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By Elite Traveler | February 26 2019
By Susannah Rigg
This story originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Elite Traveler.
The gated community of Punta Mita, found in the Bay of Banderas in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, is one of Mexico’s most exclusive and luxurious vacation destinations. World-class hotels and villas, upscale restaurants, cutting-edge spas and two Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses attract celebrities, politicians and business people who return year after year. Punta Mita offers a combination of Pacific surf beaches and tranquil bays, as well as hundreds of acres of protected tropical forest, rich with palm trees and native plants, making the destination as beautiful as it is opulent. Residents and guests of Punta Mita have access to four beach clubs, a variety of water sports and cultural activities—all within the gates. Beyond the limits into the wider Punta de Mita area, the luxury continues with great restaurants in Punta de Mita town and stunning hotels tucked away among the trees. It’s an easy 30-minute drive from the airport in Puerto Vallarta, so you can be relaxing in a hammock on the beach in no time.
This AAA Diamond-rated restaurant is found at The St. Regis Punta Mita. The menu is a unique take on contemporary Mexican cuisine, with options such as the much-talked-about nixtamalized beet topped with seafoam. The four-course tasting menu, designed by chef Jesús Durón, is creative and inventive, with equally well-thought-out vegetarian options. With attentive service and classic design, it should be high on the list for visitors to Punta Mita. Visit on a Friday night just before sundown and you will be able to enjoy The St. Regis champagne ritual before dinner.
Guests and residents of Punta Mita have access to four beach clubs, one of which is the Kupuri Beach Club that sits overlooking the tranquil shores of Litibu Bay. Once you have worked up an appetite snorkeling in the clear waters or learning to paddleboard along the beachfront with the club’s professional teachers, the Kupuri Restaurant is a lovely place to enjoy lunch. The menu has a mixture of fresh seafood and meat dishes, plus sushi and healthy bowls with fresh tuna and grains — perfect for light midday grazing.
A great option in the town of Punta de Mita, Tuna Blanca is the second restaurant of Thierry Blouet, a chef well-known for his first eatery, Café des Artistes in Puerto Vallarta. Set on the waterfront where paddleboarders drift by and boats cruise past, Tuna Blanca makes a great option by day or night, when you can catch the sky changing color at sunset. Serving up cream of langoustine soup and al-pastor-style fish among the many options, it is inventive without pretension. The guava crème brûlée dessert is a creamy, citrusy delight worth making space for.
The pioneer hotel in Punta Mita, Four Seasons is a solid option that doesn’t disappoint. The Diego Villaseñor-designed Coral Suite is some 13,300 sq ft with its own private entrance, spa and gym, providing the highest level of privacy. The impressive ocean views allow you to watch whale migrations and sky-erupting sunsets from the comfort of your suite or pool, which undulates along the front of the property. Book your own chef, or enjoy the three on-site restaurants, which offer everything from traditional Mexican options to freshly grilled fish and seafood. Countless activities, a creative kids club, hanging beach loungers and infinity pools mean there is plenty of variety for every type of vacation.
This beautiful, nine-bedroom, private beachfront villa is the perfect option for those looking for a bespoke home away from home. Designed with barefoot vacations in mind, architects Juan Collignon and Manolo Mestre, and interior designer Karen Collignon, utilized materials like slate, stone, softwoods and sand to ensure a luxurious feel underfoot. The property blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings, offering gentle transitions between the interiors and exteriors for indoor/outdoor living. The on-site chef will prepare food to suit any diet, and specially prepared playlists will be ready for your arrival.With staff on call 24 hours to offer wine pairings, yoga classes, bespoke tours and spa treatments, you can lie back and enjoy your vacation.
With just 15 lodgings nestled amid a tropical forest that leads to a stunningly secluded beach, Imanta might make visitors feel like they have been shipwrecked on a chic island, or washed up on the shores of an ancient Mesoamerican city. Designed by Juan Mario Sahagun de la Mora, who lives in a luxurious treehouse on the property, Imanta is for those who want to feel like they are in a secret hideaway, far from the world. The Casona Jaguar, which is 10,000 sq ft with three bedrooms, impressive ocean views, a private terrace and the largest pool on the property, is perfect for a special getaway with friends or family. Make time for the mystical alfresco jungle spa and traditional sweat-lodge experience.
From the very entrance of the St. Regis, your eyes are led down a palm-lined path to the beach, which offers stunning views of the Marieta Islands as well as impressive sunsets. The hotel has a laid-back, toes-in-the-sand vibe, without sacrificing any of its sophistication. The Presidential Suite has three bedrooms and is located directly on the beach. Its terrace has a private pool and Jacuzzi, and St. Regis’s signature personalized butler service is available 24 hours a day. Dining options range from the AAA, Diamond-rated Carolina Restaurant to Mita Mary, where fresh fish and lobster tacos can be enjoyed while watching the waves. Don’t miss the Remède Spa and the Huichol-inspired Hisi Awakening Ritual.
Take a private yacht out to the Unesco-declared biosphere reserve of Isla Marietas with Punta Mita Expeditions. Depending on the time of year, keep an eye out for whales and dolphins on the short 15-minute ride to the islands. Once there, you can spot the infamous Blue-Footed Boobies and jump into the water to explore the abundant marine life around these protected reefs. If you would prefer to stay away from the crowds, your captain can also take you to secluded and tranquil bays where you can snorkel.
La Patrona Polo Club is in the town of San Pancho, a short drive from Punta Mita. The club boasts two full-size fields as well as a so-called indoor field — named for the material underfoot as opposed to being enclosed, in this case — and the entire club is surrounded by lush green mountains and tropical forests. Spend a day learning how to play with coach Martin Harriague, or sign up to play a match. On Sundays from November through April, you can enjoy the polo brunch with matches, live music and delicious food by chef Hugo Ahumada.
The mix of amazing surf breaks and calm bays with turquoise waters mean that Punta Mita is made for surfers and paddleboarders alike. All of the hotels have boards that you can take out on the water. If you are a beginner or if you just want to improve your technique, there are surf clinics and paddleboard classes. El Faro, a point break, is one of Punta Mita’s best surf spots, while paddleboarders should head out on the calm waters around Sufi Ocean Club.
Be part of the turtle conservation project happening all along the coast of the Riviera Nayarit by participating in a baby turtle release at sunset at the Four Seasons Hotel. You will learn all about the conservation efforts and release four turtles into the ocean for the first time in their lives. Watch them head instinctively towards the water before they get swept up by the tide and start swimming. Not only is it a moving experience, but part of the participation fee goes directly to further turtle conservation.
Head to El Observatorio bar within the Imanta Hotel to enjoy an agave tasting with an impressive view out over the ocean in a structure that looks like a Mesoamerican star observatory. The on-site mixologists are experts in all drinks made with the mighty agave — a tasting session will get you to expert level in no time. Learn how the different spirits are made before trying them accompanied by fruits and salts made in-house to help you taste the complexity of flavor of these Mexican drinks.
With two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf courses and ocean views, golfers are in for a treat. The Pacifico course boasts the world’s only natural-island hole, known affectionately as ‘The Tail of the Whale,’ which attracts some of the world’s leading golfers to try their luck. The Bahia course is slightly undulated, making it great for more advanced golfers, and the 17th hole right next to El Faro surf beach provides amazing views to accompany your game.