All about Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Riviera Nayarit – Nuevo Vallarta – Bucerias – Punta Mita – Sayulita – San Pancho
Nuevo Vallarta & North of Vallarta:
Many people assume Nuevo Vallarta is a suburb of Puerto Vallarta, but it’s a stand-alone destination over the state border in Nayarit. It was designed as a mega resort development, complete with marina, golf course, and luxury hotels. Although it got off to a slow start, it is finally coming together, with a collection of mostly all-inclusive hotels on one of the widest, most attractive beaches in the bay. The biggest resort, Paradise Village, has a growing marina and an 18-hole golf course inland from the beach side strip of hotels, plus a growing selection of condos and homes for sale. The Mayan Palace also recently opened an 18-hole course. The Paradise Plaza shopping center, next to Paradise Village, adds much to the area’s shopping, dining, and services. It’s open daily from 10am to 10pm. To get to the beach, you travel down a lengthy entrance road from the highway, passing by a few remaining fields (great for birding) but mostly real estate under construction.
A trip into downtown Puerto Vallarta takes about 30 minutes by taxi is available 24 hours a day. The ride is slightly longer by public bus and operates from 7am to 11pm.
Images of Riviera Nayarit
Bucerias: A Coastal Village
Only 18km (11 miles) north of the Puerto Vallarta airport, Bucerías (“boo-seh-ree-ahs,” meaning “place of the divers”) is a small coastal fishing village of 10,000 people in Nayarit state on Banderas Bay. It’s caught on as an alternative to Puerto Vallarta for those who find the pace of life there too invasive. Bucerías offers a seemingly contradictory mix of accommodations — trailer-park spaces and exclusive villa rentals tend to dominate, although there’s a small selection of hotels as well.
To reach the town center by car, take the exit road from the highway out of Vallarta and drive down the shaded, divided street that leads to the beach. Turn left when you see a line of minivans and taxis (which serve Bucerías and Vallarta). Go straight ahead 1 block to the main plaza. The beach, with a lineup of restaurants, is a half-block farther. You’ll see cobblestone streets leading from the highway to the beach, and hints of villas and town homes behind high walls. Second-home owners and about 1,500 transplanted Americans have already sought out this peaceful getaway; tourists have discovered its relaxed pace as well.
If you take the bus to Bucerías, exit when you see the minivans and taxis to and from Bucerías lined up on the street that leads to the beach. To use public transportation from Puerto Vallarta, take a minivan or bus marked BUCERIAS (they run 6am-9pm). The last minivan stop is Bucerías’s town square. There’s also 24-hour taxi service.
Exploring Bucerías — Come here for a day trip from Puerto Vallarta just to enjoy the long, wide, uncrowded beach, along with the fresh seafood served at the beachside restaurants or at one of the cafes listed below. On Saturdays and Sundays, many of the streets surrounding the plaza are closed to traffic for a mercado (street market) — a shopping nirvana where you can buy anything from tortillas to neon-colored cowboy hats. If you are inclined to stay a few days, you can relax inexpensively and explore more of Bucerías.
The Coral Reef Surf Shop, Heroe de Nacozari 114-F , sells a great selection of surfboards and gear, and offers surfboard and boogie board rentals, surf lessons, and ATV and other adventure tours to surrounding areas.
Where to Stay — Unfortunately, I cannot recommend any of the hotels in Bucerías; they’re run-down, and most people who choose to stay here opt for a private home rental. Check out the villa rental bulletin board at www.sunworx.com. Las Palmas in Bucerías will book accommodations, including villas, houses, and condos. Call ahead, or ask for directions to the office when you get to Bucerías. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9am to 2pm and 4 to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 2pm.
Where to Dine — There are many seafood restaurants fronting the beach. The local specialty is pescado zarandeado, a whole fish smothered in tasty sauce and slow-grilled.
Punta Mita: Exclusive Seclusion
At the northern tip of the bay is an arrowhead-shaped, 600-hectare (1,482-acre) peninsula bordered on three sides by the ocean, called Punta Mita. Considered a sacred place by the Indians, this is the point where Banderas Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the Sea of Cortez come together. It’s magnificent, with white-sand beaches and coral reefs just offshore. Stately rocks jut out along the shoreline, and the water is a dreamy translucent blue. Punta Mita is evolving into one of Mexico’s most exclusive developments. The master plan calls for a total of four luxury hotels, several high-end residential communities, and up to three championship golf courses. It is the first luxury residential development in Mexico intended for the foreign market. Today, what you’ll find is the elegant Four Seasons Resort, its Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course, and a selection of rental luxury villas and condos. But by early 2008, a new 100-room St. Regis Resort will open, along with Punta Mita’s second Jack Nicklaus golf course.
Images of Sayulita, Riviera Nayarit
Sayulita: Much more than a Great Surf Spot
Sayulita is only 40km (25 miles) northwest of Puerto Vallarta, on Highway 200 to Tepic, yet it feels like worlds away. It captures the simplicity and tranquillity of beach life that has long since left Vallarta — but hurry, because it seems this place is on the verge of exploding in popularity. For years, Sayulita has been principally a surfers’ destination — the main beach in town is known for its consistent break and long, rideable waves. Recently, visitors and locals who find Vallarta becoming too cosmopolitan have started to flock here.
An easygoing attitude seems to permeate the air in this beach town. Yet despite its simplicity, niceties are popping up all over among the basic accommodations, inexpensive Mexican food stands, and handmade, hippie-style-bauble vendors. It’s quickly becoming gentrified with new restaurants, cafes, shops, and elegant villas for rent.
Sayulita is a popular stage for surfing tournaments; on any given weekend you might encounter perfect-swell-seeking surfers — or a Huichol Indian family that has come down to sell their wares. This eclectic mix of the cool, the unusual, and the authentic Mexican makes Sayulita a special place.
To get to Sayulita, you can rent a car, or take a taxi from the airport or downtown Vallarta. The rate is about $50 to get to the town plaza. You can also take a taxi back to Vallarta. The stand is on the main square, or you can call for pickup at your hotel. The trip from the airport to Sayulita costs $55. Guides also lead tours to Puerto Vallarta, Punta Mita, and other surrounding areas, including a Huichol Indian community.
Where to Dine — If you are in Sayulita, chances are you heard about it because of Don Pedro’s, the most popular restaurant in town, in the heart of the main beach.
North of town in the state of Nayarit, about 16km (10 miles) beyond Puerto Vallarta, is the 18-hole, par-72 Los Flamingos Club de Golf (tel. 329-296-5006). It features beautiful jungle vegetation and has just undergone a renovation and upgrade of the course. It’s open from 7am to 5pm daily, with a snack bar (but no restaurant) and full pro shop.
The breathtaking Jack Nicklaus Signature course at the Four Seasons Punta Mita has eight oceanfront holes and an ocean view from every hole. Its hallmark is the optional Hole 3B, the “Tail of the Whale,” with a long drive to a green on a natural island — the only natural-island green in the Americas. It requires an amphibious cart to take you over when the tide is high, and there’s an alternate hole for when the ocean or tides are not accommodating. It’s open only to guests of the Four Seasons resort or to members of other golf clubs with a letter of introduction from their pro. Selected other area hotels also have guest privileges — ask your concierge.
A second Jack Nicklaus course is at the Vista Vallarta Golf Club , along with one designed by Tom Weiskopf. These courses were the site of the 2002 PGA World Cup Golf Championships. It’s in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, behind the bullring in Puerto Vallarta.
The Robert von Hagge-designed El Tigre course at Paradise Village www.paradisevillage.com, in Nuevo Vallarta, opened in March 2002. The 7,239-yard course is on a relatively flat piece of land, but the design incorporates challenging bunkers, undulating fairways, and water features on several holes. El Tigre also offers lessons and has an expansive clubhouse. This seems to be the favored course of local pros.
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