Most gay travelers are well aware of Mexico?s most lively hotspot, Puerto Vallarta. But if you are looking for a getaway that actually gets you away (albeit not too far) from the flash and hustle of trendy bars and nightclubs, then Riviera Nayarit is for you. Puerto Vallarta?s refined cousin to the north -- composed of the Nuevo Vallarta, Punta Mita, Sayulita, and San Blas areas -- offers tourists a great mix of breathtaking beaches, outdoor adventure and romantic settings.
And like its Caribbean coast cousin, the Mayan Riviera, resorts here are actively seeking the pink and fine-tuning amenities and experiences for the gay market.
"Riviera Nayarit is a destination that welcomes everyone," noted Richard Zarkin, public relations manager for Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is also gay. "We share Banderas Bay and the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport with Puerto Vallarta, so you have the proximity of Mexico?s top gay destination, but we also offer an entire coast lined with luxury hotels, pristine nature and rich, friendly Mexican culture.
Teh?ima Wellness Resort & Spa's Infinity Pool
The southern entry point to the state of Riviera Nayarit boasts three miles of beaches perfect for all sorts of water sports, aquatic adventures and whale watching, during the December 15 ? April 15 humpback migration and mating season. It is also home to great shopping, fine dining and countless top-notch resorts.
One of the newest is the Tah?ima Wellness Resort and Spa. This all-inclusive resort indulges your mind, body and spirit with daily yoga and Pilates classes, whirlpools and infinity pools, a state-of-the-art gym and gourmet dining options tailored to guests? dietary needs. For couples traveling together, upgrade to one of the two-bedroom suites that comes with a full living room, BOSCH-equipped kitchenette and (most importantly!) a private plunge pool.
Tamai Pool Cabana, Four Seasons Punta Mita
Located about 30 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport, Punta Mita is an upscale gated community that boasts tony, multi-million dollar oceanfront real estate and 5-Diamond resorts.
If budget is not a consideration, treat yourself to a stay at the Four Seasons Punta Mita which offers all of the grand gestures you would expect from this luxury chain: a well equipped fitness center, full-service spa, two top-rated golf courses and world-class restaurants.
However, it really is the attention to small details that makes this resort spectacular. Unexpected amenities include the oversized bathtub with candles and L?Occitane bath salts in every room. At the well-stocked cabanas at the Tamai adult-oriented pool complex, valets come by hourly with indulgent treats like foot massages, H?agen Dazs ice cream or a sunglass shine.
Sayulita may be only a 35-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta, but in many respects it seems worlds away. This laidback fishing village is a must for travelers seeking superb beaches and fantastic surfing (not to mention hot surfers) as well as its array of art galleries and boutiques.
The colorfulGypsy Galleria is a great stop for great Mexican gifts and novelties that include everything from handcrafted decorative items to apparel and lucha libre masks. At the nearby Gallery Tanana, watch Huichol artisans create traditional works of beaded jewelry and other fine art collectibles. Sales from the store help to fund the Huichol Center, a non-profit project that helps maintain this indigenous people?s culture and heritage.
For a truly unique, holistic experience stay at the Haramara Retreat. A favorite of Love Story actress Ali McGraw, the Haramara offers its guests a peaceful and relaxing stay in one of the 15 private open-air palapa cabanas, each built seamlessly into the surrounding landscape. And since there is no electricity, candlelight will set the mood as you watch the sun set over your cabana?s ocean or jungle view. Daily yoga and meditation classes with world-class instructors are offered as well as incredible vegetarian or seafood meals in the spacious open-air restaurant.
Wildlife in the La Tovara lagoon
Rent a jeep and drive a few hours north through the lush, verdant countryside to this charming colonial town that has been immortalized in a poem by Henry W. Longfellow as well as the Mexican pop song, "El Muelle de San Blas." (Along the way, be sure to stop at one of the many fruit stands dotting the highway for some refreshing coconut water or delectable Mexican confections that also make great souvenirs.)
While in San Blas, enjoy a romantic panga ride through the La Tovara mangroves at sunset to view an incredibly rich array of indigenous birds (over 445 local species), crocodiles, butterflies, turtles and other wildlife. Don't forget to generously coat yourself in bug spray, however, as mosquitoes love the lagoon as much as they love you.
End your day with a stop in toEl Delfin restaurant at the Hotel Garza Canela for Pacific Mexican cuisine from Executive Chef and owner, Betty Vázquez. Although all of her offerings are great, Vázquez's talent really shines through her deft handling of fresh seafood dishes like the bright and spicy ceviche with orange and jalapeño or the fish soup with coconut milk and chiles.
Said Vázquez of San Blas, and of Riviera Nayarit as a whole: "The people who live here are relaxed and very open-minded. We see guests return year after year because of this. They are like our family."