Punta Mita is far enough from the bustle and activity of Puerto Vallarta to have an away-from-it-all feeling, so the drive from the airport took a bit over 45 minutes. Turning into the resort’s drive felt like being welcomed into a veritable Eden, flanked as we were on both sides with lush tropical plants and trees.
Four Seasons Resort
All the spa’s body treatments use natural products based on nutrient-rich plants, mineral and marine elements.
by Lillian Africano
et me say up front that I have never met a Four Seasons property I didn’t like. That said, I found the Four Seasons at Punta Mita to be extraordinary, even for a company that prides itself on service and those little extras that make a guest feel cosseted and pampered.
Once on the property, cares and flight-fatigue dropped away (Punta Mita does, after all, mean “resting place”). Luggage was whisked away, registration was quick, and very soon I was driven by golf cart to my very comfortable accommodations. I was delighted to find that I had a spacious terrace that I knew I would enjoy with my early morning coffee. (There was, of course, a coffee-maker along with complimentary coffees and teas.) Or, I could, if I liked, use the amenity that awaited me: the ingredients for a perfect Margarita.
Punta Mita Four Seasons is located in the state of Nayarit in Mexico, an area rich with Indian heritage, which I would see reflected in the décor, the facilities, the Cultural Center and the spa treatments. There are 114 casita rooms (guest rooms) and 26 suites; all housed in tile-roofed Mexican style casitas of one, two and three stories. The furnishings are those you might find in a luxurious Mexican home, with all modern conveniences. In addition to the coffee-making facilities, I had a refrigerated bar loaded with goodies, including bottled water (although the water filtration system is excellent, complimentary bottled water is provided all over the resort if guests desire it); an oversize bathroom with a deep soaking tub, a separate glass-enclosed shower and terrific signature toiletries.
When I was ready for lunch, I headed for the Ketsi Pool Restaurant, a casual, open air spot with a palapa roof and soothing ocean views. After a great burger and a Mexican beer, I explored the other dining options: the Nuna Bar, which specializes in ceviche served in a quaint patio setting overlooking the ocean and the Arama Restaurant, which also has an outdoor terrace and specializes in Chino Latino cuisine created by Chef. Herve Fucho. I learned that every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, just before noon, a local fisher pulls his boat up to the beach to display his morning catch .If I liked, I could join the chef as he selected fish for the restaurant, choose whatever I liked for my lunch or dinner—and then discuss with him how I’d like my meal prepared. Though I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, I did have a splendid dinner at the Arama Restaurant.
Another resort highlight I didn’t take advantage of—and one for which family members would envy me—was the award-winning 7,014-yard Jack Nicklaus golf course. Spread over 200 acres, with 8 holes bordering either the Pacific Ocean or Banderas Bay, this course is a veritable paradise for golfers. When Nicklaus was asked to name the best hole he ever designed, he replied: “Probably 3B at Punta Mita.” The hole is known as ‘Tale of the Whale’ because when viewed from the air, it resembles the shape of a Humpback’s tail. As this is an island green, an amphibious cart ferries golfers to the island, though when the tide is low, ambitious golfers can walk.
For those who love to be in motion, there are four tennis courts (two Har-Tru and two artificial grass) and lots of water sports, coral reef snorkeling, sailing, deep-sea fishing, and scuba diving excursions. There is also an extensive children’s program and there are many off-property options, including dolphin encounters. Me, I spent happy hours swimming the big free-form pool, gazing out to sea, lazing on a comfortable lounge reading junky novels—interrupted only by the attendants who spritzed me with cool Evian and offered snacks of fruit, ice cream or sorbet. Had my sunglasses been slipping down my nose, the ‘sunglass doctor’ would have made a quick fix. It’s attentions like this, for which no tipping is expected, that made my stay at Punta Mita outstanding.
One activity I enjoyed was the Sea Lion Encounter. These darling and playful creatures (all female) are comical, playful, fast, mischievous and friendly. Suited up in my safety gear, flippers and a mask, I swam out to where the sea lions would be and bobbed along as they swam up to be petted or simply admired. This experience was similar to a dolphin encounter, although not as choreographed. Also, as this encounter takes place in the ocean, the water can be rougher than in a dolphin pool.
After that exhilarating experience, I was ready to sample the Apuane Spa: the name comes from the Huichol language and describes a stream of water often used in healing and spiritual awakening rituals. All the spa’s body treatments use natural products based on nutrient-rich plants, mineral and marine elements.
My signature Punta Mita Massage (50 minutes, $140) was described as using a blend of Tequila and Salvia (sage). Tequila is a fermentation of the Agave plant, a national symbol of Mexico known for magical and healing powers. Tequila originated with the Nahuatl Indians, who believed the Agave plant was a divine representation of the goddess Mayauel who had 400 breasts to feed her 400 children. My massage therapist Rosario explained that even today Tequila is believed to be a cure-all. The other ingredient in the massage, the sage, is an indigenous plant used in the healing rituals of the Huichol Indians, who once lived in the Punta Mita area. The mixture created a rich fragrance, which I thoroughly enjoyed as Rosario worked my muscles using both Swedish techniques and some of her own devising.
After my massage, I had a Margarita Scrub (25 minutes, $90). Massage therapist Ana explained that this, too, employed Tequila, as well as salt and fresh lime juice. The lime is a natural astringent and skin conditioner. Applied with mineral rich sea salts, and a dash of Tequila, it certainly cleansed and freshened my body—to the point where I couldn’t resist the urge to take a quick lick of my hand; the taste was salty, tangy—and reminiscent of a real Margarita.
My richest spa experience, however, was the Temazcal (two hours, $130), an ancient approach to spirituality and purification related in concept to the saunas of Finland, the Hammam of the Middle East and the sweat lodge of the Native Americans. Therapist Patricia Aguilar had explained the Temazcal thus: “It is, I believe, a cleansing, a spiritual experience. It emulates being in the belly of the mother. It is an internal journey, a sensory deprivation and when you come out, it is like being reborn; whatever stress you have, you let it go...”
For the ritual I was instructed to wear a swimsuit and cover-up and to remove any metallic jewelry (the hot vapor would not be kind to it).
Before entering the Temazcal with my three companions and the Temazcalero (the shaman trained in the ritual), we shared an outdoor ceremony with Copal, the sacred incense from tree resin burned for purification and prayer. The smoke from this was passed over and around or bodies before we entered; we paid respect to the four points--earth, fire, water and air-- and to the sun.
After we filed into the Temazcal, an igloo-shaped construction built on a hilltop, we were given two jugs of water, one for drinking and one for pouring over our heads should the heat become too intense. Prior to our arrival, fire-heated stones--ancient volcanic rock from the region—had been heated and treated with care and respect by the designated fire keeper. Now they were taken from the fire, dusted with eucalyptus branches and brought inside the Temazcal. We saluted each stone as it was brought inside, to the center of the Temazcal. The door closed and now we were in darkness, broken only by the glow of the stones.
The heat built quickly and I was tempted to douse myself with water, but as we would be inside for 45 minutes, we had been cautioned not to start using the water too quickly or it might lose its efficacy to cool us down. The door to the Temazcal was opened four times to bring in more stones; each time the Temazcalero honored one of the four directions of North, South, East and West. The heat and steam built and built as the Temazcalero shared stores that had been passed down through generations; he was our guide through the detoxification ritual and we shared stories of our own. We had been told that we could leave should the heat become too intense. More than once I was tempted, but some instinct made me stay.
When the ritual ended, we filed outside into the cool air. I was refreshed, exhilarated, even thrilled. An outdoor shower gave a quick cool-down. The next part was pure Four Seasons. We were given comfy robes and seated at a low table decked out with linens and glass and silver, and laden with wonderful herbal teas, waters and snacks of dried fruit. Although the ancients did not have the benefit of these amenities, they were certainly welcome.
The Apuane spa has six single treatment rooms, two double rooms, a couple’s treatment room with Jacuzzi and private patio, an oceanfront massage hut with palapa roof, two wet rooms, separate men’s and women’s sauna and steam rooms, and separate locker and dressing rooms. There is a full menu of face and body treatments for both men and women; a few of these are the Mayan Fango Mud Massage, the Mayan Honeymoon Ritual and the Herbal Seaweed Mask. Various packages are also available. The spa was a great place to just ‘hang out’, as it offered chilled towels, sorbet, smoothies, coffee and tea, lemonade, fruit skewers, a paperback library, and dozens of lotions, games, magazines and newspapers. There is also a well-equipped fitness center, with individual TV service.
Current rack rates for rooms are $450-$495 per night; a current special offers a third night free for every two paid nights. There are also bed-and-breakfast packages and spa packages. A five-night Romantic Spa Package at $610 a night includes: luxurious accommodations, daily buffet breakfast for two (the buffet is a knockout), sparkling wine, truffles and a keepsake box in the room upon arrival, a $500 spa credit (once per stay), and unlimited non-motorized water sports.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita
Punta Mita, Bahia de Banderas
Nayarit, 63734, Mexico
52 (329) 291-6000