Canadians have shared a special relationship with Mexico for a long time now. A beach vacation to Mexico has practically become a Canadian institution. Don't just take our word for it; in 2013 nearly 1.6 million of us visited. That's nearly 4.5% of our total population! Yes indeed, Mexico is our nation's preferred holiday playground. Naturally we're familiar with the nation's large resort destinations. They glitter along the coastlines of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexican Riviera and the Baha. But what do you know about Riviera Nayarit? Can you name the quaint towns that dot this coastal paradise? Have you heard about the hidden beach; the likes of which the novel The Beach was written around? Did you know that the area is home to direct descendants of the Aztec? If you're ready to seek out the real Mexico, you'll find it in Riviera Nayarit. Read on for 30 compelling reasons to discover this area. 


Does catching a marlin top dad's bucket list? While Riviera Nayarit's beaches are an obvious draw, the waters skirting the coast teem with sea life. No matter the month, deep sea fishing is always in season. Year round, visitors can head to Sayulita for the popular panga fishing charters, while October through December mark prime marlin season in Nuevo Vallarta. For those with a taste for tuna, spring and summer are the perfect time to head to Punta Mita.

Hate the feeling of being overwhelmed in a crowd? For those who don't fancy fighting the masses on their beach vacations, IBEROSTAR Playa Mita features its own private slice of Pacific beach paradise. Plus, the resort is only minutes away from the quaint fishing villages of Punta de Mita and Sayulita.

Sayulita Sayulita

Riviera Nayarit and its surrounding states are one of the few in Mexico that produce tequila that can legally be labeled as tequila. (As opposed to mezcal.) Visitors can enjoy sunset tastings, distillery tours and "ultra-premium" tequila cocktails.


The ocean is central to life in Riviera Nayarit. While many visitors opt to enjoy the warm Pacific waters, there are still plenty of other ways to get wet. IBEROSTAR Playa Mita features three massive pools and a water park for kids. 


wedding destination iberostar
Credit: IBEROSTAR Playa Mita

Looking for that perfect destination wedding locale? Riviera Nayarit has beautiful beaches, epic sunsets and luxurious accommodations. Its unique location (45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta) means you can find authentic Mexico while still being conveniently located for inbound guests. 


Riviera Nayarit is home to a number of unique dolphin programs. A variety of interactions can be arranged from encounters to swimming among them to participating in a training session. 


The simply named Outdoor Adventure tour operator offers a full day program for the ultimate adventurer. The excursion starts with a speed boat ride across Banderas Bay before hopping into a 4x4 and off-roading in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Once at the top, visitors are in for a fast paced afternoon of zip lining and rappelling down waterfalls.


For those who never leave home without their golf clubs, Puerto Vallarta is home to two highly regarded Jack Nicklaus golf courses. However, within the gated community of Litibu near the IBEROSTAR Playa Mita resort, lies Litibu Golf Course. But shhh, only tell your closest friends because it's a gem. This Greg Norman course features beautiful seaside vistas and a challenging green for the seasoned golfer.


oliver sea turtle mexico

Every year, thousands of female Olive Ridley sea turtles flock to Riviera Nayarit to lay their eggs. Incredibly, they do so on the exact beach where they were born. Despite the fact that a single female can produce almost 200 babies, few newborn turtles survive. Once they dig out of their nests they are vulnerable to predatory birds, and traversing from the nest to the beach is perilous. Conservation efforts see agencies assisting turtle populations by collecting eggs, incubating them and releasing hatched turtles. Volunteers are welcome to assist, and in recent years baby sea turtle releases have become a major local attraction. Seeing how cute these critters are, it's little wonder why! 


Zip lining is one of the most popular adventures in Riviera Nayarit. Experience the thrill of whizzing through the leafy canopy while getting a bird's eye view of the jungle. No prior experience is necessary. The most popular zip lines are found near Nuevo Vallarta, Punta Mita and Sayulita.


Not only is Riviera Nayarit home to descendants of the Aztec, but it is near the very cradle of their civilization. Mexcaltitan, in the northernmost point of Riviera Nayarit, is considered to be the mythical birthplace of the Aztecs. It was from here the ancient people set out to found an empire, and the city is still bustling today. Of course, visitors will have to catch a boat to this city bursting from the middle of a lake. (Cool!)



Sayulita surf

Those with a passion for surfing will want to make a beeline for the beach at Sayulita. While there are quite a few good places to surf along the Riviera Nayarit's long coast, Sayulita is famous for having the best waves.


Have you ever seen the 1987 blockbuster Predator? Although the movie was set in Guatemala, it was in the lush, vine-laden jungle of Mismaloya (on the shores of Banderas Bay) where the movie was actually shot. While visitors won't likely find any invisible enemies within, they can still venture deep into the jungle via taxi and tour some of the popular sets from the Schwarzenegger action classic.

 Travelling with kids can be a challenge. Bring the entire family to IBEROSTAR Playa Mita and take comfort in the property's gated security. Crank up the fun factor for younger family members in the Teen and Kids Clubs. Let them meet some new friends under supervision while you make a diversion at the spa. 

From mid-December through the end of March, the waters of Riviera Nayarit welcome whales to the Banderas Bay. They come to the area to birth and rear their young. Visitors can partake in low impact whale watching from almost any harbour in the bay. Alternatively small boats tours whisk visitors to sea in pursuit of massive blue whales, orcas, California grey whales and sperm whales, as they too enjoy their Mexican vacation.

Those fascinated with Riviera Nayarit's rich history will want to plan a trip to the Altavista Petroglyph Complex. This ancient site holds spiritual significant to the region's native people, and a number of petroglyphs can found on the stones. There are also amphitheatres constructed of quartz, and refreshing pools and waterfalls nearby. 


Credit: IBEROSTAR Playa Mita

After just one evening visitors will find yet another reason to love Riviera Nayarit- the sunset. The surf town of Sayulita and the beautiful beaches at Punta Mita provide excellent venues for sunset watching. And boy, does this area of Mexico really put on a show. (We won't spoil the surprise, but just look at the remnants of the above sunset!) 


Although most of Riviera Nayarit's water-based activities take place above the water, the crystal clear, warm Pacific Ocean is perfect for scuba diving. Visitors can find dives for all skill levels including refresher courses and PADI certifications. Some of the most popular dive spots include Marietas Island, El Morroand Banderas Bay.


jaguar head lobby
Credit: IBEROSTAR Playa Mita

While some resort areas in Mexico appear to have forgotten their heritage, Riviera Nayarit has embraced it. The Huichol people are the direct descendants of the Aztecs, and their culture can be seen in the unique array of crafts and artwork. (All of which make stunning souvenirs!) The lobby of the IBEROSTAR Playa Mita has a Jaguar head that was beaded by a Huichole family of five. This gorgeous piece took one month to complete. 


Riviera Nayarit has over 400 species of indigenous and migratory birds just waiting for bird watchers, even in its most developed areas.

 As Winston Churchill once said, "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." In Riviera Nayarit, guests can spend a lifetime on horseback and still have places left to explore. Ranches like Rancho Mi Chaparrita offer horseback riding tours up out of the jungle and into the breezy Sierra Madre Mountains.

sierra Madre Mountains

Although spas can be found in every resort along Riviera Nayarit's coast, those who really want to revitalize should pay a visit to the Haramara Retreat in Sayulita. This secluded piece of jungle paradise runs year-round yoga workshops and meditation. It also features holistic therapyrejuvenating massages and restorative wellness treatments. Sounds like pure bliss to us. 


Swimming with dolphins may be all the rage, but how about swimming with sea lions? Pacific sea lions are renowned for their intelligence and the Sea Lion Encounter tour allows visitors to feed, play and interact with these unique creatures. Get your camera ready!


While it would be a shame to visit Mexico and not sample some authentic Mexican cuisine, Riviera Nayarit entwines traditional regional fare with international cuisine to create unparalleled variety. IBEROSTAR Playa Mita resort alone has four different restaurants. Opt for steak, Mexican cuisine, Japanese fare or a delectable gourmet restaurant alongside its feature Nopal Buffet.


The term "hidden" beach can often be written off as hype, but Riviera Nayarit literally has a hidden beach. This underground beach is concealed in the middle of Marietas Island. It is only accessible through tour operators (the island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) and visitors have to swim through an underground cave to access it. Hmm...sounds like a famous movie we once watched! 


pescado zarandeado

The can't-miss-dish of Riviera Nayarit is the flavourful pescado zarandeado (smoked fish). This dish consists of butterflied red snapper marinated in a slew of sauces, chilies and garlic smoked over a mangrove plank. Find it served at a number of beachside seafood shacks. 


It is never a good thing when vacationers are bored on their holiday. Those fatigued of sightseeing should sample some adrenaline pumping activities. Even better is when those activities are located right at the backdoor of your resort. Just steps away from IBEROSTAR Playa Mita, visitors can learn to scuba dive, kayak, windsurf and parasail.

Just north of Puerto Vallarta in San Blas, visitors can spend their typical Mexican vacation in a very atypical way. Alongside its usual beachfront lounges, San Blas offers 4x4 tours throughout the dense jungle. Explore mangroves and then historical locales wrought with the legacy of pirate invasions and colonial conquests.

Credit: IBEROSTAR Playa Mita

We bet you don't need to hear another single reason to visit Riviera Nayarit.
Are you ready to taste exciting, authentic Mexico?
The beach cabana is waiting for you and your family at Iberostar Playa Mita!