I just returned from a magical week on the beautiful Riviera Nayarit in Mexico. Two villa stays – one on the beach and one in the hills, spa treatments (perks of being a travel advisor?!), cooking class, tequila tasting, swimming with wild dolphins, ziplining, margarita making lesson, horseback riding on the beach, whale watching, world-class golf, …
First stop is Villa La Estancia Beach Resort & Spa, a member of the Preferred Hotel Group. Our one bedroom villa suite with ocean view had a living room, dining room, fully equipped kitchen, master bedroom with king size bed, spa bathroom, and a large terrace (shared with the adjacent superior room; turns the one bedroom villa into a two bedroom villa). Guests of Villa La Estancia can use the amenities of the Flamingos resort next door.
As soon as my reservation was confirmed, the chief butler contacted me to introduce himself and offer assistance with spa and dining reservations. Nice touch!
The highlight of our stay was the private cooking class with Executive Chef Davide Marchetti. Back in Austin, I’ve already made the delicious tortilla soup with Chef Davide’s recipe.
What I liked: beautiful accommodations, Tatewari spa treatments, dinner in the Trattoria, private cooking class, private tequila tasting, private butler, fabulous beach, mini supermarket, genuine friendliness of all staff.
What I did not like: shared balcony, sporadic internet access, travel agency restricted to one tour company.
Recommended for families and beach lovers.
Time to pack our bags and head 10 miles north to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (La Cruz) and the recently opened Hotel Matlali at Puerto Bahia Resorts… so recent no one knows where it is…
Hotel Matlali is a Preferred Boutique Hotel. The setting of this hotel in the hills of the Sierra Madre is stunning and we enjoyed 4 days of tranquility and serenity. Our one bedroom ocean view suite with private pool was in “The Tower” and our gracious host, Raul Nunez gave us a tour of the resort and showed us the different types of accommodations. There are 40 units available now and more will open later this year, as well as another pool and a multi-sports court. The hotel is nestled within its own nature preserve and guests can enjoy hiking on trails bursting with bright colors of flora and fauna. In the morning you are greeted by the sounds of the birds and a spectacular sunrise!
Hotel Matlali boasts a unique spa experience for guests and visitors. Recreating the soothing tranquility of a rainforest, the Makawé Spa offers complete relaxation within six secluded Asian-style indoor and outdoor palapa-style treatment areas, as well as a steam room and “sensations” plunge pool.
We had a lovely dinner at Raixes restaurant. The chef shops for fresh fish every day at the “mercado del mar” in La Cruz and he is available to prepare a private dining experience in the villas and suites. Another fun and unique feature of Hotel Matlali is the “4 minute meal”. Guests are provided with fresh, prepared and pre-cut ingredients to create their own dishes in their villa’s or suite’s modern kitchen.
What I liked: … everything! … attention to detail from time of booking to check out, personalized service, friendly staff, gorgeous accommodations, fabulous gardens, private pool, Makawé spa, dining options, margarita making lesson with Jaire in the pool bar, Sunday farmers’ market in La Cruz, private yacht services, art galleries in Bucerias
What I didn’t like: resort transportation is one way only, beach club
Recommended for honeymoons and weddings, wellness getaways, culinary experiences
This trip also gave me the opportunity to get an update on the golf courses and to check 2 items off my bucket list: swimming with wild dolphins and ziplining.
For the dolphin swim, we chose Wildlife Connection in part to support the research they do. The experience was amazing! The dolphins are naturally curious and will pop up right next to the swimmers. They are also playful and it is fun to listen to their “conversations.” One very important rule: NO touching!
A few observations: a continental breakfast consisting of cold, dry toast and coffee is served during the pre-tour lecture. Recommendation: eat breakfast before leaving the hotel! While the lecture was informative not enough time was spent on what to do while in the water. Once we got to the dolphins one person was asked to jump in and for the next 5 minutes or so the guide, Eduardo, kept on shouting at her. Swim to the dolphins, swim away from the dolphins, dive, … did not make any sense at all. There is no visibility whatsoever in the water and the dolphins appear to be drawn to the jet skis which Eduardo had told us were dangerous for them. We were provided with masks or goggles and fins, no life vests were offered. Sliding into the water from the side of the boat was easy, getting back in not so much. It required stepping onto the propeller and being pulled into the boat. Several people ended up with bruises and bloody scratches on their legs. How about a small step ladder? During the whole time no mention was made of possible dangers in the water like jelly fish. Last but not least, no toilet on board but nice and clean facilities on the dock.
Wildlife Connection combines whale and dolpin watching tours but not the dolphin swim. Whale watching season is from December to March.
Our zipline adventure was with Vista Paraiso, a newer outfit in Higuera Blanca just north of Punta Mita and Sayulita. The tour includes 7 zip lines and one suspension bridge. Safety is first and foremost and the guides make sure everything is secure before letting go. The longest zipline is about 800 meters and the fastest (also shortest) will get you up to 70 kmh. That’s pretty fast! The views from the ziplines and the rest stop are incredible but cameras are not permitted on the zipline and Vista Paraiso provides a “personal” photographer. The CD is extra (price is negotiable) and available the same day or next. I’ll post some photos here later.
Vista Paraiso operates from a ranch in a natural forest reserve. On the drive up the mountain to the zipline we encountered lots of wildlife including parrots! The horses on the ranch are well-cared for and include show horses. Returning clients raved about their ride and galloping on the beach!
Update on golf courses: Riviera Nayarit features six exceptional world-class courses designed by such golfing masters as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Jim Lipe, Percy Clifford and Robert Von Hagge & Baril. The standout is Pacifico Golf Course in Punta Mita, the home of the “Tail of the Whale,” an optional par-three hole, with its unique island green situated in what is perhaps the largest water hazard on the planet – the Pacific Ocean!
Getting there: connecting flights to Puerto Vallarta via Houston or Dallas from Austin. I highly recommend “Global Entry” as the US customs and immigration lines are long and slow. Puerto Vallarta airport is clean, modern, and very efficient. Easy taxi ride from the airport to the resorts. Contact me here for an appointment to plan your next wellness and wellbeing getaway!