Where to Eat, Stay, and Play in Punta Mita, Mexico

What not to miss on the burgeoning Western Mexico peninsula that's perfect for a winter pause.
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Auberge Resorts Collection

On the coast of the western Mexico state of Nayarit, the Pacific Ocean meets the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. The lush, sand-cushioned shoreline, dependably blue skies, and warm weather offer an ideal—and idyllic—winter pause. Perfect for swimming, surfing, humpback whale watching, and multihued sunsets, the lush and hilly peninsula of Punta de Mita (also called Punta Mita) is home to a slew of luxury resorts, private real estate, and white sand beaches. Its close proximity to many other coastal spots on the Riviera Nayarit means there’s plenty to explore.

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Getting to Punta Mita

Wherever you plan to base yourself on the Riviera Nayarit, fly into the Puerto Vallarta International Airport in the Mexican state of Jalisco. Spend an hour or two—and perhaps a meal—in Puerto Vallarta, then take the scenic route north. A 45-minute drive takes you to Punta Mita; from there, the beach and surf town of Sayulita is about 20 minutes away, and a can’t-miss beachfront sunset at the nearby beach town of San Francisco—better known as San Pancho—lies 15 minutes further north.

Whale-watching season in the Riviera Nayarit runs from late December to early March.


What to do

For both the best weather and prime winter surf conditions, plan your trip to land sometime between November and April. (Summers can be rainy and extremely humid; hurricane season stretches from June to November.) Should you want to plan your time on the Riviera Nayarit around whale-watching season—the turquoise waters of the Bahía de Banderas, the largest bay in Mexico, have long been a breeding ground for humpback whales—narrow that timeframe to late December through early March.

With consistently warm temperatures, crystalline water and sunny skies, the powdered sand beaches that fringe the coastline are a main attraction. Many of the resorts have access to their own private and very beautiful beaches. Surfers have long been drawn to the Riviera, though there’s plenty else to occupy your coastal time from sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and, of course, relaxing on the shore. Join local surfers at La Lancha, a public beach reachable by a short jungle hike or boat ride and one of the best spots in Punta Mita for a consistent break. If you’re looking for conditions better suited to beginner surfers, Playa Punta Mita tends towards smaller waves and shallow water and Playa Careyeros is ideal for swimming. Or head up the coast to Sayulita’s Playa Los Muertos or San Pancho’s Playa San Pancho. Also, in San Pancho opt for a day pass at the Tierra Tropical Beach Club.

Plan in advance to take an official tour to the nearby Islas Marietas, an archipelago made up of two islands and two islets and a UNESCO World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve. Home to a wealth of biodiversity from native sea bird species and fish to sea turtles, manta rays, and dolphins, the national park is closed Sundays and Mondays and there are a limited number of daily visitors, so plan accordingly. If you can, ensure your tour includes a visit to Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach) also called Playa del Amor. The striking, golden sand beach is located within a crater that can be reached only by swimming at low tide. Or stay on dry land and hike to the peak of Monkey Mountain for views of the entire bay, keeping your eyes especially peeled if hiking during whale watching season.

Whatever you choose to occupy your daytime hours, near the end of it, pause to watch the sunset. The bravura glow from any of Punta Mita’s beaches is showstopping, but for the very best viewing, pack a blanket and head to Playa San Pancho to watch the day settle in an array of reds, pinks, and purples.

Ceviche tostadas are a must-try at Ocho Tostadas.


Where to eat and drink

Should you need a bite in Puerto Vallarta before you leave for the Riviera Nayarit (or before your flight home), make it at either Tintoque where the menu features local, fresh seafood and the wine list is impeccable—or stop by Ocho Tostadas for ceviche tostadas. At night, pop in for a mezcal at La Tatema Mezcalería; opt for one of the indoor-outdoor bar stools and order a guacamole with chapulines to snack on alongside your drink. On the drive from Puerto Vallarta to Punta Mita, pull off Highway 200 for a taco al pastor at Tacos Junior. Next in line on the drive is Rubra, the much-anticipated restaurant and first solo concept by Mexican chef Daniela Soto-Innes, soon-to-open at the W Punta de Mita: The building itself is a stunning art sculpture installation by Mexican Architect and Designer Pablo Kobayashi. The all-day restaurant will offer an open kitchen and views of the sea and surrounding tropical landscape and the bar program will be designed by the renowned beverage designer Yana Volfson.

After a day of surfing (or watching the surfers) at nearby Playa La Lancha, join the locals on the 10 to 15 minute walk from the beach to Makai for a michelada, taco, or aguachile or head a bit further up to coast for an ice cream at Naef. If you’ve spent the day at Playa Careyeros, stop for a post swim bite at El Barracuda Punta de Mita. In Sayulita, find a seat at Tukari for cocktails and smoked fish or stingray croquetas. At nearby Achara order the papaya salad, fried-rice, and green curry. In San Pancho, don’t miss Ajala for a casual breakfast under the café's shaded terrace. Their coffee is made with beans from the exemplar Mexican roaster, Café Estelar and the menu changes frequently, offering a selection of dishes from their sister restaurants including tamales from Yunaites and tlacoyos from xokol, both in Guadalajara—all excellent ways to fuel a day at the beach.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts/©2013 Carlos Martín

Where to stay

Punta de Mita offers no shortage of luxurious spots to lay your head. Take your pick, from Susurros del Corazón an Auberge resort that opened in 2022 to the newly renovated W Punta de Mita or the St. Regis Punta Mita and Naviva, A Four Seasons Resort, Punta Mita, both located in the 1,500 acre private resort and residential community of Punta Mita.

For an ultimate in privatized high-end experience, if you can, splurge on a stay at the nine-room Hacienda Los Milagros, available by exclusive buyout only. From the salt water pool, private beach access, impeccably designed spaces layered with furniture and art from contemporary Mexican artists and designers, and the incredible culinary and beverage programs, it’s near-impossible to find reason to leave the property.

A bit further up the coast en route towards Sayulita lies the Conrad Punta de Mita. In Sayulita, book a stay at the five suite, architecturally impressive, micro-hospitality concept NICO, which opened in 2023. The Brutalist-inspired design features a combination of concrete, steel, and wood—and both ocean and jungle views—crafted by Seattle-based Hybrid Architecture and the Mexico City and Sayulita-based Palma. The rooms can be rented individually or as a private buy out. Or opt for a room further up on Sayulita’s north shore at the minimalist, nine-room boutique hotel Don Bonito.