The most beautiful and prestigious coastlines in the world claim their own “Rivieras” – from the south of France to California’s most desirable strands. In Mexico, it can be found in Riviera Nayarit, about 30 to 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. Defined geographically by 190 miles of coastline with mesmerizing waters and illuminating sands, the area is also known for its first-rate resorts and golf, protected seclusion, cultural offerings and eco-treasures in its jungles, rivers and islands.
The coastal waters and sand of Riviera Nayarit vary from rugged to gentle, from fine grain to pebble strewn, but the prestigious, gated resort community of Punta Mita is pretty close to ocean-sand perfection. This enviable coming together of gentle, clear ocean swells and translucent granules happens best at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, nestled on a protected cove. And the best news is that, even with the luxury of a Four Seasons stay, you can find some great bargains here —without foregoing perfection.
At the 173-room Four Seasons Punta Mita, you can get a $1,234 credit for every stay of four nights, which can be applied directly to your final bill. The “Experience More” package, translates to around $220 a night this summer and slightly more in on-season months.
The Four Seasons Punta Mita, sheltered from outside civilization by arboretum-quality jungle and low-key guard gates, is made up of chic Mexican-style casitas, reached by private paths.
Four Seasons Fun
The free-form infinity-edge pool looks over the ocean and a private hill that may be rented for a special dinner for two. In another resort area, a Lazy River attracts families. But, the idyllic beach with water toys and attendants galore is the real draw here.
Named the No. 1 golf course in the world by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler in 2008, Punta Mita‘s Pacifico Golf Course takes full advantage of its seaside location and tropical allure. The Nicklaus-designed course set on 200 acres is shared by guests of nearby St. Regis and the Four Seasons and is most notable for its Hole 3, nicknamed “The Tail of the Whale.” It stands as the world’s only natural island green.
Meals, as might be expected, are an experience at the Four Seasons. A daily five-course chef’s menu showcases fresh, local ingredients and seafood straight from the Pacific.
Explore The Rivera
Tradition with just a touch of modernism is what you will find when setting out to explore the local focal points and seaside villages of the Riviera Nayarit. A combination of fishing and agriculture are predominant mainstays, mixed gently with the treasures of artisans and their colorfully beaded craftwork. Strolling through a typical village, you’ll find farmers leading mules loaded with produce, fisherman delivering fresh catches right from their nets — and all are surrounded by shops, surfers, sun worshippers and vacationers who have discovered a quaint paradise.
Outdoor recreation is abundant in the Riviera, which is home to seven world-class golf courses. Bay cruises, city tours, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, scuba, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and nearly 50 miles of unspoiled beaches, bays and coastline make “what to do” a difficult choice.
Dining is an official pastime in Riviera Nayarit. Choose from charming bistros in tiny fishing villages serving up authentic Mexico seaside cuisine to gourmet restaurants with international chefs in elegant resorts. Renowned chef and restaurateur Thierry Blouet oversees Café des Artistes del Mar, which is part of the Cinco Hotel & Punta de Mita Beach Club Hotel & Spa. The restaurant offers a stylish setting with outdoor dining right on the beach, offering amazing sunset views.
The Islas Marietas are located in Banderas Bay, right off the point of Punta Mita. Home of the endangered Blue-Footed Booby and other aviary species, these islands are a national ecological sanctuary well known for the off-shore reefs that provide wonderful snorkeling and undersea diving with colorful marine life, including the giant manta ray.
Mascot Sea Turtles
The official mascot of Riviera Nayarit is the sea turtle; four protected species of sea turtle use the coast of Nayarit as a nesting site, including the Olive Ridley. Indigenous to Nayarit, the Olive Ridley is one of the smallest species of sea turtle and is named for the olive color of its heart-shaped shell.
During the summer and fall months, travelers can visit Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde’s marine turtle nursery, located in the far northern San Francisco area of Riviera Nayarit. Each Wednesday evening during the nesting season, the organization conducts an educational slideshow at the Costa Azul Hotel, followed by the releasing of young hatchlings just after sundown. (www.costazaul.com and www.project-tortuga.org)
Surfing The Arts
Sayulita could be a tiny southern California beach town with decent waves and a flip-flop, laid-back feel. Certainly, a large percentage of residents and visitors originate from the states. Yet, the minute downtown offers an escape where surf and sand align with colorful Mexican arts.
A confluence of color and casual comfort, this art community is home to a number of restaurants, boutiques selling local handicrafts as well as upscale designs, cyber cafes and seaside bars. Internationally recognized as a major surfing destination, Sayulita hosts an annual competition in December.
Las Caletas was, for many years, film director John Huston’s private, tropical refuge. The secluded cove along the Riviera Nayarit coast is now the home of Vallarta Adventures, a haven for water and land sports or just hanging out in a hammock. Guided nature walks, scuba diving, parrot and monkey encounters, snorkeling with sea lions, evening entertainment and even spa treatments are on the sun and sand agenda.
However, a highlight of the visit might be the chance to swim with a dolphin in the saltwater tank. Learn how to use hand signals and positive reinforcement to communicate with dolphins and then wade into the lagoon’s shallow, clear waters to start your exclusive dolphin swim experience. You will meet and play with dolphins, getting to know them gradually with hugs, kisses and rubdowns and, ultimately, experience a one-on-one swim together.