Reed Travel Features
ZIHUATANEJO -- When Helmut Leins bought a tiny piece of land in
this fishing village on the Pacific in 1974, he had one thing in
mind --- to build a small beach house where he could relocate from
his native Germany, leave behind his mechanical engineering firm in
Munich and "live again."
Today, within that same piece of property, which has grown to
6.5 acres during the past 22 years, Leins and his wife, Muriel, own
and manage one of the jewels among beachfront properties around the
world -- Villa del Sol.
Situated on Zihuatanejo's tranquil La Ropa Beach, the property,
which meanders under swaying palms through lushly landscaped
gardens, stone pathways, streams and fountains, is a haven for
Setting itself apart with personalized service, luxurious,
cottage-like accommodations in an intimate, secluded setting and
excellent cuisine, Villa del Sol has been called by many the best
small beach hotel in Mexico.
The property became a member of Relais & Chateaux in 1991
and Small Luxury Hotels of the World in 1992, further enhancing its
"It wasn't planned," said Leins. "I just wanted to build
something based on the way I would like to spend my vacation."
Leins started in 1978 with a modest plan to construct the beach
house, where he would live, and six guest units.
Later that year, a couple from Houston happened upon the
property as they were strolling along the beach, fell in love with
the ambience and convinced Leins to let them stay, even though the
guest units were a few weeks away from completion.
Within 10 days after their departure, they sent down two more
couples from Houston.
Leins expanded upon his initial dream during the years, adding
more guest units and refining the experience.
Although Villa del Sol now has 40 suites, including three new
beach units and a pool suite, Leins' idea of a vacation paradise
has not changed, nor has its appeal to guests from around the
The Leins' brand of hospitality results in an 80% repeat rate
among the clientele, many of whom have visited the property for
more than 15 years.
He has a twofold formula for success: "You have to have a good
product that you don't have to advertise," he said, "and if you
want to keep repeat clientele, you have to have the right
With that philosophy, Leins and his wife fashioned the resort to
cater to high-end clients in search of an exotic, tropical
"We try to have a small hotel with all the services you would
find in a large resort property, but on a more human scale," Leins
Each guest is treated like an old friend. For example, Leins
throws a cocktail reception every Friday evening so he can visit
with guests. But it is the personalized touch that carries over
into all aspects of Villa del Sol.
The property's cozy suite accommodations, most of which are
split-level configurations, are decorated uniquely in soft pastels
complemented by handcrafted furnishings and Mexican artwork.
Each suite's features vary by category. Some of the units have
outdoor plunge pools or whirlpools, and special touches include
king-sized beds draped with canopies, which are adorned with flower
petals at turndown; bathrooms with handpainted Mexican tiles;
stained-glass windows; cotton bathrobes, and terraces strung with
Five categories of accommodations are available, including
standard minisuites, superior minisuites, deluxe minisuites, master
suites and beach suites.
The public areas of Villa del Sol are just as appealing as the
Guests dine in an open-air, restaurant boasting gourmet Mexican
and European-style cuisine as well as a view of the beach -- a
perfect way to enjoy a sunset dinner.
During high season, a Mexican fiesta with a buffet and live
entertainment is held in the restaurant on Friday evenings, and on
Tuesday nights, a beach barbeque is featured.
Cocktails and snacks are available for purchase at two cozy,
One of Villa del Sol's most relaxing venues is its private beach
area, where guests can be found suntanning, napping in the shade,
sipping cocktails or having a leisurely lunch.
Massage service is available on the beach.
Recreational options include tennis on the property's two
courts, which are lighted for night play, or swimming in two
Arrangements also can be made for water sports such as
windsurfing, parasailing, jet skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving
as well as deep-sea fishing and horseback riding excursions.
For golfers, two 18-hole courses are within 10-minute drives
from the property.
Guests also can venture into the quaint village of Zihuatanejo,
which is minutes away by taxi.
Here, visitors can explore a large handicraft market stocked
with everything from handmade pottery to silver jewelry from Taxco
or sample the local catch at restaurants along the marina.
The more developed resort area of Ixtapa, with its full
complement of tourist offerings, also is a short cab ride from the
Rounding out the offerings at Villa del Sol are a beauty salon,
massage services, a gift shop and gallery, a travel agency, car
rental, a library, fax service and 24-hour security as well as a
meeting room for small group functions accommodating up to 24
Receptions also can be arranged on the beach for up to 150
people as well as sunset weddings.
With its full array of excellent facilities and services, there
seems to be nothing else a guest would need at Villa del Sol, but
Leins constantly works to upgrade the property's offerings to
maintain its high level of repeat clientele as well as attract new
"We always have a surprise for people who have been coming here
for the past 15 or 16 years," Leins said, citing one example: the
property's bakery now begins operations at 5 a.m. so guests can
wake up to a basket of fresh croissants and coffee, which are
delivered to their terrace each morning.
On a larger scale, Leins augmented the property's accommodations
offerings with a new pool suite and three new beach suites with
spectacular views of La Ropa Beach.
Each beach suite is different in configuration and design,
incorporating features such as marble floors inlaid with pebbles,
handcarved woodwork, an open-air living area or an outdoor plunge
pool with an ocean view.
The new units range in size from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet.
Nightly rates at Villa del Sol range from $180 to $500 through
March 31 and $150 to $450 from April 1 through Nov. 14.
During winter season (from Nov. 15 through March 31), the
purchase of the Modified American Plan (MAP), which includes
breakfast and dinner, is mandatory.
The MAP rate is $50 per person, per day.
For more details on Villa del Sol or to make reservations,
agents can call the property direct at (888) 389-2645; Small Luxury
Hotels at (800) 525-4800; Relais & Chateaux at (800) 860-4930,
or Robert Reid Associates at (800) 223-6510.
Villa del Sol also is a featured property of U.S. wholesalers,
such as Runaway Tours, Creative Leisure and Friendly Holidays.