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6 Reasons to Take a Teen to Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

6 Reasons to Take a Teen to Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Here's why you should consider Riviera Nayarit, Mexico for your next family vacation with teens

If you’re looking for a family vacation to take with your teens, consider Riviera Nayarit in Mexico. Located on the western side of the country, it’s a bit of a longer flight than Cancun, but totally worth it, as this mother-daughter duo found out. Here are six reasons to visit Riviera Nayarit with your teenagers.

“I love Mexico! You’ll have a great time.” Whenever someone mentioned booking a family vacation to visit our neighbors to the south, that’s what I’d say.

I said Mexico, but I always meant Riviera Maya and Cancun, because those were the only parts of Mexico I’d been to and, invariably, that’s where they were going. If New York metro families vacation in Mexico, they tend, unsurprisingly, to head to the tourist enclaves on the eastern side of the country.

I recently broke the mold and took my 15-year-old daughter to a different Riviera: Nayarit, near Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s west coast. We checked into Family Selection at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa, an all-inclusive, tropical retreat with clubs for kids and teens. Here’s why it turned out to be completely worth flying those extra miles.

The Dreamy Setting

What makes the scenery in Riviera Nayarit different from what you’d find on the east coast are the mountains. (And cactuses. Big, impressive ones.) Family Selection at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa is on the Bay of Banderas, and the beach has a natural salt-water pool where the water is as still and warm as a bathtub. While the sunrises are what make it onto Instagram over on the East Coast, here it’s the sunsets. So much more convenient to witness, especially with a teen. A bonus on the property is the small “zoo” that blends right in with the jungle setting, housing (when we were there) monkeys, ostriches, peacocks, and what looked like miniature deer. (This isn’t really a zoo per se, but a professional care facility, where animals who can’t survive in the wild come to live out their days.) The little monkeys were adorable. 

Food, Glorious Food!

As we all know, teens can be as picky as toddlers when it comes to dining. Family Selection at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa has two ginormous buffets from which you can eat all your meals, if you wanted. But there are also four a la carte restaurants (unlike on cruise ships, a la carte restaurants are included here): sushi, Italian, a steakhouse, and a traditional Mexican eatery. Barbecues on the beach are a can’t-fail option, and there’s a mini-buffet set up in the lobby all day, with quick snacks to grab. Plus there’s room service.

The minibar in the room is also included—and stocked (and replenished every day) with, among other delicacies, Milky Ways (the giant size!) and Pringles. After a lifetime of telling my kids, “Step away from the mini-fridge! Don’t even look at it!” it felt good to say, “Take as much as you want!”

grand palladium vallarta resort spa family selection lobby

The Family Selection lobby at the Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa with an all-day mini buffet

And whatever you do, don’t miss the guacamole demonstration by Chef Tony on the poolside patio. We are both still dreaming about that guac. It was so creamy! I guess they just have different/better avocados than we do, but it was the best either of us ever had. Chef Tony whipped up four incarnations: classic, jalapeno, steak, and watermelon. 

The Blob

Yes, on the east coast you have the Mayan ruins, but here you’ve got the Las Caletas Beach Hideaway, accessible via a Vallarta Adventures tour. It starts with a boat ride to the private island, where you’ll find stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling (head over to the small beach to the left of the busier “activities beach” for the best fish spotting). Parrots swoop over your heads while you’re swimming (they might be trained to do this, but so what?) and little black squirrels (what a novelty!) can be spotted in the trees, as well as a few plants that look, to a lifelong New Yorker, like they’re out of a sci-fi movie.

The Teen Adventure Cove will be the main draw, with ziplines, water slides and chutes, and an inventive aqua playground, known as The Blob, that involves being launched into the air. Enough said. (A tip: There are no changing rooms, just scattered bathrooms, so wear your suit there.)

I’m not trying to take anything away from the Mayan ruins—they’re amazing, of course—but show me a human between the ages of 13-17 who would prefer them to a tube called The Rattlesnake that dumps them into the clear green sea. I’m just being realistic.

Super-Sweet People

Everyone we encountered seemed genuinely to want to be helpful. My daughter is allergic to nuts and shellfish (as well as a vegetarian), so I did wonder if she’d subsist on the Pringles and fruit. I needn’t have stressed. They issued her an ID card of sorts at check-in, which we flashed to anyone serving her food, so her allergies and food preferences were clear. The staff bent over backwards to make sure she was happy and full. 

Cold, rolled-up hand towels are offered as you sit down to dinner in the a la carte restaurants—such a nice touch. As you come into the lobby after a hot day of exploring, a staffer was always right there with a tray of mocktails, different ones each time. They were delish, with raspberry, peach, and mint as a few of the starring flavors. (For your part, all liquors here are top shelf). Sunscreen dispensers and oversized towels can be found at the pools.

Daring Moves at Daybreak

Okay, not really daring, and not literally at daybreak, but those are two pluses as far as I’m concerned. I thought the 7:45am family beach yoga would be on the beach, but it turned out to be a floating class. Participants were on surfboards, lashed together to form a sort-of star, afloat in the aforementioned saltwater pool. I find yoga on solid ground hard enough, so I left this to the teen, while I snapped pictures from the sand. Despite losing her balance and making a splash 5 minutes in, she loved it. The other kids and parents seemed to catch on quickly and were all smiles afterwards. In the early morning light, the group was a poetic sight to behold, as were the misty mountains in the distance.

floating yoga

Early morning family beach yoga in the natural saltwater pool at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa

It’s Easier Than You Think to Go

While there are no non-stop flights from NYC to Puerto Vallarta, we had a seamless transfer in Dallas. It really wasn’t bad at all. And when you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, you will probably be floored by the airport. Bright, airy, intuitively laid out with clear signage, and pristine. I’ve never been in such a nice airport that was so easy to navigate. And unlike at home, you get free Wi-Fi anywhere in the airport. The Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa is approximately a 30-minute drive south. And btw, it’s only 2 hours behind us, not 3 as I’d assumed, so we had no jet lag to speak of in either direction.

Main image: The view of the natural saltwater pool and the Bay of Banderas from The Nest restaurant at Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa

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Christina Vercelletto


 Christina Vercelletto is a former editor at NYMetroParents, ParentingScholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her kids, a chiweenie, Pickles, and a 20-pound calico, Chub-Chub.

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