Take a photographic journey through two of Mexico’s Pacific paradises.
Salt air, endless sunshine, and the sounds of the Pacific. Home to sister destinations Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, Mexico’s western coast is the perfect year-round destination for sunseekers searching for their next beach retreat. Take a glimpse at what you can experience on your next getaway.
Puerto Vallarta – Malecón: The heartbeat of Puerto Vallarta, its boardwalk stretches on for more than half a mile along the Pacific Ocean. Impressive sculptures like The Boy on the Seahorse line the way, creating an open-air art walk. Along the way, catch live performances at the iconic Los Arcos Amphitheater, or take home an original piece from one of the many galleries. Shops and restaurants aplenty add their own splashes of fun, but watching the sun set over the ocean is the unmissable highlight.
Marina Vallarta: Find even more fresh-air excitement—stylish boutiques, cafés perfect for people-watching, galleries, restaurants, bars, and, of course, the hundreds of luxurious yachts that dock there—at the marina. El Faro Lighthouse offers a stunning panorama of it all. Golfers, however, will want to head to the Marina Vallarta Golf Club first and foremost. Designed by Joe Finger against the backdrop of Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madre mountains, visitors can test their skills against 18 championship holes.
Los Arcos Marine Park: A protected natural habitat, here blue-footed boobies, parrots, pelicans, stingrays, and octopi invite guests to share in the wonders of their home. Dive the park’s reefs—especially spectacular at night—with visibility of over 1,500 feet, kayak past massive granite rocks piecing the ocean toward the sky, or explore the islets and caves. Afterward, unwind at Mismaloya, the beach that first put Puerto Vallarta on the international tourism map as where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while filming The Night of the Iguana.
Las Caletas Beach: Once home to that film’s director, John Houston, this pristine hideaway accessible only by sea remains as beautiful as it was during the golden age of Hollywood. Spend a full day visiting the nature preserve, paddleboarding, hiking through the jungle, laying out on the sand, or revitalizing with a treatment (or three) at the spa. Amstar DMC offers tours every day of the week except Sunday, making getting there as simple as enjoying the view.
Extreme Sports: Level up your adventure with adrenaline-spiking excursions like ATV or RZR safaris. Or, take a horseback or bike ride through the Sierra Madre—just leave time for a zipline stop. Want to go more extreme? Cross the longest suspension bridge in the world, El Jorullo, or sign up for a skydive. And if you prefer the water? Parasail, flyboard, and surf as much as you please. Check to see what your resort has available; all-inclusives often provide non-motorized water sport equipment free of charge.
Riviera Nayarit – Marietas Islands: Hidden away except to those in the know, Playa Escondida has rapidly become Riviera Nayarit’s most buzzed-about attraction. One of the small islets of Marietas Islands National Park, it’s clear why “Lover’s Beach” is its second name. Reach it by boat tour. You’ll have the chance to swim into the crater for a private view of the ocean … and fall in love with the paradise around you. Don’t overlook the other islands, though. Olive Ridley turtles, humpback whales (in winter), and seabirds flock between them with equal allure.
Monkey Mountain: A favorite of Instagram feeds, this up-and-coming hot spot is just 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. Intermediate and advanced hiking trails give way to breathtaking views of Banderas Bay—a popular resort area—Punta de Mita, the charming surf town of Sayulita, and the Marietas Islands any time, but sunset is the most exceptional. Seek out butterflies, birds, and, of course, chattering monkeys for company as you explore.
Punta de Mita Saltwater Pool: In Punta de Mita, luxury is never more than a few steps away. From a collection of premier hotels to the world-class, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and award-winning beaches, this oceanfront community has no shortage of vacation-making attractions. Among them: the natural saltwater pool filled by the tides across from the Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa. Watch as the waves create a secret swimming hole for a peaceful afternoon.
Mirador del Toro: Head north past Los Ayala, a small coastal town, to Rincón de Guayabitos to reach the overlook of Mirador del Toro. One of Riviera Nayarit’s 23 micro-destinations, its hiking is some of the area’s best, the clearly marked paths easy enough even for families and offering viewpoints of the turquoise sea below. Stop at Frideras and Frideritas Beaches along the way, and don’t forget to look for snorkeling spot Isla Coral in the distance.
La Tovara National Park, San Blas: Lush mangroves home to tropical fish and smiling crocodiles. Herons and macaws peering out from treetops. Boat rides passing through the canals toward cinematic natural pools. Counted among Mexico’s most important ecosystems, La Tovara is known for its spectacular landscapes. Plan to spend at least half a day exploring them.
Keep exploring! Read more about Puerto Vallarta here, and outdoor adventures for both destinations here.