Riviera Nayarit’s Chic Boutique Hotels
While mega all-inclusive brand names tend to ring a more familiar bell, it’s the hidden gem boutique properties that are trending among savvy travelers craving a destination’s authentic flavor. Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit is no exception.
Sprawling along 192 miles of Mexico’s Pacific coast, Riviera Nayarit is graced with a bevy of quaint B&Bs, chic boutique hotels and eco-tourism inns where travelers feel like they’re staying in an amigo’s casa. In July, TravelPulse was fortunate to visit several of these “home away from home” jewels.
With a modest 1,000-person population, San Pancho — aka San Francisco — is a small traditional beach town located on Mexico’s west coast 30 miles north of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR). Local fishermen haul in red snapper (huachinango), mahimahi, Dorado, oysters and lobster — meaning that the catch of the day is uber fresh and varied.
Hotel Cielo Rojo
Opening in 2005 in the town’s heart, Hotel Cielo Rojo received its Mexico Boutique Hotels status just this month, following the affiliation’s stringent five-year certification process.
During her extensive travel throughout Mexico, owner Mara Gisela Maraz accumulated a collection of artwork and accessories that adorn the three-floor property’s corridors, reception area, Bistro Organico and nine guest rooms.
Arturo Vargas Torres, the hotel’s general manager, noted that Cielo Rojo is an especially good fit for couples and families seeking a relaxing beach experience with a low-key local vibe.
In addition to complimentary breakfast at the onsite Bistro Organico, the hotel will arrange acupressure, reflexology and Swedish massage treatments in the privacy of guest rooms.
Bistro Organico has garnered rave reviews for its locally inspired and sourced dishes that nod to the area’s abundant fresh seafood and indigenous produce. The bar features an impressive collection of artisanal tequila, wine and cocktails.
Our recommendation is the Fuc-tonic, a surprising concoction of coconut water, lime, turmeric and ginger root that jump starts taste buds at breakfast — or any other time it’s enjoyed. The eatery’s mantra of “Food is fuel, food is medicine and food is love” pays off via a menu prepared with 85 percent local ingredients and 70 percent organic ingredients presented with “passion and care for all ingredients.”
Both single and double guest rooms are available, as well as suites that sleep two adults and two children. All are air-conditioned and feature free Wi-Fi. Rates are from $130 USD nightly and include breakfast. For details and bookings, visit
Located atop a hill in the charming fishing town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Villa Bella’s privileged position allows guests to enjoy a stunning panorama of Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madre Mountains. Six comfortable villa-style suites appeal with tasteful Mexican decor and exclusive amenities. A seventh unit will be unveiled in December.
Owner Elsa Alba said that she expanded her personal home because both she and her husband had worked in larger area hotels and decided to have a vacation property of their own. “What is so special about La Cruz is that it’s such a gastro destination that maintains its own flavors,” said Elsa. “You’ll hear live music almost every night of the week and you’ll find so many different ceviches from spot to another. La Cruz really keeps its own flavors intact.”
This pet-friendly paradise, with its colorful garden areas, blends traditional Mexican colors with hacienda-style features. All accommodations include a private balcony, air conditioning, ceiling fan, TV with remote and private bath with shower. Kitchenettes are equipped with a stove, refrigerator, mini-bar, microwave and coffee maker.
Alba noted that her booking is from five to seven nights, while many Canadians will book for up to three months.
A complimentary made-to-order breakfast is served between 9 and 11:30 a.m. on the outdoor terrace that looks out to an infinity lap swimming pool. Bar service is available in the lobby and swimming pool from noon to 4 p.m. Other touches include twice-weekly housekeeping service, Wi-Fi in common areas, lobby with magazine and board games, and spa treatments arranged upon request.
Casitas del Mar
In Bucerias, the gated retreat of Casitas del Mar exemplifies the slower paced attitude you’d expect of a small fishing village. When ex-pats Rick and Robin Perez purchased their one-acre lot in 1992, they recognized that Bucerias was short on casita-style accommodations. “It was more about private homes, apartments and a few smaller hotels,” said Rick. “Once we opened in 1995, we became a nice option for those wanting to stay longer and have homey comforts.”
All casitas are individually decorated with traditional furnishings, artwork and pottery the couple collected while traveling throughout Mexico. Spacious bedrooms feature an air conditioner and ceiling fan, with living and dining areas cooled by ceiling fans.
Casitas are decked out with all the essentials for “at home” dining — pots, pans, cooking utensils, silverware, dinnerware, full-size refrigerator, oven with range, microwave, blender and ample bottled water. And while there’s a dining table with chairs inside, each cottage has a second set for al fresco grazing on its private patio.
As a common gathering area within the cozy enclave, the well-manicured courtyard is filled with mango trees, coconut palms and colorful hibiscus shrubs. At its centerpiece is a cobalt-blue tiled mosaic swimming pool and gazebo with shaded seating, barbecue grill, wet bar and bathrooms. “What’s really nice is how guests who don’t know each other end up sharing potluck dinners in the courtyard,” said Perez.
Looking directly across the cobblestone Calle Lazaro Cardenas, it’s nothing but palms, gently breaking waves and an occasional stand up paddler off the uncluttered beach. The five-mile stretch is a magnet for swimming, bodysurfing, boogie boarding and surfing.
For those who prefer to avoid cooking, coffee shops and casual eateries are scattered along Lazaro Cardenas. That roster expands exponentially when heading a few blocks further toward the colorful market and Main Square that has recently been enhanced with freshly paved streets.
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