Many travelers have been in the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. Its beaches and rich cultural history make it one of the top destinations in the country. But what a lot of folks don’t know about is the Riviera Nayarit itself. It’s just 10 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport but then comes a mostly unknown corridor that stretches nearly 190 miles. And that’s where the smart travelers see the real western part of the country. Here are some of my hidden gems of Vallarta Nayarit.
El Salado Estuary
The El Salado Estuary is a 418 acre urban sanctuary, and it’s right in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone. The estuary is home to over 100 species of birds, fish, fiddler and mouthless crabs. It’s also home to dozens of species of amphibians and reptiles, including iguanas and crocodiles, which can often be spotted hiding out in the mangrove forests.
About half an hour from Puerto Vallarta, in the small town of El Tondoroque–you’ll find Planeta Cacao–a chocolate garden, founded by Laura Aguilar and Mina Ibira. Their mission is to share the cultural and symbolic importance of cacao, which has been grown in the area for over 1,000 years. But the history lesson is only part of why you’ll want to come here.
About twenty minutes outside of Puerto Vallarta, you’ll find yourself on the Jorullo Bridge. It’s 1,500 feet long and 500 feet above the Cuale River. What’s cool about this is that it’s the longest vehicle suspension bridge in the world!
Canopy River is an eco-park located in the Sierra Madre Mountains. The park was created by a group of local farmers who owned land in this part of the mountains, to provide job opportunities and income for the community.
It began as a small project with a single zip line. And today, there are a dozen zip lines, hiking and mule tours, rafting, and ATV tours, all led by local guides, many of whom grew up in the area.
Not only is it really fun, but it’s also a great way to experience the outdoors in this part of the country, while also helping the community, as you ride for miles and miles on the dirt trails through the mountains.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com