Photo Source: Riviera Nayarit CVB
The sunrise over the beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit is not necessarily a glorious event. It’s as if Mother Nature, totally exhausted from the over-the-top efforts of the previous night’s Pacific sunset, requires an extra cup of Mexico’s powerful green coffee before she can even think about nudging the earth into rotation toward the sun’s rays.
Sunrise comes slowly in muted, sleepy colors. But that doesn’t mean you should not set your alarm to witness the earth’s arousal from a good night’s sleep, particularly, if you’re in the area around San Blas. This is where about 80 percent of the Pacific Coast’s migratory birds like to spend their winter and they are not at all critical of the low-key sunrise. This is their time of day, and if like you birds, this is your time as well.
Located on the Pacific coast, Nayarit is one of Mexico’s 31 states. It’s most easily reached via the Puerto Vallarta International Airport, although the state capitol of Tepic also has a small airport. The state of Nayarit is directly north of Puerto Vallarta and has almost 200 miles of sandy coastline, thus the self-proclaimed title Riviera Nayarit.
If you come for bird watching, you will want stay near the town of San Blas, about three hours north of Puerto Vallarta on Highway 200. The town of San Blas, population 5,000, is one of the state’s historical communities, having been the first deep-water harbor on the Pacific Coast in the late 1700s. Many of the best restaurants in Nayarit are found in San Blas. This is authentic Mexico that welcomes visitors, but has not relinquished its identity in pursuit of tourism.
San Blas is home to a number of ex-pats from the United States and Canada who have lived here for years. It’s considered a Bohemian-style community with a number of artists, writers and free spirits. There is not a lot of nightlife. The people who come here do so for the small town flavor and interaction with Mother Nature.
And they come for La Tovara National Park, 1600 acres that primarily covers the marshy coastal area. The San Cristobal River drains fresh water from the Sierra Madre into the Pacific Ocean near San Blas creating an eco-region dominated by mangroves and marshland that birds literally flock to. Indeed, this is the largest area of marshland in all of Mexico.
National parks in Mexico are not as developed or as revered as in the U.S., but they are protected slices of nature nonetheless. The best way to experience the park is a boat ride through the mangroves at sunrise, which can be booked in the villages of La Aguada and El Conchal. Bring binoculars or a good telephoto lens if you have them, but they are not necessary to see hundreds of birds and alligators within just a few feet of the boat.
You’ll see the boat-billed heron, as wells blue herons and white herons, bumblebee hummingbirds and roseate spoonbills. Other days may show off the White-faced Ibis, the Ruous-bellied Chachalaca or the Neotropic Cormorant, and more than you can keep count of.
But counting birds. That is what this destination is all about.
Each January, the local hotels, restaurants and mangroves fill with ornithologists from around the world for the International Festival of Migratory Birds. One of their favorite hotels is the Garza Canela, named after the Boat-billed Heron. Green herons live in the many trees on the property and hummingbirds feed naturally in the trees – no feeders necessary – allowing for bird watching from your balcony or terrace.
The hotel operators provide early rise breakfasts for their bird-watching guests and a second breakfast around 10 a.m. when the tours return from the park.
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A Midwest farm girl at heart, Diana Lambdin Meyer caught the roaming bug early in life. Diana married well - to a photographer who also has the travel bug and whose work in still and video complements her words. Now based in the Kansas City area, Diana is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers who makes a full-time living on the road and at the keyboard. Read about Diana's adventures on her blog, Mojotraveler or follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.
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