Scanning a map of Mexico’s west coast, your eye is likely to land on Puerto Vallarta before it reaches Punta Mita some 25 miles north. Punta Mita is a private peninsula on the upper tip of Banderas Bay where some of the most luxurious resorts in Mexico’s Nayarit state are located. One such hotel is the W Punta de Mita.

To learn the ins and outs of Punta Mita and its surroundings — from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita, the Sierra Madres Mountains to the Marieta Islands — we spoke with W Insider Marco Sanluis. Originally from Mexico City, Sanluis has been working at the W Punta de Mita since 2021 and honing his local knowledge ever since.

From a fellow traveler and newfound Nayarit local who loves nothing more than sharing his love of great food, creative drinks, and unforgettable experiences, here’s an insider’s guide to Punta Mita.

Matador: Favorite local dishes?

Marco Sanluis: When I arrived from Mexico City, I didn’t know what to expect about the local cuisine. I was pretty sure the seafood was going to be the best option, and I wasn’t wrong. The way the catch of the day is prepared using a grilling method called zarandeado is so delightful. First, the fish is marinated in a local sauce made with guajillo peppers. But the best part is when the fish is grilled with vegetables — very Nayarit style. The skin gets rough, but the fish is soft and fresh on the inside.

So far, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle is one of my top places for seafood. This is the last town in Nayarit before you get to the W Punta de Mita. I really love the shrimp aguachile. There’s one local place, Mariscos García, that’s not stylish or fancy but has the spiciest sauce I’ve ever tried. The sauce is the perfect accompaniment for the dish. With a traditional Mexican beer, there’s nothing else you could ask for.

Favorite restaurants?

Inside the W Punta de Mita, the Spice Market is my favorite. I’ve shared experiences there with friends and family, and all of them agree that they enjoy the authentic Asian flavors.

Outside of the hotel, one of my favorite places is called Le Kliff. It’s one of the first places I went when I arrived here. The food was incredible, the service was flawless, and the view is outstanding. Le Kliff is located on the edge of a mountain next to the ocean, so you can enjoy your meal while you’re enjoying the bay. When I was there, I was even fortunate enough to see some whales jumping. Just amazing.

Favorite nightlife?

The nightlife is located in the Puerto Vallarta area. I consider myself a nightlife guy, so I really enjoy nightclubs such as La Santa and Strana. In Punta Mita, we don’t have many places where you can go for nightlife; however, there’s one place called La Rustica that’s a restaurant-beach club with a pretty nice atmosphere. The bar is right in the middle, and the ocean is right in front of you, so you can truly feel the beach vibes.

Favorite cocktail bars?

This is a funny story. When I went to Punta Mita town, I was walking along the sidewalk and suddenly found a place with a lovely white entrance. There were high white tables and high white chairs, matching with large, sandstone-colored cushions. The ceiling was covered by dry bamboo, and you could feel the light of the sun walking through it. By one of the walls, a bartender was preparing cocktails and welcomed me with a friendly “hello.” I was blinded by the lights in this place, which I learned is called MITA MITA Bar, and after my second visit, I realized it was the entrance to a local designer boutique. The drinks are amazing — so lavish — and I trust the bartender has a promising future.

Favorite beaches?

I haven’t visited many beaches so far, but I went to Sayulita, and it was the most crowded beach I’ve ever been to. I know this place has the perfect waves for surfing, so the kings of the waves are here any time of day, and you will find friends anywhere. I always say there are no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met yet.

A less-crowded beach I found is Patzcuarito where I did a horseback-riding sunset tour. I would say it’s my favorite beach because of that experience. Riding a horse next to the ocean while watching the sunset — I’ll remember this for a long time.

Favorite water sports?

I tried surfing once when I arrived here, and I really loved it. It was pretty easy to understand on the sand; doing it in the water is different. I think it’s all about practice and consistency. Snorkeling is also my favorite. Everything is fun and happy until you see the sea urchins. But I have huge respect for these creatures. I found them to be out of this world, though I’ve also seen many situations with guests that remind me all the time to stay away from sea urchins no matter what.

Favorite land activities?

I enjoy the wild land activities, such as RZR and ATV riding, ziplining, and hiking — as long as I’ve got the right outfit.

Favorite hike?

There’s one hiking excursion to Cerro del Mono, or Monkey Mountain, in the Sierra Madres. This one is located on the way to Sayulita. It’s an hour and a half to get to the top, but if you’re one of the warriors who make it, the view is worth every single step. From the summit, you can see one of the best views of the bay.

Favorite day trip?

The main excursion we have is the Marietas Island tour. This is an island located 30 minutes from the hotel by sailboat, but the magical thing is that you swim to get to the islands and the hidden beach inside, which is also called “the love beach.” It is such an incredible experience and something unique to the area. There are many pictures of the hidden island, and many hotel guests come just for this tour. But it’s important to know that the Marietas Islands are protected by the government, so access is controlled, and the tour is only available from Wednesdays to Sundays. If you do go and swim, cover your cell phone with a waterproof case, and always remember to bring your sunscreen.

Favorite local handicrafts?

Indigenous Huichol art is the most valuable and important handicraft in the area. To create Huichol art you must be creative, patient, and passionate. It consists of filling or painting objects full of small beads and vibrant colors, one by one using beeswax to get the beads to stick. Keep in mind that there’s no layout or shape drawn on the piece beforehand; it’s all made at the moment. At the end of the process, the artworks become masterpieces surrounded by mysticism that are exciting to admire.

Favorite souvenir shop?

My favorite store for souvenirs is Revolución del Sueño in Sayulita. This is where most of the sculptures and items that decorate the W Punta de Mita are from.