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Puerto Vallarta vs. Riviera Nayarit: A Guide to Two of Mexico's Coastal Gems

DESTINATION | Published on 25/07/2023
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When it comes to planning a dreamy beach getaway in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit emerge as two alluring destinations that offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural charm, and warm hospitality. However, if you're wondering which coastal paradise to choose for your vacation, comparing Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit across various aspects, including their location, safety, pricing, activities, and beaches, will help. Dive in and explore these captivating regions of Mexico.

Location: Mexico’s Majestic Pacific Coast

Both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit are located on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The two destinations, which are serviced by the same airport, can both be easily experienced on the same vacation. 

Where is Puerto Vallarta?

Puerto Vallarta Jalisco Mexico is located in the state of Jalisco about halfway down Mexico’s western coast. The destination sits nestled between Banderas Bay, one of the largest and deepest bays in Mexico, and the Sierra Madre mountains, which create the backdrop of the charming town.

Check out How to get to Puerto Vallarta - By Road, Plane and Cruise Ship.

Where is Riviera Nayarit?

Riviera Nayarit Mexico is one of the newer well-known vacation destinations in the country. As the popularity of Puerto Vallarta grew beyond its capacity, Nuevo Vallarta (now Nuevo Nayarit) to the north, became a seamless extension of the vacation destination. Quickly thereafter, the rest of Riviera Nayarit, which includes Bucerías, Punta Mita, Sayulita, San Pancho, and all the small towns leading north to San Blas, garnered their own share of fans.

Nowadays, Riviera Nayarit has become a popular tourist destination in its own right, with tourists proclaiming their preference for its stunning shores over that of its southern neighbor. 

Read Everything you Need to Know about Nuevo Vallarta (FAQs).

Safety: Unveiling the Tranquil Ambience of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

One of the foremost concerns for any traveler is safety, and while many ask “is Puerto Vallarta safe,” the truth is that both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit Mexico excel in this aspect. Puerto Vallarta Jalisco Mexico is known for its welcoming atmosphere and friendly locals. From the moment you arrive at the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport, you'll feel a sense of security and tranquility. 

Likewise, Riviera Nayarit Mexico, situated in the state of Nayarit, shares the same reputation for safety. With its pristine beaches and upscale resorts, Riviera Nayarit has built a reputation as a serene and secure destination. Whether you're strolling along the lively Malecon boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta or exploring the charming towns of Sayulita and Punta Mita in Riviera Nayarit, you can confidently embrace the laid-back coastal vibe of these regions.

Pricing: Unraveling the Affordability of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

When it comes to pricing, both Puerto Vallarta Jalisco Mexico and Riviera Nayarit offer a range of options to suit different budgets. Puerto Vallarta, being a more established tourist destination, provides a wide array of accommodations, from all-inclusive resorts to budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals. Additionally, the vibrant local food scene offers an abundance of affordable culinary delights.

Riviera Nayarit, on the other hand, boasts a mix of luxurious resorts and boutique hotels, providing a slightly more upscale experience. However, you can still find reasonably priced accommodations, particularly in the charming beach towns and all inclusive resorts along the coastline in Nuevo Nayarit. Exploring the local markets and dining at traditional eateries will offer a glimpse into the authentic flavors of the region without breaking the bank.

Activities: Embracing Adventure and Culture in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

Both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit present an extensive range of activities and attractions for every type of traveler. In Puerto Vallarta, adventure enthusiasts can indulge in activities like zip-lining through lush jungles, snorkeling in crystal-clear waters, or embarking on an ATV excursion. For a taste of Mexican culture, explore the vibrant Old Town, visit the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or immerse yourself in a traditional tequila tasting.

In Riviera Nayarit, the opportunities for adventure continue. From surfing the renowned breaks of Sayulita to embarking on a whale-watching tour in Banderas Bay, there's something for everyone. Explore the Marietas Islands, teeming with marine life and featuring a truly hidden beach. For a dose of culture, discover the ancient ruins of Altavista or indulge in a soothing spa treatment inspired by local traditions.

You may be interested in The Ultimate Guide to Sayulita Mexico - Food, Surfing, and Events.

Beaches: Unveiling the Coastal Charms of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

When it comes to beaches, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit boast stunning coastlines that will leave you in awe. Puerto Vallarta's Playa Los Muertos, with its golden sands and vibrant beachfront atmosphere, is a popular spot for sunbathing and water sports. Explore the secluded shores of Yelapa or venture to the tranquil beach town of Boca de Tomatlan for a laid-back beach experience.

Riviera Nayarit is renowned for its pristine and expansive beaches. Sayulita's Playa de los Muertos offers excellent surfing conditions, while Punta Mita's Playa Destiladeras invites relaxation and tranquility. For a touch of luxury, head to the exclusive beach clubs in Punta Mita, where you can unwind in style or hang on the expansive Nuevo Vallarta Beach where shallow waters and subtle waves make an excellent place for playing the day away.

Visit The Most Popular Tours in Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta or Riviera Nayarit?

Because these two coastal destinations are so close, they offer many of the same experiences. What really sets them apart is the number of people you’ll encounter on a daily basis, the quality, size, and availability of resorts, and the type of beaches you’ll find. 

As the older of the two destinations, Puerto Vallarta has gained immense popularity in the past few decades, which means you’ll find more crowds on the streets of downtown, at the nightclubs and restaurants, and on the beaches. The beaches of downtown Puerto Vallarta aren’t as expansive as they are in the north, but they are more easily accessible.

Because Puerto Vallarta is bordered by mountains, the resorts in town are much smaller and significantly older than the more modern all inclusive resorts of Nuevo Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit, which have room to spread out. For the same reason, the beaches to the north tend to be long stretches where you can easily walk for some time, and they are less crowded.

With that in mind, if you aren’t staying at one of the all inclusive resorts or dining at one of the restaurants, you may have a hard time finding access to some of the better beaches in Riviera Nayarit. 

Whether you choose Puerto Vallarta or Riviera Nayarit, you'll be greeted by warm hospitality, breathtaking scenery, and unforgettable experiences. While Puerto Vallarta showcases its vibrant city life and captivating history, Riviera Nayarit entices with its serene coastal charm and luxurious escapes. No matter which destination you ultimately decide on, both Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit will undoubtedly provide a slice of paradise to enhance your Mexican beach vacation.

Keep reading The Best Places to Go Snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta.

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