One & Only Mandarina, we love O&O Resorts, it took me too long to visit the newest Mandarina, in a wild jungle set between the Sierra del Vallejo wooded mountains and the Pacific Ocean, near Punta Mita, Mexico. The property is located on a gorgeous stretch of coastline in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit area.
Mandarina is a cliff-side resort set in 88 acres of coastal rainforest, there is no bad view. Two beaches, one of which is swimmable all year round, in a protected jetty. The resort is hidden amid massive primeval palms and the largest tree ferns I’ve ever seen. From my tree house deck, I honestly thought some of the palm fronds had been wired to the treehouse base, they are gargantuan! The resort in the rainforest is almost invisible from the coastline.
Tree houses and villas are casual yet luxurious, the low-impact buildings have a graceful, contemporary design that utilizes impressive modern architecture and an understated Mexican style. Dark local Cumaru wood, like teak, is used on ceilings and slatted windows, alongside plaster earthen walls and polished concrete floors. Accented with modern comfortable furniture, the artwork and décor are all sourced from local Mexican designers, there is truly an authentic sense of place. The villas are wide open and expansive, some have many stairs to access rooms; the tree houses are all flat and you won’t need to navigate any stairs.
The resort has 104 free-standing villas set either in the treetops or on ocean cliffs, each with its own private plunge pool. Designed for open-air living and to amplify the dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean; floor-to-ceiling glass walls and huge, sliding balcony doors dramatically frame the jungle and the sparkling sapphire sea. The large open rooms include comfortable seating and dining areas, inside and out, double-sink vanities, indoor and outdoor soaking tubs, or showers. The indoor showers could host a party! Some of the villas have spas within, projection rooms, massage rooms, full size professional gyms.
Guests have their own dedicated butler and are shuttled around the grounds by buggy. The excellent staff are warm and accommodating, I didn’t experience any wait time by my butler, and this is probably the only complaint I’ve heard – a wait for a butler. The personal touch was abundant, excellent restaurants, and a long list of on property activities, a stay here is especially delightful for travelers who prefer not to venture too far from the property.
Time with your Tribe. Embark on a family adventure through the wilds of Riviera Nayarit, with curated journeys designed for all-ages enjoyment. Spend your days surfing Sayulita’s waves, hiking to ‘La Abuela, and mastering the art of horseback riding, before enjoying family-friendly dining and a campfire under the stars.
So many choices of activities, but to be clear, you won’t be walking to and from, I was very happy with the beck and call buggy service. High points include the two beaches (the wild Canalan beach is especially lovely), a dip in one of the many infinity pools, a beach horse ride organized by the hotel’s Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club, or a hike through the historic rainforest peppered with petroglyphs. Mountain bikes can be used in the somewhat hilly jungle terrain, there is archery, polo classes, hiking, tree top zip lines, water sports – a plethora of options – one could be active all day if you can wrench yourself from the secluded tree house deck. A deck amid a wild jungle teeming with melodic and whistling birds and early morning curious Coatimundi critters who may peek in your windows.
The adult only pool Carao, is dramatically tucked into the hillside, on the edge of a jaw dropping cliff. Jaunty loungers line the long decks, shaded by vibrant carrot orange umbrellas. One could pass a day here with a thick book, interrupted only by cooling laps in the elevated pool.
As customary with O&O properties, there is the complimentary KidsOnly club, with a dedicated forest and butterfly farm. A jungle fort offers outdoor time and the arts and crafts looked stimulating and fun. There is also a family pool, near the sandy Jetty beach.
The expansive yet serene spa offers a variety of treatments, from astrology readings to Tata Harper treatments and classic massages. There is also a massage pool, mud bath and a chill-out area overlooking a forest of ancient Higuera trees.
The resort includes four open-air restaurants and a treetop bar overlooking the ocean. The fine-dining coastal restaurant Carao, offers modern Mexican cuisine in an elegant, contemporary setting. Menus designed and executed by Enrique Olvera, a meal usually begins with fresh ceviche starters and concludes with multiple desserts including homemade cinnamon buñuelos. Dishes include scallop with broccolini tostadas, tender lobster, fresh salads and fruit. The list of mezcals, tequilas, artisanal agave and international wines is particularly impressive.
The more casual Alma restaurant is Mediterranean inspired with a large garden and pool. An open-air, garden-to-plate restaurant helmed by French Mexican executive chef Olivier Deboise, who prepares dishes like epazote raviolis with huitlacoche and almond cheese over two wood-fired ovens, which also produce yummy pizza.
Alma is also the setting for breakfast; guests can order an array of options from enchiladas and chili scrambled eggs to power bowls and waffles. Order a small portion of chiliquilies with scrambled eggs or Huevos Rancheros. Lastly, there is the casual beach side Jetty Beach Club for light Mexican-style lunches, fresh fish is extremely popular.
Several of the private villas boast immense professional kitchens and chef Olivier Deboise can be reserved to prepare a spectacular dinner feast in your villa. Begin with mezcal cocktails on a cliff side deck with soaring Pacific Ocean views, migrate to the open-air dining room and end the evening around the infinity pool with delectable desserts.
Finally: Retreat to the spa. Each of the six treatment rooms are built within a natural volcanic rock garden, the rooms are conical in shape and appear to be small pyramids amid the jungle. It’s another world at the spa. Treatments are inspired by Indigenous and pre-Hispanic cultures and go beyond typical massage offerings: including mud bath treatments, apply a dark mud treatment to your skin at the mud grotto. Let it dry while relaxing on a lounger, then rinse it off under the tropical rain showers, and quiet sessions in the on-site temazcal, experience an age-old ritual that has been part of Mexican culture for a thousand years. The name ‘Temazcal’ originates from a Nahuatl word meaning “house of heat”. This pre-Hispanic cleansing rite took place before and after battles and sport tournaments due to its healing powers. a sweat lodge inspired by the Indigenous cultures of Mexico, boosts detoxification by combining medicinal herbs with steam and heat.
One could spend over a week here with an amazing combination of ocean kayaking, hiking, reading, archery, tennis combined with visits to the spa for the numerous ritual treatments. A marvelous combination of exercise, ocean dips and spa rejuvenation with ancient healings.
The property is situated within easy driving distance of the relaxed beach towns of Sayulita and San Pancho. It’s 20 minutes drive to the charming seaside town of San Francisco, 45 minutes to Punta Mita, and less than an hour to Puerto Vallarta airport.