Mexico’s Hidden Gem: Riviera Nayarit

Playa Escondida
Playa Escondida

Though Mexican vacations often conjure images of foam parties and girls gone wild, there’s a new haute spot south of the border called Riviera Nayarit that will change the way you look at the country forever. Chockfull of authentic beach towns, luxury accommodations and five-star amenities, this 192-mile stretch of paradise along the Pacific coastline is becoming the go-to destination for celebrities and socialites alike. To help you make the most of your journey, Haute Living has rounded up the best sights—from the sleepy surf town of Sayulita to the billionaire’s paradise of Punta Mita—to keep you entertained well after the tequila has worn off.


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With year-round sunny skies and an average temperature of 80 degrees, there is no reason not to spend all day with your toes in the sand. To spot the best marine life, charter a boat to Marietas Islands and let the wind whip through your hair as you ride though pods of wild dolphins—and in the winter months, humpback whales. Formed thousands of years ago by volcanic activity, this small cluster of uninhibited landmasses is protected from hunting and fishing by the Mexican government and boasts some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the region.

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Spend a couple hours swimming through swarms of King Angelfish, giant manta rays, octopuses, and sea turtles, then head to Playa Escondida, the famous “hidden beach.” This unique spot was reportedly formed when the Mexican military detonated test bombs in the early 1900s and can only be accessed by swimming through a tunnel during low tide. Snap a few pictures on your private oasis, and then head back to land for a leisurely lunch. Be sure to keep an eye out for the rare blue-footed booby—a white and brown seabird with bright turquoise feet—that is often found lurking around the rocky terrain.

Downtown Sayulita
Downtown Sayulita

For a taste of the local culture, or to pick up a few handcrafted souvenirs, wrap a sarong around your waist and head to the seaside village of Sayulita. Renown for its bohemian flair and retro vibe, this tiny town is bustling with local surfers thanks to its legendary waves. Grab a fish taco from one of the street vendors, or dine alfresco at the ever-popular Don Pedro’s Restaurant & Bar, which sets up tables directly on the sand. For dessert, stop by the Choco Banana stand in the center of town and feast on a frozen banana coated with melted dark chocolate and coconut flakes.


If the steep swells of Sayulita seem daunting, but you’re still itching to wrap a leash around your ankle, the beach along the northern coast of Banderas Bay offers gentler waves for beginner and intermediate surfers. Nicknamed the Waikiki of Mexico, this secluded white sand beach is reserved for surfers only, so there’s no need to worry about navigating around throngs of swimmers as you ride in the perfect wave.

After an action-packed week of water sports, soothe your tired muscles with a relaxing Ancestral Stone Massage at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Spa. Formed from cooled lava, these igneous black rocks were historically considered an element of protection for the noblemen and soldiers of ancient Mexico and offered to the Gods. The mystic massage uses the heated stones to activate circulation, eliminate toxins and relax the nervous system.

Best Sea Safari:
Punta Mita Expeditions
+52 (329) 291-6649

Best Surfing Lessons:
Vallarta Adventures
(888) 526-2238


St. Regis hotel
St. Regis Punta Mita

St. Regis Punta Mita Resort
+52 (329) 291-5800

Nestled among 22 acres of white sand, pristine water and lush tropical flora, the luxury resort—with its signature butler service—features 120 guest rooms and suites, three infinity pools with private cabana service, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a private beach club, an impressive 10,000-square-foot Remède Spa, plus direct access to two Jack Nicklaus golf courses and 10 tennis courts. Experience the authentic flavors of traditional Mexican fare at Las Marietas or feast on succulent seafood alongside breathtaking ocean views at the resort’s signature restaurant, Carolina. 

Flaming coffee

For a truly awe-inspiring experience, be sure to order the flaming Mexican coffee, a sizzling combination of tequila, Kahlúa, cinnamon and coffee that will change the way you look at Starbucks forever.

Marival Residences & Spa
Marival Residences & Spa

Marival Residences & World Spa
(877) 769-7376

Featuring 162 residences and penthouses, this property is the perfect choice for families or large groups looking for all-inclusive accommodations with luxury amenities. Sip a fruity cocktail on the private beach or challenge yourself with a core-strengthening Pilates class at the full-service fitness center. Guests also have access to a variety of adrenaline-packed activities including canopy zip lining, sunset sailing, and dolphin and sea lion adventures. There’s also a separate kids pool and play area to keep younger guests occupied for hours on end. Even better—the resort offers complimentary nanny service to help parents enjoy the adult offerings, including enticing restaurants and relaxing spa services.