Pack up the kids and prepare for a memorable yet relaxing family vacation in Riviera Nayarit. Mexico’s Pacific Treasure offers families a plethora of activities ranging from zip lining through the lush forests, snorkeling with a school of colorful fish, experiencing and learning about authentic Mexican culture and learning to surf. Accommodations designed specifically for families add to the vacation fun with kids’ clubs, character breakfasts, multi-room suites and high-tech game rooms.
From families with trendy teenagers to adventurous kiddos, Riviera Nayarit offers activities and excursions to bring every itinerary to life. Nearly 200-miles of pristine beaches provide a wide selection of water-based activities from scuba diving and swimming with dolphins to kayaking and sailing. Families can even take surf lessons or simply build a sandcastle and relax together on the beach. Fun fact – Riviera Nayarit is home to Mexico’s longest beach, Playa Novillero.
Sayulita, the internally recognized beach town, offers families fun activities such as jungle hikes, nature walks, bicycle rentals, boogie boarding and even Spanish classes. Sayulita is renowned for its surfing conditions and there are several beachside surf schools and shops. The latest water sport craze emerging in Sayulita is Stand Up Paddle Boarding. The town’s restaurants welcome guests of all ages – kids will especially love the tasty chocolate dipped bananas at ChocoBanana or a fresh smoothie with fruits and veggies at Orangy Smoothies. Sayulita also offers an introduction to Riviera Nayarit’s indigenous Huichol people as they showcase their art in the main plaza and in various shops throughout the town – take home some colorful beaded animals, embroidered pictures and jewelry.
Located only a short boat ride away from the coastline families can visit Las Marietas, a protected sanctuary on a cluster of islands formed by volcanic activity. Adventurous travelers will discover a narrow (yet safe!) tunnel that they can swim under to gain entry into the famous Hidden Beach, a private cove perfect for snorkeling. In the months of mid-December to early April, massive Humpback Whales migrate to the Bay of Banderas with their young. A visit to Las Marietas during these months is almost guaranteed to yield up close and personal encounters with families of Humpbacks as they play in the warm waters of the bay, launching out of the water and producing massive splashes when they land. Families can find exclusive tours by booking a trip with Vallarta Adventures and Punta Mita Expeditions.
Tawexikta Lugar Del Sol (The Place of the Sun) is home to the indigenous Huichol tribe. This special region is only accessible by small boats called “panga”, but visitors have the opportunity to experience the Huichol’s vibrant dress, compelling ritual dances and colorful hand-made beaded masks and jewelry.
Los Toriles is one of two archeological sites in Nayarit open to the public. Dating from 300-600 BC, it has over 85 buildings of which only a few that are excavated. Visitors will see four wide plazas and several palaces, and can explore shaft tombs and temples, including one of the only round temples in Mexico.
As you explore the streets of San Blas you will relive the events of years past that have marked the history not only of the state of Nayarit but of the entire country of Mexico. The warmth of the local people combined with the sites of historic town and its fort from days of the Conquistadors, and the colorful original native Indians who still populate the region today, provide ample opportunities for education and sampling cultural arts, crafts and treasures that will long be remembered. Families can walk around the town square, visit the colonial church just across the street, and explore the Spanish fortress with a panoramic view of the town.
Families seeking adventure can opt for a jeep safari in the Sierra Madre Mountains with Vallarta Adventures. Specially designed Mercedes-Benz all-terrain vehicles take passengers through historic towns with stops to interact with the locals, winding through amazing scenery, fruit orchards and culminating in a fact-filled hike through the region’s forests to learn about the area’s rich vegetation and wildlife, such as the native jaguar.
Children and parents can fly through the trees with a zip line excursion with Rancho Mi Chaparrita on a network of 13 cables and three suspension bridge traveling a total distance of more than one mile and reaching heights of 410 feet above sea level.
Take a break from the beach with MexiTreks for a fun and educational hike from San Pancho to Sayulita suitable for beginning hikers of all ages. The hike will follow a mellow trail through the local forest where a designated naturalist guide will identify the flora and fauna. Along the hike you will see captivating vista views of Sayulita and explore the secluded beach of Malpaso. Enjoy peering at insects through magnifying lenses and observing birds and butterflies playing overhead, all while surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, La Tovara National Park and mangrove eco-region in San Blas is “one of the most important winter habitats for birds in the Pacific, home to 80% of the Pacific migratory shore bird populations.” A paradise for bird enthusiasts, this ecoregion has the highest concentration of migratory birds and features over 250 species of birds, including the black-bellied tree duck, great blue heron, roseate spoonbill, and endemic birds, including the bumblebee hummingbird and the Mexican woodnymph. Take a small motorboat to ceruise through the mangroves to see the birds, crocodiles and turtles that live in the park.
Riviera Nayarit is home to a volunteer community devoted to their sea turtle release program that plants sea turtle nests on the beach for a safe hatching environment. When the baby sea turtles hatch and climb through the sand they automatically make their way to the ocean. When the volunteers think that one of nests may hatch, they place a ring around the nest area to contain the hatchlings. They then place them in a shady box until sunset when they will be safely released by volunteers and spectators. This program educates Mexican children and spectators about the negative effects of polluting and marine health. Trained volunteers patrol the beaches and relocate nests as necessary throughout the night.
Family Friendly Accommodations
Children of all ages will enjoy daily scheduled activities at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa. Family time comes easy with Play at Palladium with Raggs programming built around the Emmy award-winning television show about a group of colorful singing dogs. Families can dine on Raggs-shaped veggies and other sculpted foods during a fun Raggs-themed breakfast, or enjoy the lively 50-minute Raggs Pirate Show, a live show spectacular. The hotel’s age-tiered kids’ club provides entertainment for children through the ages of 17 at the Baby Club (ages one to three), the Mini Club (ages four to 12) and the Black and White Junior Club (ages 13 to 17). Parents can enjoy some much needed alone time relaxing by the pool or indulging their senses at the Spa & Wellness Center while their children participate in arts and crafts, make new friends at the indoor and outdoor game areas, frolic at the new kids’ Splash Pool and Waterpark, watch kid-friendly movies at the cinema or take a tour along the resort’s eco-walks and zoo to learn about the region’s flora and fauna.
Nestled between the Sierra Madre Mountains and the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is a great accommodation choice for families. Children are welcomed to the property with a cold glass of milk and tasty cookies. The youngest travelers will enjoy colorful alphabet bath sponges while teens take charge of family movie night using the hotel’s assorted DVD collection. Parents can rest easy with items to childproof their guest room, a complimentary baby care basket with sun cream and body cleansing gel and healthy snacks such as local fruits and pretzels served throughout the day. The Nunutzi Games Room, open to guests on a complimentary basis year round, features PlayStation consoles, Wii, Xbox 360, a dancing game, Guitar Hero, Kinect and iCADE (iPad arcade table). Bold guests can attempt flyboarding, which is a type of water jetpack the supplies momentum to send its occupants through the water and into the air. The complimentary and professionally supervised Kids For All Seasons program offers children a fun way to spend their days. Housed in a special building, the program’s facilities include a playroom and outdoor playground with a jungle gym. There are also numerous activities designed to take advantage of Punta Mita’s natural environment, including opportunities for children to make Mexican-style art, collect shells and even hike.
A stay at the five-star IBEROSTAR Playa Mita delivers an all-inclusive vacation perfect for families with children with any interest. While parents try their hand at a round of golf at the on-site Litibu Golf Course, designed by professional golfer Greg Norman, their children can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, Kids Splash Park, Lucy’s Kids Club (ages four through 12) or daily organized activities at the Teens Club. Families can learn new skills together as they scuba dive, kayak, windsurf and parasail on property. After a full day of exploration and adventure, families can opt to treat themselves to a 24-hour room service menu which includes a variety of delectable dishes and beverages.
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit offers unforgettable vacations for families to play in paradise. The Grand Velas Kids Club offers playful activities that inspire children to learn, grow and play through beach activities, arts and crafts, games, books and movies. Youngsters will enjoy a kid-friendly oasis to pursue their passions while grown-ups relax and soak up the sun. Outdoor adventures include building sand castles, kite flying, eco-shows, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, jet skiing, surfing, and sailing in the bay. Pancho, the monkey mascot, will help kids enjoy activities that foster creativity and natural adventure. There is also a recreational area where kids learn arts and crafts, language, and gastronomy, in addition to a scenic garden where they can discover nature and ecology. On Wednesday and Fridays, the property offers live shows with birds and sea lions where children can interact with these lovely creatures while learning and caring about wildlife and the environment.
Marival Resort & Suites in Nuevo Vallarta has just completed renovations of the resort and offers one, two and three bedroom suites so that the whole family can stay together. The resort was designed for family fun and includes pools with waterslides, playground, evening shows, games and toys, bicycles, Sundae Bar, pizza all day, sandbox and much more. Pre-teens and teens will particularly enjoy water polo, beach volley ball, basketball courts, a games room with a great variety of video games, table tennis, table soccer, tennis courts, as well as non-motorized water sports like windsurfing, boogie boarding and kayaking.
Riviera Nayarit, like most of Mexico, is blessed with a wealth of local fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood so every member of the family is sure to find something they like, and it is probably healthy!
If you are driving along the coast, be sure to visit the Candy Cooperative, located between San Pancho and Chacala. Local farmers make dozens of kinds of fresh and delicious candies from tropical fruits that are displayed in this colorful open-air roadside market.
For more information on Riviera Nayarit, visit www.rivieranayarit.com.