgeous marina.
I LOVE being on the water and think it is a great way to create lasting trip memories. While I don’t normally find myself out on boats at home (please, someone invite me on your boat!) vacation is the time to splurge! It’s a great way to see Riviera Nayarit from a different perspective.
The marina is also home to a few bars and restaurants and is a great place to people watch! It’s a modern marina that has been updated over the last few years and is gorgeous in its own right.
13. I never got a headache, no anxiety and my allergies were great.
I have been a headache sufferer for my whole life. Most often I get tension headaches and I always get headaches due to the stress of traveling. I never once go even a hint of a headache while on this trip.
I was never anxious about anything. I never worried about being in a car or any other normal travel stuff. I felt the most relaxed I’ve felt in a long time. And my allergies were nothing. I still took my daily medicines, but I was never stuffy or felt any sinus pressure.
I can’t even begin to guess why other than maybe it has something to do with the salt water? And maybe feeling so physically great during the trip is part of what makes the area feel so magical, but I am in love.
14. The value…
When we first started pricing our spring break vacation we were looking at a tropical beach vacation so that we could relax and enjoy sunny days. We looked at Turks and Caicos, Hawaii and different parts of Mexico. Mexico won out because I LOVE it and because of the great value.
From all the all-inclusive resort options to finding affordable airfare, Mexico is always my go-to spot when you’re looking for value that doesn’t feel like value. You just get more for your money here.
I’m not sure if you’ve used one of the deal sites to buy discounted hotel rooms lately, but whenever I do that near home, they always make you feel like you are cheap. But that is never the feeling when you travel to Mexico. You are able to find many great resorts that will have you feeling like you are splurging.
It will be hard to get me to travel anywhere else…
15. It’s picture perfect.
Of course, you find gorgeous stretches of white sand beaches in front of resorts, but what I truly loved about Riviera Nayarit was that there was beauty everywhere. Whether it was colorful storefronts as you traveled down the highway, or the tree-lined highway itself, it was an area that I really wanted to see more of.
In Cancun and Cabo, I’m content to stay at the hotel. But in Riviera Nayarit, I wanted to explore! I wanted to see it all. I wanted to go back to the places I only got to see a little of and I really want to bring my family back.
Head to RivieraNayarit.com to learn even more about this amazing area. This site has everything you need to help plan your trip including sample itineraries and excursion ideas!
More posts on Mexico travel
- How to Create Vacation Memories with Vallarta Adventures
- Why I think Marival Distinct Luxury Residences is Great for Families!
- You Need to Check Out The New All-Inclusive Resort in Punta de Mita!
- Food and Fun in Loreto, Mexico
- Villa del Palmar, Loreto, Mexico
- Xel Ha, a Fun Family Adventure in Riviera Maya
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If you’re looking for the perfect Mexican getaway destination, look no further than Riviera Nayarit! It’s absolutely magical and the perfect place to vacation with family, friends or your significant other!