DREAMING IN PARADISE
The newly opened Conrad Punta de Mita is Hilton’s first and only Conrad brand resort in Mexico.
Written by Bridget Williams
Mexico colors my dreams with a vibrancy I find nowhere else in the world. Each time I visit, symbols of ancient gods, the traditions of its indigenous people, the food, and the landscape—from bustling cities to the mystery of mountain peaks cloaked in seemingly impenetrable jungle—come to life shortly after my head hits the pillow. My most recent stay, this time at the newly opened Conrad Punta de Mita in the Riviera Nayarit, was no exception.
Located approximately 40 minutes from the international airport in Puerta Vallarta, the property sits within a lightly developed area that's part of the gated Litibu golf course community. Proof once again that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, from the backside, the hulking main structure of the resort gives little indication of what lies inside. Once you pass the COVID protocols—bag, hand, and shoe sanitizing and a temperature check—you are invited to pass through a corridor framed with wood "ribs" that leads to a soaring lobby with views to a verdant lawn, a trio of swimming pools and the breaking waves of the ocean. Once the feeling of being gobsmacked by the vista wears off, you begin to notice the complexity of the interior design, which pays subtle homage to the indigenous Huichol people and traditional Mexican craftsmanship in a handmade-modern way.
The Conrad Punta de Mita is the first full-service Conrad brand resort in Mexico. Each of the 324 guest rooms, spread out over the multi-story arc-shaped main building, and nine beachfront casas, each with 12-15 rooms and suites, boast views of the Pacific Ocean. Request Superior King Oceanfront suite 1436, or similar, for views that stretch from the ocean and across a wide swath of mangrove forest to the emerald Sierra Madre Mountains.
Spacious guest rooms continue the theme established in the lobby of mixing traditional aspects with clean-lines. Inside my ocean-front casa room, I admired the cerused wood trim and doors in the bathroom, beauty dish-style LED-lighted mirrors over the double vanity, Huichol-inspired artwork over the coffee bar, and crisp bed linens with navy blue trim. A large balcony offered space for alfresco dining, as well as a comfy daybed that served as an open invitation to savor the sound of the strong surf.
Rising before sunrise, you'll spy an army of attendants attending to the manicured grounds. Ideal for both family travel and couple's getaways, a large family pool includes a water slide (that this bid kid also loved) and a zero-entry splash pad for the littlest fish. An infinity activity pool fronts the ocean, and an adults-only pool with a champagne bar concept in the works, rounds out the aquatic options. Surrounding each pool are cabanas and loungers with some of the thickest and most comfortable cushions I've encountered.
The wide, uncrowded beach has packed sand that's ideal for running or walking. While there is another hotel sharing the waterfront in not-too-close proximity on one side of the property, on the other, there's at least a mile of undeveloped waterfront to relish.
There are four restaurants and three bars on the property. During my visit, I experienced three of the four, with the fourth, Codex, a unique fine-dining concept reached via an elevated walkway over the mangroves, scheduled to open shortly. In developing the menu, including special moon phase dinners, Executive Chef Victor Palma sourced inspiration from an ancient Aztec book of herbs, ‘Codice’.
As a lover of all things spicy and Mexican cuisine, I can attest that the food here is extraordinary. I quickly became known as the "spice girl," with staff presenting me with house-made hot sauces, even at breakfast to top my chile relleno.
Mezquite offers toes-in-the-sand al fresco dining and is the best place to watch the sunset. With any luck, during the winter months, you may spy a humpback whale breaching in the distance. Here, the focus is on cuisine created over charcoal and fire, all the way down to the digestif, an activated charcoal popsicle. I washed mine down with a Carajillo, a bittersweet concoction of coffee and Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur.
Available by reservation for up to 20 guests, the Zarandeado Experience allows diners to meet local fishermen from nearby La Cruz Huanacaxtle with the talented Chef Palma when they deliver their catch of the day to the beach in front of the hotel. They'll enjoy a la minute ceviches while the expertly grilled fish is prepared and then served with tostadas and a variety of savory accompaniments for DIY tacos on the beach.
Serving three meals daily, the spring-like freshness of interior design elements at Árbol— green terracotta floor tiles, woven fiber pendant light fixtures and a custom jungle mural painted on one wall, to name a few—mirror the beautifully presented regional Mexican dishes and American staples that are prepared with the freshest of ingredients.
Located next to the family pool, Paleta serves kid-friendly favorites like wood-fired pizzas and more refined comfort food fare, including tuna poke and a flatbread topped with pork belly. Colibri Roasting Company is the go-to spot for a coffee fix and grab-and-go options for breakfast and lunch.
One of the more unique offerings of the food and beverage program is the Agave Studio, where guests receive a Mexican history lesson in tandem with a guided tasting of spirits made with agave. Diving deep beyond tequila and mezcal, we took our tasting experience to the next level with a multi-course dinner than paired traditional Mexican cuisine with spirits from the familiar—tequila and mezcal—to the foreign—sotol and raicilla. We sampled each spirit from a handmade vessel designed to bring out the flavors of each. The evening ended with sipping sotol from a ceremonial-style cup. Once we learned that viper venom is added to its final distillation, we paid extra special attention to discerning the flavor profiles. My dreams were certainly extra spirited that evening!
Even a room service dinner exceeded my expectations, allowing me to shamelessly attack a bowl of guacamole before noshing on flank steak tacos. I'd highly recommend adding a bag of the resort's highly addictive chili caramel corn to your order and save it (if you can!) for snacking on the return flight.
While it may seem contrary to the idea of a relaxing vacation, I like to take advantage of the leisure time to focus on my fitness. The property aids this initiative with a large and well-equipped fitness room as part of the spa, allowing plenty of room to work out safely. A bonus is that I can reward my muscles for all of their hard work with some spa pampering.
A state of sensory bliss ensues as soon as you step inside the 10,000 square foot Conrad Spa, courtesy of a custom scent that permeates every square inch. While the inside spaces are uniquely designed and appointed, it's the Garden of Edenmeets-Dr. Seuss wonderland of the outdoor spaces that's the real showstopper. An abundance of flora, selected for its attractiveness to hummingbirds, grows around (and eventually up and over) several stand-alone treatment rooms (aptly named hummingbird nest cocoons) and passageways, handwoven on site of local wood. Found in this area is dome-shaped temazcal, the first on a Hilton property. During this unique spa experience, guests sit in a circle on the floor while heated volcanic rocks, hand-selected by a shaman, are placed in the center to create heat and steam central to a 4-door purification ritual.
One could be perfectly content remaining on the property for the duration of their stay, but the nearby town of Sayulita is worth a visit. There are a few gems to be discovered amid the trinket and surf shops, including Evoke the Spirit, Revolución Del Sueño, Buddha Gallery, and weekend markets full of locally produced handicrafts. Among the parade of humanity meandering the cobblestone streets are scraggly-haired surfers of all ages along with quite a few ex-pats, who, by the looks of their bare feet, unshaven faces, and deep tans, have fully embraced the beach bum lifestyle. After a few days in the Riviera Narayit at Conrad Punta de Mita, I understand their outlook and the area's appeal.
Room rates at the Conrad Punta de Mita start at $279/ night. The resort is offering a "Stay Longer & Work from Paradise" package offering seven nights free when staying 14 days or more starting at $296/night with a fourteen-night minimum. For more information or reservations, visit conradpuntademita.com. sl