Want to enjoy sea, sand, culture and nature but short on time? Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco and Riviera Nayarit in the state of Nayarit offer an abundance of activities in close proximity as well as a great climate to make the most of them all year round. Check out our guide to get a taste of real Mexican traditions and culture and find out about the nature spots you cannot miss!
Day 1: Live a Day in the Life of David Attenborough
Visiting Riviera Nayarit´s icon, the Islas Marietas, is like watching an entire series of Planet Earth – but in real life! Since the islands remain uninhabited by people, an incredibly rich eco-system has been able to develop. Declared a National Protected Area of Mexico in 2005, it was also named a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO. Biologists and birdwatchers travel miles to see the thousands of birds, including rare blue-footed boobys, sea turtles, giant manta rays, dolphins and endless schools of colourful fish. Kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkelling or scuba diving are popular ways to marvel at the beautiful landscape and rocky formations formed by underwater volcanoes.
For the Planet Earth experience in Puerto Vallarta, visit El Salado Estuary, a protected natural area of 169 hectares with aquatic and subaquatic vegetation. Find out about all the diverse wildlife unique to the area, including the enigmatic world of crocodiles and hundreds of different bird species by biologist-led, boat estuary tour through lush mangroves, forests, swamps and waterways.
Book the Islas Marietas Eco Discovery Tour with Vallarta Adventures.
Day 2: Get Away from the Crowds and Find Seaside Serenity
A great off the-beaten-path beach in Puerto Vallarta is Quimixto Beach. The crystal clear and shallow water makes it ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving. Many go for the local seafood and the region’s traditional dishes, but the biggest attraction is the nearby waterfall and surrounding wildlife. You can hike through the jungle or enjoy a horse ride to get there.
In Riviera Nayarit, Lo de Marcos is a wonderfully quiet town with one of the last untouched beaches. Stroll around its streets or to the nearby towns and experience the local gastronomy and architecture. Or visit an independent turtle sanctuary and get up close to the amazing creatures. From December to March you can even spot humpback whales!
Day 3: Step Back in Time in San Blas and San Sebastian Del Oeste
A charming old colonial town, San Blas in Rivera Nayarit, dates back to the late seventeenth century, the second and lost port built by the Spanish Crown. Get lost in time and enjoy historic buildings such as La Contaduría, the majestic ruins of the 18th-century Spanish fort and church. Besides enjoying a slow pace of life just like back in the day, there are seven kilometres of fine sand beaches to relax on or go surfing.
Settled by silver miners in 1605, San Sebastian del Oeste remains one of Mexico’s most well-preserved towns. Just 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta, the authentic insight into traditional Mexican culture and architecture alongside beautiful landscapes make it well worth the trip. The town is in the Sierra Madre Mountains, 1,480 metres above sea level and surrounded by dense tropical vegetation. Due to the many original structures and cultural traditions that remain to this day, San Sebastian del Oeste is an extremely immersive slice of Mexican history.
Day 4: Feed Your Arts and Culture Curiosity
Puerto Vallarta has a vibrant art scene fuelled by the many national and international artists, sculptors and musicians that reside there. Walk along the oceanfront, El Malecon, to see various sculptures, including Rafael Zamarripa’s symbolic seahorse sculpture, and works of art by local artists displayed on easels. Up until May make sure you catch the Art Walk when 12 galleries participate in exhibitions and remain open after hours.
San Pancho, the cultural heart of Riviera Nayarit, offers rural Mexican character and the authenticity of a picturesque Mexican beach town. Enjoy various local cultural events at the Community Center, a world-class Polo Club, an Arts Collective and a thriving local music scene including an annual Music Festival in February.
Day 5: Get to the Heart of Mexican Culture Through Flavours and Smells
There is a reason Mexican food is famous all over the world. An important way to get to the roots of Mexican culture is through this popular gastronomy. Why not take a cooking class and learn all about these amazing traditional dishes first hand? My Mexican Kitchen offers a range of different classes in just groups of 6 students per class. You are also guaranteed a satisfied stomach by the end of the experience!
A visit to Mexico isn’t complete without some quality tequila! Find out about the traditions of this blue Agave liquor and why it is more than a spirit. The family-owned Mama Lucia in Puerto Vallarta, the first Tequila factory in the Bay of Banderas, offers insightful tours on the cooking, fermenting, distilling, and ageing process. It all ends with a real treat: sampling their different grades of Tequila, including almond, coffee, and mandarin flavours!
Do not miss the newest restaurant in southern Riviera Nayarit, Hectors Kitchen, located in the town of Punta de Mita. Chef Hector and his team create contemporary Mexican cuisine. Hector is from Oaxaca which you are sure to get a taste of from the menu! Visit https://www.hectorskitchen.mx/ for more info.
An iconic reference for haute cuisine in Puerto Vallarta, Café des Artistes is a must-visit! With 27 years of high-quality cuisine and amazing service, it is no wonder the restaurant has picked up many awards along the way. To get a taste of this unique French-Mexican fusion, visit https://www.cafedesartistes.com/en/.