The Four Seasons in Punta Mita, Riviera Nayarit, Mexico: It’s a jungle out there

“Uno, dos, tres,” counts Miguel, the water aerobics instructor at the Four Seasons’s Nuna infinity pool in Punta Mita, Mexico.  He nudges the guests to hoist their floating  barbells in the air, calling out, “come on, we’ll do a Spanish lesson, too.”

I feel for Miguel, whose real name is Inty Perales. He asks me to take the noon aerobics class but I don’t want to go by myself. Soon, two blond women swim over, though, then an Argentinian man shouts that he will take the class, one of many on tap at the resort daily.

It wasn’t easy convincing this group to join in. Just a few minutes earlier, for example, I  was floating in the crystal-clear water, clutching a frozen mango smoothie – all that I wanted to hoist in the air. And yet, there were the “chocolate delights” we received from room service the night before adding calories to my frame.

Waiters intermittently  brought swimmers and sunbathers water bottles, frozen chocolate cappuccinos and cool rolled towels. It’s easy to eat healthy here, since the four restaurants, Asamara, with a Mexican – Asian fusion, Bahia, right on Cuevas beach, Ketsi, a casual cafe, and Tail of the Whale, the a la carte eatery upstairs at the golf clubhouse.

The resort makes a good family venue, since there’s a kids’ camp, as well as the Lazy River and other activities the little ones can do while the adults play.

With triple digit temperatures producing high humidity, sluggishness reigned last Labor Day, producing very little labor.

 

Lots of choices, even during low season

The 45-minute drive from busy Puerto Vallarta International Airport takes you past Nueva Vallarta and Banderias to the gate for Punta Mita, which actually means ” gateway to paradise.”

Other resorts in the area include the St. Regis Hotel where you can dine in the award-winning Carolina restaurant.

The world-class Four Seasons resort spans 17,000 square feet and sits next to two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses with ocean views. Besides the “adults-only” Nuna pool, two others exist for guests’ pleasure.  Parents and children can navigate the Lazy River on inner tubes. Two fine sand beaches feature  bamboo “nesting swings” and canopied double beds. Ten tennis courts and a 55-foot yacht charter round out the recreational possibilities.

 

September marks the low season — high season starts in November — so nights often included intense showers and thunderstorms after sultry weather. We watched the choppy Bay of Banderas from the hammock of our oceanfront casita, a room I highly recommend.

The casita showcases Mexican hand-crafted items, like the blue embroidered bedspread.

Citing rough weather,  tour operators canceled our plans to visit the Marieta Islands, an archipelago and UNESCO MAB Biosphere  reserve.. The uninhabited islands were formed by volcanic activity but in the 1900s the military began test bombing. In the 1960s, scientist  Jacques Costeau led a successful fight to stop the explosions.

The Hidden Cave Beach lands on many “best beaches” lists. The bombing caused lots of caves and tunnels.Vallarta Adventures (www. vallarta-adventures.com) sponsors whale-watching, scuba-diving and fishing trips and a popular tour of the Marieta Islands. Vallarta Adventures also sponsors canopy trips for some extreme zip-lining.

You can also watch dolphins, whales, and sea turtles sleeping in the sun. The national park allows snorkeling, diving and kayaking. The boat ride to get to the islands takes an hour.

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Enrique Alejos, a gastronomic and ecological enthusiast who claims to be the world’s only cultural concierge, hosts history lectures   and tasting classes. He explores Aztec and Mayan contributions to chocolate and tequila.

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Concierge Enrique Alejos pouring Sangria for guests attending one of his lectures at the Four Seasons Hotel, Punta Mita

At a tequila tasting, guests sip from shot glasses to see if they can sense tobacco, eucalyptus, apple or pear notes. A wilder, more intense Napa Valley experience, complete with Sangria.

Alejos tells the group,  “my job is to make guests fall in love with Punta Mita.”

He also teaches the history of chocolate, which comes from Mexico.

The concierge also manages the resort’s turtle-release program, a particular favorite with families. A staff member described Alejos as “a sponge” with an encyclopedic knowledge of Huichol art and healing traditions. On any given day, Alejos discusses the history of Mexican chocolate or mescal and the Mayans.

Tequila must come from blue agave plants registered in one of five states, including the highlands of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. “The plants must be grown above sea level. Each agave will take ten years to grow.”

Apuane Spa pours on the tequila

The on-site Apuane Spa features beauty treatments like the Mayan Mud mani/pedi and the “Man for All Seasons”men’s 50- or 80-minute facial.

One can also choose the Punta Mita manicure, which uses tequila to exfoliate and soften hands. Stressing the healing properties of the spirits, Linda says, “some grandmas rub tequila on your body if you have pain.”

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Signature treatments include the “Timexpert” anti-wrinkle, collagen and face-lifting facials; and the “Hakali” massage, which uses the local Huichol Indian floral hakali or nopal, cacti known for their healing qualities.

Guests might also enjoy a massage on the beach, an amazing experience on the newly revamped Manzanillas and Cuestas private beaches. Canopied day beds provide shade from the heat, woven swings invite couples to share . There are tables for snacks, served at the beachside surf shack.  At night, the resort sets a bonfire on the beach.

The palm trees, thatched roof and tiki lights add to the ambience of a tropical vacation. General Manager John O’Sullivan said the team wanted “to elevate our oceanfront address with a paradise experience on the beach.”

It’s probably one of the few places in the world with secluded suspended nests, a place to take in the tiki torches and candles.

For more information, visit fourseasons.com/puntamita or

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