The Getaway
Nayarit: Mexico's Pacific Paradise Awaits

Nayarit has a rich history and culture waiting to be explored on Mexico's Pacific coast, where the jungle meets the coastline. This naturally beautiful state is a haven for animals and people alike. From peaceful beach days to hardcore hikes and captivating cacao ceremonies, Nayarit has something unique to offer weekend wanderers, day-trippers, or longer vacationers. Developments in the area hope Nayarit will become a luxury beach destination for tourists, so now's the perfect time to visit before it becomes too busy.

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01 Take up water sports at the Marietas Islands National Park

This national park is different from your typical mountainous national park. It's a group of tiny islands waiting to be explored by kayak, paddleboard, or snorkeling. Dolphins and humpback whales are popular in the area, and several hidden, white-sand beaches are accessible through caves and rock formations. The islands are uninhabitable, so the best way to visit the park is via a boat or tour.

Pacific ocean Marietas Islands cliff CassielMx / Getty Images

02 Watch the whales in winter

For centuries, pods of humpback whales have migrated to the sandy beaches of Nayarit, away from the Alaskan cold. At Banderas Bay, between December and March, you can see the whales give birth and tend to their calves. Book a whale-watching tour to get the best view of these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Adult humpback whale breaching off Sydney, Australia Wirestock / Getty Images

03 Release baby sea turtles into the ocean

If you're not visiting in the winter months, there's still plenty of opportunity to get up close and personal with sea creatures. Between June and December, there are several places in Nayarit where you can support conservation projects and help release baby turtles into the sea. According to the Banderas Bay preservation program, around 60,000 baby sea turtles are released annually.

Rescue Of Green Turtle Jaromír Chalabala / 500px / Getty Images

04 Cycle through Bucerias

A bike tour is one of the best ways to see Bucerias. Hire a bike and take it at your speed, or book yourself onto a food and drink tour with a guide. Bucerias is a beautiful area filled with boutiques, small coffee shops, and galleries, so there's plenty to discover, no matter the weather. There's also the Bucerias craft flea market, which is the perfect place to grab a souvenir.

Latin woman riding a bicycle in a park with trees on the sides. Edgar BJ / Getty Images

05 Set sail for a day of fishing in Yelapa

Yelapa is a picturesque village in Banderas Bay that offers some of the best spots in Mexico for sport fishing. The village is only accessible by boat, so you can enjoy sailing beside the dolphins on your way there. With breathtaking views, crystal clear waters, and laid-back locals, Yelapa is the perfect tropical paradise.

Ocean Fishing Reel on a Boat in the Ocean grandriver / Getty Images

06 Snap the crocodiles at El Cora

The El Cora Crocodile Sanctuary is an excellent experience for the whole family. The sanctuary is home to many crocodiles of all ages, and a veterinarian guide will teach you everything you need to know about crocs and their conservation. The sanctuary is slightly out of the way down a rocky road but well worth a visit.

Nile crocodile. Two crocodiles , having opened from a heat USO / Getty Images

07 Surf the waves in Sayulita

Whether you're looking to learn or have experience with the waves, Sayulita is a haven for surfers, old and new. The bohemian town is full of surf shops and trinket stalls to peruse after a session in the water. The only downside is that the city can become extremely busy in the summer, so visiting off-season is best.

Mature young mother rides early morning wave Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa / Getty Images

08 Hike through the jungle to San Pancho

After hiking through the jungle, you'll reach the small town of San Pancho. With cobbled roads, authentic local cantinas, and a flurry of surf shacks, this hidden gem in Nayarit is a great place to end the day. San Pancho offers one of the best spots to watch the sunset in the area—the perfect way to finish your vacation.

Caucasian mother and son climbing staircase on beach Marc Romanelli / Getty Images

09 Go down under at Los Arcos Marine Park

Snorkeling or scuba diving at Los Arcos Marine Park is a must for those interested in sea life. The park is accessible by boat, with over 20 dive sites. The waters are crystal-clear and bustling with marine life to explore, From eels, rays, and turtles to tropical fish on the coral reef. Make sure to take a waterproof camera.

freediver lady with fins glides underwater with fishes in transparent blue ocean Nuture / Getty Images

10 Take part in a cacao ceremony

While cacao is known for its deliciousness (locally known as the 'food of the gods'), it is also used throughout Mexico for therapeutic ritual ceremonies and medicinal healing. It's a great way to learn about the country's indigenous culture and connect with the area spiritually. A shaman will lead you through the ceremony, starting with a cocoa drink and ending in quiet reflection.

Person giving ceremonial cacao in cup. chocolate drink top view ninelutsk / Getty Images

11 Trek and tour the petroglyphs

The Altavista Petroglyphs in Nayarit are a truly cultural experience for those new to the area. These engraved stones provide insight into a culture time forgot. To reach the Petroglyphs, you'll need to hike along the river, which opens into a beautiful rock pool for swimming. You can visit the ruins on your own or take an eco-adventure tour to fully immerse yourself in the area's history.

12 Try a tequila or wine tasting in Sayulita

No trip to Mexico would be complete without gaining a taste for tequila. Several wine shops and distilleries in Sayulita are dying to share their tequila and mezcal concoctions while teaching you the correct way to truly enjoy the spirit. With bookable tasting menus or walk-in tasters, there's a way for everyone to try tequila tasting, no matter the budget.

Tequila event at Mexico. Mezcal and tequila Tasting. diegocardini / getty Images

13 Explore the Venice of Mexico

Mexcaltitan is a magical lake island town known as the 'Venice of Mexico' due to the lagoon streets and waterways. The town is mostly only accessible by boat, and it's believed to be the birthplace of the Aztec Empire. Visitors can watch locals fish with traditional canoes and taste some of the fruits of their work or take a boat tour along the waterways.

14 Hike to the top of Monkey Mountain

Monkey Mountain is a rugged peak that offers a fun but challenging hike. Just outside Sayulita, the views from the top of the mountain are phenomenal. The hike will see you through a dense jungle of exotic wildlife and greenery (of course, look out for swinging monkeys). Take a breather at the summit, then decide whether to hike back down or abseil down the sheer cliffside.

monkey jumping between trees diegocardini / Getty Images

15 Test your bravery at the Jorullo Swinging Bridge

This one is for thrill-seekers. The Jorullo Swinging Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world. You can take an ATV ride to the other side if you feel brave. This activity is a total adrenaline rush and not for the faint-hearted. As you watch the jungle and rushing streams below, you'll feel the bridge swaying with every bump.

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