"Are you looking for the green flash?" I asked a woman standing near me in a group gathered to watch the sunset on the Pacific beach. Suddenly I was surrounded by several others.

"Are you looking for the green flash?" I asked a woman standing near me in a group gathered to watch the sunset on the Pacific beach. Suddenly I was surrounded by several others.

"Have you ever seen it?" someone asked. "Is it real?" asked another. "What is it?" the woman to whom I originally spoke wanted to know. I decided to answer her question first.

"It happens at exactly the moment that the last slice of the sun drops into the sea," I told them. "Conditions have to be just right. It must be clear with no clouds on the horizon. It happens suddenly and lasts only half a second. It's brilliant and sometimes almost blinding."

"Have you ever seen it?" they all asked at once. "No," I had to say, as my audience's faces dropped. "But I know a lot of people who swear they've seen it. To tell the truth, I know more people who are looking for it than people who actually have seen it."

"Do you believe it really exists?" someone wanted to know. "Yes, I do," I said. "And someday I'm sure I'll see it."

The sun had already fallen into the ocean and a hundred colors were spreading across the sky, and reflecting in the water.

I think the search for the green flash has helped make the newest tourist area of the Pacific coast more desirable. There are so many attractions and such beauty to be found in the Riviera Nayarit, but I never heard of the green flash until I first came to the Mexican state of Nayarit. That was 25 years ago, and the Riviera Nayarit wasn't even a gleam in the developers' eyes. Nothing was there except scrub brush, some scruffy guava plants, date palms, a few herds of skinny, long-horned cattle that roamed unfenced, and plenty of fat iguanas.

How things have changed. My favorite hotel, Casa Manana, is now called a "boutique hotel" by the Riviera Nayarit brochures. It makes the hotel's owners, Lourdes and Reinhard, laugh, because one of the defining characteristics of a boutique hotel is the high price of the accommodations. That doesn't accurately describe the rates at Casa Manana. Singles range from about $32 to $45 per day, with reduced rates for longer stays.

The seaside hotel has everything a boutique hotel has: a beautiful pool, a kids' pool, a fantastic restaurant with a bar, playgrounds, and grounds kept neat and perfect by professional gardeners.

On Saturdays, there is an all-day pizza party that sometimes lasts well into the evening. It is, without a doubt, the best pizza I've ever had, and the many locals who come just for the party agree with me.

Many aspects of Riviera Nayarit make it stand out from the other tourist areas. It stretches from the Nayarit state line right across the border from the Puerto Vallarta airport. It stretches along 192 miles of the Pacific coast, framed by the majestic mountains of the Sierra Madre.

The mountains are no more beautiful than they are on the two-hour, sometimes harrowing bus trip from Nayarit's capital, Tepic, to the coast. I love to ride through the jungle on the narrow, curving road. Sometimes it is reminiscent of a thrill ride at the county fair. It is so close to the sides of the road that sometimes the trees and fauna touch both sides of the bus.

There will then be a huge open space where rolling valleys stretch for miles all the way to the mountains. The ground seems to be in layers, the nearest in blue, darker than the layers behind it, with each layer becoming lighter and lighter all the way to the horizon. I love to see the banana plantations, where the farmers put huge plastic bags over the bananas when they reach just the right stage of ripeness.

The resorts closest to Puerto Vallarta start in Nuevo Vallarta and go to the fishing villages north and south of Los Cocos, where Casa Maana is located. Other resorts, some all-inclusive, some economical, are the Flamingos, Bucerias, La Cruz Huanacaxtle, Punta Mita, Sayulita, and Guayabitos.

At the northernmost end of Riviera Nayarit is the oldest fishing village, San Blas, where the market offers everything from just-caught fish to trinkets, plus fabulous bead-encrusted bowls and plaques, and all kinds of decorative items handmade by the indigenous Huichol Indians.

For history lovers, there are ruins of pre-Hispanic structures in San Blas. For bird lovers, there are more species here than anywhere else in Mexico. Surfers flock to San Blas for the longest curling wave in the country.
Because of the newness of the resorts, many special promotions are being offered this spring. If it's variety you're looking for, it's the best possible time to plan a vacation in Riviera Nayarit.


Don't forget to look for the green flash. If you see it, please let me know. Have your camera ready as the sun sets. You may be lucky enough to take a picture.