There’s something to be said for ease, accessibility, and abundance of Los Cabos’s resorts, but in roughly the same amount of time it takes to land in the deserts of Baja, you can be in the lush jungles of Riviera Nayarit.
About an hour north of the Puerto Vallarta airport rests the new 636-acre Mandarina development, which currently houses 105 treehouse-style hotel rooms, designed by Tucson-based architect Rick Joy (who also designed Utah’s Amangiri) to disappear into the landscape, as well as the first few One&Only Mandarina private residences. (Priced from $5.1 million, there are plans for just 55 of them.) In late 2023, a Rosewood resort will open 130 guest accommodations designed in collaboration with Manuel Cervantes Cespedes, one of Mexico’s most in-demand architects. But that will be all, as the property is intentionally free of golf courses, vertical structures, and anything else that would dominate the pristine land.
The destination resort is its own self-contained oasis, and unlike other popular regions in Mexico that pack with tourists, it has been created to make as little impact on the environment as possible. In the ten years it took to plan and build the resort, there was a tree specialist to ensure that the maximum number of trees on the pristine site would be preserved, which even meant that it would occasionally take weeks to move a single tree from one location to another. The result means that when guests stand on the beach and look back at the verdant mountains, guestrooms and buildings are almost completely hidden. The canopy of trees—mostly made up of higuera blanca (fig), papelillo, and palm—as well as 50 migratory bird species and endemic wildlife such as the shy badgers that roam freely throughout, are the only things that stand out. The resort is secondary to the location.
It also means that part of the joy in experiencing the property is riding through the jungle in butler-driven golf carts. It might take 10–15 minutes to get from your room to the fitness center or Alma restaurant to the Jetty Beach Club, but each different area creates its own unique experience, and roaming through the jungle instead of trampling on it results in a more immersive experience.
Among the property’s many amenities are a polo field and equestrian facilities, complete with stables and arena; a tennis center; a full-service spa featuring Tata Harper products; five swimming pools spread throughout; four restaurants, including Carao from famed chef Enrique Olvera; two beaches; and the Canalan Beach Club, designed by Manuel Cervantes Cespedes, along the property’s mile-long, swimmable beach.
A quick weekend trip is doable, but the property is imagined as a secluded getaway, spread out and eager to be explored without being rushed. With most of the world still closed off to American visitors, it is the ideal place for extended getaway not far from home but yet feels like an exotic retreat.
Five Things Not to Miss
- Polo picnic. Choose which tree you’d like to have lunch under and allow the chefs prepare an outdoor picnic on the expansive polo fields.
- Jungle hike. Opt for the guided hike to the 500-year-old “La Abuela” tree and trek through a botanist’s dream, filled with hybrid specimen and even termite nests, nature’s way of ridding itself of dead wood. (Sneakers will do.)
- A spa like no other. The plush indoor treatment rooms are only part of the experience. Pack an old bathing suit and don’t miss the co-ed, outdoor natural clay detoxification area; lounge within the jungle at the spa’s secluded pool; or make a half day of it with the 180-minute Mystique Herbal Codex treatment, which is based on Mexican medicinal plants and remedies.
- Your kids. The expansive outdoor kids club is more like a Tom Sawyer–inspired adventure camp, filled with a butterfly sanctuary, treehouses to climb, and poles to slide down—there’s enough to keep them occupied (and safely contained) for hours, while teens may enjoy spending time at the resort’s zip lines and ropes course.
- The food. The Iberico ham on rye toast at the Treetop Bar; soft-shell crab tacos at the Jetty Beach Club; wood-oven pizzas at sunset at the Canalan Beach Club; and of course, anything on the seasonal/rotating menu at Enrique Olvera’s onsite, adults-only restaurant, Carao.
Rooms from $1,100; discovermandarina.com
Photos: One&Only Mandarina2019