If you want to avoid the throngs of tourists who descend on popular Mexico destinations like Cancun and Tulum, try Punta de Mita, the center of a luxurious beach scene in the Riviera Nayarit region. Nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast in the shadow of the dramatic Sierra Madre mountains, Punta de Mita offers a quieter but no less stunning alternative to other beloved Mexican destinations.
Aside from its sapphire waters, uncrowded sands and upscale vibe, Punta de Mita entices with a new beachfront getaway, Conrad Punta de Mita, which debuted in September 2020 with everything from sizzling pools to must-try agave tastings. Here’s why you should visit here and check into the hotel:
The Cultural Touches
Descendants of the Aztecs, the Huichol Indians are indigenous in the area and remain among the last-remaining people in the Western Hemisphere who still live by pre-Columbian beliefs and traditions.
The Conrad pays homage to their rich cultural heritage throughout the property in ways big and small. A recurring design element is the Huichol ojo de dios (or “eye of god”), a diamond pattern that subtly appears throughout, from the rooms’ wood headboard and bedside table handles to Mezquite restaurant’s black lava rock wall and the lobby’s wood floor. The hotel enlisted a local curandero (a shaman) to perform a two-hour ceremony when deciding the best place for the temazcal (sweat lodge) — the first one in Punta de Mita and among Hilton hotels — and the spa holds shaman-led sessions in the white stone dome that help purify and heal.
The Huichol revere nature and the luxury hotel strives to make it part of your experience. Lush vegetation covers the manicured 12-acre grounds. Paths from the lobby to the beach wind through fuchsia bougainvillea, red hibiscus and clusters of palm trees, making you feel like you’re walking through a garden.
The Conrad encourages you to spend time taking in the natural surroundings with balconies in the rooms, alfresco restaurants and outdoor spa huts. Even the lobby, which looks more like a modern art museum with artful seating and a sculptured ceiling, calls you to the outdoors with an open back wall that frames the verdant grounds and the ocean.
Each of the 324 accommodations overlooks the water, which is exactly what you want when staying at a beach retreat. The view inspired the blue-and-tan contemporary interiors from SB Architects (whose work includes Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico and AMARA in Cyprus).
The two penthouses in the main building offer respite from the beach scene and afford the most privacy, the most perks (including a dining room, a living room, an office and a kitchen) and the best vistas. Perched on the fifth floor, they afford wide-ranging views of the grounds and beyond. If you prefer to be closer to the sand, opt for the beachfront suites, which come with spacious terraces and an outdoor plunge pool facing the rolling waves. For an even more relaxing vibe, slip into the suite’s roomy standalone tub in a beige stone bathroom stocked with Byredo’s woodsy Mojave Ghost toiletries.
The best place to unwind is at the 10,000-square-foot spa. If you need a reprieve from the intense sun and humidity, its air-conditioned lounge (stocked with cool drinks like orange, cucumber and mint water) and treatment rooms await. But step back outside for what makes the Conrad Spa special. Walk through the vine-covered canopy to find treatment huts made to resemble the indigenous peyote plant. Couples should retreat to special huts for them, which contain side-by-side massage tables and a hot tub.
While there, partake in Huichol-inspired services like the Xíetecacaríiya Sweet Honey Facial, which uses the nourishing nectar and hydrating cucumber to revive your skin, or opt for the Mara’akame body treatment, which cleanses you with local herbs and copal smoke, detoxifies with copal clay, helps your energy flow with a massage and rebalances you with Huichol oils and herbal poultices.
Allow extra time to relax further in the spa’s alfresco lounging area. Sit under a pergola built with thick branches or take a dip in the pool or hot tub, all nestled inside thick foliage. You won’t want to leave the tranquil space.
Among the seven restaurants and bars on the property, CODEX is a highlight. Hidden among mangroves, the in-the-sand, fine-dining restaurant specializes in modern Mexican fare with artful plating. After arriving, you are welcomed with a Huichol ritual that pays respect to the natural elements. Then sit down and enjoy a selection of warm bread, including a flavorful chipotle croissant.
Try the tuna tostada starter (with fresh fish, dots of avocado, pipicha, dehydrated tomatoes, soy foam and sweet lime) sitting on a bed of large, smooth rocks. Then, move onto the crispy Veracruz soft-shell crab with a trio of sauces — charred eggplant puree, ancho chili and black garlic, and a citrus jocoque similar in texture to sour cream) — topped with celery salad. For dessert, the cacao y pasilla is an elegant dish with chocolate mousse encasing a pasilla core, a cacao financier and currant gel. Even the mignardises get an elegant presentation — a passionfruit macaron, a coconut marshmallow and an almond truffle rest on stones in a plume of thyme smoke.
Be sure to add pairings to sample Mexican wines often difficult to find abroad. You’ll enjoy glasses of finds like a 2020 Casa Madero 3V and a 2018 Guanamé malbec.
The other culinary standout, Árbol, turns out upscale takes on traditional Mexican cuisine. Your meal begins with tortilla chips and salsas, including a garlicky, spicy pumpkin option. Order the oversized San Blas shrimp al ajillo (marinated in garlic) on a bed of creamy rice studded with corn and guajillo peppers and a pool of chili oil for some heat — it’s pure comfort food.
Save room, though, for dessert favorites like the tres leches cake topped with berries and the churros with arroz con leche (rice pudding) and Chocolate Abuelita (a type of hot chocolate) dips.
The Agave Studio
Don’t miss a tasting in The Agave Studio, a bright, glass-walled space lined with bottles and barrels tucked inside Árbol. Tequila is the best-known agave spirit, but it’s not the only one — Mexico boasts more than 250 different agave plants. A knowledgeable mixologist will introduce you to mezcal, tequila’s smokier, sweeter cousin; raicilla, the oldest agave spirit, which is similar to moonshine (taste it in the hotel’s delicious coconut-laden welcome cocktail); and sotol, which hails from only three Mexican states.
Our tasting came with appetizers, like guacamole crowned with a grasshopper as well as mahi ceviche, and we tried six pours, including Flor del Desierto, a sotol made with rattlesnake venom, and Código 1530 Rosa, a rosé tequila that gets its pink hue by soaking in French white oak wine barrels. Our excellent mixologist Stefan made learning the history and nuances of the spirits informative and leisurely. Plus, he shared many great tips, like how tequila should be sipped from a champagne flute since it doesn’t have many aromas.
If you want another taste, the studio also offers an agave-pairing dinner and make-your-own-mezcal-blend workshops.
The Conrad sets up cream umbrellas and lounge chairs on its two miles of sand, but the pools are the resort’s hot spot. Adults sink into the submerged loungers in the infinity pool peering out at the ocean or seek out loungers in the curvy infinity pool with wood-slatted cabanas, a swim-up bar serving ice-cold drinks and music pumping from the speakers.
The hotel is family-friendly, so parents and children have their own separate place to cool off. They can spend their days at the kiddie pool complete with a waterslide and a splash pad.
While there are plenty of water activities, ranging from surfing to fishing, the Conrad provides other ways to stay active during your visit. The luxury hotel resides in the private Litibu development, which houses an 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed golf course open to guests. In addition, the property contains courts for pickleball, tennis and basketball.
Children have their own activities at the colorful kids club, where they can make crafts like the ojo de dios with yarn, or play foosball, ping pong, pool, air hockey or video games in the game room.