Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are two unique and equally colourful destinations well worth exploring. They both offer everything from outdoor adventure to stunning beaches and beyond.
The area of Riviera Nayarit begins about 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, stretching along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Made up of smaller towns and villages, this area is more tranquil than it’s splashier neighbour, albeit no less worthy of exploration.
Ever charming Puerto Vallarta offers more of a cultural city feel, with its own set of worthwhile sights and attractions.
Blue sea and beautiful beaches
Anyone interested in spending time on or in the water will have plenty of options in both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit.
There are Blue Flag certified beaches in both destinations, recognized for being environmentally friendly, clean and safe. Water-based activities are available in both areas including snorkelling, scuba diving, whale watching, sailing, deep-sea fishing, surfing and much more.
In Puerto Vallarta you’ll find Los Arcos National Marine Park. It’s a protected marine preserve consisting of several small islands and one of the best spots in the region for diving and snorkelling.
Or just off the coast of Riviera Nayarit is Islas Marietas National Park, a UNESCO Protected Area and bird sanctuary. It’s sometimes referred to as “Mexico’s Galapagos” for its high level of biodiversity. This is where you’ll also find the world-famous Playa del Amor, a stunning hidden beach.
Outdoor adventures from ziplining to offroading
Experiences beyond the region’s beautiful beaches are easy to find no matter what type of outdoor activity you’re looking for.
Canopy River offers a whole host of options for adventure seekers. Try crossing the longest suspension bridge in the world for vehicles on an ATV, ziplining and more. The surrounding Sierra Madre Mountains are perfect for hiking and off-road adventures. Both of which can be done via guided tours. If your idea of adventure is of the tamer variety, you can work on your swing at one of Riviera Nayarit’s eight golf courses. Or, explore the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
Cuisine has a kick in the Puerto Vallarta – Riviera Nayarit region
You may come to the Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit region for the beaches. But the cuisine, from street stands to five-star restaurants, is becoming more and more of a draw.
If you like your food with a spicy kick thanks to tongue-tingling peppers used throughout the region, you won’t be disappointed. Some spots to put on your must-dine list include: El Barracuda, The Blue Shrimp, La Cevichería and La Condesa. All of which have locations in both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. You’ll find a lively atmosphere and varied menu at El Barracuda. The other three must-try spots all focus on ultra-fresh seafood in relaxed beachfront settings.
A visit to the Puerto Vallarta-Riviera Nayarit region is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture.
For starters, take some time to discover Huichol art. The native Huichol Indians live in the foothills and highlands of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountain range and are direct descendants of the Aztec. Intricate beadwork and yarn work is handmade using the same traditional techniques handed down over generations.
Galeria Tanana in Sayulita is a non-profit gallery that supports the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts. It’s a great place to see some works up close. You can also see Huichol artisans selling their work around Sayulita’s main plaza. You can take guided tours to Huichol villages, or see impressive Huichol art at Puerto Vallarta’s Galeria Colektica.
Lap of luxury
If it’s luxury you’re looking for, you can find it in both Riviera Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta. A spate of luxury hotels, both all-inclusive and boutique, have popped up across the region, with many more on the way.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita and St. Regis Punta Mita were the first luxury branded hotels to land in Riviera Nayarit. They were followed by many others, including Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and W Punta de Mita.
At Hotel Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta, guests enjoy unlimited golf as well as hour-long themed art workshops complimented by a Mexican wine tasting. The property also offers a unique handbag ‘bar’ for borrowing designer clutches. Mousai Hotel is the first and only AAA Five Diamond resort in Puerto Vallarta. Other options include Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton turned boutique hotel, and beachfront Garza Blanca Hotel, one of the best properties in Puerto Vallarta.
Wellness options aplenty
There is no shortage of ways to unwind with a spa treatment whether you’re spending time in Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit or both.
The 4000-square-foot AWAY Spa at W Punta de Mita is a nature-inspired retreat for mind, body and soul located in the middle of the jungle.
Maiavé Spa at Sheraton Buganvilias Resort & Convention Center in Puerto Vallarta takes its inspiration from Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of agave. It incorporates several varieties of the plant into many of its soothing treatments.
Several treatments at the Four Seasons Apuane Spa also incorporate local ingredients including their Hakali Signature Massage. It uses local cactus known for its antioxidant properties.
Rainbow of entertainment options
Both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are very LGBTQ-friendly destinations.
The Romantic Zone is Puerto Vallarta’s gay neighbourhood. Here you’ll find many gay-owned businesses as well as places deemed gay-friendly, from clubs to cafes. Newsweek recognized nearby Los Muertos Beach as the second-best gay-friendly beach in the world.
While in Riviera Nayarit, you’ll find a number of LGBTQ-friendly resorts, which all offer honeymoon packages for same-sex couples. In addition, the five-star St. Regis Punta Mita Resort won the 2018 Gay Travel Award for the best LGBTQ2S+ friendly beach resort in the world.
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