Puerto Vallarta is well known for its beautiful beaches. That’s its problem. The Mexican town is so well discovered that there are few hideaways where you can leave the crowds behind these days…unless you happen to be in the know.
Hidden in the hills, where the calls of chachalaca birds and the scuttling of iguanas are the only sounds to break the silence, the Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit, An All-Inclusive Resort is a secret whispered on the lips of travellers looking for an experience beyond the ordinary that is not going to break the bank.
Fifteen miles from Puerto Vallarta airport, heading towards the Punta de Mita peninsula, this is a serene resort unlike any other in the area. It is a place that has all the luxuries of a corporate resort – big comfortable beds and giant walk-in showers, balconies with views across treetops to the bay, a tranquil spa, gym and beach club – but it also maintains the character and personality of a place that is unique, independent and undiscovered.
It nestles in a canopy of trees amid abundant wildlife, with rooms spread out along a canyon; swimming pools woven into the landscape, and hummingbirds which zip in between. Its restaurants open out onto treetops, its lawn hosts meditation and yoga classes, and its private beach club, a fifteen-minute shuttle-ride away from the resort, offers sightings of humpback whales (at the right time of year). All of which makes it a rather magical escape to nature.
But it’s not just its setting that is special. If you were ever a little bit cynical about all-inclusive resorts, as this humble writer might once have been, this place bucks the trend. Executive chef Isaac Esparza has worked in five-star restaurants and hotels around the world but returned to his native Mexico to transform the menu here. While international fare, both buffet and a la carte, is available at all four of the resort’s restaurants, it’s Esparza’s vision, turning local Huichol cuisine into artisanal gourmet food with outstanding ceviches, aguachiles and pescado zarandeado, that really puts this place on the map.
Ceviche, fresh raw fish and seafood cured in fresh citrus juices can be found all over Latin America, but coastal towns in Mexico excel at this dish with the addition of cilantro, onions, peppers and chili, and Esparza has taken the idea to the next level. Imagine mahi mahi mixed with mint, basil, coriander, lemon and jicama. This is extraordinary Mexican food which takes the traditional into the gastronomic sphere. In spite of trips to the local towns of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Sayulita and Bucerias for dinners out, nothing I ate elsewhere competed with what Isaac Esparza was serving. To sit at a table in the resort’s beach club restaurant with a sea breeze playing with the palms, a cold glass of white wine in hand, and one of Esparza’s ceviches on your plate is living well indeed.
The hotel has recently become a joint project of both Marriott and Delta hotels, a first for Delta Hotels outside the USA and Canada, and a first within Marriott Bonvoy’s All-Inclusive portfolio. At the time of writing, it was undergoing the construction of more swimming pools and a family water park, complete with Lazy River, which will be open this summer. Given that the resort is large – so large that guests are ferried around it in golf-carts – it is unlikely to disturb the serenity of the place but add greatly to the value for families.
At least, I hope so. Its sleepy feel is perhaps its greatest gift. It’s what makes you want to stretch out in the sun, like one of the iguanas and soak up the bird song and tranquillity. Its beauty lies in the surrounding natural wildlife; its luxury lies in the easy decisions of the day, beach club or swimming pool, spa or bar, Huichol Restaurant or Media Luna? And the relaxation factor is upped by competitive pricing. Combined, it’s why you won’t want to leave.
Stay at Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit, An All-Inclusive Resort from$223 USD, $334 Australian, £181 UK, per night in a Mountain View One King Bedroom. Book at: Delta Hotels by Marriott Riviera Nayarit, An All-Inclusive Resort