Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit and Riviera Maya Explained

Mexico offers more than 600 miles of white sand beaches along its coastlines. This includes both the Pacific (Baja California to Acapulco, Guerrero) and the Atlantic (Holbox, Cancun to Mahahual). Nestled in between these major posts are rivieras or prime areas that Mexico has considered gems and goes to great lengths to promote as global destinations.

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The rivieras of Mexico are prime beach areas where the waters are pristine, the sand perfect and the tropical weather excellent year round. In Mexico, there are officially two recognized rivieras. One of which is Riviera Nayarit on the Pacific side and the other, Riviera Maya on the Atlantic side.

Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit is a nearly 200-mile stretch of prime beach in the Mexican state of Nuevo Vallarta. Beginning at the town of San Blas in the state of Nayarit, Riviera Nayarit runs south to the Rio Ameca where it meets with Banderas Bay in the state of Nuevo Vallarta. This is the same bay that is home to Puerto Vallarta.

Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit is located about 10 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport and 40 minutes west of the Tepic International Airport. It includes the towns of Chacal Bay, Chacalilla, Aticama, Bucerías, Sayulita, San Francisco, Lo de Marcos, Los Ayala, Rincón de Guayabitos and Peñita de Jaltemba.

Along the region, visitors are opened to a world of sightseeing that includes ancient ruins, rugged mountains and eco-tours as well as prime areas for surfing all combined with dozens of luxury hotels. For bird watching enthusiasts, San Blas is known as one of the best birding locations in Mexico. It also offers history, with its naval port dating back to 1531.

This region was originally home to the Tecoxquin (Tequectequi) native culture dating from approximately 2000 BC to 2300 BCE, and remains heavily influenced by them today.

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Riviera Maya

The region of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is located in the state of Quintana Roo and extends 120 kilometers along the coast in the center of the eastern Yucatan Peninsula. The once sleepy fishing village of Playa del Carmen remains the heart of Riviera Maya, providing tourists with a unique holiday experience from that of surrounding areas such as Cozumel or Cancun.

The district known as Riviera Maya historically began with Playa del Carmen, which until 1999 was called the Cancun-Tulum Corridor. It was in 1999 that the then municipal president of Solidaridad termed the region, centering Playa del Carmen as the heart and extending the Riviera Maya district some 40 kilometers inland toward the border of the Yucatan state.

Since then, Riviera Maya has been extended to include neighboring places such as Puerto Morelos and Tulum, which are now promoted as part of the Riviera Maya corridor but, contrary to popular belief, does not include places such as Cozumel or Cancun, which is approximately 68 kilometers away. 

Over the years, Riviera Maya has become popular for its large-scale all-inclusive hotel resorts mixed with historical tourism and boutique shopping. Aside from pristine beaches and incredible weather, the region has also become well-known for luxury travel entities and fine-dining options.

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Tourists from around the globe arrive to the area for its rich Maya history and aquatic activities. Being within close proximity to the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second longest in the world, the waters of Riviera Maya are bursting with tropical life, making it ideal for scuba and snorkeling not to mention seasonal activities such as swimming with whale sharks. The abundance of cenotes also separate Cancun and Riviera Maya with the region having more than 130 freshwater options alone.