Also known as San Francisco

Savour the culture along Riviera Nayarit

On our way to the tiny beach town of San Pancho on the Pacific Coast of Mexico in Nayarit state, we saw a horse being transported in the back of a small pickup truck. As if that wasn’t strange enough, the horse appeared to be dancing to music that was blaring from a portable stereo inside the vehicle.

On our way to the tiny beach town of San Pancho on the Pacific Coast of Mexico in Nayarit state, we saw a horse being transported in the back of a small pickup truck. As if that wasn’t strange enough, the horse appeared to be dancing to music that was blaring from a portable stereo inside the vehicle.

After driving behind this talented animal for several minutes, our tour guide explained that in Mexico, some people train their horses to dance to music and put them on show at various festivals and events. Perhaps the horse we saw was training for Dancing with the Stars, because he was good.

If you want to get a feel for the real culture of a place, sometimes you have to go to the backwoods stops and see the quirky stuff, but in Mexico, that can be a little challenging these days. High levels of organized crime and urban violence in some

areas of the country have made travellers nervous, but it’s important to note that most major tourist destinations have not been affected.

The coastal area of Southern Nayarit from Nuevo Vallarta to La Peñita de Jaltemba remains relatively safe and is a fun region to explore if you want to go a little off the beaten path.


Often described as “the Puerto Vallarta of 25 years ago,” this little fishing village has a wonderful main square surrounded by cobblestone streets and tiny shops.

The shopping market is excellent and prices are much lower than in downtown Puerto Vallarta. There are also a good number of excellent seafood restaurants.

Each January, the village holds an annual festival celebrating the “Virgen de la Paz” which includes a ceremony blessing the fishing fleet.


Surfers first discovered Sayulita in the late 1960s and today it is an internationally recognized surfing destination.

The village has an eclectic quality about it and seems to be part bohemian art colony and part expat hippie hangout.

There are also some great art galleries and restaurants to explore, but make sure you don’t miss the Huichol Indian crafts on display in the plaza located in the heart of the village.

San Pancho

Also known as San Francisco, this Mexican village is nestled between the jungle area of the Sierra Madre Mountains and a pristine coastal beach area.

The village has a famous polo club that operates between November and May.

There are several small hotels, B&Bs, and restaurants in this thriving expat community.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Those travelling to Riviera Nayarit by boat will be impressed by the elegant new marina in La Cruz that can accommodate yachts up to 120 metres in length.

This traditional fishing village is rapidly growing and has a variety of restaurants and shops.

The newest and best of the bunch is a restaurant called Sandzibar (, which is operated by chef Bernhard Guth a well-known chef in the area.

Where to stay

There are plenty of great accommodation options in Riviera Nayarit. We stayed in a Royal Club room at the Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta, which is conveniently located about 10 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. From there we travelled on several daytrips along the coastal area of southern Nayarit.

The 270-roomOccidental resort recently underwent a complete renovation that transformed it from a 3.5-star Allegro category to a 4.5-star Grand with a Royal Club section. “One of the advantages we have always had is the ideal location on one of the best beaches in Riviera Nayarit, but now we also have one of the finest accommodations in the region,” said general manager Jesus Aguirre. “This is basically a brand new resort and we’re really proud of the transformation that has taken place.”

There is a spring and summer special at the Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta with room rates at up to 40 per cent off and the first child staying for free. In May, all-inclusive rates with the special for two adults and one child start at $33 per night per person for a standard room for a one-week stay. Air and hotel packages are also available with several tour operators. For reservations or information, visit: or call 1-800-858-2258.

Travel safe

More than 1.5 million Canadians travel to Mexico each year — the vast majority without incident. Whether you are travelling to Mexico or another destination, there are things you can do to ensure your safety.

•Always check the Canadian Consular Affairs website ( to find the latest warnings, entry requirements and travel recommendations for the destination you are planning to visit. You should also consider using their online registration service for Canadians travelling or living abroad. The service is provided so that Canadians can be contacted in emergency situations such as natural disasters or civil unrest or to inform travelers of family emergencies at home.

• Avoid travel to regions of a country that have been flagged by Consular Affairs as being particularly dangerous. If there is an official warning against travel to a particular destination or area, your travel insurance may not cover you if you go there and experience a problem. Note: The current travel warning for Mexico advises against travel to the northern Mexican states — especially in border areas and notes that road travel should be particularly avoided in these areas. Tourist areas like Riviera Nayarit and Riviera Maya are not included in the official warning.

• Avoid risky behaviour and use common sense to minimize your risk of being a target for crime.

• Use extra caution if you travel outside tourist areas and avoid road travel at night if possible (You never know when you might come across a horse in the back of a pickup truck that may or may not have functional headlights.)

More info: For more information about travelling to Riviera Nayarit, visit the official Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website at:

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.

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