Mexico’s Pacific coast destination of Riviera Nayarit draws in tourists for several reasons. There are endless outdoor activities, great beaches and plenty of new attractions on the horizon. One thing visitors might be pleasantly surprised by is the number of islands to explore during a visit to this destination. Here are a few to put on your radar for a future trip.
Located in the southern region of Riviera Nayarit, the Islas Marietas are two deserted twin islands that make for great day trips. On one of the islands is Playa de Nopalera, where travelers can swim in beautiful clear waters filled with colorful fish. On the other is a greater attraction: Hidden Beach, or Playa Escondida. Playa Escondida features an open crater in the middle of the beach, which is a fun spot to take photos. Snorkeling is also a safe and family-friendly activity that visitors to the islands can enjoy.
The Islas Marietas are accessible by tour. Travelers can take boat tours around and to the islands, sighting humpback whales and dolphins before heading to the beaches. Reservations for these tours are needed, as they limit the number of visitors to the islands in order to preserve their beauty.
Centrally located off the coast of Riviera Nayarit, Isla Coral is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with ample snorkeling, diving, swimming, beaching and other water activities. Isla Coral is named for its coral reefs that ring the island. Scuba divers and snorkelers can also try to find the golden statue of the Virgin Mary, which is located underwater near the reefs.
Travelers can book tours to this island from anywhere in Riviera Nayarit, making it an easy destination for a day trip. With such a diversity of marine life and water activities to enjoy, the island is popular with both tourists and locals.
Isla Isabel is located in the northern region of Riviera Nayarit, in San Blas. It’s a national park and is a great day trip destination for its ample activities. Due to the condition of the ocean, guests who take a tour out to the island cannot go back the same day, so camping is a must here. There are no toilets, so it truly offers visitors a “roughing-it” camping style.
Outdoor lovers can scuba and snorkel around the island, seeing animals like whale sharks, sea turtles and humpback whales or spend their time on land birdwatching for frigates and blue-footed boobies, watching the sea lions or just hiking around the island.
In the northern part of Riviera Nayarit is an island located just 15 minutes away by boat. Isla Mexcaltitán is a national historic site for its ancient history and unique way of life. Many of the island’s inhabitants fish for shrimp off the coast. While the island itself floods during the rainy season, people use boats to travel through its streets. That’s why the island has been dubbed “the Mexican Venice.”
Isla Mexcaltitán has a population of 800, but this small island is a great day trip destination. According to historians, this was the island the Mexican people originally left before they founded Tenochitlán, which later became Mexico City. Travelers can enjoy visiting the island’s church, as well as El Origen Museum, which houses archeological artifacts from the island’s past.
The Islas Marias is an archipelago located just west of San Blas and Puerto Vallarta. This was the site of the last island prison on the American continent, and its largest island, Maria Madre, has been turned into an educational and tourist destination. It’s a great day trip destination, but its distance means that, depending on where travelers depart from on the mainland, the boat ride can take up to six hours, so make sure to use good time management skills when booking a tour.
Besides being an attraction because of its now-closed prison, Islas Marias is also a designated biosphere reserve, attracting birdwatchers with its endemic species, like the Amazonas Tres Marías parrot, which lives only on these islands. Other endemic species include the Tres Marías Raccoon and the Tres Marías Cottontail Rabbit. Because of this biodiversity, the prison complex has been transformed into an environmental education center, the Muros de Agua – Jose Revueltas Environmental and Cultural Education Center, named after the prison’s most famous inmate.
Source: Riviera Nayarit