Last updated: 12:30 AM ET, Fri January 01 2016

Nights in Riviera Nayarit

From boutiques to top resorts, this region has a wide variety of room options

Vacation Agent | Destination & Tourism | Greg Shillinglaw

Nights in Riviera Nayarit

PHOTO: Hotel Garza Canela in is owned by Mexican celebrity chef Betty Vázquez and her family. (Photo courtesy of Hotel Garza Canela)

Hotel Garza Canela is the definition of a family-run business. Located in San Blas, a beachfront town on Mexico’s west coast in Riviera Nayarit, this property has grown to 45 rooms and has been in the Vázquez González family since the 1970s, passed down from one generation to the next.

On a normal day, Betty Vázquez, a celebrity chef seen on television sets across Mexico, is at the stove in the hotel’s kitchen. Nearby, one of her sisters is seating guests in the dining room as another hands out room keys at the reception desk. Indeed, five siblings have been involved with the hotel’s operations over the years, not to mention their mother, who has tended to the garden and gift shop.

The family has come a long way since their father, who passed away several years ago, first bought the hotel, getting out of the bookstore business to try his hand at something he didn’t have much experience doing.

Now his kids are carrying on the family legacy with a property they say has attracted a following of loyal patrons, including a mix of bird-watchers, surfers, beach bums and families.

Garza Canela is just one of the dozens of properties in Riviera Nayarit, a region that has quickly earned a reputation for its beaches and wildlife. From internationally recognized hotel brands to mom-and-pop properties like Garza Canela, there’s a wide range of accommodations to choose from.

Here’s a quick look at some of the top hotels and resorts in the region:

Hotel Cielo Rojo
One of the most impressive things about this property is the staff. From just a quick conversation at the front desk, you can tell they really know San Pancho, the small beach town where this nine-room boutique hotel is located. On short notice, they can arrange anything from tequila tastings to Spanish lessons to impromptu bike tours.

During a walk about town, guests can come across local fisherman selling red snapper and lobsters, streets dotted with brightly painted murals, and a local community center full of children.

Part of the local charm includes roosters that moonlight as alarm clocks. As for in-room amenities, you won’t find TVs or mini-fridges, but there are Wi-Fi and Mexican-made soaps. The staff can arrange in-room acupressure, reflexology and Swedish massage treatments.

And when it comes to décor, one of the hotel’s owners has ties to the film industry, so eclectic movie posters adorn the walls along with art that’s frequently rotated out for newer pieces.

Cielo Rojo has seven double-occupancy rooms and two suites that sleep up to four. Regular guestrooms average about $134 per night and come with a queen bed. Suites are roughly $220, and have a queen bed along with two twin beds. For food, head downstairs to Bistro Organico, the hotel’s restaurant, which focuses on fresh seafood and indigenous produce.

Diners can enjoy margaritas on a garden patio, while sampling a range of local dishes. Continental breakfast is included in rates.


St. Regis Punta Mita Resort
Luxury is the name of the game at St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, where guests are tended to by poolside butlers and can get 24-hour private dining. The pampering doesn’t stop there. There’s also the 10,000-square-foot Remède Spa, which recently underwent a major renovation.

PHOTO: Deluxe rooms at St. Regis Punta Mita come with an ocean or garden view. (Photo courtesy of St. Regis Punta Mita)

The resort has 120 rooms, 31 of which are suites. All deluxe rooms, which measure 600 to 640 square feet, now have new high-definition televisions and come with an ocean or garden view, floor-to-ceiling windows with sliding glass-doors leading to a private terrace and outdoor shower.

Outside the rooms, one of the most striking features of the property is the lobby, which provides guests with great views of beach and ocean, and is decorated with French chandeliers and furnishings imported from Belgium and Spain. This lobby hosts champagne sabering at sunset on Fridays and afternoon tea. As for other resort activities, St. Regis offers guacamole-making lessons, Mexican cocktail classes where guests can perfect their margaritas, Spanish-speaking instruction and dance tips.

The St. Regis, located in the exclusive, gated Punta Mita development, comes with access to two championship Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses. Guests can expect to pay upward of $700 per night.


Santa María Resort
Guests looking to see more of Riviera Nayarit than just the beach should head inland for a stay at this property. This 20-room resort on the banks of a lagoon gives off a Lake Como-esque vibe. For starters, the resort finds itself surrounded by wildlife and private lakefront houses, with the Sierra Madre Mountains serving as a backdrop.

On a typical day, jet skis and motorboats speed across the water as guests who are not busy birdwatching or enjoying motor sports themselves relax at the hotel’s infinity pool. There’s also the option of stopping in town, which was founded as a mining community and boasts one of Mexico’s oldest churches, built in 1594 during the time of the Spanish colonization.

Santa María features a series of cabins spread around its garden, with rates starting at $140. The property hosts destination weddings and can be reserved for a party of up to 94 people, including children.

The property is located roughly 30 miles from the state capital of Tepic, which has an airport with a limited selection of flights. By car or van from Riviera Nayarit’s southern-most resorts, a trip to Santa María can take around three hours, though travelers should be prepared for a journey on a windy, two-lane road through the mountains.


Iberostar Playa Mita
Opened in December 2013, Iberostar Playa Mita is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and lush mountains of Riviera Nayarit. Against this postcard-like backdrop, guests can sip on margaritas and whale watch from the hotel’s elevated open-air bar overlooking the dunes. Those choosing to stay in the resort’s spa rooms have private access to these views from a veranda with treatment areas and whirlpools.

Located 45 minutes from the international airport in Puerto Vallarta, the $110 million all-inclusive resort is Iberostar’s first property in the area and tenth overall in Mexico. It has since earned a four-diamond designation from AAA. When it comes to booking rooms, keep in mind that this resort caters primarily to families, but honeymooners and couples are also among its clientele.

Playa Mita is part of the brand’s premium gold tier, which is considered “family luxury,” ideal for parents who want a romantic atmosphere for themselves and activities for the kids. With 452 guestrooms to choose from, accommodations are available for many different budgets and tastes. Rates start around $160 per night.

Four specialty restaurants feature several different cuisines, including Teppanyaki and Mexican. During the day, guests have their pick of places to cool off, with three outdoor pools to choose from, including an infinity pool. There’s also the beach, part of what Riviera Nayarit, which has a nearly 200-mile coastline, is known for.


Hotel Garza Canela
As noted above, if you are ever in San Blas, stop at El Delfin, the restaurant at this family-run hotel. There you’ll find the Vázquez cooking up dishes like shrimp quesadillas with Serrano, onion and basil, or baked pMain courses run from about $15.

In terms of amenities, guests can expect to find a pool, access to local guides, and in-room Wi-Fi. The staff can also book local guides for boat tours of a national park filled with crocodiles and hundreds of birds. Rooms start at $50 per night.


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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the November 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.


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