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From soaring mountains to sun-soaked Pacific waters, Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit is paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. Some travelers, of course, might prefer a quiet stretch of sand on which to relax, while others might opt to head out in search of wildlife and the region’s most postcard-perfect scenery. And some clients may prefer fast-paced excitement on the water or in the hills. The allure of Riviera Nayarit lies in the fact that it can offer something for every type of traveler.
Beaches for Every TasteBecause Riviera Nayarit is made up of five municipalities, there are many beaches to explore — more than 30, in fact. Among the most picturesque is the stretch of sand nicknamed “secret beach” or “hidden beach” that is tucked away on one of the Marietas Islands. Companies including Punta Mita Expeditions and Chica Locca Tours offer guided visits past this photo-worthy destination. (Note: During my recent trip, guests weren’t allowed to access the beach.)
In terms of record-holding sunbathing spots, Riviera Nayarit is the undisputed champ. It’s the longest beach in Mexico and the third-longest in the Western Hemisphere. Sun-worshippers who like to have plenty of diversions, meanwhile, should consider a visit to El Anclote, located in Punta de Mita, which is lined with shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Surfing and WatersportsExperienced and beginning watersports enthusiasts alike will find lots to do in Riviera Nayarit. Pro surfers head to Stoner Point Break in San Blas, which offers the most powerful waves in the summer months. The charming beachfront town of Sayulita, meanwhile, is an ideal destination for beginners, where surfing classes for every experience level are available. One of Mexico’s official Pueblos Magicos (“magical towns”), Sayulita is also the place to go for stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals (I suggest Stand Up Paddle Mexico) and surfboard rentals and classes (try Lunazul Surf School and Shop).
Surfing and SUP classes are also available at Punta de Mita’s El Anclote beach. Additionally, vacationers can try their SUP yoga skills in Lo de Marcos, a coastal town of about 2,5000. Fans of kitesurfing, meanwhile, might want to mark their calendars to visit the waterfront town of Bucerias in May, when annual international kitesurfing competition Wind Festival takes place.
Water and WildlifeRiviera Nayarit is a surprisingly rewarding place for spotting wildlife, and the destination can often be combined with a variety of sporting activities. An excursion to the Marietas islands, which are part of a national marine park, is a must-do for anyone interested in snorkeling, SUP or kayaking. But it’s also noteworthy for those who stay on the boat, thanks to the lovely scenery and lots of opportunities to spot blue-footed boobies, dolphins and — during the winter months — humpback whales. Punta Mita Expeditions is among the local tour operators that offer these excursions.
Also part of a national park is Isabel Island, which lies 46 miles from the town of San Blas. Camping is allowed here, and visitors can spot wildlife including frigate birds and brown- and blue-footed boobies, as well as enjoy fishing, scuba diving and hiking.
Conditions for scuba diving are also ideal at Coral Island, located about 2 miles offshore from Guayabitos beach. Thousands of colorful fish and coral reefs, as well as pelicans, seagulls and boobies, are among the sights here. Visitors looking to view the giant whale sharks, meanwhile, should head to the historic port of San Blas, where boat excursions depart throughout the year.
Closer to shore, visitors can see wildlife while helping to protect it by participating in baby sea turtle release programs during the fall and winter months at Nuevo Vallarta Turtle Camp.
Boating and Fast-Paced Fun The fishing town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is a hub for boating, and Jet Skis, sailboats and yachts are all common sights here. Novices to the world of boating might want to sign up for a class at the International Sailing Academy or Vallarta Yacht Club.
For even more thrills, Punta Mita Adventures offers an Outdoor Adventure tour that encompasses several breathtaking experiences. Participants start with a speedboat ride across Banderas Bay, a Mercedes Benz 4x4 drive into the Sierra Madre mountains and a mule ride, followed by ziplining and rappelling, then end with time by refreshing natural river pools to rest and relax.