Beach towns of Mexico's Riviera Nayarit each have their charms

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nyaritfrontIt was Tuesday morning at the Plaza del Sol in San Pancho, Mexico and a three-piece band was playing while tourists and locals wandered in and out of vendor stalls at the weekly farmer’s market.

It’s actually a bit of a stretch to call it a band. Two hippie expats were playing the bongos while another gringo strummed a guitar. It wasn’t Mozart, but the music seemed to suit the place. This region of Riviera Nayarit has long been a hot spot for the expat hippie crowd.

With nearly 320 kilometres of beautiful Pacific coastline dotted with quaint Mexican villages, Nayarit is quickly becoming one of the hottest tourist destinations in Mexico. Each village has its own quirks and personality and each beach has its own special kind of beauty.

During a recent visit to the region, a local cab driver who spoke very little English offered our family group a tour. He’d take us to see six villages and beaches in Riviera Nayarit for what worked out to be 187 pesos ($12 CAD) per person. It was a deal too good to pass up.


Just 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, it’s fun to wander around the uneven cobblestone streets of Bucerias and relax on its beautiful beach. You’ll see some street art, the Iglesia à la Señora de la Paz (Our Lady of Peace Church) and a really large tourist market that has all the souvenirs you could ever need. In the central plaza, Huichol craftsmen dressed in traditional attire sell yarn art, carvings and bead art in vibrant colours with intricate designs and symbols.

Punta de Mita

El Anclote is the most accessible beach at Punta de Mita and is one of the best beaches in Banderas Bay for surfing. Just a few minutes past the Four Seasons and St. Regis hotels, this popular beach is lined with restaurants. We enjoyed a traditional Mexican lunch while we sat in the shade and watched the goings-on at the beach. The water is fairly shallow for quite a way out, but there are a few rocks and swim shoes are useful — especially in certain areas.


A popular surfer town, Sayulita was a quiet little place when I first visited it ten years ago. A decade later and the beach was packed. Word has gotten out. Despite the increased number of visitors and residents, this little place has managed to retain its laid-back surfer vibe. There are plenty of cute little shops, surf stores, restaurants and bars. You can rent a surfboard on the beach for about $5 an hour or spend a bit more and get a lesson. My oldest boys rented boards and spent some time trying to ride the waves while the rest of our family spent some time relaxing on shore and watching them get pummelled.

San Pancho

The tiny town of San Francisco is known to most locals by its nickname, San Pancho. There are a few hotels and a growing number of restaurants and bars. The Mercado del Sol (farmers market) happens every Tuesday. If you want live music, you’ll have to visit one of the more popular restaurants on a weekend. The beach is beautiful, but the undertow makes it not ideal for novice swimmers.

Lo de Marcos

Facilities are few in this village. There are a few small Mexican hotels and restaurants as well as some rental properties and campgrounds just off the beach. The waves are relatively calm and the beach is not very crowded. There are a number of little beach hut restaurants that serve fresh fish and cool drinks, so it’s a nice place to be on a sunny day.

Rincón de Guayabitos

Especially popular with Mexican families on weekends and holidays, Guayabitos has a wonderful protected bay that is ideal for swimming. There’s a beautiful beach and you can catch a boat to the little island, Isla del Coral, just offshore or take a fishing or whale watching tour. There’s one all-inclusive hotel in town and several decent Mexican hotels that offer long-term lodging for as little as C$35 per night. Things are pretty inexpensive here and we found a little place that did an excellent one-hour deep tissue massage for C$20. There’s also a pretty little nine-hole golf course called Field of Dreams nearby that charges $16 CAD for a round.

If You Go:

— Credit cards are not widely accepted. In most villages, you’ll need to pay for goods and services in cash with Mexican pesos. A bank ATM is the best place to get cash, but some villages do not have ATMs.

-A Spanish dictionary could be useful. Some taxi drivers and hotel staff do not speak English.

-For more information on Riviera Nayarit, visit the official tourism website at: rivieranayarit.com.

Source: Calgary Herald

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