Online Managing Editor Bianca R. Montes contributed to this story with a trip to Hilton’s Conrad Punta de Mita.
Home to gated luxury communities and resorts such as Conrad Punta de Mita, Four Seasons, and St. Regis, the Punta de Mita peninsula in northern Mexico has seen explosive growth in the past decade. Named for an Aztec word meaning “gateway to paradise” and about 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, Punta de Mita is on track to welcome at least two new hotels and several residential expansions in the next five years.
On recent trips, we visited Tau Residences, a new collection of condominiums from Mexican real estate giant DINE, and a debut property from Hilton, Conrad Punta de Mita.
A luxurious resort that feels more like a five-star boutique hotel, Conrad Punta de Mita pays homage to the region’s rich multicultural identity and the native Huichol, who believed the peninsula to be a retreat for spiritual renewal. Set alongside the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific ocean, the property is tranquil and takes advantage of every opportunity to highlights its gorgeous surroundings. A horse ride down the resort’s private beach or a hike up the adjacent Monkey Mountain to take in the sweeping view of Banderas Bay are definite musts.
Enjoying the property’s 10,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor spa is the perfect way to spend the day. But, if you’re looking for a life-changing experience, I would suggest the Temazcal, a heated stone dome used in indigenous cultures’ ceremonies to purify the body and spirit through heat.
The resort features several dining options—all complete with a nod to experiential eating. Highlights for me included eating the fresh catch of the day, prepared oceanside on a Zarandeado—Nayarit’s 500-year-old tradition of grilling over hot coconut charcoal—and the agave spirit tasting and dinner pairing inside the resort’s Mexican Spirit Library.
The agave pairing can either be done with tapas or an indulgent seven-course “Mexican Soil Cuisine” dinner. I went with the seven-course dinner and was blown away by how the tequila’s flavor profile enhanced the food I was eating—and walked away with a rich education in Mexico’s drink of choice. I also fell in love with Mezcal, which was a total surprise because I never really enjoyed the smokey taste. My favorite was Montelobos, which is distilled from agave that thrives in a rainforest and pairs beautifully with ribeye and mole.
DINE’s Tau Residences, which list for as much as $3.4 million, lie within the 1,500-acre Punta Mita gated resort segment of the peninsula. All of the community’s condominiums and villas are privately owned, but many are subleased for seasonal stays. Our three-bedroom oasis provided panoramic views of waves and wildlife, including crooning chachalacas that resembled pheasants, iguanas, and coatimundis, similar to a raccoon and lemur mix. We relaxed in the heated infinity pool while watching surfers, boats, and ferries to neighboring Islas Marietas National Park, home to Playa Escondida, a hidden beach that’s limited to about 115 people per day.
The oceanside Pacifico Beach Club is a standout dining option. Its pools, restaurant, and bar overlook the Tail of the Whale—a hole on one of the area’s two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and the only natural island green in North America. Try the Tacos Gobernadores, filled with warm shrimp and cheese and served with guacamole and adobo sauce. Another excellent venue is Sufi Ocean Club, where I feasted on the Fisherman Trio—grilled octopus, the catch of the day, and muscles in pesto sauce. Mexican coffee is a must for dessert, a delectable blend of tequila, coffee liquor, and coffee, served in a sugar-rimmed cup and topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry.
For surf lessons, I ventured to Bahía de Banderas. My instructor provided tips for riding the waves, gently correcting me with each attempt I made. I recovered with a relaxing massage at Kupuri Beach Club. Situated on Litibu Bay, the area is a great choice for snorkeling.
The next morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, cooking at home with groceries delivered to the condo before heading out for a whale-watching tour. I had seen the region’s massive humpback whales breaching from the pool and was awed by their beauty during the two-hour, up-close boat ride.
A lobster dinner at the St. Regis’ Mita Mary Boat (start with chips and salsa, aptly named La Matona, or “the bully”)—closed out the wonderful trip, and Punta de Mita’s onsite COVID testing made preparing for the journey back to the U.S. from Puerto Vallarta a breeze.