Time to discover Mexico’s Nayarit

While it may be best known for its beaches, the state of Nayarit offers visitors a chance to discover some of Mexico’s undiscovered magic.

Providing visitors with all of the elements that make up a quintessential Mexican experience, Nayarit also gives them the chance to get off the traditional tourist trail, visitors and find an authenticity and magic that cannot be found elsewhere.

Most travellers have heard of Riviera Nayarit – a string of beach towns stretches from the Bay of Banderas all the way up the entire state. Beginning with Nuevo Nayarit (once called Nuevo Vallarta), the Riviera Nayarit also includes popular hotel and resort destinations like Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, the luxury enclaves of Punta de Mita, the bohemian hotspot of Sayulita, and the smaller, sleepier villages like San Francisco, Lo de Marcos, Guayabitos, and San Blas.

These beach towns are what put Nayarit on the tourist trail, and where visitors will find the majority of the state’s luxury resorts, boutique beachfront hotels, wellness retreats, and all-inclusives.

But the state of Nayarit is so much more than just its stunning coastline. It’s also a hot spot for gastronomy tourism, eco-tourism, adventure, and cultural exchange.

Away from the beach and into the mountainous, jungle-covered interior of Nayarit, a world waiting to be discovered unfolds. Nayarit is home to thick jungles and looming volcanoes, pockets of indigenous communities, unique cuisine, Magical Towns and diverse wildlife.

The capital of Nayarit is Tepic, a city whose rich legacy can be seen through its architecture, museums, and traditions. Tepic was founded in 1531 as the capital of the Kingdom of New Galicia, a region that was made up of what is now Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Durango, Sinaloa, and San Luis Potosi. It was a major centre for trade, commerce, and European society. A walk around downtown Tepic is like taking a step back in time to its Spanish-influenced past.

Stepping away from Tepic, visitors come face to face with the state’s natural beauty as well as its indigenous cultures. Surrounding Tepic are majestic mountains, which hold many of the state’s secrets, from its adventure and ecotourism offerings to its Magical Towns and native communities.

The town of Amatlán de Cañas, for example, feels paused in time. Surrounded by mountains and sliced by rocky canyons, this town is known for its historic temples and its many hot springs spas, as well as three beautiful waterfalls.

Another attraction near Tepic is the Los Toriles archaeological site, home to 93 historic structures, including a pyramid dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl.

For culture seekers, Nayarit has four very distinct and special Magical Towns. This includes the world-renowned bohemian beach community of Sayulita, as well as the towns of Compostela, Jala, and Mexcaltitán.

Compostela is a rich epicenter of coffee culture and a visit here means getting up close and personal with some of Mexico’s finest coffee. Visitors interested in learning about coffee culture can also combine a visit to Compostela with jungle activities like rafting, cycling, and hiking.

Travellers who want to learn more about the indigenous communities of Nayarit can head to the Sierra del Nayar, a region of Nayarit characterized by mountain ranges, jungle, and native communities who have kept their traditions and customs alive. The groups that settled in the Sierra del Nayar are the Coras, Huicholes, Tepehuanos, and Mexicaneros.

A visit to the community of El Nayar is the best place to learn about these communities. The main ethnic groups here are the Cora and Huichol and their Holy Week has been designated an Intangible World Heritage by UNESCO. The event features men painted in body paint from head to toe, fighting ritual battles with wooden swords, dances, feasting, and much more.

The State of Nayarit became Mexico’s latest Viticulture destination expanding Mexico’s Wine Region with the opening of Meseta del Cielo vineyard. Located in Juanactlan in the Municipality of Jala at 1900 meters above sea level, the vineyard is the first one in the state of Nayarit with more than four hectares of land where Syrah and Macabeo grapes adapt to perfection in its soil.

For wildlife lovers, a visit to Tepic can end back at the coast in the beach village of San Blas. Characterized by its mangroves and protected areas, San Blas has been a haven for birdwatching for decades. It’s one of Nayarit’s best examples of sustainable tourism, with eco-conscious hotels and activities at its focus, thus creating a rich and abundant community of wildlife.

The Islas Marías (Las Tres Marías) are a small archipelago of islands located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, lying at a distance of 58 miles from the coast of Mexico’s Nayarit state.

The island chain was mostly uninhabited except for the Maria Madre Island, which until 2019 held a prison. In 2010, the Islas Marías was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, a specially protected biodiverse region.

The Tres Marías Islands are home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including the Tres Marías raccoon and the Tres Marías cottontail rabbit. The reserve is a prime spot for whale shark watching and is an important nesting and feeding site for large colonies of sea birds, sharks, and sea turtles.

What’s new in 2024

The airport, Riviera Nayarit Airport (TPQ), is now Riviera Nayarit International Airport, creating border and customs operations that will allow flights from other countries to fly in directly.

New hotel openings in 2023 and 2024 take in such brands as Vidanta, Fairmont, Rosewood, Westin, Omni, Four Seasons Autograph Collection and more Marriott developments. The Rosewood Mandarina is set to open in 2024. A Ritz-Carlton Reserve is expected to open by 2025. Montage International is working on the development of both a Montage and a Pendry resort within the 1,500-acre, private peninsula masterplan in Punta Mita with a target of 2026.

In a joint effort to promote sustainability in travel and tourism, the Mexican state of Nayarit joins the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Hotel Basics initiative.

This alliance seeks to establish criteria for global sustainability standards in the hotel industry and marks a significant step towards a greater commitment to caring for the environment and developing its communities.

And also of note is the fact that the state of Nayarit is now a Virtuoso destination with Riviera Nayarit.