Author: Kyle McCarthy
A luxurious show-stopper along the Pacific coast of Mexico takes advantage of a pristine eco-paradise to thrill families looking for a tropical getaway.
Among the world's great luxury hotels, this one has generated a buzz since its 1999 opening, and as soon as you pass the gate into the 1,500-acre planned community of Punta Mita, it's easy to see why. Tan stucco and burnt-orange terracotta tile set the quiet, tasteful tone of this Four Seasons, the jewel along the emerging, ecologically pristine west coast of Mexico's state of Nayarit.
As at most Four Seasons, no luxury has been spared in creating a hideaway of the highest quality, yet Punta Mita has a refreshingly casual feel. The adult pool has its own staff, the kids' pool has its counselors.
Mother Nature has even bestowed a coral base beside the narrow pearl sand beach that gives the Pacific Ocean a bright blue clarity reminiscent of the Caribbean. Among the extra luxe touches are the Jack Nicklaus signature golf course where hole 3B – an optional challenge – resides proudly on an offshore islet accessible only by amphibious golf cart during high tide.
Kids can play under the supervision of teachers in the state-of-the-art Kids for All Seasons Club (complimentary at all of this brand's resorts), make tie-dyed T-shirts and other crafts, and order meals from room service. The program operates daily from 9am to 4:45pm, with an added play time at 7pm. Book in advance, as at Easter season, up to 300 kids ages 5-12 enroll and that is the maximum the staff of 15 counselors can handle. (Under-5s are welcome with a babysitter from the resort or other adult.)
However, teens and more independent kids can also use the enormous, parent-free Nunutzi Games Room. Fourteen hours per day (8:30am-10:30pm at our summer visit), an attendant serving cool drinks and snacks manages the ping pong, PS2, arcade games, computers, DVD setup with large TV, fussbol and perfect-for-gossiping lounge chairs. If parents aren't careful, this facility could keep kids from ever admiring the natural beauty of Nayarit.
That's where the expeditionary team at Vallarta Adventures comes in; their daily adventure tours (zip-lining, eco-hikes, etc) or surfing lessons outside this bubble of ultra-luxury may be the only ways to break the spell.
On-site amenities include snack, sunblock- and drink-stocked cabanas with WiFi access by the adult pool (a hefty per day fee plus no kids allowed), and custom piÃ±atas available for kids' birthday parties. Picture miniature plush bathrobes, child-proofing kits, pint-sized chaise longues, and an elegant arcade of shops whose most distinctive store is the one for kids packed with Mexican folk arts and designer sportswear.
The Spa, of course, is divine and its wellness treatments (imagine a lime and salt scrub followed by a tequila wrap, or an Agave cactus moisture bath) are highly rated; manicures and pedicures are available to those ages 12 and up. The fitness room occupies an enclosed terrace that provides a soothing “jungle view” for those working out; the facility is staffed all day and guests ages 12 and up are welcomed.
Best yet, the resort has a seaview Cultural Centre with books and prints of the region, for those who want to know more. That's where the esteemed guests of the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita can also learn about the complimentary tequila lectures and tastings.
From the selection of 173 resort rooms (another wing will open on the point in 2010 and there are many private homes and condominium units elsewhere on property), families usually prefer the large one-bedroom suites. Each boasts its own patio with plunge pool and hammocks, surrounded by the dense tropical foliage that envelops the resort. Parents will appreciate the large bedrooms with king beds and walk-in bathing areas with separate shower, marble bathtub and toilet closet; lovely living rooms have queen sofabeds, another flat screen TV and a second bathroom with shower. Clientele who can afford it usually prefer the five-room villas where a personal host (a.k.a. butler) is in constant attendance and a chef can be booked for private meals. This resort is not an all-inclusive; meals are available at the oceanfront Ketsi, a popular buffet restaurant under a large palapa, and at the Bahia Grill, where fresh seafood displayed by local fishermen can be grilled to your liking.
On the minus side, this is a huge property where parents must decide whether to stay in villas near the main beach and kids' facilities, or 15 minutes' away at the newer Oasis (pictured at left). An elegant lazy river encircles the quiet Oasis wing, where from your own patio you can watch little ones giggle in the flowing pool. This wing provides an ideal setup for families traveling with infants and toddlers who don't mind taking a golf cart ride to play at the beach. Another minus is the lack of lifeguards at any of the resort's pools or beaches, though kids' club staff are trained in CPR and there's a doctor in-house. But who are we to quibble?
Resort Report Card
Name:Four Seasons Resort Punta MitaAddress:BahÃa de Banderas
www.fourseasons.com/puntamita/Phone:800/819-5053Seasonal Rates:$$$ - $$$$$Hotel Setting:A+Hotel Staff:A+Choice of Activities:A+Quality of Amenities:A+Bonus:Contemporary architecture takes a backseat to the lush environment.Note:Price of admission is worth it for the high calibre of relaxation this place delivers.