With the imminent launch of a direct flight from Manchester, Puerto Vallarta is set to grow in popularity.
Lisa Haynes puts on her sombrero and explores the highlights of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit

I have discovered an instant cure for seasickness. Transfixed on watching the spectacle of a whale courtship ritual, I totally forget about my ocean-induced nausea.

Tails thrash ferociously against the waves and gargantuan oil-slick bodies breach from the water, with a cluster of competitive males vying for attention from the single female they are trying to impress.

There’s calm as the whales retreat underwater for a few minutes, then suddenly emerge, blasting water from their blowholes.

It’s hard to estimate how many majestic humpback whales we’re watching from our boat on Banderas Bay. The pod fluctuates as unsuccessful males retreat and others join to try their luck.

Once the acrobatics end and whale tails disappear from view, Riviera Nayarit’s 192 miles of Pacific coastline has plenty of equally magnificent sights, all laced with Mexico’s enchanting culture and traditions.

And when new direct flights from the UK to Puerto Vallarta with Thomson launch in May, the number of Brits falling for its charms is likely to rise.

History is everywhere you look, from the native Huichol handicrafts through to nature’s handiwork.

We cruise to the volcanic Marieta Islands to witness the world’s most picturesque bomb site. I snorkel past tropical fish through a short, dark tunnel following beams of sunlight to a secluded sandy beach not much bigger than a back garden. Light streams through a large hole which appears to have been blasted in the rock. Only agile snorkellers with waterproof cameras tucked into their swimming trunks can capture the idyllic spot.

Some believe Playa De Amor, or Hidden Beach, formed in the early 1900s after being used as a site for military target practice by the Mexican Government. Now, thanks to conservationist efforts first led by legendary diver Jacques Cousteau, the uninhabited islands are protected as a national park.

On a boat ride along the coast, we whizz past the never-ending wall of rocky islands as flocks of birds soar gracefully overhead. I’m told that Riviera Nayarit has the second highest number of North American birds in one location, as well as being home to many endangered species, such as blue-footed boobies and green macaws.

Puerto Vallarta first rose to prominence in 1963 when Banderas Bay was used as the setting for Hollywood film Night Of The Iguana. A publicity frenzy surrounded leading actor Richard Burton’s affair with Elizabeth Taylor, who he brought on location, and tourists arrived in droves.

Fifty years on, the popular resort city is much more developed but still retains much of its natural beauty.

During a morning bike ride from my hotel I had fully expected to get sweaty shifting gears in the searing Mexican morning heat. But our trip is much more relaxing and scenic.

My cycle guide tells me the flat, pristine pathways and roads of the Litibu gated complex were “nothing but crazy jungle” less than five years ago.

We stop at Valle de Banderas, a vibrant town where locals pick up supplies from the Tortilleria, street cafes play toe-tapping Mexican music as tourists wolf down generously-stuffed tacos, and market stalls sell colourful native Huichol arts and crafts.

Our yellow jeep sets off for the heart of the Sierra Madre. We pass watermelon fields, take pictures of vivid jackfruit hanging from trees, spot a camouflaged green iguana clinging onto a branch and we’re introduced to family-owned distilleries in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, revealing the process of making tequila, from agave plant to bottle.

Later we stop off at a tiny village called San Ignacio where fresh tortillas are warmed over a fire-lit outdoor stove. They’re served with beans, salsa, guacamole and prickly pear salad that taste so delicious that we go back for seconds — and thirds.

Riviera Nayarit’s authentic cultural heritage makes for a destination rich in culinary traditions and handicraft trinkets that can be found in brightly painted galleries, boutiques shops and open-air markets.

I immediately feel at home in this bohemian-chic surfer town as I stroll the bright bunting-lined streets leading to the beachfront.

We get talking to one of many expats clapping along, now in his fifties, who moved to Sayulita as a teenager for the surf and never returned home. In his words: “Bitten by the Mexico bug.”

I can see what he means.