By Steve Zepezauer
As we drive up the cobblestone road toward the guard gate, the driver turns to me and says, “welcome to Punta Mita, which means ‘entrance to paradise.’ ” Even though I’m a total gringo, I do know enough Spanish to know that’s not close to an exact translation. Even still, the driver is correct.
For those who have already discovered Punta Mita, an exclusive beach community within Mexico’s newest planned resort paradise, they are hoping it can stay a sleepy secret from the rest of the world for a bit longer. About a 45-minute drive northwest of Puerto Vallarta on the secluded shores of the Riviera Nayarit, Punta Mita lies on a private peninsula and has become known as a place where luxury and nature meet.
Shaped like a spear, the region is surrounded on three sides by turquoise waters along 9 ½ miles of magnificent coastline with pristine white sand beaches—and entering the 1,500-acre community is transformative. The area is self-contained and feels completely removed, which is clearly the intention here. If, for some reason, you choose to leave this nirvana-like enclave and experience more of the local culture, several towns like El Anclote, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and Sayulita are close drives away.
Two five-star resorts anchor the area. Both properties offer spectacular accommodations just steps from the beach and are world class in every way. Set just about a mile away from each other via the beach and maybe a little more on a golf cart through the cobblestone Punta Mita “highway” system, these two resorts are reason enough to discover Punta Mita.
The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort has 22 picturesque acres of sprawling, lush grounds and three infinity pools. It’s quiet, even when at capacity, and is the epitome of luxury. It’s equally peaceful and elegant as well as sexy and hip. As the newer of the two resorts, the St. Regis is thoughtfully designed in every way. Every room has immaculate and tasteful finishes as well as top-of-the-line technology. Private outdoor showers add a unique touch. The resort’s signature restaurant, Carolina, features contemporary Mexican cuisine from chef José Meza Arróyave and makes for a truly memorable culinary experience. Meanwhile, Sea Breeze Restaurant & Bar adds a beach club vibe to the traditional bistro concept, serving gourmet burgers and steaks from a wood-burning grill alongside ceviches, tiraditos (a spicy Peruvian version of sashimi) and empanadas. For the ultimate in indulgence, the Remède Spa, one of the signatures of the St. Regis brand, has 10 private treatment rooms in a dreamy 10,000-square-foot sanctuary.
The proximity to the ocean of many of the casitas at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita reminds me of the tourists who complain to the front desk that they can’t sleep because the ocean is too loud; most rooms boast ocean views and some are even beachfront. Contrarily, for most, the rhythm of the surf makes for a dreamy night’s sleep for happily exhausted minds and bodies. As far as unwinding under the sun, day beds and floating lounge pods mingle with numerous hammocks that are thoughtfully hung among the sprawling branches of the manzanilla trees dotting the fine sand beaches. Bar service, of course, is available to round out the relaxation.
Food is at the forefront of the resort, which features multiple alfresco dining options all with ocean views. Fine dining with an Asian-Mexican fusion twist can be found at Aramara where influences from the Far East collide with fresh local seafood. If you’re looking for more intense Latin influences, Bahía by Richard Sandoval is a favorite choice (the resort’s partnership with the acclaimed restaurateur has paid priceless gastronomic dividends to guests since 2009). Located just a few strides from the water of Las Cuevas beach, this restaurant epitomizes the Punta Mita dining experience with a focus on seafood and a modern Mexican design. A visit to the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is not complete without toasting to a magnificent sunset over the Pacific with a drink at The Shack. Having a drink or two at the bar, which literally looks like a shack on the beach, with your feet in the sand is hard to beat.
Along with all its other offerings, Punta Mita is also a top golfing destination with two world-class courses designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. On the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita property, the Pacifico Golf Course has eight holes facing or playing alongside the Pacific Ocean or Banderas Bay. One claim to fame of Pacifico is the optional Hole 3B. This par-three hole, also known as the “Tail of the Whale” can only be reached at low tide by an amphibious golf cart.
The Bahia Golf Course is the sister course to Pacifico and opened in 2009. With a stunning natural landscape, this course features six ocean holes including a noteworthy one in walking distance to Punta Mita’s famed El Faro surf spot. In contrast to the Pacifico course, the undulating Bahia course features more fairways and greens, and is renowned for its water features and lakes that meander through the holes.
Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic
Mexico’s hedonistic epicurean event takes place Jan. 28-31, 2016, in Punta Mita.
The Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic, an unparalleled beach-side culinary festival, is a can’t-miss event for foodies, libation lovers, adventurers and golfers. The annual event hosted by The St. Regis Punta Mita and the Four Seasons Punta Mita, scheduled for Jan. 28-31, brings together top chefs, winemakers, sports enthusiasts and leisure travelers to one extraordinary destination. With no less than 18 guest chefs, including Philippe Piel, Héctor Leyva and Paola Carosella as well as international culinary celebrities Richard Sandoval and Andrew Ormsby, this event is a who’s who of pan-Latin culinary cuisine. Beginning with an opening night party on the beach and followed by an extensive list of culinary options over the next few days, attendees will have a tough time choosing between exclusive dinners with the guest chefs, cooking clinics and competitions. Plus, there’s no shortage of libations in the programming: Events include tastings with the producers of renowned wine, Champagne, tequila and mescal.
A two-day golf tournament is one of the focal points of the event, which also features stations for bites and libations throughout the two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses. Special guests include acclaimed former professional golfers Lorena Ochoa and Craig Stadler. Ochoa, one of the most famous Mexican athletes of all time, is also partnered with the Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic through her charity, Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation. Fundraising from the event goes to help the foundation’s goal to help children lead a well-rounded life by offering access to sports, educational programs and healthy living and self-esteem seminars.
New nonstop flights from John Wayne Airport to Puerto Vallarta offer easy resort access from Orange County.
It just got a lot easier to travel to one of Mexico’s most popular destinations from Southern California. John Wayne Airport (SNA) now has two airlines offering nonstop service to Puerto Vallarta: Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines. With the increase in direct flights to one of Mexico’s most coveted destinations, Orange County locals are now able to experience the area’s most sought-after resort with ease. With affordable prices and short travel time, it’s a no-brainer to jump on board for a trip to Margaritaville.