A secret coast of Mexico? It’s hard to imagine such a thing can even exist anymore in a country whose every last inhabitable inch of sandy paradise seems to have been turned into a playground teeming with luxury hotels and American tourists. Of course there are many reasons why such popular destinations as Riviera Maya, Cabo, and Punta Mita are so alluring. But there are times when one craves a sense of true discovery, an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Because who doesn’t love that not-so-humble brag of telling friends about a fabulous week you’ve just spent in a place they’ve never heard of?
Yes, such a place does exist—and it’s called Tamarindo. Where? Exactly.
This rugged and pristine biosphere-protected swath of coastline in western Mexico, about 125 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, is actually quite easy to reach. There are direct flights to Manzanillo airport from hubs like Los Angeles, Dallas, and Phoenix. From there it’s a scenic hour-long drive through verdant farmland to the only luxury property to have (yet) staked its claim on this remote idyll: Four Seasons.
It’s not the first time the brand has done this. Take Punta Mita. Four Seasons opened its resort there in 1999—now, more than two decades later, suddenly everyone else is clamoring for their own little spot on the peninsula. (Not to be outdone, Four Seasons debuted its second Punta Mita property, the ultra-exclusive Naviva tented camps, last year.)
Competition may be easier to keep at bay in Tamarindo. The Four Seasons here is nestled on the edge of a 3,000-acre nature reserve, with 6 miles of private beach. It takes 20 minutes of maneuvering serpentine roads and hairpin turns just to get from the property gates to the hotel itself. But the reward—breathtaking vistas of the Pacific that greet you upon arrival, framed by the strikingly modernist architecture of the multilevel main building that they have aptly named La Mansión—will instantly wash away any hints of carsickness. Promise.
La Mansión is the heart of the resort, with three restaurants, three pools, a fitness center, and a wonderful boutique stocked with items crafted by artisans from Mexico’s indigenous communities. True to its name, it feels like a home, albeit one owned by a very, very rich person. The absence of any signage and the slim likelihood of running into other guests as you glide along its smooth stone terrazas (in a flowing caftan, preferably) further reinforce this vibe. “Our intention is to reduce distractions, leaving the protagonist’s role to nature, the place, and the experience,” general manager Félix Murillo tells T&C. “It brings a feeling of home that becomes natural.” All the more so thanks to Murillo’s dog, a friendly German shepherd named Lola, who freely roams the grounds and endears herself to everyone she meets.
As for the accommodations, 157 rooms are sprinkled along the coastline, some teetering high on a cliff (with magnificent views to boot), others steps from the beach, and each a serene little haven of contemporary chic. Design touches strike a delicate balance between complementing the landscape—an earthy, neutral color palette; private infinity pools that seem to spill over into the Pacific; outdoor rain showers facing the ocean; floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding louvered doors for sublime indoor-outdoor harmony—while preserving a real sense of place. Homages to Mexican craftsmanship are present throughout: the hammocks, for example, are woven by women from the Yaxunah, Yaxche, Santa Rosa, and Becan communities; the black clay candles come from Michoacán; bathroom accessories are made of Mayan cream stone; and wall hangings and bags are crafted from henequén, a Yucatán fiber prized since pre-Hispanic times. (That many of these things are also for sale in the shop presents a bit of a dangerous situation.)
If La Mansión is the heart of Tamarindo, Rancho Ortega is its soul—and stomach. An ambitious project masterminded by the hotel’s culinary director Nicolás Piatti, the 35-acre working farm has pigs, goats, and chickens, plus tropical fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens, a mushroom chamber, and a field of young agave plants that will one day produce house tequila. Tourist gimmick this is not. Whatever is harvested on the ranch supplies the kitchens of Sal, Coyul, and Nacho, the hotel’s three restaurants. Your room service eggs? Fetched that morning from the chicken coop. That cocktail you were sipping on before dinner? Made with fermented fruit picked from the farm. And whatever Piatti doesn’t grow himself he sources from local farmers and fishermen.
“While Rancho Ortega is certainly special to visit, it is solely intended to provide for the resort, so you experience something real,” Murillo says. “We want to make sure that what we do is not based on marketing, but on making it an authentic experience.” In that spirit, when you’re at dinner at Sal, be sure to try the Infladita Dorada Maya, a perfectly fried amuse-bouche filled with escamoles, or ant larvae, a national delicacy treasured since the age of the Aztecs. Also known as Mexican caviar.
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Leena Kim is an editor at Town & Country, where she covers travel, jewelry, education, weddings, and culture.