Mexico Travel Guide – Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit

Angelina AragonApril 25, 2019
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Puerto Vallarta & Riviera Nayarit

Tracing the rugged tropical coastline north from Puerto Vallarta, one quickly arrives in Riviera Nayarit, an emerging destination flanked by the Pacific and the stunning Sierra Madre Mountains. While Jalisco’s Puerto Vallarta has been a tourism destination for decades, Nayarit’s charming beachside villages – Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerías and Punta Mita among them – are simmering hot spots, with fancy hotels set within shopping and cultural districts.

How to Get There
American Airlines is the only carrier with nonstop flights to Puerto Vallarta International Airport from Phoenix (180 min., $1,083+).

Self-Care in Paradise

Spas are bountiful in this luxury resort corridor, but our money is on Se Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, twice named “Most Excellent Hotel Spa” by Condé Nast. The resort is so dedicated to wellness that arriving guests are greeted with a light shoulder massage before checking into a Wellness Suite. Our guide to the ultimate over-the-top health day at the Nuevo Vallarta hotel:

1. Greet the morning with fresh fruit, gluten-free snacks and a daily juice blend: Detox, Antioxidant or Energize. Use the in-shower Vitamin C oil spritz as you inhale the essential oils diffusing in your room.

2.Use the in-suite exercise kit – yoga mat, dumbbells, resistance bands and a recumbent Technogym exercise bike – for a quick sworkout, or schedule a session with a personal trainer on your terrace.

3. Take the Water Journey at Se Spa, a seven-step process: multi-jet pressure shower, sauna, chromotherapy steam room, eucalyptus inhalation, hydro-reflexology, hot/cold lagoon and Jacuzzi. Next, indulge in a 50-minute Tequila Cream Massage, which starts with samples of tequila creams infused with chocolate, coffee and vanilla.

4. Test your balance with Aquaforza, a new class that combines Pilates and yoga on a paddleboard in the pool. (Pro tip: Wear a wetsuit so you don’t worry about falling out of your bathing suit.)

5. Make your own peaceful souvenir. Take the Dreamcatcher Workshop and weave your own to hang above the plush bed back in your suite. After a day of pampering, your dreams are sure to be sweet.

If You Go
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is an all-inclusive resort with a dozen Wellness Suites, each with its own concierge and a bevy of health and fitness amenities, from dumbbells to aromatherapy kits. Summer rate: $511/night.

Photo by Angelina Aragon
Photo by Angelina Aragon

3 Must-Visit Restaurants

1. Frida
Romance is in the air at the Grand Velas restaurant (pictured right), where a harpist plays while couples feast on executive chef Guillaume Morancé’s octopus tacos with chile de árbol salsa. “Good wine, good food – always enough to eat,” he says. Don’t miss the caramelized poblano pepper dessert with pineapple and pistachio cream.

Photo by Angelina Aragon
Photo by Angelina Aragon

2. Sea Food the Fat Boy Mariscos El Gordo
Spicy mussels, platters of fried fish and dreamy shrimp ceviche are on deck at this seafood shack in downtown Bucerías. For a sweet buzz, you can’t go wrong with the Kahlúa con Crema shot.

3. El Arrayán
This small, colorful restaurant serves tropical Mexican dishes like plantain empanadas, cricket tacos and shrimp with peanut mole. For dessert, pair a cup of café de olla (with cinnamon and piloncillo) with cajeta flan.

More Overnight Options

Hotel Splash Inn Nuevo Vallarta
One of the most family-friendly hotels on the Riviera Nayarit, Hotel Splash Inn has a water park and a guitar-shaped pool.

Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa’s dame resort’s Ceviche & Tequila Bar has more than 180 tequilas and delish ceviche, from Asian-inspired to Peruvian-inflected.

Family Fun!

Witbit Mex
Wibit Méx is an inflatable water park just off Bucerías Beach with swings, ropes, bounce pads, a trampoline, diving cliffs and more. Kids ages 4 and older who can swim are welcome, but they must wear a float or life jacket. 350 pesos for an hour ($20 USD), or 700 pesos for the entire day (10 a.m.-7 p.m.).


Geranios de Jungla
These four-petaled flowers – ixora coccinea, commonly known as jungle geraniums – are native to Asia, but flourish in the humidity of the Riviera Nayarit. They bloom almost all year long, and typically grow to 4-6 feet, but can grow up to 12 feet.

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Shopping Trio

Mercado  Municipal
Rio Cuale
Walk the long malecón (boardwalk) in Puerto Vallarta and peruse its shops and restaurants. Don’t forget to snap a family photo in front of the Puerto Vallarta sign. Agustín Rodríguez s/n, Centro, 48300

Label Chasing
La Isla Puerto Vallarta Shopping Village
Find stores like Guess, Calvin Klein and H&M, or catch a movie at Cinépolis VIP, at this American-style mall near Puerto Vallarta National Airport.

Quick Jaunt
Downtown Bucerías
Located about 6 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, this sleepy seaside village has a great authentic swap meet near the beach. Find shirts, handcrafted goods and gift possibilities aplenty.

Take a peek behind the scenes of our Mexico travel reporting with our staff’s personal photos from our adventures. They’ll make you want to pour a margarita and plot your own vacaciones soon.


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