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Adventures on Mexico's Pacific Coast

  • Las Alamandas

    Las Alamandas

  • Las Alamandas

    Las Alamandas

  • Mexico

    Mexico

  • Mexico

    Mexico

  • Costa Careyes

    Costa Careyes

  • Mexico

    Mexico

  • Mexico

    Mexico

  • Hotelito Desconocido

    Hotelito Desconocido

  • Mexico

    Mexico

  • Hotelito Desconocido

    Hotelito Desconocido

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On Mexico’s Central Pacific coast, a remote 300-km stretch of the state of Jalisco, south of Banderas Bay.

WHY GO

Complete, unadulterated, uninterrupted contact with Mother Nature at her finest. Mile upon mile of virgin beach, lagoons teeming with local wildlife, and fabled sunsets over the grand Pacific.

HOW

Staff will gladly arrange airport pickup and personal assistance from Puerto Vallarta Airport, Manzanila Airport, or even the property’s own small-craft runway. Remain cautious and low-profile as a rule while traveling, as there have been reports of criminal activity in the area, especially in rural or border regions.

TABLET TIP

Explore the grounds! With 1,500 acres at your disposal, you’ll never lack for some manicured nook or spectacular viewpoint. Be sure to thoroughly quench yourself with one of their custom juices while you’re at it.

February, 2015

Perhaps you can relate: two sun-starved New Yorkers, anticipating another winter of polar vortices, thundersnow and “bomb cyclones,” set out to plan a warm-weather getaway. We, a pair of girlfriends with five days to spare, are in the mood for something Tulum-like — minus the now-inevitable reminders of home. Things like two-hour waits for dinner, four-dollar lattes, and packs of off-duty models. We crave something unfamiliar, but not too unfamiliar.

Seduced by bargain flights (direct, no less) to Puerto Vallarta, it’s decided that this year we will trade the calm of the Caribbean for adventure on Mexico’s Central Pacific Coast. And while the trip is only about an hour longer, the payoff is immediately clear. Descending into the Gustavo Diaz Ordaz airport offers a preview of the lush, mountainous landscape and landing over the azure waters Banderas Bay makes for quite a dramatic arrival.

After a couple of days in Sayulita, a cheerful, taco-laden surf town on the north side of Vallarta, we set off for the Costalegre, a remote 300-kilometer stretch of the state of Jalisco to its south. The discriminating traveler is presented with three options (though more luxury resorts are scheduled to open in the coming year). The name of the closest, Hotelito Desconocido, translates roughly as “unknown little hotel,” and it’s all too apparent why. Made up of thatched bungalows hidden away in a sprawling wildlife preserve, it’s a celebrity favorite, no surprise given its secluded location and well-trained staff. Meanwhile the farthest down the highway is Costa Careyes, a grouping of cliffside villas painted in electric shades of yellow, blue, pink, and orange, as though conceived by some acid-tripping alter ego of Luis Barragán. In the end we settle, Goldilocks-style, on Las Alamandas, located squarely between the two.

It’s one thing to read that the hotel is set on 1,500 acres, but in person its sheer staggering expansiveness still comes as something of a surprise. Only from atop a bluff, hundreds of meters high, overlooking unspoiled beaches as far as they eye can see — which is far — does the figure become a reality. A tour of the property can take up several hours, including stops at the orchard where nearly all the hotel’s produce is grown, a lush lagoon, an estuary that would captivate any bird-lover, a private landing strip, the staff’s soccer pitch, and a number of the aforementioned private beaches.

The reward for traveling to Las Alamandas is this: feeling really, really delightfully small. If your ego has become a bit outsized lately, here the universe will rather elegantly and effectively put you back in your place. With few distractions (encounters with other guests are hard to come by, as is wi-fi), the focus is all on Mother Nature and her bounty: epic sunrises and equally epic sunsets, the vastness of the Pacific, the occasional humpback whale, a full rainbow of agua frescas, and good, old-fashioned peace and quiet.

All signs indicate that the staff finds the setting no less inspiring. Practicing our Spanish over breakfast, we ask our waiter Octavio how he’s doing. He gushes about his luck fishing the night before, and the stew he’ll make from his fresh catch. After describing the ingredients in some detail, he returns to the task at hand. “Ladies, can I bring you some fresh juice?” We place an order for two Alamandas Passions — a near-perfect combination of orange, cactus and parsley — and smile about his enthusiasm and general willingness to go off-script.

Nothing against the Intercontinentals and the Four Seasonses of the world, but Las Alamandas is not one of them. The service is warm and attentive, but laid-back; guests share the grounds with animals like iguanas and tejones; there’s no “activities director” on the payroll. All in all, the property feels much more like an exceedingly wealthy friend’s casa del campo than a purely profit-driven operation. The road less traveled isn’t for everyone, though for us, it made all the difference.

Hallie Davison
CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On Mexico’s Central Pacific coast, a remote 300-km stretch of the state of Jalisco, south of Banderas Bay.

WHY GO

Complete, unadulterated, uninterrupted contact with Mother Nature at her finest. Mile upon mile of virgin beach, lagoons teeming with local wildlife, and fabled sunsets over the grand Pacific.

HOW

Staff will gladly arrange airport pickup and personal assistance from Puerto Vallarta Airport, Manzanila Airport, or even the property’s own small-craft runway. Remain cautious and low-profile as a rule while traveling, as there have been reports of criminal activity in the area, especially in rural or border regions.

TABLET TIP

Explore the grounds! With 1,500 acres at your disposal, you’ll never lack for some manicured nook or spectacular viewpoint. Be sure to thoroughly quench yourself with one of their custom juices while you’re at it.

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