Nuevo Vallarta is a large residential and resort community on Banderas Bay, between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra de Vallejo mountains, on what’s become known as ‘Riviera Nayarit’ in the state of Nayarit. The area has the second highest number of hotels and resorts in the country, so faces huge challenges when it comes to protecting its present and future in the name of sustainable tourism.
It’s important that it tackles such challenges, for its popularity with tourists all over the world, especially from Mexico and the US, shows no signs of slowing. They come in their droves for some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, brilliant sunsets, reliably good, all-inclusive hotels, golf courses, an excellent marina and a range of activities for all ages.
You’ll see children building sand castles while teenagers with boogie boards navigate the waves and parents kick back on loungers. But you’ll also see some of the worst effects of mass tourism, from banana-boat rides, jet skis and parasailing activities which pump petrol into the seas to single use plastics, toxic suncream, huge hotels which don’t prioritise sustainability and over-crowded beaches in peak season.
Thankfully, the area is stepping up and has voiced its desire to try to become a genuinely sustainable tourist destination. It has made a commitment to provide the right services, support local communities and protect its natural resources for the future, and is EarthCheck certified Silver (which means it’s been with them for 1+ year).
Three of the 12 beaches in the area are now certified as ‘clean beaches’ by the Mexican government, and Nuevo Vallarta’s beach is also certified by Blue Flag. The wide, flat sandy stretch is particularly perfect for long walks – keen amblers can walk all the way to Bucerías, which is 8 km (5 miles) to the north – while wild swimmers will enjoy the safe seas.
Importantly, Nuevo Vallarta also functions as a marine sanctuary for millions of turtles and migrating humpback whales, and is the permanent home for many other species of wildlife including dolphins and the iconic jaguar. In the Autumn, a fenced-off area of the main beach helps protect nesting turtles, and there are lots of educational opportunities available for visitors who want to understand these wondrous creatures.
You’ll also find a fascinating range of wildlife in the nearby countryside, for Nuevo Vallarta waterways are connected to El Quelele Lagoon, the area’s main wetland and a protected area where you’ll find alligators, badgers, raccoons, white-tailed deer, birds, iguanas and more, all taken care of by specialists who are now following Mexico’s species protection regulations closely.
The local community is playing its part. There’s a general move towards renewable energy with solar power, reforestation and education about careful water management, and locals are encouraged to be sustainable at home and work and to participate in regular beach, river and mangrove cleanups. Such cleanups around the world can be just one minute wonders, but to ensure they’re not here, each month a range of activities are organised that focus on environmental education to help locals reduce their environmental impact and protect their locale’s biodiversity. Let’s hope it’s a win-win for the future.