Off the Beaten Path in Riviera Nayarit

Breakwater at el Anclote beach in Punta MitaRiviera Nayarit itself is an “off-the-beaten-path” destination within Mexico. Scarcely a decade ago, the 190 miles just north of bustling Puerto Vallarta was a hideaway for surfers and Hollywood A-listers looking to stay under the radar. “Travelers seeking a more immersive experience of authentic Mexico will certainly find a trip to northern Nayarit to be a breath of fresh air,” describes Marc Murphy, managing director of the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau. Here are some of our travel coordinators’ favorite hidden gems.

Hidden Beach on the Marieta Islands

Marietas Islands National Park is a small group of protected volcanic islands off the coast of Punta Mita. The former government bombing test site was saved by a group of environmentalists that included famed Sea Explorer Jacques Cousteau. Hidden caverns, natural archways, and an abundance of marinelife attract snorkelers and divers. The hidden gem here is appropriately named “Hidden Beach,” as you can only access the warm, turquoise, waters and pristine sandy cavern by swimming through a long tunnel from the Pacific Ocean. Thrillist named Hidden Beach one of the “Top 25 Beaches in the World,” alongside well-known paradises like Brazil’s Ipanema, Jamaica’s 7-Mile Beach, and Miami’s South Beach.

La Tovara Springs in San Blas

If you’ve ever been on Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” and longed for the real deal, you’ll find it in San Blas. The town itself consists of not much more than an old fort, a church, and a few restaurants with tasty seafood. A guided boat ride through La Tovara takes you beneath jungle canopy, through an endless maze of mangroves, and past nesting sites for egrets and spoonbills. You may spot crocodiles, turtles, and jaguars if you’re lucky. Guests are transported to a clear swimming spring visited by tropical parrots.

The Petroglyphs at Alta Vista

Alta Vista is one of the most sacred places in Riviera Nayarit. Down a winding dirt road, past farm fields and cow pastures, shaded by Papelillo and Kapok trees, you’ll park your car where the road is washed out and walk down a cobblestone path and dry river beds for 20 minutes to reach the discreet entrance of Alta Vista. Here you can hike the ancient trails of the Huichol Indians at “The King’s Fountain” (La Pila del Rey), a place where local Mestizos and Huichol Indians still worship. The petroglyph carvings imprinted on the slopes of the Copo volcano have been wonderfully preserved, tucked beneath dense forest canopy and surrounded by rich flora. You may spot sacrificial sites as well. Visitors say the best part of hiking Alta Vista is the quiet and ideal picnic sites alongside fresh mountain water pools and small waterfalls.

The Tianguis in La Peñita

La Peñita is one of the three small, friendly towns packed with “real Mexican flavor” in Jaltemba Bay, in the heart of Riviera Nayarit. An open-air market, The Tianguis, is this sleepy town’s main draw. Every Thursday, pickup trucks overflow with watermelons, poblano peppers, and seasonal produce. You can buy everything from just-caught Jumbo shrimp to fresh-baked pastries, Mexican table linens to Oaxacan wool rugs, handmade pottery to Huichol Indian art. If you love to shop artisan goods you won’t find elsewhere, the Tianguis is a must-see!

Monkey Mountain in Sayulita

Monkey Mountain sits high above the horizon as a standout geological feature in the area, promising spectacular views of San Pancho, Punta de Mita, and the Bay of Banderas from its summit — for those who are adventurous enough to make the arduous 1,200-foot trek. We recommend stopping at Painted Ponies, a horseback riding tour operator at the foot of Cerro Mono in Higuera Blanca. Saddle up for a three-hour adventure through the jungle. Unfortunately, the mountain’s resident monkeys were hunted to extinction long ago, so their presence remains in one’s imagination.

Need a place to stay?

Sea Side Reservations has been placing visitors in safe, comfortable, and convenient accommodations in Riviera Nayarit for nearly two decades. We enjoy high satisfaction ratings among guests and property owners alike. You can be rest assured your home-away-from-home will be well-appointed and ready upon your arrival. Contact us to learn more about booking your stay in Riviera Nayarit and about great places to see on your trip.

Additional “Off-The-Beaten Path in Riviera Nayarit” resources:

Mexico Reservations


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