The Grand Velas recently added a wing with 106 guestrooms. // © 2010 Patricia Alisau
When Mexico’s government planners were looking for the next Cancun, they pinpointed a Pacific coastal region just north of Puerto Vallarta that, at one time, was better known for whale watching than anything else. They decided to take a chance, betting that this area — which stretches nearly 200 miles past Banderas Bay — would be as successful as the Caribbean coast resort that pulls in a quarter of all foreign travelers to Mexico.
Putting muscle behind the plan, the government named the area the Riviera Nayarit and started the ball rolling. In a mere couple of years, Riviera Nayarit has not only become one of Mexico’s fastest-growing tourist destinations but also a magnet for hotels catering to business and leisure groups.
Riviera Nayarit currently boasts more than 13,000 hotel rooms, most located in swank resorts and exceptional all-inclusive properties along pristine stretches of beach. High-tech installations, which include wireless Internet access, voice and data transmission, the latest audio visual equipment, translation services, video conference capabilities and versatile meeting spaces for groups of all sizes is the crowning point of meetings facilities. In addition, U.S. planners will be able to partner with experienced professionals in coordinating theme parties or dinners.
Tourism officials estimate that about 20 percent of the coast has been developed so far and that hotel rooms will increase by several thousand in the near future.
The roster of recent hotel openings includes the 228-suite Dreams Villa Magna, the 450-room Riu Pacifico Palace and Marival Residences & World Spa, which debuted 171 lavish one- to four-bedroom condo suites. Brands such as Westin Hotels and Resorts, Indigo, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts are also planning properties in the area. A boutique property called La Tranquila just appeared in Litibu, a master-planned development with blueprints for more hotels.
Upgrades keep other properties fresh and appealing. For example, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita renovated its rooms, added canopied day beds to its beach and a kids’ area to its spa. The newest wing of the Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort has 106 suites with Jacuzzis and day beds on its balconies.
The all-inclusive, 687-suite Paradise Village has the largest meetings venue with a auditorium-style convention center for as many as 1,200 guests and a separate conference facility with five breakout rooms, the largest of which can hold 240 attendees for a reception. Everything a group might need — including a marina, restaurants, bars, a shopping mall, a zoo, a golf course, a grocery store and cafes — is within walking distance of the front door. Others, such as the AAA Five Diamond-rated Grand Velas, can fit 400 attendees in the grand ballroom for a banquet, 800 for a reception and 1,500 in its tropical gardens for a social event. For smaller business meetings, Marival can arrange a set up for 20 guests, board-meeting style, in the spacious living room of any of the suites.
The new Taheima Wellness Resort & Spa with 400 condo-hotel suites has perhaps the most unusual approach to business groups by mixing wellness training, spa treatments and lifestyle analysis into meetings programs. Set around a chain of lagoons, the property has a ballroom fit for 400 attendees, banquet style, and smaller salons for 110 guests, apart from breakout rooms and a boardroom.
The holistic experience at Taheima also includes tai chi, Zen archery and chi gong classes plus a meditation labyrinth and temazcal sweat lodge experience. The spa at Marival, which has a palette of themed treatments from Russia, India, Japan, Turkey, Thailand and Bali, is also raising the bar for leisure activities.
Then there’s hitting the golf greens with seven spectacular courses already in play or about to open, designed by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Robert von Hagge and Jim Lipe. For those who prefer the sand and sea, they will be reassured to know that the environmental organization, Greenpeace, just recognized the outstanding cleanliness of the Riviera Nayarit’s beaches in a special international report.
Among the string of coastal fishing villages waiting to be explored nearby, the most popular is Sayulita, which has the offbeat charm of a surf town with hip shops including a co-op store selling the beaded handicrafts of the local Huichol tribe. Or attendees can arrange to tour Puerto Vallarta for a stroll along the famous boardwalk, terrific shopping and lively night life.
In addition, excursions to see the migrating humpback whales have grown even more popular with the expansion of Riviera Nayarit, proving that the region remains true to its roots.