01 of 14
Enjoy Banderas Bay Beach
The most important tourist area in the Riviera Nayarit is Banderas Bay (Bahia de Banderas), the largest natural bay in Mexico, with 68 km of coastline extending from north of Puerto Vallarta.
Enjoying Banderas Bay is one of the top things to do in the Riviera Nayarit. The beach has a gentle slope and great sand for walking. Young kids wade and swim in the shallow water. You'll also see kids boogie-boarding, body-surfing, or surfing.
02 of 14
Stay at an All Inclusive Resort
The huge sweep of Banderas Bay is lined with resorts, many of which are all-inclusive and welcome families. Kids clubs tend to be the simple "friendly little clubhouse" type. Families can enjoy the beautiful beach and perhaps try some boogie-boarding and body-surfing in the waves. Many resorts have freeform pools and a small shallow pool for kids.
03 of 14
See Baby Sea Turtles
Banderas Bay is home to several nesting areas for sea turtles. Four protected species nest along the coast of Nayarit, including leatherback turtles and Olive Ridley turtles, whose nesting season continues from June to November.
Hatchlings often take place right outside the resorts on Banderas Bay. Visitors walking along the beach may notice a fenced area with information about marine turtles, and a sign that says "El Campamento Turtuguero de Nuevo Vallarta" (Nuervo Vallarta Sea Turtle Preserve.). Resort guests are invited to release baby turtles from here in the evenings.
04 of 14
Visit Puerto Vallarta
So near, and yet so far.... The peace and quiet of Banderas Bay is just a short distance from the busy tourist town of Puerto Vallarta. Families staying at a resort on Banderas Bay can take a taxi into town and stroll along the Malecon, a seaside walkway which features a number of contemporary sculptures.Continue to 5 of 14 below.
05 of 14
The Riviera Nayarit is a great place to see sea mammals. Kayakers in Banderas Bay often see dolphins, and from November to April visitors can also take whale-watching tours. Each year hundreds of humpback whales visit Banderas Bay as part of their migration between Alaska and Hawaii.
There are a number of whale-watching trips to choose from so pick the one that's right for you. Do you want a large boat full of people and perhaps music? Do you want to snorkel or kayak as part of your day outing? Vallarta Adventures and Ocean Friendly Whale Watching Tours are two possibilities for whale-watching in the Riviera Nayarit. Even on a trip in early November before whale-watching tours actually began, we enjoyed spotting whales during a snorkeling trip.
06 of 14
Canopy Tours and Ziplines
Not only does the Riviera Nayarit have beautiful beaches, the area also has mountains that offer a fine opportunity for day-trips. The term "canopy tours" refers to adventures that take visitors high up to the treetop level in the rainforest, where they can take a thrilling ride along a zipline as in the photo above. Vallarta Adventures offers a tour to a Canopy Adventure Park 45 miles northeast of Puerto Vallarta. This company has a convenient location in Nuevo Vallarta.
07 of 14
Stay in Luxury at Punta Mita: Four Seasons Punta Mita
Four Seasons resorts are known for pampering and luxury special touches, and for some guests, only the Four Seasons will do. Four Seasons resorts are also family-friendly and offer a complimentary "Kids For All Seasons" program, baby furnishings and toiletries, and more.
The Four Seasons Punta Mita has a dramatic cliffside location in the gated enclave of Punta Mita. Also in Punta Mita are the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort and a Jack Nicklaus golf course known for the unique hole 3B, an optional hole that's located on a tiny island.
Another plus for families at Four Seasons Punta Mita is the heated lazy river.
08 of 14
Stay in Luxury at the St. Regis Punta Mita
The other luxury resort sharing the Punta Mita peninsula with the Four Seasons is the St. Regis Punta Mita. Guests will find fine dining, a beautiful spa, (heated) pools, cabanas equipped with all conveniences, and access to the golf course noted above where hole 3B is played on a tiny island. This St. Regis Punta Mita has a kids club and a family pool.Continue to 9 of 14 below.
09 of 14
Take a Road Trip in the Riviera Nayarit
Many visitors rent a car in Mexico, and head out on the highway and explore on their own. The roads are in good condition in the Riviera Nayarit. Heading north from Banderas Bay, the beach town of Sayulita is less than 25 (40 km) miles from Puerta Vallarta and makes an easy day trip. The larger town of San Blas is about 100 miles (160 km) away.
Above is a fruit stand where road-trippers can take a break and drink fresh coconut milk ("fresh," as in still inside the coconut).
10 of 14
Visit the Beach Town of Sayulita
About 25 miles (40 km) north of Puerta Vallarta is the little beach town of Sayulita, known as one of Mexico's best surfing spots. Families can wander the small streets, have a meal at one of the beachside restaurants, or perhaps try a surfing lesson. Shopping opportunities are plentiful as well, but despite its laid-back appearance Sayulita has the higher prices of a tourist town.
11 of 14
Visit the Town of San Blas
San Blas is a small port and fishing town about 100 miles (160 km) north of Puerto Vallarta, a pleasant three to four-hour drive north on a good road. Families can walk around the town square, visit a colonial church just across the street, and explore a fortress with a panoramic view of the town. Meanwhile, boaters are welcomed at a modern marina.
12 of 14
Visit the Beach in San Blas
Just outside the town of San Blas, kids can wade and swim in a large shallow bay. Casual beach restaurants serve up fresh seafood (and are visited by health inspectors—reassuring for visitors). San Blas and its beach area are popular with Mexican families on getaways from the Nayarit state capital of Tepic. San Blas is also one of Mexico's best surf spots for beginners.Continue to 13 of 14 below.
13 of 14
San Blas: Take a Boat Trip Through Mangroves, See Wildlife
San Blas is known as a top destination for birders, with over 200 species of birds in the area. San Blas is also a gateway to La Tovara National Park. Take a boat trip through quiet waterways in the mangrove forest, where you can spot crocodiles, iguanas, and many beautiful birds. (English-speaking families should try to find a boat guide who can share information in English.)
14 of 14
Learn About Huichol Art
A visit to the Riviera Nayarit also is an opportunity to learn about the Huichol people, native people who've lived in remote mountainous terrain for centuries. Visitors will see Huichol jewelry and crafts for sale in the town squares of Sayulitas and San Blas, and resort gift shops and other tourist shops may feature Huichol art and jewelry as well.
The Huichols are especially known for their "yarn painting." (Colorful yarn is pressed into a surface that's covered with beeswax and resin). More recently, beaded art has made an appearance: beads are pressed into beeswax, perhaps decorating a mask or animal figurine.