Hidden within the bays and coves of Mexico's Pacific coast is the Costa Careyes resort, a mix of rugged luxury, artistic design and hushed elegance tucked halfway between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
Its otherworldly blend of jungle, desert and ocean has made it a haven for the upper echelon of creatives from Europe and Latin America. Careyes was developed by Italian artist and banker Gian Franco Brignone, who first visited this part of Mexico in 1968. At the time of his visit, Careyes was practically inaccessible because of rivers, jungle and a lack of roads. But his vision was clear: He wanted to sculpt it into a hideaway for lovers of art, music, poetry and above all else, Mexico.
Today, Careyes spans more than 20,000 acres and features a creative, international community with 65 villas painted in bold colors and designed to look like a scene from the cliffsides of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. There are also 40 casitas, three bungalows, the new El Careyes Club & Residences, the Careyes Polo Club and the Careyes Foundation, which was created in 2012 to continue the preservation of the environment and the local communities.
Today, the imaginative villas, casitas, bungalows and El Careyes Residences are privately owned or for sale, but they can also be rented to well-heeled and sophisticated vacationers.
Many of the villas feature large infinity pools atop cliffs overlooking the ocean. And while luxury and comfort are absolutely the name of the game, the vibe is understated. Picture cliffside villas painted in brilliant pinks, reds, yellows and blues with hidden pools, lush gardens and designs informed by astronomy that make the most of sunsets.
Sitting at the center of the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, Careyes set aside a large portion of wetlands for preservation in 1994. The property has more than 1,200 species of flora and fauna, including 70 species of mammals and 270 species of birds.
One of the core principles of Careyes is sustainability. The cobblestone roads throughout the property were constructed by hand with rock and dirt, and the villas are built to maximize cross-ventilation and lessen the use of air conditioning.
Activities in Careyes include hikes through the mountains, walks or horseback rides on the deserted beaches, boating excursions, yoga, whale-watching, scuba diving, paddleboarding and polo. The Careyes community has built the Plaza de los Caballeros del Sol, which features the Careyes Art Space, a curated art gallery with an oversize projection screen that loops art films and nature documentaries.
There are seven restaurants serving international and Mexican cuisine: Playa Rosa on the beach; Punto Como with Italian fare; the Asian-inspired Cocodrilo Azul; La Coscolina serving healthy, Mediterranean-inspired lunches; the poolside La Duna at El Careyes Club & Residences; the barefoot luxury Casa de Nada on a stretch of private beach; and the gourmet Pueblo 25, owned and operated by a lovely Peruvian couple who relocated to Careyes nearly 18 years ago. Of course, those who rent villas can also hire a private staff and chefs.
Rates at Careyes begin at $350 per night. See www.careyes.com.