What’s New in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

By SKYE MAYRING

March 6, 2024

A masked stilt walker trotted past us, followed by a small parade of festive floats, each adorned with a Carnival dancer who played to the crowd. An impressive light show and sound system helped set the stage at the newly opened Santuario Bar & Lounge, a stunning, 75,000-square-foot entertainment pavilion at Vidanta Nuevo Nayarit-Vallarta. Clad in colorful beads and masks of our own, we took in the sights and sounds of the welcome party at the 29th annual Gala Puerto Vallarta – Riviera Nayarit tourism conference.

Tourism officials gathered at the 29th annual Gala Puerto Vallarta – Riviera Nayarit tourism conference.Credit: 2024 Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

Tourism officials gathered at the 29th annual Gala Puerto Vallarta – Riviera Nayarit tourism conference. Credit: 2024 Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

Over several days in February, some 180 tourism professionals gathered for meetings, hotel and destination site visits and networking — and there was much to celebrate. In 2023, Puerto Vallarta welcomed nearly 4 million international arrivals, a 10.6% uptick from the previous year. And, according to statistical reports from information and monitoring unit DataTur, occupancy rates in both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit neared pre-pandemic levels this past year, with an average of 71.9% and 73.5% occupancy, respectively. Business has come roaring back — and, to keep up with demand, substantial infrastructure improvements and new luxury products are set to roll out in Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit region this year and next.

“Our new highways, airports and hotels make it attractive for companies to invest in our region of Mexico,” said Juan Enrique Suarez del Real Tostado, minister of tourism for Nayarit, during the gala’s opening ceremony. “In a few years, this will be the best destination in Mexico.”

Infrastructure Improvements in Puerto Vallarta and Beyond

Any international traveler who has visited the region post-pandemic can tell you that Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) is packed to the brim with passengers. According to airport management company Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico, the modest airport welcomed more than 6.2 million passengers in 2022 and more than 6.7 million passengers in 2023, shattering previous arrivals records.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place during the gala.Credit: 2024 Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place during the gala. Credit: 2024 Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

Indeed, PVR’s much-anticipated Terminal 2 expansion can’t come soon enough. Slated to open sometime in 2025, Terminal 2 will be the first Net-Zero-certified terminal in Latin America. The two-story, LEED-certified terminal will increase airport capacity by 125%, and it will boast a VIP area, expanded dining options and sunny outdoor terraces.

Tepic, the state of Nayarit’s capital city, is also in the process of expanding its airport — to the tune of $250 million. Signifying big changes to come, in the fall of last year, the Tepic International Airport rebranded itself to the Riviera Nayarit International Airport (TPQ). Its expansion includes a new terminal building with two levels, more than 33,000 square feet of retail and dining space, a runway extension, a new air traffic control tower, a car rental center and an airport hotel with 100 guestrooms. Once completed later this year, the expansion would allow TPQ to serve up to 4 million passengers annually.

Transfers from TPQ and PVR to the region’s beachside hotels and less visited Magic Towns are also undergoing major overhauls. The final two stretches of the Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta-Tepic federal highway are scheduled to be completed this year and will substantially cut down the time clients spend getting from point A to point B. For example, passengers will be able to zoom from TPQ to Sayulita in 40 minutes (instead of 2.5 hours) and from PVR to Guadalajara in approximately 3 hours, saving some two hours of drive time.

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Hotel Expansion Continues Up the Pacific Coastline

An easy 15-minute drive north of PVR, Vidanta is a mega-resort like no other in Mexico. With a theme park in development to rival Disney World, Vidanta currently encompasses five hotels, more than 40 restaurants and lounges and three golf courses. Linksman can explore the Greg Norman Golf Course, with the longest golf cart suspension bridge in the world and a challenging Jack Nicklaus Golf Course with seven lakes and 49 sand traps. Once the theme parks are open to the public, the SkyDream Parks Gondola will transport hotel guests to the parks in style. Vidanta is billing SkyDream as the world’s first beach resort gondola.

Explosive growth continues north of Vidanta with some of the biggest names in luxury — including Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Melia Hotels International, Belmond, Pendry Hotel & Resorts, Montage Hotels and Resortsand Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts — staking their claim.

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Many of the aforementioned properties are set to open in 2025 and 2026, including the 140-room Rosewood Mandarina, the brand’s fourth property in Mexico. It will feature three bars and restaurants, three pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a spa with 10 treatment rooms. Rosewood Mandarina will be located in the same compound as the One&Only Mandarina and the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club.

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The project consists of 44 residences with 3, 4, and 5 bedrooms, exclusive penthouses and pentgardens, and more than 10 amenities, including a golf course designed by Greg Norman and a beach club.

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Responsible Tourism Development in and Around Puerto Vallarta

With massive growth underway, the impact on the environment and local communities is hard to quantify. Both Jalisco and Nayarit understand the importance of responsible tourism development and are working toward better solutions.

Nayarit recently joined the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Hotel Basics initiative to establish sustainable actions for all hotels to take as a minimum. In smaller communities, the government has also provided small business training to residents and international standard training to tour operators, hoteliers and taxi drivers.

According to Vanessa Perez Lamas, minister of tourism for the state of Jalisco, their approach to responsible development has been to work closely alongside local communities, the government and the private sector.

“We can have great plans for sustainability, but if we don’t first include those who live in the territory, we would be making top-down decisions that are never going to work,” Perez Lamas said. “This year, we are conducting a study to find out what the sustainability opportunities are for Puerto Vallarta, specifically, and then understand what our opportunities will be in the short, medium and long term, which will allow us to have a better plan.”

Jesus Carmona, president of the Riviera Nayarit-Bahia de Banderas Hotel and Motel Association, agrees that it is up to tourism officials in Puerto Vallarta and Rivera Nayarit to act as stewards to the region.

“Vallarta and Nayarit have so much to offer, and we really have to take care by working together,” he said. “People [point out that] we are two different states separated by a bridge, but we are not separated, we are united.”