As the once-virgin shoreline in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit welcomes resort complex after resort complex, there remain few places in Pacific Mexico that are seemingly untouched.
The area between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo is one of the few remaining destinations in coastal Mexico that still feels like an escape. For a hot minute in 2015 and 2016, this looked as if it was all on the brink of change, as Costalegre was poised to be the next big luxury destination.
However, construction delays and financial tie-ups rendered this as more of a long-term pipe dream than actually the next rising destination. However, plans are still in motion, quietly, and luxury travelers can expect to see big things in the coming year.
Mexico's Costalegre consists of 43 beaches, capes and bays stretching along Highway 200 between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. It's a stretch of coast that is a far cry from the crowded beaches strewn with chain hotels that you'd expect to find in more common Mexican beach towns.
The first project to be discussed was the Chalacatepec airport, which would open up the entire stretch of coastline, making it more accessible than the now two-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta, or the similar drive from Manzanillo. The airport land has had a runway for four years, but the development of the terminal had been halted indefinitely due to lack of funds. According to Zachary Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico, officials involved with the project say the airport is fully on track to open in the second quarter of 2018.
Yet another project that had been halted is the mega luxury Zafiro Master Plan, which was to include a Cheval Blanc hotel with branded villas, an 18-hole golf course and up to 525 real estate units. The resort was slated for completion in 2019, and would have been one of the most exclusive tourist escapes in all of Mexico with an investment of more than $80 million.
The plan, however, was recently frozen because the cost per room outweighs the average occupancy expected. The plan, while still on hold, has gone back to the drawing board.
As part of AMResorts' plan to open 10 new hotels by 2020, their Zoetry brand is slated for expansion in the Costalegre. Zoetry Chamela Costaelgre will open in 2020 with 120 suites on the Bay of Chamela.
For now, what travelers can find along the Costalegre is boutique luxury, particularly in the community of Costa Careyes. Here is the Costa Careyes Resort, an exclusive private resort that has ocean castles, villas, casitas, and bungalows. Playa Careyes is one of the most-visited destinations along the Costalegre, known for its diving, swimming, kayaking, and windsurfing.
Another luxury hotel option is Las Alamandas, which sits on 1,500 acres of nature reserve. The luxury resort has only 16 suites on its own stretch of beach. Costalegre is also known for Cabo Corrientes, a stretch of beaches on the fringe of Selva El Tuito, the national forest within the state of Jalisco. This expanse of 45 miles of sand is an eco paradise, with very little hotel development. Small hotels can be found in Villa Del Mar and Playa Mayto. Authenticity awaits in Barra de Navidad, known for its calm waters and beachside palapas serving seafood and tacos.
But we're on the brink of a major change to this part of Mexico's coast. Once the airport opens, the sleepy destination that was a fond hideaway for backpackers and Robinson Crusoe types will open up to welcome a new type of luxury traveler.