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The Mexican 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.
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. It is also 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. 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.
Step back in time with historical sites and “Magical Towns”
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.
Surrounding Tepic are majestic mountains, which hold many of the state’s secrets, from its adventure and ecotourism offerings to its native communities. One such attraction is the Los Toriles archaeological site, home to 93 historics structures, including a pyramid dedicated to the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. There is also the “Magical Town” of Amatlán de Cañas, which feels paused in time. Surrounded by mountains and sliced by rocky canyons, this town is known for its historic temples. Nayarit is blessed with nine of these “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. In addition to Amatlán de Cañas, there is also Sayulita, Compostela, Jala, Mexcaltitán, Ahuacatlán, Ixtlán del Río,San Blas, and Puerto Balleto (Islas Marías).
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.
Discover fascinating flora and fauna
A whale off the coast of Mexico – courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board
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.
Nayarit is home to some of the most unique islands in Mexico. 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.
The state is also 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.
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.
Experience ancient healing rituals
A beach in Nayarit, Mexico – courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board
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.
Enjoy local delicacies and fine coffee
Nayarit’s wealth is not only determined by its natural beauty. Its gastronomy is part of what makes this state unique. 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. 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. Additionally, just 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 2022 ranked among the Top 99 Mexican Wines of Cava Magazine. In 2023 Meseta del Cielo opened for tourism.
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.
Plan an outdoor adventure
Explore the wilderness of Nayarit – courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board
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.
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. 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.
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.
See local artistic traditions
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.
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.
Add in a little luxury to your vacation
The coastline of Nayarit, Mexico – courtesy of The State of Nayarit Tourism Board
If you want to budget in a little more, Nayarit has options to upgrade your vacation. 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.
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.

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