By Jeremiah Eleonora a.k.a. The Atlanta Islander – Self proclaimed travel snob, luxury connoisseur and “W” Hotel fan.
Back in the days when I used to call Europe my home I used to love city trips……. Taking in the culture, shopping, partying or simply kicking it back and unplugging from the hassles of everyday life – it also made short hops to those old, monumental and historical cities scattered all over Europe easy, fast and affordable.
A few years ago I moved from the Netherlands to the US. Traveling in Europe, from country to country of course has much more of an allure than traveling within the US, where after just one visit or two to a US city you’ve pretty much seen it all. Then there is the fact that I now travel to some of these cities so frequently for work and thus traveling for fun within the US just doesn’t cut it anymore. So, I’ve started to venture a lot more into the Caribbean and Central America. These trips are usually just a few hours away from my new hometown of Atlanta, and are thus perfect for long weekends and some R&R
One of the easiest hops to a different world I’ve made recently, is to my Southern neighbors of Mexico, a country with a long history and a rich and diverse culture, which includes the ever so mythical Mayas, the Mariachi music , (real) Tacos, Mezcal, and many other “surprises”.
When one thinks of Mexico, and especially, when you talk to “gringos”, it’s usually…..Baja, California or Cancun where most people tend to visit. Having been to Cancun, which I found to be a little too touristic for my taste, and thus does not equate to a relaxing experience, I decided to venture to the “other” coast for a long weekend.
I have a challenging career and I tend to be a bot of a travel snob, so I try to travel for relaxation at least once every few months. When I was searching for my next escape, I happened to stumble across the new “W” Hotel in Punta de Mita, which is just a 30-40 minutes drive from Puerto Vallarta’s international airport in the province of Nayarit on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Punta de Mita is known for having luxurious and exclusive resorts, a far cry from the tourist infested boulevards in let’s say, Puerto Vallarta. To me, the choice was an easy one. I didn’t want to be in a crowded place and Punta de Mita happens to have my hotel of choice, the “W”.
Naturally, as a frequent visitor to “W” hotels, my expectations were high! Hey, I did say I’m a snob. I got a little chuckle as we were were greeted by the ever present traditional “W” icon at the gate. I have arrived. Let the adventure begin!
After passing through two security checkpoints, we continued our drive down a cobblestone road with trees on both sides, as though you are entering a jungle (which, by the way, you pretty much are).
The stage was set!! W hotels are known to cater more to the young, chill and hip crowd, and as such, they always add trendy, swanky design elements to the décor of their hotels. No boring grandparent’s sofa here!!
However, nothing could have prepared me for what the designers came up with this time! As we drove up to the “Welcome Area” of the hotel, a couple of Welcome Ambassadors were waiting for us and greeted us by name. We were welcomed with bottles of water, an absolute MUST in the Mexican heat.
We got onto the golf cart, which we would later discover is one of the most efficient ways of getting around the resort. They also have bikes throughout the property for the brave souls who dare bike up hill in the hot weather.
From the welcome area we were brought to the lobby for check in. From the minute you step into the beautiful airy lobby, it is abundantly clear, the designers wanted you to get immersed with the Mexican and local surfer culture. All the décor was beautifully done with vibrant colors and traditional artifacts. Swag mode: ON!!
After a quick and easy check in, we were whisked away to our, yes, that’s right, Ocean Front Suite, thanks to my Suite Awards upgrade with SPG. Like I said, I’ve stayed at other “W” hotels before and have gotten quite used to upgrades. I was expecting something nice here too, but this just blew me away with it’s beautiful, bright and yet functional decor and just imagine for a minute what it must be like having your own private pool overlooking the ocean.
The Suite, well…..it would put most one-bedroom apartments to shame. The open floor plan has a bed which overlooks the living area, which in turn leads you to the sliding doors that lead to the private pool area. Not too shabby!
The bathroom has the traditional double sink and a standalone tub in the middle of the “shower room” which is larger than most New York bathrooms. The designers did an amazing job decorating the suite with traditional Mexican artwork and that extra “W” pizazz.
After we settled in we went for a quick bite at the “WET”, which basically means “Pool Area” in the “W” lingo. Amazingly modern and stylish, with funky background music, the pool area is an attraction on it’s own. Right across from the pool, there is a little bar on the beach with the front of an old Chevy truck where they sell ceviche’s and traditional cocktails.
So, after an afternoon of relaxing and catching up with the friendly hotel staff, we ventured into Puerto Vallarta, to eat Tacos. This, by the way is a must!!! Both the “W” hotel insider and my personal friends were very adamant about this, and naturally I had to see what the all fuss was about. We booked the “Taco at Night” tour by “Vallerta Eats”, which is rated number ONE taco tour on Tripadvisor and It was clear to me why these guys are rated number 1. The tour was excellent and provided us with a great taste of a local hole-in-the-wall or street taco joints for the real experience. Our guide, Guillermo was amazing. His explanations of the different tacos, their history and how they relate to the local culture was “On Point”.
Guillermo also took us through the streets of Vallarta, showing us a little bit more of the city since it was only the two of us in the tour. We even got to see Restaurant Iguana, which was Elizabeth Taylor’s home away from home during her frequent visits to Richard Burton during the shooting of the famous 1964 movie, The Night of the Iguana. So, after 4 stops, 7 tacos, 5 churros and an ice-cream, we were stuffed and could barely walk!
The next day, after going for a walk on the beach, taking in the sunrise, barefoot with sand between our toes and watching the surfers with their surf boards heading to their preferred spots, we decided to head out to Suyalita.
Suyalita, is considered the Mexican version of a California surf town. It is very popular amongst surfers. When in Suyalita, please visit “El Break” café, it has a nice ocean front location and the food is legit, and if you are sucker for fresh coconuts like me, please make sure to get some, while in Sayulita.
After a long day on the road and all the walking we did in Sayulita, it was only apropos to indulge in the “Away Spa” back at the hotel. I’ve been to many spa’s around the world. Bali, Thailand, Rome, Salzburg, Paris to name a few, but to me this one takes the cake. Nestled in the forest, you can actually hear the animals around as you get settled into one of the outdoor relaxation pools. The experience is exhilarating.
One of the other major attractions in the area is the “Islas Mariettas” , which are a couple of miles (15-20 min boat ride) off the coast of Punta de Mita. These islands are world famous for their “natural pool”. Unfortunately, due to humans and their greed, the ecosystem was almost destroyed and so the authorities, rightly so, decided to close that part of the islands down to give the corals a chance to recover. It just opened back up after being closed for 3-4 months, however, only 150 people are allowed to enter daily, and you have to sign up in the local town. Because of this the prices to visit are outrageous but it was all well worth it. We got to snorkel in shallow, clear waters, seeing an abundance of beautiful fish.
Noticing a theme here? Exclusive hotel, private taco tour, small excursion group, I don’t roll with the masses. If all inclusive, huge 500 room hotels and karaoke bars are your thing, more power to you. I just don’t see myself relaxing in a setting like that. So the 119 room W hotel in Punta de Mita was perfect for me. The staff was amazing, more so than what I would normally expect at a W hotel. If you are looking for the “kiss my ass” type of nice, go to the St Regis or Four Seasons. But if you are looking for folks who are genuinely nice while being themselves, you can’t go wrong with the “W” Punta de Mita. It also helps that both me and my travel partner are fluent in Spanish. It made the connection with the locals that much deeper.
Jeremiah (a.k.a. the Atlanta Islander) was born in the Netherlands, raised on Curaçao. After high school, he moved back to the Netherlands to pursue a higher education and start his career in consulting. Over the course of his 11 years in Europe, he has traveled all over the continent, enabled in large part by his job and “glorified” hobby, salsa dancing. Currently, he resides in Atlanta and continues his career in Management Consulting for one of the world’s top strategy consulting firms. His traveling game consist of airline miles, airport lounges, hotel points, suite upgrades, trendy bars and restaurants, but he can also slum it if necessary! Count on him to always provide that frequent traveler point of view and follow his other travels on IG: @theatlantaislander.