Riviera Nayarit with a Chill Vibe and Interesting Sites and Food

We returned to Mexico this March seeking a place to reenergize after our busy ski season in the US and Europe. We chose Nuevo Vallarta because the vibe is much more chill than in the hotel zone of Puerto Vallarta. While Mike liked the energy in PV, I just wanted to relax in a mellow place near the beach.

Nuevo Vallarta definitely fits the bill. But that doesn’t mean we spent all of our time sitting around the pool or taking long walks on the beach.

Exploring Riviera Nayarit

We read that Nuevo Vallarta had changed its name to Riviera Nayarit and surprisingly some of the signs have actually changed. While the condo complex that I picked is off the beaten path, there are plenty of services and people here.

There are a number of nice grocery stores a short drive away. We prefer the La Comer. There is also a La Comer in PV, near the Costco and the orthopedist. Closer to home, there are some nice casual restaurants with good food and plenty of street food if you want it. There is even a Walmart and a mall.

We have spent lots of time with the local optometrist and at the local hospital getting Covid tests for family and friends. Since our condo has a kitchen and a BBQ, we have cooked a few days each week.

Crocodile Sanctuary

A little research by one of our sons found a nearby El Cora crocodile sanctuary. Naturally, we had to go take a look. It turned out they rehabilitate various animals, birds, coati, but mostly crocodiles. They had both American and Mexican crocodiles. We took a tour with one of the biologists, so we got a lot of information about crocodiles. I was particularly interested to learn that crocodiles can live in seawater, brackish, and freshwater. Also, crocodiles have longer mouths than alligators, who have shorter rounder snouts. The preserve has animals that can’t be released back to the wild because of some permanent issues. They had a blind crocodile, a pelican with one eye, an old coati, and a wild pig, too.

Local Flea Market

Every Tuesday, there is a flea market behind the local hospital. I went once with friends and family and paid little attention to the prices. On my second visit with Mike, he pointed out that the flea market had “gringo” prices. I still bought some stuff there, but here’s an example. We had stopped several times to buy tamales on the street for 20 pesos each. At the flea market, they were 50 pesos each. We decided that since the flea market was in a touristy area so none of the prices were exceptional.

It was fun to go look anyway.


A little north of our condo is a small town called Bucerias. While they are building some new condos there, the town remains pretty rustic and local. There are some recommended restaurants that we have tried out there with interesting results, but more on that later.

Between our condo and Bucerias are a number of all-inclusive RIU hotels and a few timeshares. As a result, we see the wave runners, parasailers, and kite surfers most days going along in front of our condo. I am particularly intrigued by how fast the kite surfers go in the stiff afternoon winds we have here. Not something I’ll try even as interested I am.

Riviera Nayarit Food

Loma 42

This restaurant has a pretty eclectic mix of food. Their menu includes modern salads with pears, nuts, and goat cheese, as well as steaks and a variety of other dishes.

Riviera Grill

This restaurant is on the main beach road in Nuevo Vallarta. We had driven by this place nearly every day for a month but never stopped until our last week. It turned out that the little restaurant served Mexican food and really good margaritas, which were quite welcome the day we stopped by for a late lunch.

Ciao Steak and Pizza

Next door to the Riviera Grill is Ciao, an Italian and steak restaurant that we have been to a few times. In the evening Ciao has live music, which is a nice way to pass your dinner. Apparently, the owner has some farms as well, so at the front of the restaurant, the owner leaves any extra fruit or vegetables they may have. Twice now we have left with a small, round, very tasty pineapple.

Banana Bar

We pass this place nearly every time we go out because it is on the main road between the beach area and the main road into Puerto Vallarta. The evening we were there, some boomers were having a birthday party and old MTV videos were playing on a giant screen. They were having such a good time drinking and dancing around and my son thought it was hilarious. The food, drinks, and service were good too.

Karen’s Place

Is a nice beachside restaurant in Bucerias. We really like the atmosphere, almost on the sand, and the food is good. Aside from our own poolside bar and grill, it is the only beachside restaurant around that has good food. The menu is varied with shrimp, fish, and burgers. They do serve one traditional Mexican dish: a pepper stuffed with a meat mixture sweetened with raisins and almonds then covered in a white sauce with pomegranate seeds on top.

Pizza California

Some of our neighbors here at the condo recommended a place called Pizza California located in the less touristy part of Bucerias. We decided to check it out and it’s a good thing we went while it was light because I’m not sure we would have found it otherwise.

The restaurant consisted of a concrete slab, a worn-out awning, and some plastic tables and chairs. When we asked for a beer, which we saw on other tables, we were told they only served soda. Our neighbors neglected to tell us that it was a BYOB place so we ate our pizza with Diet Coke. The pizza was good and cheap, which Mike really liked. I wasn’t quite as sold, but we do know the way to save money is to eat like a local.


Right down the road from our condo is a good sushi restaurant. We heard about it from some of our guests and we have been there twice ourselves. One of the great things about this place is that we can walk there in about 25 minutes. So we get a nice dinner and all of our steps in too. While I do know that they import their fish, the quality and freshness are exceptional. I do recommend you stick to the beer or a lichee martini because the sake is really expensive.

Panchos Takos

This restaurant on the less-touristy side of Nuevo Vallarta had been recommended to us since the day we arrived. We kept going by during the day to see the eye doctor but they were usually closed. They don’t open until 4 pm. During our last week in town, we finally made it over there. We brought my nephew who is much more knowledgeable than we are about local tacos. Our plan was to sit and have a taco or two and then get more to bring back to my sister’s house.

We wound up sitting there for quite a while and each having three tacos. We then had to wait for the takeaway orders. By the time we got back with the food, I wasn’t hungry and my sister had already eaten. We loved the al pastor taco, their specialty. The meat is roasting on a large spit with a pineapple roasting at the top. The cooker and fire are fueled by wood and the meat is expertly cut by a chef who cuts a few thin slices of meat and a slice of the roasted pineapple. The entire operation takes him seconds to fill 3 tacos. Really good eats.

Riviera Nayarit is certainly on my shortlist of places to hang out and relax. Here are some nice shots of the local flora and a few gratuitous sunset shots.

Where do you like to chill out?

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