4-Day Weekend in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico: Ceviche, Whales, and One Incredible Beach
You’d be forgiven if you’re not yet familiar with Riviera Nayarit. Wreathed by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range on the other, this 200-mile-long stretch of Mexican coastline (part of the Mexican state of Nayarit) has been flying under the radar for years.
But it won’t be for much longer. More than 20 resorts are planned to open in Riviera Nayarit between now and 2025. Clearly, developers are banking on the area becoming the next “it” travel destination in Mexico.
It’s easy to see why: With lush, emerald-colored mountains, golden sandy beaches, and lots of unique coastal towns, it’s a place where nature and modern amenities work in tandem. It’s a fabulous place to spend a few days. Here’s how to spend an ideal long weekend in Riviera Nayarit.
Where to Stay
Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort and Secrets Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort: There are two halves to this luxurious all-inclusive resort: the family-oriented Dreams and the adults-only Secrets. Though they’re housed within the same complex, they each have their own distinct spaces. No matter which you choose, you’ll get plenty of luxury: Each room is a suite and features a private balcony or terrace. The resort also houses several restaurants and bars.
Conrad Punta de Mita: This luxury resort opened in fall 2020 and has already made a name for itself thanks to its beachfront location, three pools, three restaurants, two bars, and swanky spa services. And if that’s not enough, you can also sign up for a deep-sea fishing charter or go zip-lining through the jungle.
What to Do
Explore Sayulita: Known for its stellar surfing, bohemian art colony, and thriving expat community, Sayulita is a fun place to spend a day. Start out by wandering through the town’s colorful shops filled with handicrafts, home decor, and locally made clothing and jewelry. After that, grab a bite at one of the area’s many beachfront restaurants and cafes, and don’t forget to do some people watching in the large central plaza.
La Patrona Polo & Equestrian Club: Few things say “opulence,” like drinking a mimosa while watching a polo match. Experience it at this club located just outside of San Francisco (see below), which holds a boozy brunch every Sunday during the games.
Visit San Francisco (also known as San Pancho): If you’re looking for a more laid-back day trip, this village is the spot. The community has several small eateries along with places for horseback riding, climbing, diving, and yoga.
Go on a Whale Watching Tour: Like humans, whales chase warm weather in the winter months. While you can sometimes stand on the shore and catch glimpses of the gentle giants shooting spouts of water, showing their flukes, and breaching, nothing beats the up-close view you can get on a whale watching tour. Both Ecotours de Mexico and Vallarta Natours offer four-hour whale watching journeys that depart from Puerto Vallarta.
Islas Marietas: The area’s most famous beach is also the most challenging one to get to. Found inside a crater on an island within a national park, Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach) is only reachable by swimming through a volcanic rock arch at low tide—after taking an hour-long boat ride from the coast. It’s worth it, however, as the scenery is stunningly beautiful and has a surprising history (the Mexican military once used the islands as a bombing range). To preserve their natural beauty, the Mexican government now limits the number of people who can visit the islands, and you’ll need to reserve a space in a tour to get there.
Where to Eat and Drink (Beyond Your Resort)
Because many of the resorts in the area are all-inclusive, you may not feel the need to eat somewhere else. But if you do get the hankering to venture out, these are some good options.
Street Taco Carts: Go to the shopping district in any town in Riviera Nayarit, and you’d have a hard time not finding a delicious birria taco. Made with slow-cooked lamb, beef, goat, or occasionally fish, these bountiful, spice-forward tacos are found all over the region.
Sayulita Wine Shop: This shop near the main square in Sayulita is a lovely place to stock up on supplies for a beach picnic or an evening in your hotel soaking tub. You’ll find artisanal cheeses, organic wines, and even locally crafted tequilas.
Chevycheria: There aren’t many seats at this tiny ceviche spot within the W Hotel Punta de Mita, but the beachside location is hard to beat. If you can snag one, pull up a stool under the thatched roof and order a briny, lime-infused seafood dish (often made with locally caught fish). Follow that up with a margarita. Good food and drinks by the ocean—this is exactly what you came here for.