Riviera Nayarit offers more than luxury; explore its options for your all-inclusive, independent and niche clients
Charmaine Pang

From Nov. 19-25, 2008, and other North American journalists were invited to discover Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit region, a series of 19 towns north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, overlooking the Bay of Banderas.

Mexico’s newest vacation spot has been heavily marketed to Canadian travel agents and the media as a luxury destination with many natural and cultural treasures for Canadians to explore.

While the Nayarit region certainly offers those high-end, a la carte luxury hotels, and will welcome more of those in the years to come, agents need to know about the many diverse types of accommodation available.

When sending your clients to the Riviera Nayarit, it’s helpful to remember that there is a wide choice of destinations and styles of accommodation in each city and town. It’s not just luxury travellers who can enjoy the area; agents looking to send their all-inclusive clients, budget clients or FIT clients to the destination will find plenty of choice.

All-inclusive around Nuevo Vallarta

Vallarta Palace
If you are catering to the all-inclusive market, your clients will most appreciate the city of Nuevo Vallarta, closest to the Puerto Vallarta airport. You’ll find several large chains there including Riu and Occidental. There is also nearby golf at the El Tigre course, the Mayan Golf Club and the Flamingos Golf Club.

Another worthwhile property to send your clients to is the all-inclusive Vallarta Palace. The property has a Four Diamond rating, along with 348 superior deluxe guest rooms, a large pool area, daily activities, a newly renovated kids’ club, wedding gazebo and more.

A deluxe double Jacuzzi is in all the guest rooms, along with an open bar, and free long distance calls to Mexico, Canada and the U.S. are included. Restaurants feature a wide variety of cuisines, including Asian, Brazilian, Italian, Mexican and Continental.

In nearby Bucerias, three new Iberostar hotels are under construction, and should be ready by 2009.

Budget and independent travel

In the small town of Rincon de Guayabitos, your budget travel clients can stay at three-star hotels such as the Decameron, or even low-cost local hostels. The busy beach, which both locals and tourists frequent, offers many watersports activities.

The water is calm at Rincon de Guayabitos, earning it the nickname “The World’s Biggest Pool”. During the winter whale-watching season, your clients may be able to spot some gentle giants frolicking in the seas. At the Vista Guayabitos hilltop restaurant, your clients can dine on some local specialties, including aguachile, a spicy sauce with chilies, lime and water, usually accompanying seafood ceviche.

The surfer town of Sayulita has a different vibe, with many west coast expatriates living and travelling there. The beach is also quite family-friendly, with many little ones taking surfing and boogie board lessons. There are surf schools and boarding houses available in the town, which boasts many fine handicraft stores and cozy little cafes. 

Small and intimate

Natural footpaths at the Haramara retreat
Another unique accommodation is the Haramara retreat (, located near Sayulita. Haramara is a yoga retreat, which is excellent for yoga groups (travelling with instructors) or health-conscious couples or friends looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life – no televisions, phones, internet or electricity. The retreat is also a great choice for eco-conscious clients.

The Haramara retreat is located on a hillside, and is not recommended for the mobility-challenged, as natural footpaths and lack of electricity (and lights at night) may be difficult for them to maneuver. Please note, the food served at the on-site restaurant is mostly vegetarian and the only proteins served there are cheese and seafood (fish).

View of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle at Villa Bella
The Hotel Cielo Rojo (, located in San Pancho (also known as San Francisco) offers a boutique guesthouse feel. The hotel’s rooms are of differing sizes and feature various artworks and other local elements. Rates are extremely reasonable as well, starting from $60 US. The hotel offers its guests complimentary breakfast each morning.

If your clients wish to stay at a small, intimate bed & breakfast for their visit to Riviera Nayarit, the Villa Bella is another cozy choice. The small inn offers about 5 rooms, each decorated in a different style, on the top of a hill at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, close to the new marina.

Hotel Garza Canela, logo featuring the boat-billed heron, an bird endemic to the area
Nayarit is wild!

The Hotel Garza Canela (, located in San Blas, is an excellent starting point for your clients interested in nature – specifically, birdwatching.  Many migratory birds travel along a route which takes them to Mexico for the winters, and San Blas’s mangrove swamps are an ideal breeding ground for insects, which attracts the birds.

The Tovara National Park, a wildlife refuge, offers boat tours which will allow your clients a chance to see herons, cranes, storks, kingfishers, and birds of prey – over 19 species were sighted in just a few hours on’s visit. Your clients can also spot crocodiles, iguanas, turtles, fish and mammals if they look closely.

A crocodile at La Tovara National Park
The Hotel Garza Canela is also an excellent place to sample some unique local cuisine. Its restaurant, El Delfin, offers the dishes of executive chef (and hotel owner) Betty Vazquez, who has studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and travelled and worked at many top restaurants in Europe and the United States.

A fun wildlife excursion from Puerto Vallarta or Nuevo Vallarta is offered from Vallarta Adventures ( Their Marietas Eco-Discovery day trip will ferry your clients out for a day to the virgin Marietas Islands, to snorkel (or scuba dive) in clear waters, kayak or relax on an unspoiled beach. One may spot dolphins, manta rays or whales depending on the time of year. Guaranteed are tropical fish and indigenous birds such as blue-footed boobies and pelicans.

Travel Tips

-Please note that there are two different time zones in the Nayarit region – ‘Puerto Vallarta Time’ (also known as Airport Time), and ‘Nayarit Time’, which are an hour apart. Generally, resorts closer to Puerto Vallarta use Puerto Vallarta Time, but one should always check with the hotel to make sure. When arranging pickup times with drivers, one should also confirm the correct time.

-In the Riviera Nayarit area, most roads are well-paved, but do have many speed bumps, so be aware of this if your clients are driving.

-Some areas are known to have high insect populations (particularly San Blas), including mosquitoes; be prepared with bug spray, avoiding wearing perfumes, avoiding being out at  and making sure any exposed areas of skin are covered with long sleeves and pants.

-If your clients are interested in getting a good look at the wildlife of the area, binoculars are recommended for bird watching and whale watching.

Special thanks to the Mexico Tourist Board along with the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors' Bureau who sponsored the trip, as well as the Nayarit region and all host hotels.

On the Vallarta Adventures excursion to the Marietas Islands
The lobby of the Hotel Garza Canela; La Tovara National Park
El Cielo Rojo hotel                         Meal at Vista Guayabitos restaurant                 The lobby of the Garza Canela
A roadside fruit and snacks stand; Birdwatching at La Tovara National Park; Surf shop in Sayulita
Rooms at the Haramara retreat
El Tigre golf course; Vallarta Palace in Nuevo Vallarta
Vallarta Palace
Vallarta Palace