Last updated: 04:31 PM ET, Wed July 20 2016

You Know Riviera Maya, But Have You Experienced Riviera Nayarit?

Vacation Packages | Southwest Vacations | Kristina Rundquist | July 18, 2016

You Know Riviera Maya, But Have You Experienced Riviera Nayarit?

PHOTO: The Iberostar Puerto Vallarta in Riviera Nayarit, one of several hotels part of a Southwest Vacations package. (Courtesy Southwest Airlines Vacations)

By now, most people are familiar with Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Even if they haven’t experience it personally, they know where it is and no doubt (and rightly so) have it on their list of places to explore.

But there’s another Mexican Riviera – the Riviera Nayarit – that is rapidly giving the Riviera Maya a run for its money and one of the many great destinations offered by Southwest Airlines Vacations packages.

Located on Mexico’s West Coast, this 192-mile stretch of coastline sits between the offshore islands and the jungle-clad Sierra Madres.

Whether visitors are in search of luxury accommodations, prime surfing beaches or back-country adventure, the Nayarit Riviera has it.

Things to do, places to see include ...

Whale watching: Along the southern section of the Nayarit Riviera sits Banderas Bay, which is home to thousands of humpback whales and where visitors will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch these ocean behemoths.

Puerto Vallarta. Famous for its exciting nightlife and long boardwalk, this town has been a popular port for cruise ships, and with good reason.  Nearby, Nuevo Vallarta and Punta Mita appeal to luxury travelers, with golf courses, marinas and excellent shopping opportunities.

Cobblestones and camping. Depending on what you’re after—and who’s to say you have to pick just one?—the Nayarit Riviera is also home to some quiet villages that offer a nice counterpoint to their more vibrant neighbors. Flamingos, for example, is surrounded by three beautiful lakes, while the quaint towns of Bucieras and La Cruz de Huanacaxile provide guests with the chance to step back a bit back in time thanks to cobblestone streets and picturesque fishing panoramas. Surfers can’t miss a visit to Destiladeras, while the nearby eco-preserve Islas Marieta and Bohemian town of Sayulita provide some added adventure for when the waves die down.

Corner of little guava trees. Rincon de Guayabitos sits midway along the Riviera Nayarit and is a must-visit, especially for families, thanks to its crystal-clear waters and calm waves that make swimming in the ocean seem more like taking a dip at the pool. The nearby pre-Hispanic sanctuary of Altavista and the mostly untouched beaches of Chacala are ideal for nature lovers.

San Blas. Tour the Tovara swamps, bird watch in Singayta, visit the ruins of the fort at San Basilio, surf Matanchen Bay or explore the archeological dig Los Toriles—it’s all within reach in this blissful town.

Isabel Island. You don’t have to be a nature lover to get a special thrill that only comes from catching a glimpse of a whale shark, the world’s largest fish, a pod of dolphins or a school of manta rays as you make your way to the island. And during the winter months, visitors are in for a special treat as the warm waters around the island are the winter home of humpback whales, which have come in search of quieter waters in which to breed and mate.

Gastronomical delights. Blessed by a near perfect climate for growing crops and an ocean rich in fish and shellfish, Nayarit cuisine is a treat not to be missed. The pescado zarandeado (tossed fish) is of particular note. Marinated in lemon sauce, chiles and soy sauce, the fish (mostly snapper, sea bass or golden cod) are smoked over a mangrove fire and served with onion, tomato, cucumber and tortillas. Heaven on a plate.


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