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Unveiling Nayarit: Beyond Beaches to a World of Adventure

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With a turn of the season comes new possibilities to check new destinations off the bucket list. This spring, dive deeper into the state of Nayarit.

March 13th, 2024

Mexico’s State of Nayarit has long been a favorite for beach travelers, but few tourists are fully aware of all that this unique part of Mexico has to offer.

While Nayarit is indeed blessed with one of the most spectacular coastlines in the country, it is also a region steeped in ancient history, arts and culture, and gastronomy. It provides unparalleled wellness experiences and is a champion of environmental and social sustainability. Add to that adventure-packed outdoor experiences, national parks, and more Magical Towns than any other state in Mexico.

If you’re looking for the next great adventure in Mexico, read on to discover why 2024 is the year to experience the State of Nayarit.

1.Wellness

The beautiful jungle-covered mountains, crashing Pacific coastline, and abundance of wildlife sets the ideal backdrop for a wellness journey. Whether it’s an indulgent treatment at a world-class spa in Punta de Mita, a multi-day yoga retreat in Sayulita, or an ancient healing ritual rooted in centuries of indigenous tradition, Nayarit has everything travelers need to embark on a wellness journey.

2.Sustainability

A leader in environmental preservation, Nayarit’s tourism growth is focused on sustainability. Nayarit is a member of the Hotel Basics initiative of the World Travel and Tourism Council, which seeks to take an important step towards the care of natural environments and respect for the communities. Hotels must work under sustainability criteria, such as reducing energy and water consumption, reducing carbon emissions, protecting the environment, and contributing positively to the environment and its communities.

3.Gastronomy

Nayarit’s wealth is not only determined by its natural beauty. Its gastronomy is part of what makes this state unique. Dishes like Pescado Zarandeado and Chicharron de Pescado can trace their roots back to pre-Hispanic times. Also native to Nayarit is Tlaxtihuilli, a seafood soup that uses shrimp, corn, and guajillo chiles. Don’t forget to sample the raicilla, a highly potent spirit made from the agave plant, similar to tequila and mezcal.

4.Indigenous Culture

Travelers 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, jungles, and native communities that 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, dancing, feasting, and much more.

5.Wildlife

The natural beauty and wildlife of Nayarit is unparalleled, from marine life to migratory birds, jungle wildcats, and beyond. So much of the state is protected in Natural Reserves where its wildlife can thrive. Parque Nacional Islas Marietas, for example, located just five miles from Punta de Mita, is home to a diverse number of endemic species, while Sierra de Vallejo is home to the Santuario del Jaguar, a nearly 5,000-acreprotected area known for its jaguar population.

6.Coffee

Coffee culture is more than just a trend in Nayarit — it’s a way of life. Some of the best organic coffee in the world is grown in the state. The warm, humid climate, volcanic mountain soil, and high altitude make Nayarit one of the best coffee producers in Mexico. Not only is it possible to sip a great cup of coffee, but visitors can tour the coffee plantations. Grupo Terruño Nayarita is a business that organizes the small farms of sustainable coffee production in the state. The group consists of nearly 400 local producers.

7.Magical Towns

Nayarit is blessed with nine Magical Towns —the most for one state in the country. The Magical Towns of Mexico, or Pueblos Magicos, is a government-granted designation given to towns or villages in Mexico that best exemplify aspects of culture, history, tradition, art, food, nature, and beyond. These recognized places have something unique to them that helps to tell the story of the soul of Mexico. Nayarit’s Magical Towns include Sayulita, Compostela, Jala, Mexcaltitán, Ahuacatlán, Amatlán de Cañas, Ixtlán del Río,San Blas, and Puerto Balleto (Islas Marías).

8.National Parks

Nayarit is home to three of Mexico’s National Parks. The first is Islas Marietas National Park, an archipelago five miles from Punta de Mita made up of two islands, two islets, and several rocky shallows home to endemic and migratory marine and bird life. La Tovara National Park, located in San Blas, is a habitat of estuary and freshwater springs, with canals surrounded by mangroves, vegetation, and brilliant orchids and bromeliads. Finally, Isla Isabel National Park is a virgin coastal paradise known for its panoramic Pacific Ocean views, sea-facing cliffs, and rolling mountains.

9.History

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 central, northern, and western Mexico. A visit to Tepic starts downtown in the Plaza de Armas and its Purisima Concepcion Cathedral, built between 1804 and 1896. You will also find the Cruz del Zacate Temple and the Government Palace, which houses murals from Jose Luis Soto. Museums in Tepic include the Regional Museum of Nayarit, as well as the Juan Escutia House-Museum, located in the 18th-century birthplace of this national Mexican hero — among many other museums dedicated to art, archaeology, and history.

10.Adventure Tourism

Nayarit’s landscape is the perfect playground for adventure enthusiasts. From epic surf breaks along the Pacific Coast, to hiking, biking, and zip lining, there is no shortage of outdoor adventure to explore in the state. Other fun things to do in Nayarit include rappelling, ATV off-road adventure tours, or a guided backcountry eco-adventure tour aboard a4×4 Mercedes Benz jeep.

11.Luxury

The luxury landscape of Nayarit is one of the most exclusive in Mexico. Luxe legends like Punta Mita have been home to brands like Four Seasons and St. Regis for decades. Up the coastline, the newer, dreamy, elegant Mandarina development has a One&Only resort. Coming soon, Nayarit is expecting a Rosewood Hotel and a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Nayarit has dozens of boho-chic boutique hotels all up the coastline, as well, particularly in Punta de Mita, Sayulita, and San Pancho.

12.Low-key Living

The overall vibe of Nayarit is to take a step back, embrace the present, and get in touch with nature. You won’t find late-night clubs with thumping music, or raucous party bars. Instead, the lifestyle in Nayarit is about toes-in-the-sand dining, cultural connections, or deep dives into history.

13.Beaches

It’s impossible to talk about Nayarit and not mention its spectacular beaches. From Nuevo Nayarit up to the border with Sinaloa, the coastline is blessed with some of the best beaches in Mexico. Towns like Bucerias, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, Sayulita, San Pancho, Lo de Marcos, Guayabitos, and San Blas — also known as the Riviera Nayarit — have been drawing sun worshippers, surfers, and beachcombers for decades.

14. Art

Central to Nayarit is the Huichol, or Wixáritari, community. Their artistic traditions are deeply rooted in spirituality, represented through spectacular beadwork. The Huichol artwork takes inspiration from symbolism and the balance of opposites, like the relationship between light and dark or the rainy and dry seasons. You can find Huichol art in galleries and gift shops throughout Nayarit, particularly in the mountain communities as well as the coastal towns and villages.

15.Surfing

With such a stellar coastline comes ample opportunity for world-class surfing. There are seven different surf “breaks” circling the Punta Mita southern peninsula alone, from Anclote to Sayulita. These provide surfers of all skill levels with many options — from zippy reefs to perfect point breaks. Other incredible surf breaks can be found further north in Chacala and San Blas.

16.Crafts/Artisans

Part of the Huichol tradition is creating beautiful crafts. Artisans across the state specialize in a few key crafts that have become integral to the Huichol culture. The Tzicuri, or “God’s Eye,” is one of the most iconic, symbolizing protection over children. The weave of five interconnected diamonds is seen as a symbol of power and protection. Similarly, the Nerikate are ritual tools rooted in spirituality, made with yarn or beads on large wooden canvases. They represent divine revelation. Finally, Nayarit is known for its alebrijes, vibrant and cheerful surrealistic folk-art sculptures that usually take the form of animals.

17.Cultural Capital

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. Another at tractionnear Tepic is the Los Toriles archaeological site, home to 93 historics tructures, including a pyramid dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl.

18.Islands

Nayarit is home to some of the most unique islands in Mexico. Islas Marietas National Park, for example, is a protected land home to rich wildlife. Mexcaltitan is a Magical Town island known for its canals that have earned the nickname, “Venice of Mexico.” Further out to sea are Islas Marias, a former federal prison now a protected natural environment.

19.Golf

Exclusivity and luxury set the tone for the nine golf courses in the state, designed by legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Jim Lipe, Percy Clifford, and Robert Von Hagge & Baril. Thesetop-tier golf courses feature spectacular views over the Bay of Banderas and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the beautiful beaches and mountain rainforests of the Sierra Madres.

20. A growing wine scene

Nayarit’s gastronomy scene can add viticulture to its list of experiences. South of Nayarit, in the municipality of Jala, is Peseta del Cielo, a vineyard that was launched in 2019. In 2022 the first Nayarit wines were produced, using Syrah and Macabeo grapes. The Syrah 2022ranked among the Top 99 Mexican Wines of Cava Magazine. In 2023 Meseta del Cielo opened for tourism.

21.Fashion boutiques

Since its early days, Sayulita has been setting fashion trends for the boho chic crowd along the Riviera Nayarit. Back before Calle Delfin was even paved, it was peppered with funky clothing and jewelry shops. Today, all of Sayulita is essentially an open-air shopper’s paradise with an incredible selection of jewelry, clothing, surf wear, swimsuits, pottery, textiles, and souvenirs. On the heels of Sayulita is San Pancho, whose fashion scene is slowly growing to match the offerings and style of its neighbor.

22.Islas Marias

Islas Marias is a true story of transformation and repurposing to create something beautiful. About 80 miles off the coast of San Blas is a string of islands that was once home to one of the most infamous federal prisons in Mexico. Today, however, it is one of UNESCO’s natural protected areas and a center for environmental tourism. Accessible only by boat, the protected islands are home to a cultural center, hiking trails, wildlife, and the Pueblo Magico of Puerto Balleto.

23.Festival Gourmet

Nayarit is part of Mexico’s explosive culinary scene. This extends far beyond local dishes and casual beach fare — it’s part of an elite gourmet gastronomy experience. Each year, Nayarit is one of the hosts of Festival Gourmet International, a world-class food festival spread across dozens of restaurants bringing roughly 75 chefs, events, and thousands of foodies to Riviera Nayarit, Tepic, and Puerto Vallarta.

24.Ease of Access

Nayarit is one of the easiest states to reach from the U.S. and Canada. Visitors to Nayarit can fly into Puerto Vallarta and drive up the coastline. For interior visits to Nayarit, travelers can fly into Guadalajara or Tepic. In 2023 Aeromexico launched its first route between Mexico City and Tepic.

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