Friday, June 21, 2024

Hotel Hopper: The best hotels in Riviera Nayarit

The Riviera Nayarit is a veritable treasure trove of spectacular hotels and resorts. This stretch of coastline, which starts just north of the Puerto Vallarta airport, curves around the northern rim of the Bahia de Banderas and continues up the Pacific coastline towards the state of Sinaloa. This 200-mile stretch of coastline is one of the most famous in Mexico for its natural beauty, outdoor activities and health and wellness centers.

Getting to the Riviera Nayarit is easy. Visitors fly into the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and make their way north past the strings of fishing villages that dot the coastline. Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, as well as the rugged Sierra Madre mountains and steeped in Indigenous Wixárika (Huichol) culture, it’s no wonder this is one of the best places in Mexico to post up for a beach holiday.

With so many top class hotels and resorts, how can you pick just one for your stay? (One&Only Mandarina)

The only challenge is deciding where to stay. Fortunately, the Riviera Nayarit has such a wide variety of hotels and resorts that it truly is a destination for everyone. To make it easier, we’ve rounded up some of the most popular hotels and resorts in the destination. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will certainly give you a starting point when planning the perfect Riviera Nayarit getaway.

Luxury Riviera Nayarit Resorts

One&Only Mandarina

(One&Only Mandarina)

You cannot mention luxury in the Riviera Nayarit and not put One&Only Mandarina at the top of the list. This exclusive resort raised the bar for what was already a destination filled with elegant hotels when it opened in 2020. Just over 100 treehouse-style villas sit perched in the lush foliage that overlooks the sprawling, rugged beaches just north of Lo de Marcos. Villas feature floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that open out to terraces with private plunge pools. 

The hotel exudes an earthy, yet highly sophisticated vibe. Infinity pools extend out over dramatic cliffs, surrounded by sexy daybeds and lounge chairs. Clifftop bars look out over the crashing surf, and signature restaurant Carao is helmed by superstar Mexican chef Enrique Olvera. 

Down on the beach is Playa Canalan Beach Club, which is not exclusive to One&Only, but is part of the overall Mandarina development. This breezy beachfront club has its own pool, as well as a toes-in-the-sand restaurant serving rustic Italian cuisine. 

Susurros del Corazon, Auberge

(Susurros del Corazon)

One of the newest resorts to grace the luxe-heavy Punta de Mita, Susurros del Corazon, Auberge Resorts Collection keeps things local to the core. From the soap and furniture to the farm-to-table restaurant concepts, this relaxed, yet supremely high-end, resort is all about peace, tranquility, and spectacular views.

The resort is centered around its three different pools, all of which tier down towards the beach. Each pool has its own vibe — think energetic, family-friendly and quiet. Rooms are evocative of bohemian beach hideaways, complete with seashell and driftwood accents. The boho-chic vibe permeates the resort, with the occasional sound bath and singing bowl experience and an emphasis on wellness, a sense of place and local art. 

A sprawling 31,300-square-foot spa has its own pool and 11 treatment rooms, with a menu of treatments to match the resort’s earthy aesthetic developed by local healers. The restaurant, Casamilpa, serves regional favorites like ceviche and tacos, along with a menu of raicilla cocktails, a local spirit.

St. Regis Punta Mita

(St. Regis Punta Mita)

St. Regis is one of the earliest resorts to help set the luxury bar for Punta de Mita. The resort sits in the exclusive gated Punta Mita community and is one of the best options for both couples, as well as families. It’s not often that you get both in one resort. While the resort had been showing some wear and tear, it recently wrapped a multi-million dollar renovation, which includes the public spaces and the villas. 

Guests check in at the hilltop lobby with exquisite views out over a cascading infinity pool that leads down to the beach. The palm-lined paths give way to beach bungalow-style villas, restaurants and relaxing pool spaces.

I love the luxury bungalow-style rooms here, which are complete with their own patios or terraces, sprawling marble bathrooms, and both an indoor and outdoor shower. Room rates include Butler Service, which guests can use for everything from unpacking your suitcase to morning coffee service. 

Food at St. Regis Punta Mita is exceptional, as is to be expected from a St. Regis hotel. From the poolside casual fare to fine dining, everything is outstanding. I love the Mita Mary restaurant for its toes-in-the-sand atmosphere and fresh seafood menu. The spa was also recently renovated and has been transformed into a space of traditional wellness, from a Temazcal experience to facials, massages, singing bowls, and more. A well-equipped gym has Peloton bikes and Technogym treadmills. 

Four Seasons Punta Mita

(Four Seasons Punta Mita)

In the same gated community is the iconic Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, a 52-acre oasis that has captured the hearts of Nayarit luxury travelers for more than two decades. The sprawling resort sits across two white sand beaches, surrounded by two PGA golf courses and sprinkled with private villa sanctuaries. 

Check-in at the open-air lobby leads to spectacular views of the Pacific, while three swimming pools each offer a different vibe. The most popular is the free-form, semi-circle infinity pool that overlooks both of the powder-soft white sand beaches. Another pool is for families, and a third is for adults only. You’ll even find a lazy river for a relaxing cooldown. Luxe cabanas are available to rent, decked out with televisions and minibars. 

Activities abound with miles of trails for biking or walking. Guests can also use the two professional golf courses or the tennis center. For wellness enthusiasts, the Apuane Spa is a posh paradise of detox and relaxation, with a steam room and sauna and a treatment menu that harnesses local ingredients for its therapies.

The signature Mexican restaurant here is Dos Catrinas, serving regional cuisine from around Mexico, like the traditional beef tlayudas or the citrusy guacamole. Guests can also dine at the Asian-inspired Armara or directly on the beach at Bahia by Richard Sandoval. Guests will also find a handful of casual snack restaurants and bars.

Riviera Nayarit All-Inclusive Hotels

Secrets Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort

(Secrets Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort)

Relatively new to the Punta Mita scene is Secrets Bahia Mita. The adults-only, all-inclusive resort is perched right at the northern end of the Bay of Banderas, with views of the Sierra Madre that wreath the bay. While the resort itself is adults-only, guests should know that the property shares space with the family-friendly Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort. Some amenities are shared, so there’s a chance you’ll see kids around.

The 278-room resort feels massive, rising out of the thick jungle with a sleek and modern design. It features 12 different dining options, plus five bars. That said, five of the 12 options are part of Dreams Bahia Mita, which means that they allow children. 

Explore the four adults-only pools, but guests say that the Preferred Club Sky Bar and the small infinity pool next to restaurant Olio are the best.

Speaking of the Preferred Club, it is totally worth the upgrade. Preferred Club rooms have extra perks like the adults-only Sky Bar, rooftop club and pool. Additional perks include the private Preferred Club Lounge, which serves breakfast, as well as snacks throughout the day. 

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

(Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit)

Just 20 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is one of the original luxury all-inclusive on this stretch of coast. It is also one of the easiest to get to and overlooks one of the best beaches in the Bay of Banderas. 

All 267 rooms at this resort are suites, complete with private terraces and Jacuzzis. The central infinity pool is surrounded by strings of plush chaise lounges, while the 650 feet of beachfront is peppered with luxurious Bali beds. 

All four of the signature restaurants have been awarded Four Diamonds by AAA. Lucca is a favorite for its fresh pasta and Mediterranean cuisine. Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit also has a 16,000-square-foot SE Spa, a fitness center, and kids’ and teen clubs.

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa

(Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa)

Perched on a stretch of beachfront on the northern edge of the Bahía de Banderas, Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa is a larger all-inclusive hotel geared towards families. The 420 rooms offer Garden or Ocean Views, with the best category being the Deluxe Panoramic Ocean Views. All suites, however, have jetted bathtubs and furnished terraces.

The resort has an impressive selection of restaurants and bars — 11 to choose from. La Adelita is a guest favorite for its Mexican cuisine. Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa has an impressive wellness center with a sauna and Turkish baths, hydromassage waterfalls, and a selection of massages, facials, body treatments, and beauty services.

But where the resort shines is how it caters to family travelers. Guests can upgrade to the Family Selection at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa, which is a hotel within a hotel geared exclusively to families. This includes areas dedicated exclusively to families, as well as personalized services. Think entertainment areas, welcome kits for kids, mini bathrobes and mini slippers, a special turn-down for kids, a reserved beach area, and a dedicated pool.

Riviera Nayarit Boutique Hotels

Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel

(Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel)

Further up the coast, away from the communities of Punta Mita and Nuevo Vallarta, the scene gets much more boutique and small-scale, particularly in the towns of Sayulita and San Pancho. Agua de Luna Boutique Hotel is a dreamy, adults-only boutique hotel nestled alongside the cobblestone streets of this sleepy fishing village.

The charming hotel is tailored to travelers who crave a bohemian design and a laid-back lifestyle. The 15 suites are impeccably dressed, with accents of wood, stone, and woven textiles. Luxury Suites open out directly to the saltwater pool. 

This is a hotel ideal for digital nomads, or boho-style backpackers with a bit more money to burn. While the hotel itself is not expensive, it attracts a crowd that appreciates organic cuisine, wellness experiences, and Instagrammable moments.

La Joya

(La Joya)

Sayulita is arguably the most famous town along the Riviera Nayarit. Once sought out for its sleepy, off-the-beaten-path vibes, today it is a standalone destination complete with dozens of restaurants and bars and a great nightlife. 

La Joya, however, is a small boutique hotel that sits removed from the downtown fray and somewhat chaotic energy of Sayulita. This intimate space is often used as the setting for wellness retreats, perched overlooking a stretch of beach, with intimate bungalows, casitas and larger houses that sleep six. 

Onsite restaurant Tekuamana serves organic local ingredients transformed into Mexican recipes, as well as designer cocktails, craft beer and organic wines. 

To make the most out of La Joya, guests should sign up for one of their many retreats. Themes include yoga, healing and soul alchemy, among others — all with wellness and connection to body and spirit in mind. 

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at


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