Travel: Hidden Jewel

North of Puerto Vallarta, a Mexican resort called Punta Mita offers privacy, pampering, and a priceless view of the Pacific Ocean.

The next morning, we took a shuttle car to the tennis court and golf facility, which is about a mile from the main building. We played tennis and ran into a friendly couple from Connecticut who had just finished 18 holes and were raving about the golf course, one of the few premier courses in the Puerto Vallarta area. They’d hit the course at 8 a.m. and hadn’t seen another player until they finished. “This is paradise,” the woman gushed.

We hadn’t brought our clubs, but we talked golf pro Sam Logan—a West Texas good ol’ boy whose passport gives Dallas as his hometown—into giving us a tour of the course. Jack Nicklaus brought his agronomist and senior designer to work on it. Eight holes border the Pacific Ocean, but golfers can see the ocean from every hole. The natural landscape of Punta Mita is scrub desert, which makes the vibrant green of the course pop out like a surreal carpet overlaid on a dusty brown table, dotted with ancient Manzanilla trees and palms.

The course is breathtakingly beautiful—and a little whimsical. The third hole—actually 3B—is a par 3 with the green on a small natural island, reachable at high tide only by amphibious golf cart. Logan says it’s the only golf hole in the world on a natural island, but admits the “Tail of the Whale” is difficult. “Holiday golfers love it,” Logan says. “Hard-core golfers will play it once or twice,” playing the alternate 3A during the rest of their stay.

Even on the course, the amenities are posh—marble, air-conditioned bathrooms are available every few holes and refreshment carts, driven by pretty girls in tennis whites, whir by with regularity. Because play is restricted to hotel guests, there is very little pressure on the course, ideal for duffers like us. We could have rented clubs, but we decided to work on our tennis game instead—there’s more hope there.

We spent every morning on the courts—with the luxury of ball boys—and I took a lesson from tennis pro Jim Hightower, an SMU and TCU alum.

By the third day, we settled into a routine. Tennis in the morning; lunch of gazpacho, guacamole made tableside, and grilled red snapper salad in the poolside Ketsi cafe; chaise lounges and books on the beach in the afternoon; then a shower and a walk on the wilder beach toward the “Tail of the Whale” golf hole.

One day I snuck in a Mexican healing massage (with “indigenous sage oil”) and my husband, with Logan’s rave review, had a facial especially designed for men at the Apuane Spa. We could have signed up for horseback riding, off-site boat trips, snorkeling, and scuba lessons, but we didn’t. Instead, we lounged and swam and had long conversations about things that had nothing to do with children, remodeling, or work.

We ended each day on the outdoor terrace of the Aramara restaurant for dinner. Executive sous chef Ashley Charles-James, a young Englishman who had previously served as chef at The Regent Hotel Singapore, describes the cuisine as “Latin fusion.” Thus veal chops came painted with chili adobo and charred lobster was served over black beans and papaya salsa. Where possible, fresh local ingredients are used. A fisherman dives off one of the Marietta Islands each day and supplies lobster to the  resort. If the entrées were inventive, the desserts were spectacular: flavorful soufflés and architectural creations served in such unusual serving dishes that each night we waited in anticipation to see what shape would come out of the kitchen.

That second honeymoon feeling was cemented on our final night with a private supper on our balcony. A popular alternative to the dining room, it requires a day’s notice. Charles-James created a special four-course dinner, which was delivered and served—complete with white linen tablecloth, romantic candles, silver serving pieces, fine china, and rose petals strewn on the floor.

While we ate, my husband and I listened to our favorite romantic music and between courses got up to slow dance. We left the next day, happy with each other and our secret rendezvous, and vaguely vowing to go on diets.













Just the Facts
What you need to know before you go .

WHERE TO STAY

Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Punta Mita Bahai de Banderas, P.O. Box 425, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, 483800, Mexico. Telephone 52-329-16-060. www.fourseasons.com/locations/PuntaMita

HOW TO GET THERE

Aeromexico has daily flights in conjunction with Delta Airlines to Mexico City, then Puerto Vallarta. Call 1-800-237-6639 or check www.aeromexico.com. (American Airlines also has one daily direct flight to Puerto Vallarta, but the seats on Aero Mexico have more legroom.)

WHAT TO BRING

Your passport or a copy of your birth certificate

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