Litibu-Punta Mita, Nayarit
Litibu Beach, just north of Punta Mita along the still emerging Riviera Nayarit, is home to a spanking new resort that aims to set new standards of luxury in an area already known for upscale properties. The motto of La Tranquila, nestled between coastal jungle and the Pacific Ocean’s entrance to the Sea of Cortez, might well be “if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em.”
The bar is set pretty high for luxury resorts in Punta de Mita, on the Riviera Nayarit (north of Puerto Vallarta), where the Four Seasons and St. Regis have been reigning supreme for years. The audacity of challenging these two icons on their home turf seems almost as breathtaking as the qualities a new property would have to possess in order to compete.
Yet the La Tranquila group (which is building resorts in Los Cabos and the Riviera Maya as well) has set its sights on rivaling – and even surpassing – its neighbors. Moreover, because of its debut status, early guests are likely to enjoy the kind of privacy and personal service generally reserved for celebrities and political bigwigs.
The La Tranquila list of superlatives attests to the sense of one-upmanship that appears to be the hotel’s raison d’etre. For example, the property lays claim to the longest infinity pool (525 feet) on the Riviera Nayarit.
Of course, the seemingly endless pool parallel to the beach is only one of many, laid out like spokes in a wheel extending from the residential building to the pristine beach – which also dwarfs those of its neighbors: half–a–mile of secluded beach, flanked by more empty stretches on either side of the hotel’s swath of silky smooth sand.
Sunbathing is made cooler when reclining on chaises lounges arrayed along the beach but submerged in fresh water. Unique in–pool features are circular "fire pits," where bathers can relax with drinks while trailing free hands in the water.
Guests craving more activity than simply lounging poolside, taking in the ocean’s languid waves, or admiring the painstakingly manicured grounds have another remarkable option, also right at the hotel’s doorstep: an 18–hole golf course designed by Greg Norman.
For the time being, there is only one restaurant on the premises, and the menu is not yet extensive. Fortunately, the food is very good – and there is a flip side to the situation. When a guest lamented that there was no chocolate dessert option that evening, the chef asked when he would be having dinner in the hotel next. Sure enough, when that person returned, he and his party were served an excellent flourless chocolate cake.
Such service appears to be a hallmark: the attentive staff has virtually all been poached from the neighboring competition, whose training programs clearly deserve the reputations they have earned.
The cuisine is international, with Mexican influences and a flair for the innovative and adventurous — such as armadillo sopes, or filet mignon stuffed with cheese and drenched in mole; there are also signature house salads and ceviches. Breakfast and lunch are served in an informal outdoor setting; dinner is indoors and will soon have an al fresco option as well. Room service, available all hours, covers the full spectrum of the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.
The bar is exceptionally well stocked and tended; ask to be introduced to a few kinds of tequila you’ve never tried — such as pomegranate–infused –- or to suggest a different after–dinner drink (Licor 23, a Spanish vanilla liqueur, served on the rocks with espresso is an inspired choice). The sommelier can also advise as to which Mexican wines on the international list might be worth trying.
Naturally, La Tranquila is all–suites, every one with an ocean view. The standard configuration is actually a three–bedroom apartment with three full bathrooms, a complete kitchen equipped with Viking appliances, and compact washer and dryer. Hotel guests can choose the full–size apartment, a two–bedroom configuration (the Serena Suite), or the one–bedroom Tranquila Suite, which features an individual plunge pool on the balcony and contains the master bathroom.
LCD TVs are in every bedroom plus the master bathroom, which also features a Jacuzzi (illuminated by constantly changing pastel lights) and a huge shower stall with twin raindrop heads and side jets. Pampering amenities are by Etro of Milan. Bose sound systems and DVD players round out the entertainment options – although nothing beats Mother Nature’s show: sunset views, visible from bed, Jacuzzi or balcony (in or out of the water).
Even with all these features, the property was still a work in progress during my early 2011 visit. Hammocks – so prominent in the resort’s logo – were in the planning stages for the palm trees lining the beach. The Ocean Front Spa – scheduled to be fully operational by the end of the year – was limited to massages, available in a cabana by the beach. Also in the works are shuttles into the nearby towns of Sayulita and Bucerias – although there is already a shop in the lobby, and an artisan crafts center will eventually grace the plaza at the main entrance
One final note to bring a smile to a few faces: many hotels in this category have the annoying habit of nickel–and–diming guests; as if they weren’t charging enough to stay there, they tack on huge additional fees to connect to the Internet. Thankfully, La Tranquila offers free wireless access throughout the property; in fact, if you cannot bear to be out of Wi–Fi range for even a second, the powerful signal reaches all the way to the beach!
In a region of Mexico where resorts are all trying to out-do each other, La Tranquila has raised the luxury bar even higher.
Web Address: www.latranquila.com.mx
Total Number of Rooms: 40
Published rates: $290 to $1,380
Review by Buzzy Gordon. Photos courtesy of La Tranquila