Are you ready to travel again? Are you dreaming of a destination for the whole family to enjoy? Well, Riviera Nayarit is the perfect place to visit with kids for a relaxing vacation, especially after the year we all had. We recently traveled there and it was exactly what our family needed. It was quick (about 2hr. 45 mins. flight from Los Angeles) and easy to get to…just a short drive from the airport for some Sun, Sand and Sea.
Riviera Nayarit is one of Mexico’s youngest destinations, located about 10 minutes North from Puerto Vallarta International Airport. No, its not part of Puerto Vallarta. Riviera Nayarit is in its own class. Known as Mexico’s Pacific Treasure, there’s 200 miles of beautiful beaches with golden sand and rugged mountains. I kid you not, the water and sand had a gold shimmer! It was magical.
You need a valid passport and the correct entry forms. The Mexico entry form can be found online for you to print and fill out at home, BUT some airlines hand them out during the flight (check with them). Each person needs their own form. **Be sure to bring a pen.** Keep these documents safe with your passport – there’s two parts: the Entry form & the Exit form – when you enter Mexico, the immigration officer takes the Entry form and you keep the Exit form till you leave. Do not lose it. When traveling with kids through the airport, I like to keep all the important documents in a Fanny Pack for safe keeping and easy access!
**Some airlines no longer have individual seatback screens for in-flight entertainment. You’ll need to bring your own device & headset and download their app (before your flight) for the airline’s entrainment catalog. If you want a pleasant flight…don’t forget the necessary devices!**
Traveling During Covid-19
Traveling to Riviera Nayarit with Kids
If the thought of traveling with kids is giving you anxiety, I get it. Traveling with my boys is no walk in the park. But I promise you, it’s so worth it. The key for me is to keep expectations low and to come prepared. Once your trip is planned out…sit back and relax.
Where we stayed.
During our 5 day trip we stayed at the beautiful, all-inclusive Occidental Nuevo Vallarta Resort. It’s located about 25 minutes away from Puerto Vallarta International Airport. I find that all-inclusive stays make a vacation easier for our family. I didn’t have to worry about food for the kids…and that’s a vacation for me!
- Welcome cocktail.
- Breakfast and dinner in a total of 5 restaurants.
- National drinks (soft drinks, juices, beer, house wine, cocktails and coffee).
- Currency exchange in the reception area.
I highly recommend upgrading your stay to the Royal Level experience – for exclusive amenities and personalized services. The perks include a separate pool (with a kiddie pool + hot tub + bar), a private area on the beach with Balinese style beds (this was my favorite), and more!
Did I mention this hotel is steps away from the beach?! Yea that’s where we spent most of our time at…the water was perfect and we kept finding sand dollars! I thought I was standing on small kids but when my boys told me to pick them up, they were sand dollars.
The hotel offers a great selection of food options from buffets to sit-down restaurants. The restaurants do require a reservation for dinner (you make it the morning of – check with the concierge) and a there’s a dress code: casual to formal and men can’t wear shorts, sandals or sleeveless T-shirts.
We really enjoyed all the services, even though the Kid’s Club wasn’t open due to COVID. On our last night we experienced their Live Entertainment and it was a lot of fun watching cultural dances of different parts of Mexico! Watch a snippet of our hotel stay, on Instagram.
*Tip: Bring your tumblers to keep your drinks cold. I noticed a lot of guests drinking their cocktails in tumblers while ours were getting warm quickly in the heat! Next time I’m bringing ours for sure.*
Be sure to TIP, even though it may say “tip” is included in your all-inclusive stay. It’s been a rough year.
What to bring.
The weather in Riviera Nayarit gets hot and humid, so be prepared. Here’s a break down of what we brought:
- Medicine: pain relivers, motion sickness pills, thermometer (so you know the moment someone’s temperature starts to rise), travel size first aid kit.
- Sunblock – I kept a travel size one in my purse and the regular sized bottle in our luggage.
- Bug repellant – always bring this, especially if you’re sensitive like mel. I forget to spray myself and I got attacked.
- Toiletries – I recently purchased this to bring our favorites products if I couldn’t find a travel size. It saved me a lot of room instead of packing up all the regular sized bottles.
*You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces or less per item.*
Light weight/breathable clothing – shorts, dresses, tanks, lots of underwear, shirts, and I always pack one pair of jeans for each of us…you never know if you’ll need them.
Light weight jackets – for the flight and it did get cold in one of the restaurants with the AC blasting above us.
Men’s Chino Pants – since the hotel had a dress code, Danny brought a couple of chino pants to wear.
Swimsuit with Tummy Control – for me. This was a great purchase…the fit was great and I felt so comfortable wearing it.
Rash guards for the family – if you’re planning on taking surf lessons.
Shoes (keep it light and comfortable) – sneakers, sandals, flip-flops
Travel Organizer Cubes – to keep all the clothes compact and organized.
My favorite hat – I get so many compliments!
Family friendly activities.
While our stay at Occidental Nuevo Vallarta was fun and relaxing, we ventured out to explore the nearby towns of San Francisco and Sayulita on Day 3. It was about a 40 min drive North from the resort. The best way to get there, especially if you’re traveling with a family is to rent a car (there’s a rental place near the hotel). But if you’re not comfortable, there are tours available, check with the concierge.
San Francisco, is a town that locals call “San Pancho.” The narrow cobblestone streets gives this town a charming and old-world vibe.
While we were there, we had an amazing breakfast at Bistro Orgánico, inside Hotel Cielo Rojo – a charming boutique hotel. Danny and I got to chat with Gisela Marin, the owner, who changed her career in Fashion and moved to San Pancho from Los Angeles in 2005 to open the hotel. It all happened because she was intrigued when she saw a sign that read, “San Francisco.”
Bistro Orgánico is a plant & sea-based restaurant, serving foods made with organic ingredients from local farms. Think farm-to-table.
Entreamigos is a community center that’s open to the public for free. If you want to experience the life and culture of the region, I highly recommend visiting. While the kids got to listen to storytime in the garden and do a fun origami craft, Danny and I got to tour the facility to learn more about their community efforts. The work they’re doing is incredible and inspiring. They rely on donations, so please consider donating and shopping at The Entreamigos Gallery, you’ll find a collection of handmade and one-of-a-kind gift items made at their Eco-Design workshops. The Gallery also sells the products made by our Adult and Youth Entrepreneurs. We kids picked out presents for their teachers there!
We ended our day in beautiful Sayulita. It’s a laid back town filled with shops, galleries, and restaurants. It’s also a favorite spot for surfers…and that’s what we did there! We learned how to surf at Lunazul Surf School.
The water was warm and perfect for beginners. The waves were about 2-3 feet. Ronan, my 6 year-old doesn’t know how to swim BUT he knows how to surf now thanks to our amazing (and patient) instructor. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, this is definitely the place to try! Lunazul Surf School has a storefront with a changing room and there’s a locker to keep your belongings safe.
*Bring: swimsuits, long-sleeve rash guards, waterproof sunblock, water bottles, towels (borrow them from your hotel), change of clothes, and if you plan on taking photos, bring a waterproof case like this! Don’t forget to tip.*
Surfing definitely worked up an appetite for us! We ate a late lunch at Don Pedros with an ocean view. The food was incredible and so were the drinks. It’s located right across from Lunazul Surf School – eat after you surf…not before.
Definitely go for a walk around the village to shop, eat local foods and to take a photo underneath the flags! Watch a snippet of our day in San Francisco and Sayulita, here!
On Day 4 we drove 15 mins away for our hotel to check out Planeta Cacao. Chocolate lovers and history buffs are gonna love this place as much as we did! We did the Chocolate guided tour (I highly recommend this tour for the ultimate experience) for a history lesson of cocoa and to learn how chocolate is made in the traditional way. It was a real hands-on experience that we’ll never forget. For a snippet of our visit, check it on here!
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Disclosure: This trip was graciously hosted by https://www.rivieranayarit.com. All opinions are my own.This post may contain affiliated links, meaning I may receive a small commission for purchases made through the links on this site, at no cost to you. Thank you for your support!