The Four Seasons' Manzanillas Beach hosts cabanas, lounges and a seasonal turtle release program.
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The lobby's contemporary art and soaring palapa-style roof typify the resort's casual elegance.
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Villa Tres Amores’ spacious terrace includes a wide infinity-edge pool, hot tub, dining and lounging areas, and sweeping views toward Puerto Vallarta.
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The master bedroom, one of four, showcases the fashion-forward style of the villa’s owner.
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The setting sun cast a golden beam across the waves as we stood behind a line drawn in the sand of Manzanillas Beach, part of the 9 1⁄2 miles of spectacular coastline claimed by Punta Mita, an exclusive resort community 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. My husband and I were about to release newly hatched sea turtles, which will return to nest here as long as they cross 10 feet of beach on their way to the ocean. Already fans of coastal Mexican cuisine and the country’s gracious service, we too were making plans to come back: The lush green hills, white sand beaches and copious amenities of one of Punta Mita’s five-star resorts and one of its most spectacular private villas leave their own irresistible imprint.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
The olive ridley turtle release program, offered by conservation group Red Tortuguera, is exclusive to guests of the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita (from $517). Although it’s typically offered only August through February, it’s far from the only reason to make the 177-room hotel—or one of its 85 private villas and residences—your nest. Two broad beaches separated by a dramatic rocky point, known simply as “The Rock,” provide mesmerizing vistas and opportunities for snorkeling, surfing and other watersports. Four large pools—including the Nuna, always heated to 86 degrees, and a palm-lined “lazy river”—beckon with numerous lounges, cabanas and tropical snack stands.
Ten tennis courts and two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed courses also encourage outdoor activity, but we were even more impressed by the well-furnished family game room and the new teens-only center, the Container. Built in colorful shipping containers, it includes a cinema with beanbag chairs and 85-inch screen; a video game compound with everything from Xbox to virtual reality headsets; a classic game room with foosball, ping-pong and pinball; and an adolescent-oriented snack bar.
Our adult palates were equally cosseted at Bahía by Richard Sandoval, the resort’s casual seafood restaurant on Las Cuevas Beach, where chef Sandra Herrera’s menu boasts expertly grilled octopus, red snapper and other fresh catches. At Ketsi, under another ocean-view palapa, the breakfast buffet offers a lavish array of American and regional Mexican dishes, best paired with Oaxacan coffee or spicy hot chocolate. Walking from our hillside casita helped burn a few calories (golf cart shuttles are also available), but we could have easily spent the day in our spacious two-bedroom oceanfront suite (from $1,333 with plunge pool, or $9,130 with large infinity-edge pool). The hammock in our friends’ prime ocean-view casita room (from $813) also inspired incubating.
Villa Tres Amores
Families or friends traveling together, as we were, may experience love at first sight when entering Villa Tres Amores (from $2,295), a spectacularly sited, designer-furnished residence in Punta Mita’s exclusive Porta Fortuna enclave, one of about a dozen residential communities on the peninsula. Named for the three children (“three loves”) of its owner, a fashion industry insider who splits her time between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, the four-bedroom 9,387-square-foot villa (with four full bathrooms, plus two half-baths) adds one wow factor after another. Behind the massive front door, a large sunny courtyard leads into a great room framing a panoramic view of emerald mountains, red-tiled rooftops, the sparkling blue Bahia de Banderas and lime-green golf links. Studded with dramatic art pieces, the great room opens onto a sprawling shaded terrace with saltwater infinity-edge pool and hot tub.
It took exactly 10 minutes for one person in our group to change into a swimsuit and hop into one of the pool’s unicorn floats, a freshly made cocktail in hand. The latter came courtesy of Victor, the friendly bartender who the owner hires by request to greet guests (sober travelers may also ask for alcohol to be removed in advance from the bar/media room). Further personal pampering came from housekeeper Elisa, who cooks breakfast and lunch daily (guests pay for the groceries), cleans, launders and, in our case, sews (repairing a rip in my husband’s shorts). A concierge from Mita Residential provides on-site check-in, a luxury golf cart, and help with activity and dining bookings throughout the stay.
While we opted not to take one of the seasonal whale watching cruises that our attentive concierge researched, we took her advice to check out all Punta Mita private beach clubs to which the villa grants access. The most striking is Sufi, within a five-minute walk, featuring an undulating infinity-edge pool next to one of the longest surf breaks I’ve ever seen, plus delicious ceviche. Kupuri and the Residents’ beach clubs also offer attractive cliffside pools, casual restaurants and long stretches of sand.
Access to the serene The St. Regis Beach Club—on the ample grounds of Punta Mita’s other five-star resort—costs $80 per adult, which offsets any restaurant charges. After a few margaritas and lobster tacos at its Mita Mary Boat Bistro, we agreed it was a deal. We also appreciated dinner reservations at Sí Señor, a popular beachfront restaurant in Punta de Mita, the tiny town just outside the resort’s gates, where vacationers’ golf carts line the two main streets. Picking our fresh fish from a tableside display, we toasted our good fortune with spicy margaritas, vowing to return, like the turtles, to Punta Mita.
Originally published in the May issue of Silicon Valley