The Riviera Nayarit is no stranger to luxury.
For years, five-star aficionados have settled into stunning rooms at resorts like the Four Seasons Punta Mita and St. Regis Punta Mita. Private villas are peppered all along the coastline in between charming small towns like Bucerias and Sayulita, home to art galleries and smart boutiques.
But a new level of luxury is on the horizon, and it has started with the opening of the One&Only Mandarina last November, which is pushing the bar just a notch higher.
Reaching the new One&Only can be a bit of an adventure: a winding drive north through jungle terrain from Puerto Vallarta. The journey is normally about 90 minutes but can take up to two hours depending on traffic along the single-lane Highway 200. Eventually the jungle landscape thins out to reveal striking, purple-colored mountains that loom above vast stretches of sun-soaked valley. Turning left off the highway takes you toward the beach bluffs of the breathtaking Pacific coast, on which the many villas of One&Only are nestled.
Rooms at the One&Only Mandarina start at $1,090 a night. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Dotted along tree-shrouded cliffs are 104 treehouse-style villas that blend nature with five-star amenities. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors give way to terraces outfitted with private plunge pools and what feels like miles between the neighboring villas. We checked into room No. 100, a Treehouse bathed in dark wood and accented with stone fixtures and cream-colored linens. A small plunge pool is out on the terrace and looks out over the treetops to the ocean beyond. An outdoor soaking tub sits on its own perch with a view straight out to sea.
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The rooms start at $1,090 per night, and only get more spectacular as the rates rise, from Ocean Villas to Panoramic Ocean Villas. The crown jewel is Villa One a palace of more than 18,000 square feet with its own infinity pool, private cinema, wine cellar, spa and gym. The price? A cool $21,000 per night.
An earthy elegance permeates across the entire property, particularly in the design. Glassy infinity pools extend gracefully over cliffs, surrounded by sleek lounge chairs and daybeds that pop with deep purple and orange cushions. Even the seaglass-style soap and shampoo bottles have that windswept beach look, but in a fashion photo shoot kind of way.
Glassy infinity pools extend gracefully over cliffs at the One&Only Mandarina. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
And then there is the dining. Without a doubt the crown jewel of One&Only Mandarina is Carao, a restaurant helmed by Mexico's native superstar chef, Enrique Olvera. Highlights for me were the fried octopus that comes with handmade blue corn tortillas; fresh oysters; and the shiitake mushroom birria. The resort also boasts an impressive wine selection across all of its restaurants, including some stellar selections from Mexico.
Nearby is the Playa Canalan Beach Club. It doesn't belong exclusively to the resort but is part of the Mandarina complex and eventually will be shared with the anticipated Rosewood Mandarina, which will open in 2022. The beach club has a gorgeous open-air restaurant that serves rustic Italian food (the tuna carpaccio is highly recommended). There are couches on the sand to sink into, and a lovely pool. At either end of the beach are rocky cliffs and lush mangroves.
But the thing that may stay with you longer than any of these indulgences at One&Only Mandarina is the view at sunset: the gold-hued mountains that fade to blue as the sun sinks behind the Pacific. Those Nayarit sunsets are what hooked me 10 years ago and keep me coming back. And the wildly beautiful One&Only Mandarina uses it to full advantage.