This article is from the January 2015 Issue of Forever Young

 2015 Jan Hidden Beach

If you think you’re done with Mexico, think again – and prepare to see, do, eat and learn things you’ve likely never imagined!

by AJ Williams

Mexico’s newest resort area, this state is located north of Jalisco (where you’ll find Puerto Vallarta), and while the two areas may share an airport, there’s a unique world awaiting you when you venture north of PV.

This area hugs a spectacular area of Mexico’s Pacific coastline, and there’s very little on or near the water you couldn’t do there!

Spend a day in Sayulita, a quaint town with shops & a magical square that comes alive each evening. During the daytime, however, it’s all about surfing! Have lunch at Don Pedros on the beach – the shrimp tacos are heavenly! Every level of surfing is there, and lessons are easy to find on the beach. Hippy-dippy surfers (or wannabes) rejoice! Sayulita even has live music on the beach – it’s unspoiled and special.

Want to dial back even more, San Francisco (San Pancho to the locals) is nearby too. An almost spiritual place, filled with solitude and reflection, you’ll find accommodations that are more modest & less expensive than the resort areas, but quaint, clean and all about the warm hospitality of the people who call this place home. Here it’s all about organic, sustainable, and really making a difference in the world. Stay at the Hotel Cielo Rojo, a fabulous little boutique hotel on a cobblestoned street where they offer local olive oil and cheeses, a house-brand Tequila, and local honey.

While in San Pancho, visit Entre Amigos, an incredible community centre started by Nicole Swedlow, a transplanted Californian who came for a vacation and never left - starting out with a small table on the street teaching local children crafts. That was in 2006. Since then she’s grown the centre into a model for how to change a community, change lives and change the world though education, sustainability, recycling and creating employment. The centre has attracted the attention of Gilles St. Coix, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, who has invested in a ‘circus production school’ for the town’s children. The Dalai Lama recognized Nicole as an ‘Unsung Hero for Compassion’ in 2014. Her vision single-handedly changed this community. Children have a library, activities and skills that help them see a brighter future, anchored in being kind to each other and the planet.

San Pancho and Sayulita are surrounded by lush jungles and unique species. The area is home to the ancient Huichol natives, a tribe who boasts being one of the few that survived into modern times. Their culture is deeply rooted in shamanism, folk medicine and native traditions. Spectacular artwork features bead work and weaving treatments that tell stories and carry deep meaning. In Sayulita, be sure to stop into Galeria Tanana and be prepared to marvel at the finest Huichol jewelry.

Nearby in Punta de Mita, you can dine at Tuna Blanca, voted for years one of the very top dining spots in all of Mexico. Start with the prawn and pumpkin cream soup – it’s been on the menu for 24 years for a reason! The Argentine steak is like silk, and then the desserts come on a surfboard! It’s a feast for all your senses! Not to be missed.

In nearby La Cruz, the top spot for gastronomy is Sandzibar – where Chef Jesus Vazquez always has a smile, and warm handshake (not to mention the amazing grilled Octopus!) You’ll unforgettably dine under the stars, on the shore of the Bay of Banderas.

While Riviera Nayarit has plenty to offer in the accommodation and culinary departments, make sure you get out & see the area too! We loved the Marine Safari with Punta Mita Expeditions – a half day excursion to the Marietas Islands – an ecological preserve where you’ll see rare, endangered species, like the blue-footed booby birds. Snorkel through an amazing tunnel to Hidden Beach – one of the great wonders of the area. Our guides, Omar and Gustavo were knowledgeable and fun!

Riviera Nayarit is a state of contrasts, a state of sensory awakenings, a state of natural beauty, and a state of endless culture and adventures to uncover. If you think you know Mexico, you may be quite surprised to spend some of your next vacation in this area. As they say, you really do need to Live it to Believe it!