Diversity Along the Coast

Up-and-coming Pacific resort area mixes activities with ecology

By: Up-and-coming Pacific resort area mixes activities with ecology

The Details


Four Seasons Punta Mita

Occidental Allegro Nuevo Vallarta

St. Regis Punta Mita

Vallarta Palace

Villa del Palmar Flamingos


Puerto Vallarta Tours

Vallarta Adventures


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Click here for a calendar of events on the Riviera Nayarit

Before the crowds catch on, give your clients a head start in discovering Mexico’s newest resort development —  the Riviera Nayarit — set to be fully operational by 2010 and spanning 100 miles of unspoiled beaches along the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Your clients can be the first to experience the recent $1.5 billion investment in tourism facilities and infrastructure, including five, 5-star hotels, newly opened designer golf courses and explorations through Nayarit’s subtropical forests.

A stretch of beach near Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta // (c) Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau
A stretch of beach near Sayulita, Puerto Vallarta
(c) Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

The adventure begins when rubber meets pavement at the Puerto Vallarta International Airport. According to Richard Zarkin, public relations manager of Riviera Nayarit’s Conventions and Visitors Bureau, public transportation is an option, but many prefer to rent a car and drive the region, which spans three distinct municipalities — Banderas Bay, San Blas and Compostela.

A 15-minute drive north from the airport reveals Riviera Nayarit’s most developed area, Nuevo Vallarta, with already functional resorts. Although the area expects large-scale developments and 2,000 rooms by 2010, there is no shortage of wilderness and wildlife waiting to be explored.

With more than six miles of navigable canals in the midst of Nuevo Vallarta, clients have the opportunity to explore one of the highest mangrove concentrations in the world complete with an abundance of migratory birds and crocodiles.

Just outside of Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta Tours will pick up clients at their hotels and take them to the famous La Tovara River where they can enjoy a 10-mile boat ride through the mangroves and a visit to the region’s only crocodile reserve. This tour continues to San Blas where travelers can see the ruins of a 16th-century fort and head to Matanchen Bay for some beachside relaxation.

If traveling by water isn’t your clients’ cup of tea, zipping through the trees while suspended in the air is an alternative. Outdoor excursion tour operator Vallarta Adventures invites visitors to explore the subtropical forest from a bird’s-eye view by ziplining across canopies, rappelling down waterfalls and crossing wooden bridges while under the supervision of highly trained guides.

Previously featured on the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel and E! Entertainment, its platforms raise up to 90 feet above the ground, revealing canopy life from a whole different perspective. The tour lasts a total of 4½ hours, including transportation, bottled water and snacks.

After a long day of adventure, even the most avid trailblazer seeks some solitude. With three miles of beaches along Banderas Bay — one of the largest bays in the world — Nuevo Vallarta is equally as accommodating as it is adventurous. The spas here feature everything from full-body massages to seaweed or Maya clay body wraps, and some well-deserved rest and relaxation is something your clients will appreciate.

The spa at Nuevo Vallarta’s Villa del Palmar Flamingos resort features a Tatewari spa experience — with a full-body massage plus facial — designed to renew the mind, body and spirit. Other invigorating treatments range from hot-stone therapy to pomegranate scrubs.

Just 25 minutes northeast of Nuevo Vallarta is an exclusive peninsula community called Punta Mita. Known for its luxurious resorts, including the Four Seasons and the soon-to-be-opened St. Regis, this Pacific Coast outcropping is sure to satiate the palate for private extravagance.

“Many are escaping the bustling cities and would like to rest in places where there is more seclusion, privacy and well-kept natural areas,” said Zarkin

The St. Regis features a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and a 10,000-square-foot spa. Breathtaking landscapes and rustic elegance await travelers here.

However, don’t be fooled by the peninsula’s comforts; the environmental diversity of Punta Mita offers options for the adventurer as well. Just an hour offshore lie the Marietas Islands, recently declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, where travelers carefully explore caves and rock formations surrounding a national bird sanctuary that’s home to exotic species like the blue-crowned momot. Vallarta Adventures offers scuba and snorkeling tours Sunday through Friday to explore the treasures of this underwater mountain range made famous by Jacques Cousteau.

Just up the coast from Punta Mita is Riviera Nayarit’s latest up-and-coming resort, Litibu. In 2008, eight new hotels will begin construction backed by Fonatur, Mexico’s national Department for the Development of Tourism. Set to be fully operational by 2010, Litibu’s waves lap the shores of a one-mile stretch of sand.

Despite wide-scale construction and rapid development, eco-minded travelers will be happy to know Fonatur is taking measures against eco-destruction.

What makes Riviera Nayarit unique among its Mexican counterparts is its diverse landscape. In the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, 250 varieties of birds can be found, while the coastal waters are frequented by seals, manta rays and dolphins.

To preserve the natural beauty of Nayarit, developments in Litibu are utilizing low-density building concepts in an attempt to avoid heavy burdens on the environment. For every tree that is cut down, five trees must be replanted in the area and, for animal lovers, popular sea turtle releases occur between June and December from both Nuevo Vallarta and Litibu. Both bird and turtle sanctuaries are protected by the Mexican government to ensure the well-being and continued growth of the species.

“Development in Riviera Nayarit is dedicated to preserving the environment and is planned along the entire 100-mile coast rather than just one area,” Zarkin said.

No adventure is complete without an exploration into a region’s cuisine. Because Riviera Nayarit is located on the coast, one can only expect seafood specialties. The area’s traditional course is said to originate from pre-Colombian times and is known as the pescado zarandeado, a grilled snapper that’s smoked over coastal mangrove shrubs that are found throughout the region and seasoned with lemon, salt and chili. Fresh shrimp empanadas and ceviches are popular Nayarit dishes as well.

“The Riviera Nayarit is modern luxury surrounded by ecology,” Zarkin said, “with a touch of tradition and charm."