Four Seasons Punta Mita: Mexico’s Shining Star

A paradise worthy of an Academy Award (or two) sits just outside the city limits of Puerto Vallarta along the northern tip of Bahía de Banderas, one of the world’s largest natural bays. Surrounded by an azure blue coastline, rugged lava rock formations, and unspoiled white sandy beaches that stretch for miles, the Four Seasons Punta Mita entices guests from around the globe.

Just a three-hour plane ride from Los Angeles and easy access from other major airports, the Four Seasons Punta Mita rolls out the red carpet as soon as guests exit the airport. In true Hollywood style, a black air-conditioned SUV with tinted windows awaits your arrival to whisk you from chaotic traffic, high-rise buildings and neon sporting sightseers to a secluded seaside sanctuary. Iced towels, chilled water and ocean-filled tropical views foreshadow the Zen that is about to unfold. Paradise awaits just forty minutes outside the city limits of Puerto Vallarta with a cobblestone drive that forks, winds and ends–revealing a tropical oasis.

Stepping into the open-air lobby transports you into a secluded sanctuary. The palapa roof, leafy fronds, and pillowy chaises welcome guests as the balmy breeze offers your senses exotic floral aromas. Tropical juices refresh as sweeping views of palm trees, grass, and ocean waves create intoxicating portraits of perfection. The birds softly singing confuse some guests into thinking the music must be piped in from a CD. Multi-lingual staff members describe the signature amenities–cultural center, restaurants, shops, spa, pools, classes, fitness facility, and tennis lessons—all good options to tempt any guest. But first, let’s discuss the Casitas.

Ah! The Casitas boast private pools, beachfront access, personal hammocks, and chaise lounges, making it a tad tricky deciding where exactly to relax and order a margarita from the strolling waiter. Each room displays a view worthy of a Hollywood photo shoot. It’s no wonder celebs like Tori Spelling, Dean McDermott, John Travolta, and Jennifer Aniston escape LA for the lush privacy of Punta Mita. Even the many, rather large iguanas, seem to be taking it more slowly than elsewhere.

For those looking to stay connected, The New York Times Digest greets guests every morning for a peek into the rest of the world. Feel free to skip reality and dive into the back page where the resort’s events for the day are offered. Peruse the varied activities and classes over fresh baked corn muffins at the outdoor, ocean view Ketsi restaurant. Start the day with a “Paseo a Caballo” (horseback ride) or “Pintura en Ceramica” (Ceramic Painting) or “Aerobicos Acuaticos” (water aerobics) before “La Clase de Españgol” or flopping on a lounge chair to soak in the sun. One of my favorite experiences was taking the Sculpture Walk throughout the gardens to discover all of the beautiful pieces by local artists elegantly featured about the resort. Create your own script for the day–infused with culture, sports and rejuvenation.

Whether you choose to spend the day snorkeling, kayaking, golfing at Pacifico Golf Course (voted the number one golf course in the world by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler) or lounging in a private cabana near the caviar bar, the most distinctive activity at the Four Season’s Punta Mita and a must for adult visitors is the educational and inspirational, Tequila Tasting–or as it is listed in the schedule: “Tequila, Regalo de Los Dioses” (Tequila, Gift from the Gods.) Hosted by the Cultural Center, a Tequila Sommelier (indeed) unveils Mexican history, the Agave plant and its role in Mexican culture, along with some of the Tequila varieties (silver, añejo, reposado). After such a rich dialogue about the earth, the plants and the harvesters, it is impossible to taste the aromatic tequilas without appreciating the indigenous elements. Many American guests discover for the first time that the proper way to drink the beverage is very similar to enjoying wine. Sniffing first, then sipping, then swirling it around the tongue to experience all the flavors before swallowing. This enchanting class brings a new awareness to liquor that most of us have only ingested with salt and a lime chaser.

Like a well-woven storyline, the exquisite service at the Four Seasons is threaded throughout every aspect of the resort. All staff members, while mum about famous guests, are very open, friendly and over-the-top-helpful about virtually everything else. They even greet the kids by their names. Famous for its attention to children’s activities in the Kids For All Seasons, the resort entertains even the little ones in the club room, at the beach or in the lazy-river pool. With such an array of options for the kids, it is no surprise that families return to the resort year after year.

The climax of my Four Seasons experience was the once-in-a-lifetime cooking class with pioneer chef, Juan Jose Gaffuri. Having lived all over the globe, he has brought an eclectic mix to the Mexican fare at Bahia Restaurant. The class gathered around the outdoor kitchen to learn secrets of a menu steeped in tradition: Andaluz Gazpacho, marinated grilled catch of the day with Ajillo sauce, goat cheese risotto, grilled Roma tomatoes with herb crust and warm Mexican chocolate cake. It’s hard to say which part was the most fabulous: watching the master at work, learning techniques from a trailblazer chef, or tasting the delightful Latin flavors while enjoying a view of calm seas and a pristine beach. Our class ended with stepping off the patio to view the fishermen’s catches of the day and pick out our fish for that evening’s meal. Truly a bonus treat!

Of course, no Pacific Riviera retreat would be complete without the signature, tequila infused, Punta Mita massage (salt rub included). Of all activities offered in the grand splendor of the Four Seasons, this is by far the most decadent and luxurious… unless of course you opt to rent the Four Seasons Yacht for a sunset cruise. Then, you may really create a perfect movie ending to an enchanted vacation.

Rates: Rooms start at US$273 p/night for a garden view Casita and go up to $6,460 p/night for an exclusive 5-bedroom ocean front villa. Current specials on offer for three nights or more: $150 Resort credit per room, per day, for Garden-View and Ocean-View rooms; $200 Resort credit per room, per day, for Ocean-View Premium, Oceanfront and Beachfront rooms; $400 Resort credit per room, per day, for Garden-View Suites, Ocean-View Suites and Oceanfront suites. To book, click here or call: 1 800 819 5053 or + 52 (329) 291-6019.

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