Are Cancún and Tulum Still the Best Vacation Destinations in Mexico?

While Cancún and Tulum may have once been the go-to vacation destination in Mexico, there are now many other destinations that offer a more enriching and satisfying experience. At Travel If You, we believe Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco are the new It destinations of Mexico.

If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican experience, world-renowned beaches, unique cultural attractions, and a diverse range of activities, Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco have it all. There’s much more to Mexico than Spring Breakers, watered-down drinks, and crowded beaches!

At Travel If You, we pride ourselves on providing experiential travel experiences to Mexico that allow youthful travelers fully organized vacations. Beyond standard all-inclusive packages, we work with locals to create off-the-beaten-path experiences for an amazing vacation adventure. 

Our sustainable tours are hand-curated based on our personal experiences across Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco. From exploring hidden islands to mouthwatering local cuisines, Travel If You offers visitors a taste of the real Mexico. Get in touch with us to start your adventure. 

Why You Should Visit Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

If you’re looking for a coastal experience without the crowds, Riviera Nayarit is a beautiful region located on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Known for its pristine beaches, charming towns, and rich cultural heritage, Riviera Nayarit is a breath of fresh air.

This destination offers a brilliant blend of adventure opportunities and beautiful places to relax. In addition to our recommendations below, we have even more travel tips in our Riviera Nayarit Travel Guide

Enjoy the Pristine Landscapes of Riviera Nayarit

The natural beauty of Riviera Nayarit is truly breathtaking. The region is characterized by its beautiful beaches, turquoise waters, and lush tropical forests. Tourists flock to Cancún and Tulum’s beaches, meaning they are often crowded and surrounding cafes are overpriced. 

Cancún and Tulum’s beaches also experience Seaweed Season from April to October, when seaweed washes up on the sand spoiling the gorgeous shores and creating a pungent odor. 

The last thing you want on your beach walk is to get your feet tangled in seaweed and Riviera Nayarit’s beaches are pristine year-round.

Punta Mita

Punta Mita is home to several beautiful beaches, including Playa Punta Mita and Playa Anclote. These beaches offer pristine white sand, crystal-clear waters, and a range of water activities, including surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.

This beach resort town is known for its luxury accommodations, stunning beachfront, and world-class golf courses.


This laid-back surf town is a favorite among travelers who want to soak up the local culture and enjoy the beautiful beach. Its beaches, including Playa Sayulita and Playa de los Muertos, are also known for their beautiful white sand, clear waters, and excellent surf breaks. 

Sayulita is also home to a vibrant arts scene and a wide range of restaurants and shops, making it a popular destination for travelers seeking a laid-back beach vacation with plenty of cultural attractions.

San Pancho

This charming town has a more relaxed atmosphere than some of the other hotspots in Riviera Nayarit, making it perfect for travelers who want to get off the beaten path.

San Pancho, also known as San Francisco, is a small coastal town with several stunning beaches. The area has a strong commitment to sustainability and conservation, too, so the town’s beaches are near perfect. 

Visitors can enjoy activities such as surfing, whale watching, and exploring the town’s vibrant arts and cultural scene.

Things To Do in Riviera Nayarit

In addition to enjoying the beautiful scenery, there are plenty of things to do in Riviera Nayarit off-the-beaten path. 

Whale Watching

From December to April, visitors can witness the migration of humpback whales along the coast of Riviera Nayarit.


As we mentioned, you can find some of the best waves in Mexico in Riviera Nayarit, meaning this destination is a surfer’s paradise. Beginners can take lessons in Sayulita, while more experienced surfers can head to Punta Mita for bigger waves.

Bird watching

Riviera Nayarit is home to over 500 species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s dream location. Visitors can spot a variety of species in the area’s diverse ecosystems, from colorful tropical birds to migratory birds passing through the region.

Where to Eat in Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit has a thriving culinary scene, with plenty of local restaurants and international cuisine. Beyond the overpriced tourist traps in Cancún and Tulum, you can experience real Mexican food in this city.


This seafood restaurant is a local favorite with locations in Sayulita and San Pancho. Barracuda is known for its fresh catches and vibrant atmosphere.

Tierra Tropical Beach Club

This luxury beach club located on San Pancho’s beach offers fresh and local seafood and Mexican cuisine. You can enjoy your delicious lunch and then relax by the oceanfront pool.

La Rustica

With locations in Punta Mita and Sayulita, this trendy restaurant offers a Mexican take on fresh Italian cuisine and cocktails. If you are looking to mix things up from street tacos and Mexican cuisine, this is the place! 

Cultural experiences

Riviera Nayarit is rich in cultural heritage, with several indigenous communities and traditional festivals throughout the year. Here are some cultural experiences to check out.

Huichol art

The Huichol people are an indigenous group known for their intricate beadwork and artwork. Visitors can purchase these colorful crafts in local markets and galleries unique to the region.

Day of the Dead

This traditional Mexican holiday takes place on November 1st and 2nd and is celebrated with colorful altars, parades, and other festivities throughout the region.

Why You Should Visit Jalisco, Mexico

Jalisco is a state in western Mexico known for its beautiful beaches, historic towns, and tequila. The state is rich in cultural heritage as the birthplace of tequila and mariachi music, alongside a range of attractions, including historic towns and cultural festivals. 

As well as its cultural offerings, Jalisco fringes the Pacific Ocean meaning there are several beautiful beaches to explore. The verdant countryside is wonderful for nature walks and wildlife spotting, visit our Jalisco Travel Guide to learn more.

Enjoy the Stunning Beaches and Forests of Jalisco 

Jalisco is characterized by its beautiful beaches, lush forests, and beautiful colonial architecture. Some of our favorite destinations combine the beach and the countryside, as the sand gives way to luscious forests. 

Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is a colorful and picturesque seaside town that offers a range of activities for visitors from its beautiful beachfront to vibrant nightlife.

The Malecón, a popular boardwalk that runs along the beach, is lined with restaurants, bars, and shops, and is a great place to take a stroll and enjoy the ocean views. 

The town’s historic center, known as El Centro, is home to charming cobblestone streets, beautiful colonial architecture, and a lively arts and cultural scene. 


Located just south of Puerto Vallarta, this quiet beach is surrounded by lush forests and is perfect for a relaxing day in the sun. You can enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving to explore the rich marine life on the famous beach, which also has lovely local bars and restaurants.


Yelapa is a small fishing village located on the south shore of Banderas Bay, just south of Puerto Vallarta, only accessible by boat. 

It’s known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush jungle scenery, making it a popular destination for visitors seeking a secluded and tranquil beach experience. 

Unique Experiences to Try in Jalisco

Tequila Tasting

Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila, and visitors can take a tour of local distilleries and sample some of the best tequilas in the world. Believe us, you’ll never forget the taste of proper tequila!

Visit Historic Towns

Jalisco is home to several historic towns, including Guadalajara, which is known for its beautiful architecture and cultural attractions. As the second-largest city in Mexico, you’ll find plenty of activities to enjoy.

Explore the Countryside

Jalisco is also home to beautiful countryside, including the stunning Sierra Madre mountains, where visitors can hike, bike, and enjoy outdoor activities.

Where to Experience Authentic Cuisine in Jalisco

Jalisco has a rich culinary heritage, with several traditional dishes and local specialties. Here are some of our top picks for where to eat in Jalisco:

El Patio

This restaurant is located in the Pueblo Magico of Tlaquepaque near Guadalajara. It serves traditional Mexican cuisine in a beautiful courtyard setting.

La Palapa

Located on the beach in Puerto Vallarta, this restaurant offers stunning ocean views and a menu featuring international cuisine with a Mexican twist.

El Fogoncito

This taqueria in Guadalajara is known for its tacos, especially their al pastor tacos. They are a traditional Mexican dish made with marinated pork that is slow cooked on a vertical rotisserie. 

Cultural Experiences in Jalisco

Jalisco is rich in cultural heritage, with several traditional festivals and cultural attractions unique to the state.

Mariachi Music

Jalisco is known as the birthplace of mariachi music, and visitors can attend performances and learn more about traditional Mexican music.


Charreadas are traditional Mexican rodeos that take place throughout Jalisco, showcasing the skill and horsemanship of local cowboys.

While Cancún and Tulum may be popular vacation destinations, Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco offer unique experiences and attractions that make them equally compelling options for travelers. If you want to enjoy Mexico beyond the tourist traps, just get in touch and we’ll make it happen together.

Whether you’re interested in enjoying beautiful beaches, exploring historic towns, or sampling delicious cuisine, there’s something for everyone in these two Mexican destinations. Take a look at Travel If You’s fully customizable tours to experience Riviera Nayarit and Jalisco.