In recent years, the Riviera Nayarit has quietly welcomed Mexican and international visitors drawn to its breathtaking views, healing seas and abundant gifts. Dave Cox ventured to this magnetic location to unearth a trove of glittering delights.
January in Toronto isn’t quite paradise. Leaving the beautiful city in the darkness of winter, if even for a night at the Riviera Nayarit, is an opportunity most would likely not decline. For many, Mexico remains a trustworthy destination of “a far off land” not quite so far away. Mexico has always been an attractive destination, with an endless amount of villages, cultures, foods and traditions to discover. Tourists flock to Cancun’s beautiful beaches, tranquility permeates the air in La Isla de Mujeres, the streets of Guadalajara bustle at all hours of existence, and the echoes of a colonial past resonate with each step on a cobblestone street in Tlaquepaque.
Until now, Riviera Nayarit has remained an enigmatic destination, an enticing mystery. Setting off to explore this next destination is an openness that despite anticipating an equally enthralling location is the likelihood of discovering something else, something unique to Nayarit.
Tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, Riviera Nayarit boasts a coastline that stretches for almost 200 miles. It is easily accessible from both Puerto Vallarta and Tepic International Airport. Puerto Vallarta welcomes me, as does Richard, my generous host. Richard drives for less than ten minutes, and before I know it, we arrive in Riviera Nayarit. There’s nothing else to do for a while but absorb the fresh mountain air and ocean breeze before pulling up to the large gate of our first destination, Imanta Resort.
Visualize for a moment stepping into a prehistoric landscape, a breathtaking sight seen for thousands of years but species long gone, and by the ancestors of people who remain calling Imanta ancestral homes. With each winding turn there is suspense building until we hit a second gate that invites us through a street guarded by ancient oaks, rising towards the sky as exalted by our admiration for their grandeur.
Fortunately, we enter the resort, graciously accepting traditional hibiscus nectar, and are advised to show restraint in plunging into the vast ocean; newly hatched turtles are being released into life. Guided by guardians of these precious creatures, I walk cautiously towards the beach, and take my first look at Imanta, a perched vision, and a beautiful Mexican sight honouring the ancient gods on whose land it sits.
Spanning 12 years, Imanta opened in 2010, with 12 individual villas spaced in perfect composition around the hacienda like surroundings. Individually named compounds are perfect for families, and a range of guests travelling alone or staffed. Alex, Imanta’s impeccably dressed Director of Sales casually lists recent notable guests in a failed attempt to impress. I’m already at a loss. The resort needs no mention of A – list guest to take anyone’s breath away.
Villas are built of rocks excavated from the hillside. High ceilings add a feel of luxurious space; rooms large yet inviting and warm. The décor is clean and modern, complimenting the rich brown hues of its surroundings. The local artisanship is fairly incorporated in the villa’s furnishings as well: towel racks made of dried tree branches and beautifully polished tree trunks promoting the integrity of sustainability.
Imanta’s head chef, Olivier DeBoise, introduces himself as a classically trained French chef with Mexican roots. The flavours of these two worlds define the character of his dishes, and introduces me the marriage of his fresh, locally grown ingredients infusing the perfect amount of boldness and subtlety to his fare. His scallops with a hint of fennel. Oh my! I’m left without any doubt that Chef DeBoise ferments his plates with authentic passion and refinement. The Imanta staff is friendly, available and attentive; a completely undescriptive nod to their hospitality. Throughout my stay, I was encouraged to feel at home, and relish in the treatment they so kindly afforded.
Imanta is a retreat from the pressures and stressors of modern life, a modernity that foils the attraction it’s namesake implores. Translated from Spanish, Imanta’s derivative Iman or magnet perfectly engenders the pull of this seaside luxury resort. Relaxation and serenity is an escape Imanta provides, a setting where one can choose to do absolutely nothing or a little bit of everything. Located just 30 minutes away from the hotspots of San Pancho & the bohemian village of Sayulita. Banderas Bay is also a nearby spot where you can witness the yearly spectacle of the humpback whales on their migration, or head to the Marieta Islands, a natural park where you can seek out birds and other wildlife gravitating towards the their natural setting celebrating peace, tranquility and repose.
Towards the end of my recoiling stay, I decide to take in the sites while hiking along the property with my trustworthy guide turned travel companion. I decide to take his recommendation and be challenged by “Expedition Light,” a brisk hike directing us into dense vegetation, up monkey hill where the promise of endless vistas and sights are unlikely to disappoint. Chris whispers that he “saw an eagle here yesterday on a hike.” There’s no doubt in my mind that life is abundant here!
We hike down before the setting sun reveals a sky dotted with millions of diamonds, and as I’m focusing on my steps, Chris taps me on the shoulder; completely matter of fact “Look up. There’s an eagle.”
We make our way to Imanta, and are offered a café before we are to travel to St. Regis Punta Mita, our second stop pulling our trip in another enchanting direction. I know I must switch gears to see another side of Nayarit’s eco-luxury. Luckily, the St. Regis Hotel chains is of one of the most recognized luxury brands in the world, born from the travelling society of New York City’s aristocracy at the turn of the 20th century. The first St. Regis Hotel opened in 1904, and currently there are 31 properties evoking the integrity the Starwood Hotel Chain has labored to be recognized for.
Keeping to the spaciousness St. Regis Hotels are renowned for, the room dedicated to BOLD is no exception, an opulent space fit for exceptional retreat. The St. Regis opened in January 2009, with 89 guestrooms, 31 luxury suites, a presidential suite and plenty of incredible ocean views pampering guests.
Boasting access to a full gym, tennis courts, and a 5km running trail alongside its two signature Jack Nicklaus golf courses, the surrounding make the St. Regis a perfect spot for exploring and enjoying the spectacular sights of the Nayarit Peninsula. Steeped in the tradition of other St. Regis hotels across the world, this one is no different, hosting many weekly events reminiscent of the original hotel’s charm. The champagne ritual that takes place every Friday at 6pm sharp offers guest the opportunity to meet and mingle. Guests impressively serenade the hotel aisles with a cacophony of accents, and laughter mingles with the sweet fragrance of paradise diffused throughout.
Dinner is a cause for gossip, and I soon find out why. The five – star Diamond Carolina restaurant is one of only four in all of Mexico, and the Chilean Sea bass proudly wears its five stars well, paired with a Chenin Blanc Chardonnay blend from Casa Madero, Mexico’s oldest winery.
With the backdrop of a sunset’s hues painted across the sky in the most enchanting tones, the Riviera Nayarit won’t be an experience I’ll soon forget.
Riviera Nayarit truly over-delivers on its promise of eco-luxury, whether through the seclusion and escape of Imanta, or the chic sophistication of the St. Regis. Every professional employed by both locales deservedly earned my praise and international acclaim. Riviera Nayarit reiterates that the job of providing exceptional care for both its employees and visitors is an authentic act of sharing.
México, hasta la proxima vez.