Riviera Nayarit offers a clean getaway

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The Islas Marietas are home to thousands of birds, including the blue-footed booby.
The Islas Marietas are home to thousands of birds, including the blue-footed booby. Photo Credit: Flickr/Sean Hoyer

Mexico's Riviera Nayarit, a stretch of 192 miles of coastline on the Pacific Ocean, is known for its wildlife, protected ecosystems and certified beaches. Programs such as annual sea turtle releases, beach cleanups and creating jaguar habitats are some of the conservation programs in effect.

What's more, the Riviera Nayarit was awarded with two more Certified Clean Beaches designations, at Isla Coral and Rincon de Guayabitos. That makes a total of 12, more than any other region in Mexico. And Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has awarded Nayarit the recognition of "Clean Tourism Destination" for the Fraccionamiento Nautico Turistico de Nuevo Vallarta neighborhood, making it the first in Mexico to receive this environmental certification.

Here are just some of the things the Riviera Nayarit has done to earn that distinction.

Sea turtle releases
The Riviera Nayarit is one of the leaders in Mexico for sea turtle recovery, having released approximately 1 million hatchlings into the ocean last year alone. There are seven species of sea turtles in the world, and six of them arrive in Mexico each year between June and November to lay their eggs. A single sea turtle nest may contain as many as 200 hatchlings, but these eggs are under threat as the black market demands sea turtles and sea turtle eggs. Other challenges include avoiding predators as the hatchlings make the journey from the beach to the sea. Campamento Tortuguero, located in Nuevo Vallarta, is a center for sea turtle protection and conservation. Visitors can participate in the release of baby turtles and even complete their experience with an educational lecture.

Jaguar protection
Born in the state of Nayarit, Alianza Jaguar is a civil association that is devoted to conservation of the jaguar, a protected species in Mexico. The jaguar population is dwindling due to land clearance and illegal hunting. To protect the species and ensure its survival, sections of the state have been identified as protected areas for the jaguars to thrive. In Nayarit, jaguars occupy more than 10.7 million square feet of oak-pine forests, jungles and the coastal plains of the state, including the San Blas Coast, the Sierra de Vallejo part of the Sierra Madre Occidental and the National Wetlands area.

Islas Marietas conservation
Islas Marietas, one of the more notable attractions in the Bay of Banderas made famous by Jacques Cousteau, is a cluster of islands that is teeming with wildlife. A Unesco Biosphere Reserve, the islands are home to 103 registered species of reef fish. Formed by volcanic activity, Islas Marietas are also home to thousands of birds, including the blue-footed booby. Wild dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays and whales also circle the island.

Currently, Playa Escondida, known as the Hidden Beach, is temporarily off limits to visitors for environmental restoration and maintenance. The other islands, however, are still accessible by officially sanctioned tour operators for snorkeling, kayaking, and bird-watching.

Certified Clean Beaches
The  Riviera Nayarit lays claim to 12 of the 31 Certified Clean Beaches in Mexico. The beaches, in addition to the two recent additions mentioned above, include Chacala in Compostela, Bucerias in Banderas Bay, Nuevo Vallarta Norte I, Nuevo Vallarta Norte II, Nuevo Vallarta Sur, Paladium at Punta de Mita, Platanitos in Banderas Bay, Costa Capomo Becerros in Compostela, el Borrego in San Blas and Los Muertos in Sayulita.

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