Seven Nights, Three World Class Resorts on the Riviera Nayarit...
First, let’s address the obvious COVID concerns. As with recent domestic travel, we found the United aircraft to be immaculately clean and relatively low in occupancy. Rigorous sanitation and cabin air that is constantly replenished and HEPA-filtered ensures a flight experience that is clearly safe. We traveled with carry-on bags and our processing through Customs and Immigration was smooth, fast, and friendly, both at O’Hare IAP (ORD) and Puerto Vallarta (PVR). We do recommend a VIP greeting service at PVR since arrival has the potential to be a bit chaotic there; we can assist you with this.
An immaculate Mercedes van was waiting to take us to the new One&Only Mandarina. Prior to loading our bags the driver sanitized them, and we settled in for the roughly hour and a half ride to the resort. The ride passed pretty quickly. The sights along the way are stimulating...outdoor cafes, colorful markets, and an interesting array of locals. As we approached the One&Only, we went through an area of pineapple fields and soon found ourselves driving through the coastal rain forest.
THE ONE&ONLY MANDARINA
Pulling up to the main entrance at the lodge, the feeling was evocative of exotic destinations in places like Thailand. This incredible brand new resort, built over a span of eight years, is fully embedded in the rain forest, and every man made structure is surrounded by lush vegetation. The attentive staff checked us in and took us to our lodging, a treehouse overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Calling it a treehouse suggests something a bit less than what it is...a luxurious suite situated roughly 40 feet above the forest floor, featuring exquisite design and attention to detail. The sleeping area looks out on a wall of windows and the large deck with a plunge pool. It’s a stunning design, and one that comprises a large percentage of the resort’s inventory.
Apart from numerous areas to lounge, sunbathe and enjoy unique cocktails, there are three distinctive restaurants on the property, ranging from a comfy beachside venue (the Jetty) to Carao, a world-class restaurant conceived under the stewardship of Chef Enrique Olvera, the chef/owner of Mexico City’s Pujol (ranked the #12 restaurant in the world). The food here is imaginative, creatively presented, and, most importantly, delicious.
Our time was limited...just two nights...but we managed to tour the entire resort. There are so many things that are noteworthy, but perhaps most impressive is the KidsOnly area, a 42,000 square foot playground designed by Academy Award winning set designer Brigitte Broch. Jungle tree houses, a maze, and an awe-inspiring butterfly house are among the features in this kids’ paradise.
Accommodations include several tree houses, and a number of ocean view suites, ranging from one to four bedrooms. The One&Only Mandarina is something truly different than anything you’ll elsewhere in North America. Exotic. Beautiful. Sumptuous. Yet, affording each visitor the warm embrace that defines Mexican hospitality. We had a brief livestream chat with Mauricio Duran, the Director of Sales for the resort, which provides an excellent overview: https://fb.watch/39pNTkgo_c/
THE CONRAD PUNTA DE MITA
It was not easy leaving the One&Only—it is such a treasure, unique in North America—but we were cheered by the prospect of our next stop, the Conrad Punta de Mita. We were not to be disappointed. It was about a 40 minute drive from the One&Only, and the Conrad is an impressive site as you pull into the resort. We were greeted by Marco Tabet, the General Manager, and his staff. The expansive lobby is just gorgeous. As with all of the places we visited on this trip, the indoor venues are effectively almost outdoors...large expanses open to the patios and grounds that surround them. The tastefully decorated lobby is absolutely brimming with artwork that pays homage to the local culture, and...again...it’s all presented in the context of warm hospitality.
The Conrad may seem large when you look simply at the numbers...over 300 guest rooms and suites, but it’s actually designed brilliantly, with the main building looking out on a central garden with three distinct pool areas and nine casitas—all offering ocean front or ocean view rooms and suites—encircling the lush grounds. Everything is easily walkable, and our oceanfront suite—Number 1404—was no more than about a five minute walk to any of the restaurants, bars, and pools.
If you’re planning a getaway with a family group, or perhaps a destination wedding, this is a destination well worth your consideration. The layout that incorporates multiple casitas means that your family or group can likely be accommodated within a single casita.
With three nights at the Conrad, we had an opportunity to experience a variety of the resort’s offerings, including a treatment at the beautiful spa, which incorporates a large outdoor space. The culinary highlight of our visit was a private beach zarandeado fish meal, prepared with just-caught sea bass. This meal was truly a “Wow!”...one that we would rank among the best we’ve had anywhere. On the last day of our visit, we enjoyed the Agave Experience, a tasting of agave-derived liquors paired with small bites. Ana, an effusive Spaniard who happens to also have a background as a world-class bartender, led us through a two-hour tour of the fascinating history and the diversity of products produced from the agave (and related plants). She was a delight, and incredibly knowledgeable. It’s must-do experience when you visit the Conrad.
There are quite a number of other dining venues at the resort. All were excellent, but simple and delicious preparations of Mesquite, a beachfront restaurant featuring wood-grilled specialties, also stood out. Great food!
Here, as at the One&Only, we took a few minutes to discuss the Conrad’s unique offerings with the Conrad’s Juan Carlos Salmon. You’ll find the video at: https://fb.watch/39qeXzuk4j/
Honestly, the Conrad blew us away. It’s worth noting that it is every inch a luxury resort, but is quite approachable in every respect and in our opinions represents an excellent value in this market.
Again...a bit of sadness when we said “farewell” to Marco and his team, who welcomed us so warmly and took great care of us. But our final destination was one of our favorite places in the world, the Four Seasons Punta Mita.
THE FOUR SEASONS PUNTA MITA
The Four Seasons is very close to the Conrad, so our journey there took only ten or fifteen minutes.
It’s hard to say exactly how or when this came to be, but the Four Seasons Punta Mita feels very much like home to us. This was our fifth visit, and we would be reuniting with wonderful friends, John O’Sullivan, the full-blooded Irish GM of the resort...a man imbued with boundless energy, creativity, and, get this, kindness...and our forever friend, Lilian Diaz de Leon (“Lili”). If it’s not apparent at this point, these are people we love. Friends of many years, with whom we’ve shared dreams, successes, and occasional tears. They are why we love these opportunities so much.
The Four Seasons is the Grand Dame of luxury resorts in this part of Mexico, and is constantly reinventing herself to remain not only relevant, but the standard bearer. Since our last visit three years ago, the restaurants have been almost entirely re-created to better take advantage of the resort’s stunning setting on the beachfront, and all of the public spaces and guest accommodations have been refurnished and updated to stay on top of the increasingly competitive luxury resort marketplace.
It’s simply a given that the food is always excellent at a Four Seasons resort. And the accommodations, ranging from ocean view suites to expansive beachfront villas are breathtaking. But, what really distinguishes the Four Seasons Punta Mita is the attitude. It’s not something that can be faked; it comes from the heart. The perfect illustration came on our first day there, at lunch. John...the GM...”El Jefe”...walked into the restaurant to chat with some of the guests. Noticing that a woman sitting at a nearby table was a bit chilled, he doffed his jacket, placed it over her shoulders, and told her he’d be back to collect it after she and her partner were finished. A small gesture, but one that courses through the veins of everyone at the Four Seasons. You’ve done well, El Jefe.
The other great delight of our visit was spending a bit of time with Lili (who, we ultimately deduced, was on vacation and came to the resort just to spend time with us). Dinner in town with Lili, her husband Alex, and their handsome son Salvador was fantastic. Lili spent time with Victoria on our last full day at the resort to give our clients an overview of the Four Seasons, its recent renovations, and its unique offerings: https://fb.watch/39qkgp0Mow/
Truly, it was a week in paradise, and after ten months of very limited travels it felt delightful to travel out of the country. With expansive outdoor spaces at each resort and the ability to seek as much privacy as you wish to, it was a welcome respite.
Ultimately, while we were privileged to visit three world class resorts, it was a week filled with work—site tours, meetings with the executive teams, and livestreams. But that’s not a complaint; we were also able to experience the sumptuous luxury of three distinctly different resorts. Throughout the entire week, we remarked to one another repeatedly that there is simply no substitute for Mexican hospitality. The feeling that the staff members are welcoming you to their homes is something that comes across constantly at each of these wonderful destinations, and it’s not manufactured, it’s real.
You simply must visit one or more of these amazing destinations. Please call me at 630.420.3538 to discuss the options!