There are so many beautiful beaches in Nayarit Mexico. Whether you are looking for long sandy beaches, a peaceful place to relax, or somewhere to swim in the not-often-calm waters of the Pacific Ocean, there is a patch of sand for you along the Nayarit coastline.
As Puerto Vallarta becomes more popular and the city grows beyond it’s borders, many people are looking elsewhere for a relaxing, slightly less touristed destination in Mexico.
While there are tons of beaches in Puerto Vallarta to enjoy if you are willing to hop on the bus and travel outside of the Romantic Zone, there is more to this region of Mexico than just Puerto Vallarta.
Head north from the Puerto Vallarta airport just a few miles and you’ll arrive to the Riviera Nayarit. There are all inclusive resorts, boutique hotels with rooftop yoga, and tiny little apartment rentals in dusty towns where only Spanish is spoken.
No matter what type of vacation you are looking for, you’ll be able to find it along the beaches in Nayarit.
Where is Nayarit?
Nayarit is a state in Mexico located to the north of the state of Jalisco. You may be more familiar with Jalisco, which is home to Puerto Vallarta, Barra de Navidad, Guadalajara, Tequila, and Ajijic to name a few popular tourist spots.
Nayarit doesn’t have quite as many famous towns within it, but that is slowly changing. The most popular town in Nayarit is the hippy surf town of Sayulita.
The closest international airport for getting to most of the Nayarit beaches on this list is the Puerto Vallarta Airport.
If you are visiting some of the beaches in Nayarit that are closer to the northern border, it may be better for you to fly into the Mazatlan airport.
Either way, renting a car is the best way to get to most of the beaches and towns in Nayarit. It will allow you to explore further afield and get to some of the more out of the way beaches.
Best Beaches in Nayarit
This list is a mixture of tiny little patches of sand where you will have to bring all of your necessities for the day alongside big beach towns with all of the amenities you may need.
Some of these beaches are easily reached as day trip from Puerto Vallarta. Others are further away and are worth staying a while.
Bucerías is one of the closest beaches in Nayarit to Puerto Vallarta. It only takes about 15 minutes to get from the Puerto Vallarta airport to the center of Bucerías.
There is a lot to love about this stunning beach in Nayarit, but the main reason is the 5-mile long stretch of sand. The beach here is long, wide, soft, and the perfect place to watch the sunset over the endless horizon.
It is a popular spot for snow birds and expats so you’ll find plenty of amenities like a private hospital with English-speaking staff, tons of hotels, and even a craft beer bar. There is also a huge selection of great restaurants in Bucerías to enjoy.
The town is split in two by Highway 200 with the beach side of the highway being a little bit more built up and expensive. If you want to stay in Bucerías on a budget, stay on the side of the 200 where there is a more local vibe and tons of affordable Airbnb options available.
2. Playa Palito Verde
Punta Mita is a very popular resort area in Nayarit. It is the vacation spot for the rich and famous with the golf courses and expensive all-inclusive mega resorts that will set you back several hundred dollars per night.
However, along this punta, or point, that sticks out from the mainland, you will also find some of the most pristine beaches in Nayarit. Playa Palito Verde is one of those.
There are quite a lot of beaches off of this strip of road that leads to the main town of Punta de Mita where you’ll find people in search of fantastic surf waves. That is what this area of Nayarit is best known for and if you love surfing, be sure to stop into town and ask the local surf schools where the best waves are that day.
But you don’t have to be a surfer to appreciate the calm and quiet Palito Verde Beach. It’s quite rocky in parts, especially when the tide is low. But there are also pieces of perfect white sand and a nice area for floating in the calm of the bay. I love coming here in the morning before too many people wake up and just sitting to watch the Bay of Banderas in front of me.
3. Playa la Lancha
A little bit further towards the tip of Punta Mita is Playa La Lancha, a stunny little cove that feels like what you might find if you searched “paradise” on Google.
It is a very popular beach during the winter months when the waves are ideal for catching a few waves. You’ll find the nearby surf school here if you want to rent a board.
However, when the tide is low and during the shoulder season, the water here is as calm as the Caribbean. The sand is golden and the views back over the Bay of Banderas are absolutely breathtaking.
If you come in October or November and there are no storms working their way towards the coast, this is one of the most serene places you can find. There is a little beach bar here where you can get some food, but it tends to only be open during peak season.
This little beach town in Nayarit no longer needs an introduction. It has been featured on the Bachelor in Paradise and even before that was a popular winter escape destination for Americans and Canadians.
It has grown enormously since 2020 as an expat enclave for young digital nomads looking for a cheap place to live by the beach. It’s not quite as cheap as it used to be, but if you love great food, want to learn to surf, or enjoy jungle beaches, then you’ll love Sayulita.
There are tons of amazing restaurants in Sayulita (although fewer local Mexican places each time I return). There are also a lot of fun things to do in Sayulita like hiking, horseback riding, surfing, and snorkeling.
5. San Pancho
San Pancho is without a doubt my favorite beach town in Nayarit.
It is what Sayulita must have been like 15 years ago. So get here before it changes too much.
For now, San Pancho is a sleepy little beach town with roughly cobbled streets that lead to a long, calm beach. There are a few restaurants, some fantastic street vendors selling freshly made ceviche, and only local grocery stores, no large chain stores in sight.
It’s nowhere near as popular as Sayulita, so coming for a day trip with a rental car is stress-free. There is ample parking and you’re never waiting for a table at any of the local restaurants, even during peak season.
There are a few small boutiques if you want to find cute clothes or bathing suits and a total lack of tacky souvenir shops selling t-shirts and shot glasses (not that I haven’t partaken in purchasing these things in the past in other towns in Mexico!).
It’s a small town with only a few hotels and Airbnbs, so if you want to stay during peak season for a reasonable price, you’ll definitely want to book a few months in advance.
6. Lo de Marcos
Only a few miles up the road from San Pancho is the even smaller, quieter, and dustier Lo de Marcos. If you want to escape from all of the foreign tourists and experience a small beach town where Mexican families come for a day of swimming and eating at beachside restaurants, Lo de Marcos is the Nayarit beach town for you.
The beach in Lo de Marcos looks much the same as the San Pancho beach with a few houses and small hotels along the road behind it. The roads are in rough condition, but when I visited in December 2023, there was some construction going on to fix them.
There are some absolutely top-notch places to grab fresh seafood, but nothing beats Ceviche Doña Martha. A little unassuming stand on the edge of town, Doña Martha and her daughter serve up some of the best ceviche I’ve had in the Riviera Nayarit/Puerto Vallarta area. They have a few different varieties each day, putting a unique twist on traditional recipes.
7. Rincon de Guayabitos
Rincon de Guayabitos marks the end of the Riviera Nayarit to the north. It is about an hour away from Bucerías, so still a relatively easy drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport if you wanted to use this beach town as your base in Nayarit.
There are two towns right next to each other here split by an arroyo, Rincon de Guayabitos and La Peñita de Jaltemba. You can base yourself in either of these towns which are both full of local restaurants and ceviche stands, cute affordable hotels, and a few chain supermarkets.
Don’t come here expecting the luxury of the resorts in Punta Mita or Puerto Vallarta, but you will still find some cute B&Bs and stylish boutique hotels. The best part is that you can stay at the “nicer” hotels here for a fraction of what you would pay in the bigger resort areas. Hotels like the Beachfront Villa with a pool and beach access come in at under $100 USD per night.
The beach in Rincon de Guayabitos is definitely one of the best beaches in Nayarit. It is long, the sand is soft, and the water is calm for swimming. It’s a popular spot for families, but still so much quieter than many of the other beaches to the south.
8. Playa el Naranjo
Playa el Naranjo is where you’ll want to spend most of your time if you base yourself in the above mentioned region of Rincon de Guayabitos or La Peñita. Just to the north of both towns, this incredible beach is several miles long.
I love coming here to walk along the soft sand. It’s usually quite swimmable, unless there is a rough patch of waves coming through, which tends to happen in the winter months when swells are a little bigger in this region of Mexico.
9. San Blas
One of the most northern beach towns in Nayarit, San Blas is closer to the border with Sinaloa than it is to Jalisco. If you want to visit San Blas, its still closer to fly into Puerto Vallarta Airport than it is to Mazatlan. It takes two and a half hours from Puerto Vallarta and just over 3 hours from Mazatlan, so depending on how you want to spend your trip, you can choose either one.
San Blas is a place to come not only for the beaches, but also for the bird life and the history. It was one of the most important ports in Mexico during the colonial period and remains one of the most wonderful places to see migratory birds.
As you drive north from Puerto Vallarta, you’ll see a huge change in scenery as you drive through jungle, mountains, and wetlands before arriving in San Blas.
While you’re here you can take boat trips out to Isla Isabel to see different birds and spot migrating whales while you’re out there as well. You can even swim with whale sharks here between May and September.
Just about the last strip of sand in Nayarit before you hit Sinaloa, Playa Novillero is a stunning stretch of sand in a sleepy beach town where there isn’t much more than a few shops, small local hotels, and restaurants on the beach which also offer chairs and umbrellas to keep you in the shade while you enjoy their ice cold Pacificos.
This is the beach for those that are really looking to get off of the tourist trail. You may want to practice your Spanish before heading here, because while they are still plenty used to tourists in Novillero, the English-speaking tourists are few and far between.