Fishing villages; golden sand beaches surrounded by exuberant jungle; mangroves brimming with wildlife; lush hideaways; local legends… These are only some of the many hidden treasures of the Riviera Nayarit. It isn’t a coincidence that it’s known as Mexico’s Pacific Treasure, because its more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) of coastline is dotted with precious gems, some already shining bright, and others, still hidden, lying in wait to be discovered.
If there’s one thing that sets these villages and beaches apart it’s their natural environment and air of innocence—perfectly pleasing for travelers seeking peace and calm.
And so we embark on a tour of the coast of Nayarit in search of those “hidden treasures,” finding for the visitor ten alternatives for their vacation—because there’s no doubt the best way to live life is to go out and explore it!
Lo de Marcos
This micro-destination nestled in Bahía de Bandera, has the feel of a typical Mexican village at the edge of the sea: quiet, narrow streets, flowering shade trees and colorful façades. Some people describe it as a “tiny paradise” after they visit the beaches at Los Venados, Las Minitas, El Atracadero and Lo de Marcos, surrounded by green mountains and rocky outcrops that have kept the outside world at bay. Visitors can stay in an eco-retreat, bungalows, villas, comfortable hotel rooms or a full-service trailer park.
This town is suffused with a friendly ambiance and a community spirit. Families, friends and couples really enjoy the quiet atmosphere of this micro-destination nestled in Compostela. The main beaches are Las Cuevas, Chacalilla and Caleta; the first one is the most popular and it’s common to see visitors enjoying the sun or a delicious pescado zarandeado in one of the palapas that line the sand. Close to town is Mar de Jade, a center for yoga, retreats, wellness and rest, which gives guests and groups an authentic, peaceful and renewing getaway.
The village of Los Ayala and its charming beach are part of the Rincón de Guayabitos-Peñita de Jaltemba tourism corridor. It’s an excellent place to fully enjoy nature: a vast expanse of soft, golden sand fringed by the quiet waves of an emerald sea. On the southern end of the beach there’s a rocky outcrop and the beaches of Frideras, Frideritas (also known as the Playa del Beso, or Kissing Beach) and El Toro—they can be reached after walking up a short but steep path through the jungle or even by boat from the beach at Los Ayala. This tiny, contained town has developed an extensive variety of accommodations for its visitors including cozy hotels and bungalows with all the amenities for a comfortable stay.
Tucked away in a corner of paradise in the municipality of Compostela, Platanitos stands out for its exuberant jungle and beaches, which give it a rustic air that’s ideal for those who love to be in touch with nature. It has a large mangrove that serves as the nesting ground for a variety of birds and reptiles, and a beautiful, calm beach—400 meters long by 15 wide (1,312 feet long by 50 wide)—with warm blue-green waters. The beach is lined with restaurants that offer seafood dishes along with the traditional pescado zarandeado. One of the novelties is the “Hummingbird Garden,” a sanctuary for these birds and part of a holistic project that encourages the community both to conserve the area’s biodiversity and to create new tourism products.
Santa Cruz de Miramar
This fishing village is a true undiscovered gem just half an hour south of the port of San Blas. Besides its incredible natural beauty, Santa Cruz de Miramar is full of legends: it has witnessed several events that have left their mark on the local inhabitants, who are closely linked to the German culture that was established here in the mid-19th century, attracted by the beer company in Mazatlan. As if that weren’t enough, Miramar boasts some of the best waves in this coastal town, with incredible scenery that includes ponds brimming with exotic birds, freshwater streams and the curiously shaped La Campana, or Bell Rock, right across from its cliffs.
Playa Las Tortugas
Playa Las Tortugas is quiet and calm—a small sanctuary filled with wildlife in the heart of the Riviera Nayarit. It’s located across from an old coconut plantation with 8 kilometers (5 miles) of soft white sand, and serves as a refuge for hundreds of species of birds and reptiles. It owes its name to the fact that its nearly virgin beach is where different species of sea turtles come to lay their eggs every year. It’s also the perfect spot for ecotourism lovers and summer visitors eager to enjoy untouched, beautiful surroundings. The rustic restaurants and modest hotels closest to the beach offer all a visitor needs to feel welcome.
Boca de Chila
The tropical climate and warm waters are just some of the top attractions in Boca de Chila, a spot that’s positioned as one of the Riviera Nayarit’s most promising destinations. This micro destination in the municipality of Compostela offers adventurers the opportunity to enjoy an exciting experience and appreciate the local flora and fauna up close and personal, as it’s also a large mangrove area that’s home to diverse aquatic and subaquatic birds. It’s also a place frequented by those in search of good waves. They have also discovered petroglyphs here that are actually on display in Zacualpan, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Boca de Chila.
This is an ideal getaway for a relaxing weekend where the water is safe and calm. Nestled in the municipality of San Blas, Las Islitas is one of the most recognized beaches in the area and very memorable for those who visit. Its gentle waves have made it a very safe and comfortable place for those longing for a stress-free vacation. A rocky formation near the shore gives this beautiful beach its name (Las Islitas means “The Islands”) and it’s a favorite of Nayarit’s families. There are typical palapas all along the beach offering a fantastic array of exquisite traditional dishes, prepared with fresh fish and seafood from the area.
Novillero is the most extensive beach not only in Nayarit, but also in the entire country and the second longest in Latin America. Nestled in the municipality of Tecuala, it extends along nearly 90 kilometers (56 miles) with nearly half a kilometer (a third of a mile) in width, with fine, soft sand that perfectly complements its calm water—visitors can wade in for up to nearly 100 meters (over 110 yards). This beach is full of life, especially on the weekends, when entire families and groups of teens and youths come to enjoy the sunny days. Other nearby natural attractions nearby include El Canal de Cuautla and Laguna Brava; visitors can see them on local boat tours that will also take them through the mangroves, home to an incredible variety of endemic and migratory birds.
Boca de Camichín
Boca de Camichín, in the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla, is a must for tourists interested in finding the most sublime spots of the Mexican Pacific, not to mention its ecological importance as a breeding ground for countless marine birds. Its location at the mouth of the San Pedro river—a vast stretch of ocean that has created one of the largest estuary and swamp areas in Nayarit—means it’s home to a tremendous amount of shrimp and other marine life including snapper, oysters and sea bass, among many others. Ecotourism aficionados will also enjoy its abundant vegetation comprised mainly of mangroves and rushes. It also has a pier that’s a base of operations for excursions to Isla Isabel, a well-known national park.