riviera nayarit

The surfer-chic town of Sayulita is a must-stop in the Riviera Nayarit. (Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)

Culture + Style

The Secret Is Out: Riviera Nayarit Is Mexico’s Must-Visit Luxury Hot Spot

Move over, Riviera Maya; there’s an even hotter Mexican locale making its way onto the radar of travelers in the know: the astonishing Riviera Nayarit.

Tucked into an unblemished nook between the Pacific Ocean and Sierra Madre Mountains and stretching from Nuevo Vallarta north toward the Sinaloa border, the region has long attracted the backpacker set and now draws luxury travelers into enclaves like The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, W Punta de Mita and La Patrona Beach Club.

Here you’ll find nearly 200 miles of pristine beaches, tumbling waves, surfer-chic hangouts and more than a few fascinating villages and cultural experiences. Riviera Nayarit has an easy job luring visitors to its sandy white shores and rugged, verdant peaks — the only question is why more travelers have yet to discover it.

Before you go, get your bearings and learn the ins and outs of what’s poised to be Mexico’s next big “it” destination.

Punta de Mita

riviera nayarit
The jaw-dropping tiles at the W Punta De Mita. (Photo: Valerie Conners)

Fly into Puerto Vallarta and start your journey 45 minutes north in the tiny town of Punta de Mita. Set into the curve of a peninsula that juts out into the sea like an earthen hook, it’s the perfect spot to explore one of the region’s most idyllic stretches of shoreline: the beach at W Punta de Mita.

Check into the property and soak in striking architecture, as well as art and decor that pay homage to the symbols of the traditional Huichol people — including a 700,000-tile mosaic walkway, which is nothing short of Insta-fabulous.

After gawking at the walkway, head for the pool or beach — which remains blissfully quiet and crowd-free. You’re in a bit of a cove flanked by tall rocky walls, which means the water here is generally calm and kid friendly, and sunset is a guaranteed stunner.

Should you pry yourself away from the property, head to El Anclote to explore shops, art galleries and restaurants. There’s also a beach scene here that’s popular with SUPers.

As sun sets, tuck into a bite at Spice Market at the W — the only Mexican outpost of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant chain — paying as close attention to the snazzy contemporary design as you do to the Asian-fusion menu and dangerously addictive ginger mojitos.


riviera nayarit
Ziplining and ATV tours for adventurers. (Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)

Spending a day — or more — wandering the streets of this bohemian beach town is a must. Sayulita has long been a hot spot for surfers; if you’re so inclined, sign up for a lesson, as the waves here are gnarly (in the best possible sense).

Boutiques and galleries dot the streets, as do a fair smattering of restaurants, bars and coffee shops, though perhaps the most popular spot (especially for the Instagram set) is the main thoroughfare, strung with colorful rows of papel picado (perforated paper) flags.

If you’re feeling adventurous, book an excursion into the hills with Vista Paraíso. Super-friendly and remarkably knowledgeable guides will take you jungle hiking up Monkey Mountain, zip lining through the canopy, on an ATV tour, horseback riding and more.

When hunger strikes, settle in to a table at Don Pedros and order spicy shrimp aguachiles in a tangy sauce of chili peppers, lime juice, salt and cilantro, topped with onion and avocado. Follow this with one of many freshly hooked seafood entrees, and wash it all down with one of the many mezcals on offer — perfection.

Punta Mita

riviera nayarit
Relax in luxury at the St. Regis Punta Mita. (Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)

Quite possibly Riviera Nayarit’s most exclusive haunt (and not to be confused with Punta de Mita), the private community of Punta Mita is a favorite among celebrities and tony travelers. It’s in this nook of peninsula where you’ll find The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort which is … so very choice.

Pamper yourself at the property’s Luxe Remède Spa, unwind at the beach, dip into one of the property’s pools, and enjoy your own personal butler service. You want it? They’ll get it.

The area is also a putter’s dream. Two Jack Nicklaus–designed 18-hole golf courses await, including access to the “Tail of the Whale,” the world’s only hole set on a natural island (watch for high tide!).

While there’s no shortage of dining options, be sure to sup at five-diamond Carolina, where exceptional views are met with an exquisite, award-winning menu. Of course, before you settle in for a meal, catch everyone’s favorite St. Regis ritual, the sunset champagne bottle sabering.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

riviera nayarit
Shop for traditional Huichol crafts. (Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)

Though it’s hard to keep track of days while on vacay, mark your calendar for Sunday morning, when the sleepy fishing village of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle springs to life with a Sunday market that winds along Marina Riviera Nayarit. Succumb to temptation to shop as you wander past artisan crafts and artwork, and locally sourced foods and drink, including honey and wine.

For a closer peek at this generations-old seafaring community, wander through the Mercado del Mar, where local fishermen hawk their fresh (and often still very much alive) catches.

Offshore Islands

(Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)
The volcanic Islas Marietas. (Photo: Riviera Nayarit CVB)

The Riviera Nayarit lays claim to 186 miles of epic coastline, and just offshore visitors will find a number of picture-perfect islands, including the volcanic Islas Marietas, a national park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that’s gained much fame as a snorkeler’s and diver’s paradise, as well as being home to the rare blue-footed booby and other exotic birds.

Since you can’t set foot on these protected islands, it’s wise to book a tour with an eco-conscious outfitter like Punta Mita Expeditions, which offers an array of private and small group tours to the Marietas, complete with snorkeling and SUP equipment. Keep an eye on the water and your camera handy as you make your way toward the islands — humpback whales are frequently spotted splashing and frolicking in the surrounding seas.

San Francisco (San Pancho)

Know by locals as San Pancho, this funky little fishing village retains its quiet charms and strong sense of local community while also playing host to luxury newcomers like La Patrona Beach Club. The space’s award-winning architecture is indeed jaw-dropping, and its palm-tree-lined beach and infinity pools are ideal for unwinding. Take a moment to admire the Huichol wall mosaic at the club’s entrance — it’s truly a masterpiece.

If you should visit on a Sunday, find your way to the nearby La Patrona Polo & Equestrian Club to catch a match (the horses are true beauties) and experience what can only be described as a delightfully gluttonous brunch, including many ingredients sourced from the property’s organic farm.

After the match, stroll the streets of San Pancho and pop into galleries and restaurants, as well as the Entreamigos community and cultural center. Keep an eye out for artisan crafts made by the local Huichol people.