Riviera Nayarit Mexico
Travel Guide

Riviera Nayarit Mexico is a magical state on Mexico’s Pacific Coast and it has many up-in-coming destinations. Nayarit has focused on developing its coastline with an eco and sustainable focus, which offers more boutique and locally owned hotels and businesses versus giant all-inclusive resorts. Nayarit has lush jungles and large beaches. It has traditional architecture and rich culture. It is safe and accessible. Nayarit has it all and is just waiting to be discovered. To start planning your trip, check out our Vibrant Vida – Nayarit Vacation or perhaps our private tours in Riviera Nayarit Mexico.

Fun Facts About Riviera Nayarit Mexico

  • Nickname: Riviera Nayarit
  • Capital: Tepic
  • Nayarit has almost 200 miles of Pacific coastline
  • The Sierra Madre Mountains line the coastline, creating a lush jungle backdrop.
  • Many travelers enter Nayarit through the Puerto Vallarta Airport located in the state of Jalisco, yet it is only 10 minutes away from the state border.
  • Nayarit is home to the longest beach in all of Mexico: Playa Novillero

Nayarit Mexico Travel Tips

Currency: Mexican Pesos

  • Credit and Debit Cards are accepted in many places in Nayarit, but you will still find plenty of cash only places, especially in smaller towns or taco stands (which we frequent) 
  • While USD is accepted in some places, you will receive an unfavorable exchange rate. It is always best to pay in Mexican Pesos


  • Cash is convenient to have on you, especially when you pull to the side of the road for some street tacos. 
  • It is recommended to only use the ATMs within banks, as fraud has been reported at the unofficial ATMs or they simply don’t work. 
  • Riviera Nayarit Mexico Pro Tip: Get money from the ATM before leaving the airport. Getting cash in smaller towns during the busy season can be problematic as ATMs run out of cash!


  • Spanish is the official language of Mexico. While it is fairly easy to get by with English, knowing a few key words and phrases is always a good idea! In the smaller towns, English will be spoken less. 
  • Tip: Download Google Translate before leaving!

Cell Phone Data/Wi-Fi

  • WiFi- it is accessible at hotels, restaurants and cafes. While it may not be as fast as you are used to, especially in smaller towns, it is easily accessible. 
  • Canadian Travelers – You will be able to use your phone with a limited amount of data and only pay a fee per day, depending on your carrier. The data seems to go fast, so use Wi-Fi when you can.
  • US Travelers- many US plans include Mexico in their plans, so you will be able to use your phone like at home. 
  • Tip: If you are working remotely, ask your hotel, Airbnb or local cafes for Wi-Fi speed before heading down.


  • Daylight Saving- Nayarit no longer recognizes DST and does not change the clocks. During North American DST, March-November, there will be an additional hour in time difference
  • A majority of Nayarit is in the Mountain time zone. However, the popular tourist destinations in the southern part of the state are Central time. These towns include: Bucerias, Punta de Mita, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Sayulita, San Pancho & Lo de Marcos.
  • Riviera Nayarit Mexico Pro Tip: When you reach San Pancho, your phone will be unsure which time zone it is and switch back and forth on you. To avoid confusion, go into your phone settings and turn off automatic time zone.

Local and Tasty food from Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit Mexico’s coastline offers a variety of fresh seafood, making it the focus of many local dishes. While tacos are a staple of Mexican cuisine, there are so many other tasty dishes that use a variety of fresh ingredients. Give one of these foods a try on your next Mexico trip, you won’t regret it!

  • Bucerias Style ceviche-  Ceviche is a dish made of fresh raw fish that is marinated and cured in lime or lemon. It is spiced with ají, chili peppers or other seasonings, and then it is topped with red onions, salt, and cilantro. Bucerias has some of the freshest seafood in the Bay of Banderas and delicious ceviche made with shrimp.
  • Aguachile – Aguachile is similar to ceviche, except it is tossed in a “chile water” and served immediately. It is usually made with shrimp and is a spicier dish.
  • Pescado zarandeado- This uniquely Nayarit dish originated from the island town of Mexcaltitan. Pescado zarandeado is prepared with the whole fish split in half from head to tail. 
  • Fish “En-vara-asado” – If you are hanging out on the beach, you will likely be offered fish “en-vara-asado” or grilled fish on a stick. It is most often shrimp but octopus and other fish will be offered as well. This is a tasty and healthy beach snack!
  • Shrimp Pozole- Pozole is an authentic Mexican stew made from hominy and protein. In Nayarit, shrimp pozole is popular and a twist on the traditional chicken or beef pozole.

Safety in Riviera Nayarit Mexico

Nayarit has long been considered one of the safest destinations in Mexico, especially the Riviera Nayarit coastline. Sayulita, San Pancho and Punta Mita are all well-regarded as family-friendly destinations where you can walk around town feeling safe and welcomed. These towns are also well traveled by solo female travelers who choose these destinations with safety in mind.  As always, stay aware while traveling and make safety-conscious decisions. Do your research or travel with a reputable tour operator and you will have a safe and fun vacation!

Must Visit Towns in Nayarit

Sayulita & San Pancho, Nayarit

  • These vibrant beach towns are full of authentic Mexican charm. Sayulita has been a surfer’s paradise for years, but it is starting to gather more international attention for its beautiful beaches, lush jungles and overall laid-back vibe. San Pancho is only 10 minutes away and is even more relaxed than Sayulita. Locals say San Pancho is like Sayulita 15 years ago. It is well known for its polo club and delicious restaurants. 

Punta de Mita, Nayarit

  • Punta de Mita has two sides to this must-see destination. One is a Luxury Destination, with world-class golf courses and high-end hotels all within a gated community. On the other end, is a strong surfing community that flocks to this area for the epic waves. Surfers hike along the jungle trail that leads to Playa La Lancha while Punta Mita community members golf cart to the beach on their well-designed path. It is a unique destination that continues to grow in popularity. 

Chacala, Nayarit

  • While Chacala is still under the radar for international tourists, national tourists are well aware of this beauty. Chacala is further north than other popular destinations and isn’t reached by the average traveler. Located only 90 minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport, this town is well worth the trek. Chacala feels like you are slowing down time and going back to a beach town of the past. The beach is one of the most stunning along the coastline, as the lush jungle wraps around the beach.

Los Ayala, Nayarit

  • Los Ayala is the smallest town on the Jaltemba Bay, and it is much less developed than its sibling towns of Rincon-Guayabitos. It has a pristine beach with turquoise waters and is a great swimming beach. The town is located just across from the famous Coral Islands, and we highly recommend taking a boat out to the islands to explore. 

San Blas, Nayarit

  • San Blas, Nayarit is in the northern end of the state and is the hub for northern Riviera Nayarit’s beaches. San Blas is a 2.5-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta International Airport or only an hour’s drive from Tepic’s airport. The northern part of Nayarit is even more remote and less developed than the towns to the south. The beaches are longer, less busy, and undeveloped. If you are looking for a secluded beach getaway in authentic Mexico, San Blas is the town for you.

Top Things to Do in Riviera Nayarit Mexico

Visit the Islas Marietas

One of the most photographed locations in the Bay of Banderas is Hidden Beach & the Islas Marietas. The Islas Marietas National Park is a boat ride away from practically anywhere along the Bay of Banderas, but only certain towns have piers to take you there. Many tours leave from the marina in Nuevo Vallarta or La Cruz Huanacaxtle. These uninhabited islands have hidden beaches cut out of the islands, diverse marine & aerial life and wondrous landscape. The picturesque beaches and snorkeling truly make the experience.

Whale Watching in the Bay of Banderas

Hundreds of humpback whales migrate to the Bay of Banderas every December- March. You can be lucky enough to spot the whales from the coastline, but it is truly magical to see the whales from the water. Taking a boat cruise to see the majestic whales is a must-do activity!

Play the Tail of the Whale Jack Nicklaus Golf Course in Punta de Mita

If you are an avid golfer, then playing one of the courses in Punta Mita is a must. The famous Whale of the Tail hole has the green located on an island. You can access it via golf cart during low tide. Unfortunately, you must be staying at a home or hotel within Punta Mita or know a member to be able to golf at these private courses. 

Surf at Playa La Lancha

Playa La Lancha is one of the best surfing beaches in all of Nayarit. Surfers gather at the Oxxo on the highway bright and early and then make the trek through the jungle to get to the beach. Accessing the beach with a surfboard in hand is all part of the experience. 

Hike Monkey Mountain

With the Sierra Madre mountain range running along the coastline, you can find many different hikes. The most epic of them all is Monkey Mountain. You start the hike in Higuera Blanca and this hike will take you about 4 hours roundtrip. The lookout point at the top makes it so worth the hike! 

Dine and watch a polo game at La Patrona Polo Club

La Patrona polo club is a slice of luxury in San Pancho. This beautifully designed Polo and Beach Club is an architectural dream set within the lush mountains. You feel like you are watching a polo game inside Jurassic Park while being served high-end cocktails and food. La Patrona offers brunch and a polo game on Sundays. 

Experience a sea turtle release

The wide and relatively undeveloped beaches along the Nayarit coastline provide a safe place for sea turtles to lay their eggs and later hatch. There are conservation efforts in each town and they offer opportunities to volunteer with the project or watch the turtles hatch while helping the turtles make their way to sea. It is an educating and eye-opening project. 

Wellness experience

The laid back vibes of the beach towns in Nayarit attract travelers and locals alike that are searching for activities to promote and support mental and physical health. Sound healing, reiki, cacao ceremonies, yoga & more are commonly offered. Start your day with a wellness-focused activity before relaxing on the beach with a beverage. 

Cultural experience

It is a must to take the time to learn more about the local culture that makes this region what is. Visit a Huichol art gallery to learn about the indigenous culture and this unique crafting technique. Take a cooking lesson to understand the importance of ingredients in Mexican cuisine. Visit the Petroglyphs near Guayabitos to see the preserved history of the country. Choose what is calling your name and lean into Mexican culture. 

Pueblo Magicos, “Magic Towns” in Riviera Nayarit Mexico

A Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, is a special recognition given by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism (Sectur). This honor is only given to towns that possess certain magical qualities, such as historic characteristics, natural wonders, or authentic traditions & food. The goal is to promote tourism to lesser-known towns in Mexico that are filled with charm and unique experiences. Learn more about the magic towns of this region.

Sayulita, Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit Coastline only

Magical Characteristics
Colorful and traditional architecture with cobblestone streets
Natural Wonders of four beaches and the lush jungle
Local and fresh Nayarit seafood based cuisine

Compostela, Nayarit

1 hour inland from Nayarit coastline, Chacala, in the Sierra Madre Mountains

Magical Characteristics
Traditional Festivals
Historical and cultural significance

Jala, Nayarit

Nestled in the Sierra Madre Mountains, 1 hour from Tepic and 2 hours from Guadalajara

Magical Characteristics
Natural Beauty of nearby Volcano Ceboruco and waterfalls
Historical significance
Local and authentic cuisine

Mexcaltitan, Nayarit

Island located in a Lagoon in northern Nayarit. 4.5 hours from Puerto Vallarta and 90 minutes from Tepic.

Magical Characteristics
Unique natural beauty island location
Indigenous art & cuisine
Traditional town preserved by isolated location

Best Time of Year to Visit Riviera Nayarit Mexico

  • High Season November-April: The typical high season in this region, coincides with the dry cooler season. Temperatures are milder and range from 60F-80F degrees.
    • This season is also during the Whale Watching season (December-March). This is a main attraction in the Bay of Banderas and a must see!
    • Due to this being the most popular time to visit, rates are higher and there is less availability. Booking in advance is recommended! 
  • Low Season June-September: The summer months bring the rainy season. You are almost guaranteed daily rain, but this is often during the nighttime or brief afternoon thunderstorms. Temperatures are higher and range from 70F-90F degrees. The humidity will be felt!
    • If you like to avoid crowds, visiting during this time is recommended. If you are prepared and open to some rain, this can be a great time to visit. The jungles are lush and alive from the rain.
    • Opposite to high season, rates are more affordable and there is more availability. 
    • In the smaller towns, some businesses close down during July-September. Plan ahead to not miss out on any must sees!
  • Shoulder Season October & May: There is a quick transition from rainy to dry season and back again! But the months of October and May are beautiful times to visit.
    • During these months, rates are low and availability is high.
    • Things are winding down from high season or picking up for high season, both months see all businesses open and activities available.

How to Get Around

Rental Car

Renting cars from Puerto Vallarta or Tepic is an easy and cost-friendly transportation option. Driving in Mexico can be safe and easy! Always research the best routes ahead of travels and download the maps for areas with limited cell service. This is the best option if you have a travel buddy and want ultimate flexibility to explore.

Private Transportation

There are a wide variety of private transportation options from SUVs to sprinter vans. If you have a group and have limited excursions planned, this can be a great option. Find a company and driver to stick with for the duration of your trip.


Taxis are readily available, even in small towns. Ask for directions to the local taxi stand and you’ll find a line up waiting. This is a good option for a more confident traveler who speaks some Spanish. You’ll want to be able to clearly communicate where you are going and negotiate a fair rate.

Golf Carts

While this option won’t get you from town to town, golf carts are a very common way to navigate around individual towns. They are a fun and affordable way to get from beach to villa and back again.


Ubers are not allowed at most airports in Mexico, so always take a taxi or arrange transportation. Once you are in the larger cities, like Puerto Vallarta, Ubers are a safe and affordable way to get around.

Airports in Nayarit Mexico

There are two major airports that provide access to Nayarit. A majority of travelers will fly into Puerto Vallarta International Airport. While technically located in Jalisco, Puerto Vallarta International Airport is located only 10 minutes from the state border of Nayarit & Jalisco.

Puerto Vallarta International Airport:
PVR Airport is located on the north side of Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco. Major airports across Canada & the US fly direct to PVR, making it an easy trip for most North American travelers. The airport is expanding a second terminal, and new flight routes are being added often. In 2022, there were record travelers flying into Puerto Vallarta, with 6.2 million passengers flying through PVR. Below is a list of direct flights to Puerto Vallarta International Airport. Here are more details on how to get to Puerto Vallarta and beach towns in Nayarit.

Direct Routes to Puerto Vallarta

  • Air Canada- YUL, YYC, YYZ
  • Air Transat- YQB, YUL, YYZ
  • Alaska Airlines- LAX, PDX, SFO, SAN, SEA, SJC
  • American Airlines- AUS, DFW, LAX, ORD, PHX
  • Delta Airlines- ATL, DTW, LAX, MSP, SEA, SLC
  • Frontier Airlines- DEN
  • JetBlue- JFK
  • Southwest Airlines – AUS, DEN, HOU, PHX, SNA
  • Spirit Airlines- LAX
  • Swoop Airlines- YHM, YEG, YWG, YXX, YYZ
  • Westjet Airlines- YEG, YLW, YQR, YWG, YXE, YYC, YYZ
  • United Airlines – EWR, DEN, IAH, LAX, ORD, SFO

Tepic International Airport:
Located in the state’s capital, Tepic, this airport provides easier access to the northern part of the state. While it has international in the name, Tepic currently only offers flights domestically. However, a flight to Mexico City and onward to Tepic can be an easy way to get to this region!

  • Aeromar: MEX
  • Volaris: TIJ

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