This stretch of coast won’t become the next Cabo or Cancun. And that’s a good thing


The Riviera Nayarit, a 200-mile stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coastline, is charting its own course, distinct from the likes of Cabo or Cancun, and that’s proving to be beneficial.

Nestled along this scenic coast, the One & Only Mandarina boasts 105 individual villas and treehouses. This area, once so undervalued that land was practically given away, is now gaining recognition for its unique rocky beaches, which offer a different charm compared to the sandy shores of Puerto Vallarta to the south.

As time progresses, the Riviera Nayarit is blossoming into a luxury travel hub, setting a new precedent for coastal development in Mexico.

The allure of the Riviera Nayarit is clear, drawing in prestigious names in the hospitality industry like Auberge, One & Only, and Four Seasons. The region is dotted with picturesque towns and fishing villages, framed by the Sierra Madre mountains plunging into the sea, and covered with lush jungles ripe for exploration. Its proximity to the U.S. West Coast, Texas, and the Mountain West, coupled with a climate that’s less humid than Mexico’s Caribbean coast and gentler waters than the turbulent seas of Cabo, makes it an attractive destination.

The latest wave of hotels, especially those at the premium end where prices start steep, are shifting away from the traditional all-inclusive model towards promoting low-density tourism.

In late 2022, Auberge unveiled the intimate Susurros del Corazón in Punta de Mita, featuring just 59 rooms and suites plus 30 villas, all offering views of the nearby Islas Marietas. Susurros is known for its village-like atmosphere and welcoming ambiance, a stark contrast to larger resorts.

Simultaneously, Naviva by Four Seasons introduced an adults-only retreat with 15 standalone, tented accommodations, emphasizing privacy and eco-friendly tourism.

One & Only Mandarina, launched in 2021, is set amidst the Sierra de Vallejo Mountains, with its villas and treehouses spread across 80 acres of carefully preserved natural landscape, ensuring each guest’s seclusion and peace.

These pioneering properties are just the beginning. The Riviera Nayarit will soon welcome new luxury resorts from Ritz-Carlton, Rosewood, Montage, and Belmond.

Nayarit’s Minister of Tourism, Juan Enrique Suarez del Real Tostado, emphasizes the region’s commitment to growth that respects the local community. “We’re expanding, but in a sustainable way, with regulations and extensive training to properly showcase our destination,” he stated.

Sustainable development along Mexico’s Pacific coast is taking on various forms, each tailored to the unique character of the region.

Below Riviera Nayarit, the emerging Costalegre coast is embracing a model of development that’s even more selective and minimalistic. Stretching from Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco to Manzanillo in Colima, this coastline is peppered with pristine beaches that are quickly becoming sought-after destinations. The Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, which debuted in November 2022, is situated on the border of Jalisco and Colima and adheres to the region’s philosophy of minimal impact, with only 2% of its 3,000-acre nature reserve available for development.

A shared vision unites these coastal developments from Nayarit to Colima: to minimize environmental impact while maximizing community benefits.

In Riviera Nayarit, the Naviva resort is a leader in sustainability, generating 80% of its electricity from solar panels and producing fresh water through solar collectors.

Forgoing global fare, the main restaurants at Susurros del Corazón, Casamilpa and La Boquita, focus on the local Huichol cuisine, with ingredients sourced from regional fishermen and the resort’s own garden.

Both Susurros del Corazón and Naviva are redefining luxury hospitality with a more informal approach. Susurros replaces the traditional butler service with a ‘cuate’, akin to a friend, while Naviva opts for first-name familiarity with guests. Despite their status as high-end resorts, with Naviva’s all-inclusive rates starting at $4,000 per night, they strive to offer an authentic cultural experience that transcends the typical tourist offerings.

These hotels are reimagining the five-star experience in Mexico, aiming for authenticity in both grand and nuanced ways. For example, Susurros initiates most interactions in Spanish and invites guests to explore local spirits like raicilla through immersive experiences.

Riviera Nayarit, often likened to Bali for its lush landscapes against the ocean, is becoming known for its surfing-friendly rocky beaches.

Karyn McCarthy, vice president at Virtuoso, observes that the opening of multiple hotels transforms a location into a standalone destination. Bookings in Punta Mita, home to the Four Seasons and St. Regis, have surged by 30%.

The entire coastline is experiencing growth, with luxury resorts set to open in Costa Conuva by 2024-25. To the south, Costalegre’s development is led by the Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, with Six Senses Xala joining soon.

Xala, located 90 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta, is a 3,000-acre development that will feature the Six Senses hotel, opening in 2026, alongside rehabilitated farmland, sea turtle conservation areas, and a community center for children.

It’s evident that Riviera Nayarit and the southern Costalegre region are charting their own paths, distinct from Cancun, Tulum, or Los Cabos.

The area stands in stark contrast to Los Cabos, characterized by quaint fishing villages each boasting a unique vibe. From the trendy surfer spots to the lavish hideaways nestled among secret beaches and eco-friendly retreats, to the unspoiled fishing towns that exude genuine charm, the region is a mosaic of distinct flavors.

Zachary Rabinor, the CEO of Journey Mexico, highlights the coastal gems of Bucerias, San Pancho, and San Blas in Nayarit. These hamlets have preserved their relaxed allure, reminiscent of a bygone era in Mexico.

**Nayarit’s Natural Wonders**

Nayarit’s allure is deeply rooted in its natural beauty. Trails for hiking are plentiful around Punta de Mita, leading adventurers through untamed rocky shores to the panoramic Cerro del Mono (Monkey Mountain). Resorts like the Four Seasons Punta Mita, Naviva, and St. Regis offer trails that showcase the region’s rich biodiversity.

The jungle remains verdant and untouched over vast areas, home to wildlife such as the coati, and the coastline has been spared from excessive development. The vistas from Mandarina’s beach and hilltops are simply breathtaking.

Offshore, the Bay of Banderas serves as a sanctuary for marine life, including migrating whales that come to birth their young. The bay’s tropical currents create a haven for humpback whales and dolphins, offering spectacular whale-watching opportunities.

The Islas Marietas marine preserve is a snorkeling and diving paradise with limited daily access, ensuring the protection of its stunning rock formations, grottoes, and seabird colonies.

Despite its upscale accommodations, Riviera Nayarit retains an authentic atmosphere, thanks in part to towns like Sayulita. Known as the surfing heart of the region and a bohemian hub, Sayulita’s charm has earned it the title of “pueblo magico,” recognizing its breathtaking beauty and rich cultural tapestry.

Belmond is set to introduce Milaroca next year, featuring 57 guest pavilions on a sprawling 105-acre property with a two-kilometer beach stretch between Sayulita and San Pancho.

The region’s connectivity is also improving, with the Riviera Nayarit Airport in Tepic anticipating its first international flights this year. Meanwhile, a new airport is being constructed in Chalacatepec to serve as the gateway to Costalegre, complementing the current regional hub at Manzanillo.

Rabinor notes that Nayarit is conscientiously mitigating the risks of unchecked growth, particularly in villages home to Huichol Indigenous communities. The goal is to harmonize tourism development with the conservation of cultural heritage and the welfare of local populations.

It’s a delicate balance that Nayarit aims to achieve, navigating the complexities of growth and sustainability.

Source: Wish TV