Km 8.5 Carretera Punta de Mita, Desarrollo Costa Banderas, Nayarit, Mexico
A younger and hipper counterpart to the two big resorts inside the Punta de Mita gate, the W Hotel a few miles away offers a stylish vacation getaway on a long stretch of beaches.
There's no shortage of hotels to choose from in the Puerto Vallarta region and the developments now stretch north almost interrupted on the Nayarit side to the Punta de Mita Peninsula. Most of them are condo complexes after Nuevo Vallarta though, making the W Hotel in this area the best resort at the northern edge of Bandera Bay.
You don't have to walk far at the W Punta de Mita to find people striking a pose for their Instagram account or to make their friends jealous on other social media platforms. The whole resort seems to be a series of striking backdrops, from the greenery-enclosed boxy buildings in a semicircle looking out to the sea to the Huichol art flanking the staircase leading down from the lobby to the sea. A Huichol-inspired tile walkway extends out, up a series of stairs, and down an elevated dead-end bridge beside the swimming pool. I saw one guest posing in front of the stairs three times in three different outfits because...it's just that cool and unusual.
While some designer hotels put all their work into the style part though and skimp on everything else, this W property has it going on across the board. Thanks to a well-honed Marriott corporation training program, the bilingual staffers are attentive and professional. This being Mexico, the staffers are friendly and go out of their way to make sure you're having a good time. Plus this property gets most of the basics right, whether that's room amenities, the public facilities, or the food. You could spend four or five days here without tiring of it and wanting to move on.
The main social centers are the beach and the two swimming pools. The beach has chairs set up and there are some good waves here, though there's no equipment included in the rates. If you want to even take out a boogie board, you'll need to rent it from a private concession. There are also a surprisingly high percentage of pool lounging spots that require an extra fee of $100 to $160 per day, whether that's one of the elevated lounge chairs overlooking the ocean from the adults-only pool or one of the daybeds lining one side of the main pool. Thankfully the place was only half-full in the summer season when we visited, but it could turn into a "pay to lay" situation when occupancy is highest.
The two pools (Wet and Wet Too) are quite different. The main one open to families is a very large rectangle with a fun "toes in the sand" bar and casual restaurant next to it. The adults-only one is a see-through affair that looks more like an enclosed lap pool. It has a great restaurant at the end serving up fresh seafood with a view of where it came from, as well as some inventive cocktails and Mexican beers.
There's another pool complex at the spa and it's worth booking a treatment just to spend some time in this enchanting area in the jungle. It's basically a hydrotherapy circuit, but all open-air, so you can choose from different temperatures and jet treatments while feeling like you are immersed in nature. Come here before or after your massage, which if my experience was any indication, will leave you feeling looser and more content than you have been in a long time. If you're experiencing a lot of stress from your job, a few hours in the AWAY spa will make you stop thinking about the problems of home.
If you're not the type who wants to spend days just laying around and getting rubbed, however, the fitness center at the W Punta de Mita is a thing of wonder. It has the machines you would expect and then some, with walls of glass looking out at the tree canopy. There are free weights, yoga classes, Pilates classes, and more to help you maintain your workout routine.
When it's time to eat, however, you will likely be delighted by the options here whether you're a meat-loving glutton, a vegan health freak, or anything in between. The main restaurant open for all three meals is Venazu, an open and airy space with indoor and outdoor seating options. It features a breakfast buffet with a wide variety of tasty items and plenty of healthy choices, while for other meals the menu choices offer plenty to make everyone happy, with a strong focus on fresh Mexican dishes.
Nearby is the Spice Market, and extension of the chain that spans locations from New York to London to the Middle East. It focuses on mostly Southeast Asian cuisine accompanied by inventive cocktails and a DJ spinning tunes. Although it may seem a little strange to be eating Asian food by a beach in Mexico, the seafood is fresh and the chefs do a great job of using ingredients common to both geographies, such as coconut and tamarind.
A special group dinner offering is available for up to 12. There's a special dining section set up in the middle of a lagoon, with a bridge that appears and disappears as needed. There you experience a seven-course tasting menu, only offered once per night, with your own group of servers.
As mentioned earlier, there are also two poolside options during the day: Chevycheria, built around a 1950s Chevy truck, and Salero at the end of the adult pool.
Rooms at the W Punta de Mita Hotel are over-the-top Mexican cool and almost sure to make you smile. Whether it's Pancho Villa sporting a leather jacket and guitar or Frida Kahlo holding a skateboard, there's a playfulness in the design that's refreshing and fun. Punctured tin headboards, Acapulco chairs, and Mexican fabrics give spaces big pops of color and joy. All have some kind of balcony or terrace outside.
Again though, form is not at the expense of function—unless you really like to have your bathroom privacy. In most layouts, the bathrooms are behind a partition at best. Otherwise though, the beds are comfortable, the room sizes are ample, and the electronic features work intuitively. Huge TVs are loaded with Netflix and each room has some kind of Bluetooth speaker system. If you're not shy about adding on food and beverage charges, you've got nearly everything you'd want in the wheel-around steel minibar.
Only about a dozen of the units directly face the ocean and these are the most desirable if you want to be steps from the beach. The rest are either inside the jungle area or on a hillside above the lake. The room descriptions aren't much help since they're words like "Wonderful," "Fabulous," and "Spectacular." But the jungle rooms are larger and have more storage than the hillside ones, which have open rack spaces with hangers rather than proper closets.
The suites are worth the upgrade, especially the Oasis Oceanfront Suite with its outdoor plunge pool and daybed on a terrace with an ocean view. There's also one "Extreme Wow" beachfront Presidential Suite with an additional bedroom, a dining table for 10 and three TVs. (Suites here are also more environmentally friendly, with less disposable plastic and real espresso cups instead of paper ones.)
If you're looking for an artistic and fun beach resort that feels like a real escape, the W Punta de Mita is well removed from the Puerto Vallarta bustle. It's just about 20 minutes north of the airport, but is in a secluded area on a long and attractive stretch of beach.
Web Address: Marriott.com Punta de Mita
Total Number of Rooms: 132
Published rates: $239-$5,200 plus taxes
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.