Mexico's Pacific coast has a string of attractive port cities that are popular beach destinations and ports of call for cruises. This coast is sometimes called the Mexican Riviera but it should not be confused with the Mayan Riviera (also known as the Riviera Maya), which is on the opposite coast, on the Caribbean side. Here is an overview of the ports of call which may be included on a Mexican Riviera cruise. With limited time at each destination, you'll want to see the highlights of each place. Here are some ideas of what to do if you only have one day to spend in each of these spots.
Ensenada, Baja California
Located just 70 miles south of the United States border in Baja California state, Ensenada is popular among tourists for fishing and surfing, as well as being home to Mexico’s premier winery Bodegas de Santo Tomás. You could just stroll the center of town, see the Plaza Civica, and the Cultural Center, do some souvenir shopping and sample some seafood, but if you would like to venture further afield, visit La Bufadora, the world's second-largest marine blowhole, or take an excursion to wine country.
Los Cabos, Baja California Sur
Situated on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is made up of two towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. This is a great spot for enjoying watersports such as snorkeling or diving, and whale watching in season. For those looking for arts and cultural attractions, head to San Jose del Cabo, a twenty-minute drive from Cabo San Lucas, and take a walk around the historical center and art district.
Mazatlan is in the state of Sinaloa, some 270 miles north of Puerto Vallarta. With golden beaches, and vibrant nightlife as well as a host of water sports and wildlife watching activities available, Mazatlan has a lot to offer visitors. Explore the town on board one of the golf cart taxis known as "pulmonias," or take a day trip to one of Mazatlán’s picturesque islands, such as Isla de Venados (Deer Island), which can be explored on foot or by kayak. If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, check out the Huana Coa Canopy Adventure.
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Puerto Vallarta is located in the beautiful Banderas Bay. This seaside town gained prominence as a tourist destination in the 1960s when it became popular with Hollywood stars. It still has plenty to offer, though, and improvements to the center of town have helped to keep its appeal fresh. Cruise ship visitors should take some time to stroll along the Malecon, visit art galleries, and since this is one of Mexico's foremost foodie destinations, sample some of the wonderful cuisine at Puerto Vallarta's great restaurants.
Ixtapa and its sister city, Zihuatanejo, which is just four miles to the south, share a beautiful setting, with crashing waves of the Pacific to the west and the Sierra Madre mountain chain to the east, but Zihuatanejo feels like a small fishing village whereas Ixtapa has modern hotels and more tourist amenities. Visitors here enjoy relaxing on the wonderfully clean beaches. More active types can sign up for cycling, kayaking, snorkeling and bird-watching tours, or try their hand at sport fishing.
Acapulco was Mexico's first tourist resort area and has a few iconic sights that you should be sure not to miss. The cliff divers of La Quebrada perform the death-defying stunt of leaping from heights of up to 100 feet into churning waves below. Other options include taking a glass-bottom boat ride to Isla Roqueta, where you can enjoy tranquil beaches and snorkeling, or visit the Fuerte San Diego to learn about Acapulco's early history. There are the standard things to do in Acapulco, but this destination also has some unexpected activities.
Of all the destinations on the Mexican Riviera, Huatulco is the newest tourist resort development. The area where the ship docks has a shopping area, small marina, and the Santa Cruz beach with water sports and beachside restaurants. Some day tours include visiting coffee plantations, a tour of Copalita archaeological site, hikes and birdwatching in the Huatulco National Park and a visit to the sea turtle sanctuary in Mazunte.