While tourists flock to the beaches of Punta Mita and Puerto Vallarta, an underexplored paradise with thick forests and deserted sands lies just south. Costalegre, which means the “joy coast,” lines 100 miles of Mexico’s Pacific shore to Manzanillo.
Mexicans know the allure of Costalegre’s unspoiled, rugged terrain, spending time in beach areas like Careyes. But without major hotel brands or major development in Costalegre, the destination mostly went unnoticed by international visitors. That is, until Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo, México opened in November.
The property is the Four Seasons brand’s largest, but don’t expect a big, splashy presence. Tucked away on a 3,000-acre private nature reserve, the hotel only uses 2 percent of the land.
Four Seasons Tamarindo feels remote — it’s a 15-minute drive from the front gates up a winding cobblestone street to the lobby. There, you’re met with an awe-inspiring view: the open-air lobby looks onto a wrap-around infinity pool, jagged cliffs, emerald fairways on an 18-hole golf course and deep-blue waters foaming along the crescent strip of sand, all just a taste of what lies ahead at this Mexican Eden.
Five of the country’s top architecture and design firms (Victor Legorreta, Mauricio Rocha, Mario Schjetnan, Estudio Esterlina and Uribe Krayer) collaborated on the project. They used organic materials like local stone, lava rocks, sand-colored cement and wood along with earth tones to allow Four Seasons Tamarindo to blend into the jungle landscape. The result is a novel, contemporary Mexican design that pays homage to the country’s heritage while deferring to its lush surroundings.
The 157 wood-and-stone accommodations open onto the wild setting with vast terraces or patios. Unique Mexican touches grace each of the rooms: framed huipils, traditional garments worn by indigenous women in the south, enliven the walls; beach bags are made from henequen fibers from agave plants; and female artisans from the Yaxunah, Yaxche, Santa Rosa and Becan communities created the cotton hammocks that hang outside.
In the striking cliffside suites, those hammocks hang next to a 43-foot infinity pool that faces the Pacific and the rocky coast. The bathroom, covered in Marmol ocean-blue travertino, rivals that vista. The tub is carved into the floor and looks out across the pool to the ocean. Nestled along the ridges, the secluded suites are a favorite for couples’ retreats.
Families prefer the Beachfront accommodations, which provide easier access to the sand and the property (the cliffside suites require golf cart transportation). And some of the beachfront suites have infinity pools, too.
The resort’s own three pools dramatically cascade down the cliff, making for a stunning scene. The first two tiers are open to families, while the quiet pool closest to the beach is reserved for adults — just in case Four Seasons Tamarindo’s three beaches didn’t give you enough swimming and sunning options.
The designers were thoughtful in conceiving every walkway, turn and view at the property to ensure each offered something of visual interest. They also made room for a common characteristic of Mexican architecture: a sense of mystery or discovery. We appreciated this in the small moments, like a simple path to elevators with high stone walls and a slatted wood awning.
Every alfresco restaurant comes with a mesmerizing view, but Sal brings you the closest to the ocean. Come for sundowners (like El Arenal with tequila, celery, kiwi, lime and vanilla) and move onto the hamachi al pastor with bright pineapple chunks, cilantro aguachile and creamy avocado puree and succulent wagyu nigiri with dollops of caviar.
Overlooking the tiered pools, Coyul focuses on Italian- and French-inspired plates (along with a tasting menu) featuring Mexican ingredients, like tagliolini studded with lobster chunks and jalapeños or octopus confit with chickpeas and herbs. During Coyal’s breakfast, you’ll be tempted by dishes like chilaquiles with shrimp and salsa roja but order the pastry basket. Renowned Mexican chef Elena Reygadas oversees the restaurant, and she has a way with pastries. The flaky croissant tastes like it’s from Paris, and the dreamy cinnamon roll is sweet without being cloying.
It’s easy to miss Nacho, a taqueria set behind a pool. But it warrants repeat visits for its creative tacos with made-from-scratch tortillas stuffed with melt-in-your-mouth braised pork shoulder and mole. For adventurous palates, there are flavorful sweetbreads with maguey worm stew, marrow and roasted garlic. Cap them off with made-to-order churros and caramel dipping sauce.
Learn more about the ingredients by visiting Rancho Ortega, the onsite farm started in 2021. On a complimentary tour, you’ll stroll the farm’s 35 acres, which grow asparagus, avocados, pineapple, rambutan, figs, plantains, lemongrass, tamarind, cinnamon and much more. The land includes 8,500 blue agave plants that will eventually be used to make the hotel’s own tequila.
Inside the ranch house, you’ll find areas for pickling and microgreens, a room dedicated to mushrooms and another one for the nixtamalization of corn to make tortillas.
The farm also hosts some adorable animals. Tequila, an easygoing black-and-white Great Pyrenees, shepherds the flock of sheep; Mangalica pigs graze in a large pen; several dozen Rhode Island hens provide eggs for breakfast each morning; and ducks waddle around (we got to pet a darling duckling).
The no-tipping property offers numerous activities, many of them free. Explore the leafy preserve, home to more than 70 endemic species, with a complimentary nature hike. Resident biologist Paco led us along a portion of the 45 miles of trails. Along the way, the enthusiastic biologist wore a wide smile as he showed us guazuma ulmifolia, a fruit with a prickly, wood-like shell that’s both an antioxidant and a mild relaxant, and mojote, whose seeds make a caffeine-free drink that tastes like coffee. He also pointed out some deer tracks and shared how the animals and pig-like javelinas appear occasionally on the golf course.
When you want to cool off, hit the water. We climbed aboard a lancha, a small traditional Mexican fishing boat, for a tour of the cliff-filled coastline. A guide brought us to spots like Las Iglesias (“The Churches”), a granite formation named for the arched openings and sharp peaks that resemble cathedral entrances. We chose to swim, though you can opt to scuba, snorkel, fish or go whale watching.
If you seek rest and relaxation beyond the pools and golden sand beaches, visit the spa, an eight-treatment-room haven that continues the soothing stone-and-wood aesthetic. Get a deep-tissue massage and then retreat to chaise lounges next to the alfresco plunge pools in the red clay Zen garden.
But there are so many other activities. Start your day with an invigorating morning meditation session overlooking the adult infinity pool and ocean. Take an excellent and free fermented drinks class — it has nothing to do with kombucha. Or sign up for a workshop with a National Geographic photographer so you’re better set to snap the photos of this verdant and still-hidden future hot spot.