Bahia de Banderas, Punta de Mita, Nayarit, Mexico
Despite ever-increasing competition in the Riviera Nayarit, this favorite of Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley moguls, and international financiers with family in tow is still the top resort near Puerto Vallarta. With excellent restaurants, three pools, and access to two of the country's best golf courses, Four Seasons Punta Mita is a world unto itself.
Since arriving in the Riviera Nayarit region just north of Puerto Vallarta in 1999, the Four Seasons at Punta Mita has set the bar high—at a point unreachable by others—by building a sprawling hotel above two beaches, surrounded by two PGA golf courses, and a series of ultra-luxurious private villas and custom homes. The entire operation is part of an exclusive gated community with heavy security and ensured privacy, yet the vibe from arrival onward is friendly, relaxed, and welcoming.
Although this is now the oldest luxury resort on the Punta de Mita Peninsula, it stays on top through continuous renovations and improvements. The lower occupancy during the pandemic of 2020 through 2021 provided a rare opportunity to start construction projects. They upgraded the main pool, repainted all the exteriors, and revamped some of the food and beverage outlets. This was my third visit to the resort since Luxury Latin America launched and each time it looks a bit more impressive instead of less.
Just past the understated and airy marble lobby with original sculptures, you'll be greeted with a breathtaking panoramic ocean view while you sip a welcome cocktail and enjoy a cool towel. The Punta Mita development as a whole is 1,500 acres (405 hectares) and the Four Seasons sits on 52 of the best acres on the water. The property hugs a prime stretch of coast with some calm beaches interspersed with rocky outlets continually buffeted by crashing waves. There's a flat spot for romantic dinners and events on the point sticking out the most into the water, then a white sandy beach on each side. Most of the public facilities are situated around the center of the complex, with various rooms, suites, and villas climbing the hills to the left and right.
The beaches themselves are well set up for relaxation, with lounge chairs, cabanas, beach beds, and even a couple of swinging beds suspended from the palms. Some 800 staffers work at the Four Seasons Punta Mita, which means you don't have to work very hard to find someone to bring you a cool drink or something to eat. The water is calm enough to take out a kayak or paddleboard and the resort offers surf fishing set-ups if you want to try to catch your lunch.
There are three swimming pools on site, all with a dramatically different feel. The most popular for lounging (and posing) is the gorgeous infinity pool that wraps around in a free-form half circle to offer panoramic views of the coast and both beaches. There are lots of nice touches here, like built-in drink holders outside the edge of the pool for when you're gazing from the edge and a nice slip-proof bottom. The surrounding chairs offer options in the sun or under shade, with cushioned lounge chairs and drink service.
That one is for all ages, while the other two are for adults and families, respectively. The adult pool complex doesn't face the ocean but it's huge, with a pool long enough for laps, another one almost as big, and a hot tub, plus a bar and café. These are all surrounded by pimped-out private cabanas that you can rent (for an extra charge). These over-the-top poolside palapas come complete with wide-screen TVs, a stocked minibar, and stereo.
The lazy river pool next to the kids' club is a big hit with families and, like the others, features concierge service with towels, drinks, and complimentary sunscreen. It's a pretty long circuit to go all the way around and a great cooling-off spot.
The two golf courses in the Punta Mita development are a draw themselves. Both were designed by Jack Nicklaus and some of the holes have views of the water. One hole is actually in the ocean: it's on an offshore islet reachable by amphibious cart after teeing off. (See our Golf in Punta Mita and Puerto Vallarta article for more.)
There's also a large tennis center with several surfaces to choose from and lessons from a pro available. Bikes are available by the lobby to take out any time and you can ride for miles on dedicated trails without ever leaving the Punta Mita complex. There's also a basketball court on site.
The Kids for All Seasons activity program ensures that youngsters have access to plenty of toys, arts & crafts, and other entertainment as well. A game room and teen area have movies, arcade games, video games, and a pool table. A daily slate of organized activities in the kids' club and beyond can keep the little ones occupied all day. The resort even runs a "schoolcations" program for parents with kids in remote learning programs.
Adults can get some pampering time in at the excellent Apuane Spa, where I got my kinks worked out by a talented masseuse after some time in the whirlpool and relaxation areas. There's also a sauna and steam room in each locker room. The focused treatment menu makes use of local ingredients and traditions. I got the Punta Mita Tequila Stone Treatment, for example, which uses tequila, sage oil, and hot stones in combination with a massage by hands and forearms. Another massage makes use of the Hakani cactus plant, while one of the beauty treatments utilizes a coconut sugar scrub and apricot oil. Apuane Spa is open 12 hours a day, while the well-equipped fitness center is open 11 hours.
The main restaurant has gone through several iterations over the years, from international to celebrity chef gourmet Mexican and points in between. When the latest general manager with more than a quarter-century with Four Seasons came in, his first order of business was to enlarge the main restaurant and focus on food that a Mexican grandma would make—just presented with more flair. So Dos Catrinas is full-on Mexican now, with iconic papel picado designs lit from behind, a churro cart, and plants like agave, maguey, and sotol surrounding the building. The menu has items you normally see at street food stands (or in that grandma's kitchen) like tortilla soup, gorditas, sopes, and a big Oaxacan tlayuda. Sure, you can get your international standards here, but you can get a real taste of Mexico by ordering huevos rancheros or chilaquiles for breakfast, with Mexican coffee and fresh-squeezed juice.
We had several meals at Dos Catrinas and all of the Mexican dishes were much closer to the real thing in flavor than you usually find at an international chain hotel, while still providing something pretty enough to photograph. For dinner we tried a decadent langoustines and prawns dish, a catch of the day in banana leaves, a salsa tasting of different varieties, and dessert from that churro cart. For breakfast we tried a range of somewhat healthy items such as red fruit chia pudding and avocado toast with salmon, but also some enfrijoladas enchiladas.
The main bar with an ocean view is above, with a good selection of Mexican craft beer, tequila, and mezcal. You can choose from multiple tasting session options if you want an education, like the Mexican spirits tasting we went through with items than spanned Chiapas to Chihuahua.
The more formal Aramara dinner restaurant also enjoys impressive ocean views, but specializes in Asian cuisine that's also done right. We tried chicken gyozo, Vietnamese spring rolls, Thai chicken curry, and a sushi roll and it was a very satisfying pan-Asian tour. Everything passed the "closed eyes" test where it could have easily been from the host country, but with a view of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean when those eyes were open.
You can dine on fresh grilled fish at Bahia Restaurant and Bar right on the beach or get a bite at Tamai by the adult pool. There's also a coffee shop by the lobby, there are a few more bars scattered around, and the extensive room service offerings are available 24 hours.
You can also arrange for romantic private dining on a rock peninsula, followed by a cozy campfire for two. If you're in a suite or villa with a kitchen, you can arrange a chef's dinner to be prepared where you're staying—a popular option when families were trying to maintain their social distancing bubbles. A final option for breakfast, lunch or after-game drinks is the clubhouse on the golf greens.
The standard Four Season tile-roofed casita accommodation, with terrace or balcony, is almost double the size of an average guest room at most resorts. Location and size vary widely in the categories beyond that, from garden views to suites with stellar ocean panoramas and from studio layouts to five bedrooms—each of those the size of an ample apartment. There are "beach houses" that feel more like a villa rental, complete with butler, for those who want to be close to the waves.
It's best to call the reservations office for help choosing the right option. Some units require navigating some stairs, while others are equipped for those in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. If you want to be close to the pools and restaurants, be sure to make that known: some rooms are a long walk from the main buildings and require golf-cart pickup.
All 177 rooms and suites were renovated over the past couple of years, with the 2020 slowdown providing an opportunity to revamp without much disruption. The décor got a complete makeover inside and out and all the units look contemporary, artistic, and unique. The designers did a nice job mixing natural materials and Mexican touches in with furniture that meets the expectations of a wide range of guests. There are beautiful tables that are simply polished cross-cut tree trunks, while the outdoor furniture feels beachy and light. The new minibar units are beautiful to look at, lighted glass cabinets with liquor displayed alongside a cocktail book and shaker. The attention to detail is impressive, including the artistic ceramic coffee mugs, Huichol art, and custom light fixtures.
A lot more outlets went into the right places during renovations and the amenities are extensive, including Bose Bluetooth speakers, smart TVs, capsule espresso makers, luxurious bathrobes (including ones for kids), and high-end toiletries. Some units have extras like an outdoor shower or telescope. Baths are rich and luxurious, with large showers, soaking tubs, and marble vanities. In most of the clusters of rooms, the suites on the corners come with their own plunge pool outside.
Some of the villas and beach houses have full kitchens and larger pools, running from 8,000 to more than 13,000 square feet. There are also additional full villas with multiple bedrooms in the rental pool that are not part of the regular room count.
Since you're paying top dollar for all this, be sure to stay put and enjoy it—leave the running around to the superb bilingual hotel staff. Room service, turndown service, and concierge services are all first-rate. Pool attendants will fetch you chilled towels, bottled water, and fruit kebobs or ice cream while also coordinating your tee time and dinner reservations. Shoppers can make use of the resort's daily shuttle to Puerto Vallarta or just browse for higher quality items instead in the quality boutique stores on site.
While this resort suffers from the same addiction to throw-away plastic water bottles as most of its competitors in this region—despite the Costa Rica Four Seasons being plastic-free since the '00s—there's little else to find fault with in this standout luxury hideaway. If you're in search of seclusion and world-class service at the reigning top resort in the Puerto Vallarta region, then Four Seasons Punta Mita is the obvious choice. It manages to be an ideal vacation spot for honeymooners and those celebrating an anniversary in style while also serving families looking for a well-rounded option that the kids will love and rave about.
Web Address: www.fourseasons.com/puntamita
Total Number of Rooms: 177 plus villas in the rental pool
Published rates: $750 to $16,000 plus mandatory 10% service charge and taxes
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.