The Mexican Destination Perfect for Travel After the Pandemic

Why not book your post-pandemic vacation in idyllic Sayulita, on the Riviera Nayarit on the west coast of Mexico
Why not book your post-pandemic vacation in idyllic Sayulita, on the Riviera Nayarit on the west coast of Mexico | © beklaus / Getty Images

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The pristine beaches and luxury resorts on the west coast of Mexico, known as Riviera Nayarit, are fast becoming a highly sought after destination. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the western Sierra Madre mountains on the other, this perfect seasonal getaway is still something of an unknown treasure to many travelers.

Riviera Nayarit has fewer visitors than the rest of Mexico, and with 200mi (322km) of beaches, as well as some top-quality places to say, it has everything you could ask for when planning for your first holiday of the new year. Culture Trip finds out why the region should be on your list for 2021 and why it should be one of the first holidays you book when international travel is back on the agenda.

Why visit Riviera Nayarit?

Average temperatures top 25C (77F) throughout the year, so whenever you plan on visiting, you’re sure to get a sunny holiday. This also means that Riviera Nayarit is ideally pitched as a winter destination for European and American travelers, away from more traditionally crowded locations that have become popular in recent years. You can fly into the southern region at Puerto Vallarta International Airport, which is minutes from the coast, or explore northern Riviera Nayarit by landing at Tepic International Airport, which is a little further from the sea.

Sayulita is one of the gems on the Riviera Nayarit, so visit now before it becomes too popular

The Bay of Banderas is one of the biggest natural bays in the world and hosts a spectacular natural phenomenon. Every winter, humpback whales swim close to the shore to give birth and lucky visitors can catch a glimpse of the newborns from the beaches nearby. Further north, the landscape is greener and full of lush vegetation and exotic wildlife.

The local art and culture scene is also thriving, drawing on Huichol heritage as well as modern styles.

Given how big the area is, it can be tricky to plan an itinerary, but we’ve come up with a handy guide to some of the must-see attractions and a selection of places to stay to suit every budget.

Five hotspots in Riviera Nayarit

1. Sayulita

Natural Feature

The traditional stores along the main road in Sayulita sell sunglasses, crafts and textiles
© Greg Vaughn / Alamy Stock Photo

Challenging some of the most popular towns like Cancun, Sayulita is fast emerging as the trendiest place in Mexico. The laid-back atmosphere and abundance of surfing beaches have made this a place Americans enjoy exploring in winter. Sayulita has a number of new hotels close by and excellent boutique shops too. This is one place to visit before it gets too popular!

2. Punta Mita

Architectural Landmark

Marival Armony Luxury Resort & Suites, Destiladeras Beach, Punta Mita, Riviera Nayarit, Nayarit, Mexico
© Douglas Peebles Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Situated in the northern tip of the Bay of Banderas, Punta Mita is a center of historical significance for the Huichol people. You can see off the colder months at the Spring Festival, which can trace its roots back to ancient times, and stay at some of the luxury resorts in the area. This is a great spot for fine dining and celeb spotting, as you might see a Kardashian in the wild here.

3. The historic Port of San Blas

Architectural Landmark

Mangrove forest La Tobara (Tovara) National Park Nayarit Mexico. Image shot 12/2012. Exact date unknown.
© Judy Waytiuk / Alamy Stock Photo

San Blas has a little bit of everything on offer. Portside you can find remnants of Spanish forts and other colonial buildings, with tourists also coming for the excellent restaurants. La Tovara National Park is close by, and includes a vast mangrove forest with an abundance of wildlife.

4. Rincón de Guayabitos

Architectural Landmark

The beach of Rincon de Guayabitos in Jaltemba Bay, Nayarit, Mexico
© Christy Stobbs / Alamy Stock Photo

This small resort in the state of Nayarit has some of the best beaches on the Riviera. It’s not as well known, or even as developed, as some of the other places on our guide, but is worth seeking out if you want a relaxing trip away from crowds. The quaint hotels and small shops all add to the charm of Rincón de Guayabitos.

5. Marietas Islands

Natural Feature

The Islas Marietas, Banderas Bay, Nayarit, Mexico.
© Gina Kelley / Alamy Stock Photo

We go back to the Bay of Banderas for our final tip, but the Marietas Islands are unlike anywhere else. Regular boat tours will take you out to this wildlife sanctuary where diving and snorkeling are incredibly rewarding experiences. If you ask the right people, you might even end up on the Playa del Amor – better known as the fabled Hidden Beach.

Places to stay in Riviera Nayarit

6. Conrand Punta de Mita

Resort

Conrand Punta Di Mita
Courtesy of Conrand Punta Di Mita / Expedia

Focusing on superior experiences and fine luxury, this spectacular hotel has 325 rooms in an exclusive community setting. Various dining options promise a series of culinary adventures from intimate dinners to lunch on the seafront terraces. Be sure to check out the wellness experiences on offer as well, most of which incorporate elements of the surrounding outdoor areas.

7. One&Only Mandarina

Resort, Hotel

One&Only Mandarina
Courtesy of One&Only Mandarina / Expedia

Woven into the coastal rainforest of Nayarit, One&Only Mandarina is a new resort that has a limited number of villas and private homes on offer. Mandarina is emerging as a popular destination itself, and if you’re looking for adventure experiences this is the place to head to.

8. Dreams Villa Magna

Resort, Spa Hotel

Dreams Villa Magna
Courtesy of Dreams Villa Magna / Expedia

A great option for a family getaway, the first thing that will strike you about the Dreams resort here is the lush greenery of the surrounding area. This resort serves as a great all-rounder, with a number of options if you’re traveling alone, on a romantic getaway as a couple of just relaxing with your family.

9. Secrets Vallarta Bay

Resort

A seating area in a hotel room at Secrets Vallarta Bay, with an outdoor pool and bedroom
Courtesy of Secrets Vallarta Bay / Expedia

Convenience and luxury combine at this Secrets resort which is found within walking distance of el Malecón boardwalk. You’ll be centrally located in a popular beach area, but also able to escape crowds in a safe and secure hotel which has unlimited activities running throughout the day. We recommend this one for the ultimate stress-free stay in the area.

10. St Regis Punta Mita

Resort

St Regis Punta Mita
Courtesy of St Regis Punta Mita / Expedia

Close to the Marietas Islands, St Regis Punta Mita is an unashamedly luxury option with an outstanding reputation for pampering its guests. There’s plenty to discover nearby, but you’ll struggle to drag yourself away from the resort which has professional level golf courses and phenomenal spa options.

11. Four Seasons Punta Mita

Resort

Four Seasons Punta Mita
Courtesy Four Seasons Punta Mita / Expedia

Punta Mita draws in the intrepid traveler, thanks to its sandy beaches and quiet reputation as a fishing village. It’s also where you’ll find great accommodation options, including this Four Seasons hotel. Here you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best snorkeling, swimming and diving opportunities off the Pacific coast.

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