Carretera Melaque-Puerto Vallarta Km 46.2, Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico
Unwind in a serene villa or casita at this private estate set in a nature reserve where herons migrate to hidden lagoons and zebras and Brahma cattle roam amid coconut plantations.
It's not easy to find this ultra–secluded hideaway nestled within the 32,000–acre Chamela–Cuixmala biosphere reserve protecting the tropical dry forest between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Guards posted at a nearly invisible entryway along the coastal highway carefully screen potential visitors. Those passing muster are escorted through a maze of lagoons, forests, and fields to a private retreat built for Sir James Goldsmith in the 1970s. The British financier was instrumental in developing the tony Careyes area south of Puerto Vallarta and claimed the finest stretch of untouched dry tropical forest along the rugged coastline. His 25,000–acre Cuixmala property within the larger reserve proves that luxury and nature can coexist quite beautifully.
Goldsmith's main home, a luxurious tile–domed palace called La Loma, is available to guests willing to pay around $10,000 per night (in low season). Rock stars and politicos have claimed the Moorish–style manse for their families and entourages, filling the main home's four suites and the adjacent six bungalows with up to 22 guests. There's a private pool, of course, and a tiled kitchen that looks like it came straight from Puebla, Mexico's Talavera–tiled colonial city. Palapas soar over three expansive terraces; furnishings in the living room, library and other interior spaces are covered in raw silk. The staff includes butlers, waiters, chefs, maids, a laundress, gardeners, pool men, and security. Bars and cupboards are stocked with the guests' favorite treats, along with a few regional surprises. Wishes are granted immediately.
Until recently, La Loma was only available to those who could book the entire place for several nights, with lesser mortals steered to nearby Las Alamandas or El Tamarindo instead. But the suites and bungalows are now available to rent individually during several select weeks in the year. The palatial master suite has its own outdoor living room terrace, pool–size Jacuzzi and ocean–view bathroom; deluxe bedroom suites and bungalows are only slightly less extravagant. All are impeccably designed with gleaming white walls and floors, arched windows and niches and comfortable furnishings with splashes of brilliant pink, yellow and orange fabrics. La Loma's many amenities and services are available to guests booking the various suites and bungalows. Should you desire more modest accommodations, Cuixmala also rents several private villas with private pools and enough staff members to keep guests served in style.
Travelers with less extravagant budgets and expectations are happy in the cluster of peach-colored casitas near the estate's main clubhouse. Each small house has an ample front porch stocked with binoculars, bird books, fashion magazine and couches with plenty of plump pillows. Dining tables face the tree canopy where raucous brown chachalacas cackle and crow while hummingbirds zoom around hibiscus blossoms on manicured lawns. Indoors, couches face the scenery and blue shutters and embroidered tapestries enliven stark white bedrooms.
Casita guests dine on the screened porch at Casa Gomez–Cuixmala's central library, lounge and dining room. Much of the food is grown on the property, caught in the nearby sea or brought in from Hacienda San Antonio, a sister property with a coffee plantation and cattle ranch in nearby Colima.
Cuixmala's magic lies in its pristine natural setting. On an early morning lagoon tour in an electric boat you can spot Roseate spoonbills, blue herons and dozens of other birds and butterflies. Coatimundi, wild boars and endangered jaguars are said to roam the land far from Goldsmith's luxurious tile–domed palace. The beach is somewhat secondary, given the attractions on land. Caleta Blanca, Cuixmala's secluded beach club with palm–shaded hammocks, cushioned lounges, and clear, calm water is a 15–minute drive north, and there's a smaller beach on the property. But the most enjoyable activity (other than hours of blissful relaxation) is a horseback ride or Jeep tour through the property.
Trails and dirt roads lead to organic fruit and vegetable gardens, a working coconut plantation and cattle ranch and hilltop vistas of mountains and the sea. As you wander the property, you'll eventually encounter an entire zebra zeal (yes, that's what a group of zebras is called) gently herded by cowboys on horseback. The exotic animals were introduced by one of Goldsmith's relatives and have become as much a part of the ranch as the sea turtles that return to Cuixmala's secluded shores to lay their eggs every summer. Once you've sampled the resort's unique blend of luxury, service and seclusion, you may be equally inclined to return annually.
Web Address: www.cuixmala.com
Total Number of Rooms: 36
Published rates: $400 and up for a one-bedroom casita, $2,200 and up for a villa, and $10,000 and up for La Loma.
Review and photos by Maribeth Mellin.