Bahia de Banderas, Punta de Mita, Nayarit, Mexico
Hollywood stars, dot–com millionaires, and international financiers keep this secluded and surprisingly family-friendly resort near Puerto Vallarta hopping most of the year. With excellent restaurants, three pools, and two of the country’s best golf courses inside the gates, it’s 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—virtually unreachable by others—by building a hotel surrounded by one of Mexico's best golf courses (a second was completed in 2009), picture-perfect beaches, and a series of ultra–luxurious private villas and custom homes. The entire operation has earned Four Seasons its reputation as the premier resort of Mexico's Pacific Coast—despite recent nearby competition from a St. Regis resort.
Although located only 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta, the long winding road which leads to the resort's gate–guarded complex clearly indicates that these guys are serious about providing the very best in terms of privacy and security. In fact, Four Seasons isolation is likely unmatched in the region, and once settled into your casita, could leave you feeling a bit at the mercy of attentive staffers with golf carts. (There could be worse scenarios.)
Just past the understated marble lobby, you'll be greeted with a breathtaking panoramic ocean view. The Punta Mita development’s resort's 1,500 acres (405 hectares) hug a fine line of coast, part of it devoted to the two Jack Nicklaus–designed golf courses, one hole extending out to an offshore islet reachable by amphibious cart after teeing off. (See our Golf in Punta Mita article for more)
After plenty of feedback from guests and reviewers, management has totally revamped the restaurant offerings over the past couple of years, the most noticeable change being bringing in chef Richard Sandoval to create a modern Mexican menu for the main casual poolside restaurant serving all meals. The choices are accessible but have flair—like swordfish tostadas and avocado-poblano gazpacho with crab meat. The beachside seafood grill is a romantic spot for couples when the gas-fired torches accompany the lapping waves, but parents enjoy the fact their kids can go play on the beach during a leisurely long dinner. (All of the restaurants have a children’s menu as well for picky tykes.) The Aramara contemporary Asian restaurant, with indoor-outdoor seating one floor down from the lobby, wins raves for its sushi selection, grilled meats, and thinly sliced seasoned steak cooked tableside over a hot rock.
You can also arrange for romantic private dining on a rock peninsula, followed by a cozy campfire for two. The hip bar features ceviche, tequila tastings and a wide selection of Cuban and Mexican cigars. A final option for breakfast, lunch or after–game drinks is the clubhouse on the greens. Expect to pay as much as you would in Manhattan for all meals and drinks, but after recent changes the cuisine seems to have risen to a level where it’s justified. The restaurants here are now among the best in the Puerto Vallarta region overall—with some of the coast’s best views to match.
The lobby and main infinity pool also have bars where you can treat yourself to cocktails while celebrity gazing or waiting for a lounge chair. To offer more pool options, the resort added an adults-only pool area and then a fun lazy river pool later. The adult area doesn't face the ocean, but includes four different pools and a hot tub, plus a bar and café, all surrounded by pimped–out private cabanas that you can rent (for a an extra $195-$250 a day). These over–the–top poolside palapas come complete with Internet access, flat 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.
The Kids for All Seasons activity program ensures that youngsters have access to plenty of toys, arts & crafts and other entertainment, as well––including DVDs, arcade games, Wii games, and a pool table in the Nunutzi Games Room. A daily slate of organized activities in the kids’ club and beyond can keep them occupied all day.
Off the lobby is the more refined Cultural Center where guests can use the house laptop or peruse a well–stocked library of books and regional videos. The center hosts classes on mole sauce and tequila appreciation, as well as lectures on the history of the Huichol people and other ancient cultures of Mesoamerica.
The popular Apuane spa also includes cultural offerings, a mix of New Age and Mexican treatments in line with Punta Mita's meaning, translated as "resting place." If you'd rather stay active, however, there are a variety of exercise classes and facilities to choose from. In addition to the two celebrated golf courses, the hotel also provides ten lighted tennis courts, bikes, snorkeling equipment, and kayaks. The expanded fitness center with a wall of glass is surrounded by greenery.
The standard Four Season tile–roofed casita accommodation, with terrace and balcony, is almost double the size of an average guest room. Location and size varies, from garden views to suites with stellar ocean panoramas and from studio layouts to up to five bedrooms—each the size of an ample apartment. If you want to be close to the pools and restaurants, be sure to make a special request, since some rooms are a long walk from the main buildings and require golf-cart pickup.
All 173 units and 28 villas feature the usual in high–class amenities and some of the suites include plunge pools, Bose radios and hidden TVs, as well as occasional extras like an outdoor shower or telescope. The contemporary and tropically designed casitas include polished marble floors, upholstered armchairs, pedestal tables, desks and sumptuous beds with duvets and down pillows. Baths are rich and luxurious, with L’Occitane en Provence toiletries, soaking tubs, and marble vanities. As with all Four Seasons resorts, Internet access here carries an additional pricey fee.
Since you're paying top dollar for all this stuff, be sure to stay put and enjoy it—leave the running around to the superb bilingual hotel staff. Room service impresses around the clock, delivering newspapers with breakfast and providing turndown service that even includes mini robes and tear–free shampoo for the kids. The concierge services are first–rate as well—pool attendants will fetch you chilled towels, bottled water and fruit kebobs 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 four in-house boutique stores If you're in search of seclusion and world–class service at the top resort in the Puerto Vallarta region, then Four Seasons Punta Mita is the obvious choice. Just be sure to rent a car ahead of time if you think you'll want to leave the lap of luxury at all during your stay and bring a credit card with an ample balance: you’ll be sharing pool deck space with guests who have personal assistants to manage such trifles.
Web Address: www.fourseasons.com/puntamita
Total Number of Rooms: 201
Published rates: $415 to $12,000
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.