Mexico’s west coast state of Nayarit has long remained off the travel radar, but that’s changing. Not only are international vacationers checking into the beachfront hotels of Nuevo Vallarta and the luxurious retreats of Punta Mita, a growing number are venturing farther afield to discover a landscape that is rich in natural beauty and cultural charm. If you haven’t yet made plans to visit, here are ten reasons to go.
1 The Coast With the Most
With 190 miles of coastline washed by the clear waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean, the state of Nayarit boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in Mexico. And there’s something for all tastes, from the modern beach resorts of Nuevo Vallarta and the uber-luxe retreats of Punta Mita to colorful fishing villages and miles of uninhabited and pristine shoreline.
2 Superior Surfing
Hard-core surfers have been making the pilgrimage to the beaches of Nayarit for decades to challenge famous breaks such as La Lancha and El Faro. But the wave’s aren’t just for the pros. Beginners can master the basics on mellow waves at beaches such as Destiladeras; weekend warriors can hone their skills at surf camps in towns like Sayulita; and adventurous surfers can travel to San Blas, which is home to the longest right-hand break in the world.
3 Beach Vibes
Each of the small beach towns scattered along the coast north of the Bay of Banderas offers a unique charm. Sayulita is laid back and bohemian, while San Francisco is home to a thriving arts community. San Blas is a historic port town where memories of Spanish Colonial times linger, and locals gather at the town square to mingle.
4 Away From the Crowds
Nayarit is the one of least populous state in Mexico. Within a few miles of the modern resort areas fronting the Bay of Banderas, the landscape transitions to farmland and traditional villages, then forests. Much of the mountainous interior region and large areas of the coast remain sparsely settled or undeveloped, and few international travelers have discovered the unique attractions of the state’s northern regions.
5 High Country Escapes
The green-clad peaks of the Sierra Madre Mountains rise dramatically to offer a cool contrast to the sun-drenched coast. These highlands are laced with back roads and trails that become a playground for hikers, horseback riders, bikers and off-roaders. Small villages hidden deep in the mountains provide a tranquil oasis and an authentic window into traditional ways of life.
6 Native Ways
Nayarit is home to two of Mexico’s most colorful indigenous cultures—the Huichol and Cora. Languages, traditions and handicrafts that pre-date the arrival of Columbus by hundreds of years are kept alive in mountain villages. The Cora are known for woven goods and pottery finished in colorful geometrical animals, while the intricate beadwork creations of the Huichol are prized by international collectors.
7 A World-Class Getaway
In contrast to the green expanses and small villages that are typical of much of Nayarit, the Nuevo Vallarta resort corridor is a thoroughly modern vacation destination, with championship golf, upscale marinas, five-star hotels and wide range of water sports and land activities to enjoy. The area is just minutes away from the Puerto Vallarta international airport, making travel easy and convenient.
8 Mexico’s Venice
Sometimes called the “Pueblo Magico,” Mexcaltitan is a man-made island that sits in the center of a vast lagoon, surrounded by mangrove forests. Accessible only by small boat, it draws adventurous visitors, who come to wander the streets and canals of this isolated enclave, or sample the local seafood. Spicy shrimp dishes are a local specialty.
9 Local Flavors
Blessed with rich volcanic soils and ample seasonal rainfall, Nayarit is a rich farming region. With an abundance of local produce from the land, and fresh seafood brought in daily by local fishermen, chefs have a savory array of fresh ingredients to work with. Traditional dishes showcase the rich flavors of land and sea, while a wave of innovative fusion cuisines are also gaining popularity.
10 Colonial Charms
The 21st century hasn’t made its mark on many of the towns and small cities in the heart of Nayarit. The capital of Tepic is rich in neo-Colonial and neo- Gothic architecture, it’s colorful markets and shops are filled with indigenous handiworks, and the Plaza Principal is regarded as one of the loveliest in all of Mexico.