Go Reef Watching
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Starting just north of Puerto Vallarta and extending 100 miles up the Pacific coast, the Riviera Nayarit is one of Mexico's hottest new destinations. The area has always had pristine beaches and rugged mountains, and now it's also home to high-end resorts.
Get out there
The Marietas Islands in Banderas Bay, a national ecological sanctuary, are known for their vibrant reefs, rocky coastline, and endangered species like the blue-footed booby. Because of preservation efforts, the three islands are off-limits to people, but Vallarta Adventures' seven-hour boat tour (from $68 per person; vallarta-adventures.com) can get you close: After a 90-minute ride from the town of Nuevo Vallarta, you're free to snorkel or explore the caverns and archways along the coastline by kayak. In December migrating humpback whales start passing through the area.
Back on land, readjust your sea legs with a run along one of the region's beaches. A good four- to six-mile route starts in Nueva Vallarta (around the Mayan Resort) and ends in Bucerías, the longest and widest portion of beach on Banderas Bay.
Where to stay
The Four Seasons in Punta Mita is the area's most luxurious property, with 173 guest rooms on a 1,500-acre peninsula and the world-class Apuane Spa (rooms from $495; fourseasons.com). There's also Villa del Palmar Flamingos Beach Resort and Spa, a sprawling property in Nuevo Vallarta that overlooks Banderas Bay (rooms from $150; villadelpalmarflamingos.com).