Family Friendly

Luxury resort embraces kids, culture

By: Maribeth Mellin

PUNTA MITA, Mexico Wrapped in silky robes while watching the sun set into the Pacific, David and Judea Winter couldn’t help talking about their 18-month-old son Max. Mind you, this was their special kid-free evening.

The couple had just spent 90 minutes chanting and playing drums in the hotel’s temazcal, a dome-like adobe steam lodge on a secluded lawn overlooking the sea. The mystical, transcendental experience left them mellow and relaxed. But the Winters were so enamored with Max’s adjustment to luxury travel they had to share the highlights.

When the Laguna Beach, Calif., family arrived at the Four Seasons Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta, they discovered a crib filled with baby essentials including shampoo, powder, diapers and just about everything Max could desire. A safety gate surrounded their suite’s plunge pool; bumper pads covered sharp edges on the coffee table. “As a parent, it makes me feel very secure coming into a room that’s been so completely baby-proofed,” David Winter said.

They experienced the temazcal and romantic dinners knowing Max was perfectly happy playing with the babysitter he’d grown attached to during their short stay.

“This is the most baby-friendly hotel I’ve ever seen,” he continued.

The Four Seasons is the first hotel in the Punta Mita development, which is slated to include four hotels, two golf courses and communities of high-end villas. A couple of small seaside villages with modest restaurants are located about a 15-minute walk from the hotel, but the property itself is remote and peaceful. It’s set at the edge of the point and is blessed with near constant sea breezes.

Families are particularly pleased with the Four Seasons Punta Mita, and they certainly get the biggest bang for their buck. Room rates, meals and spa treatments are pricey at this secluded resort, but the complimentary family amenities might make the rates easier to swallow. Children under the age of 18 share their parents’ room at no extra charge, or have their own adjoining room at a 50 percent reduced rate (offered in a family package that includes a 50 percent discount on meals for kids under 12).

Children ages 5 to 12 participate in activities offered through the daily complimentary Kids for All Seasons program, scrambling around at the playground in the children’s center or searching for crabs and anemones in tide pools.

Teens are delighted with the Nunutzi game room, a 2,400-square-foot facility with PlayStation consoles, ping-pong and foosball tables and a glassed-in pool table room where parents can compete while keeping an eye on the youngsters. When there are five or more teens on property, the hotel hosts a teen program with kayaking, windsurfing, beach volleyball and bonfires.

Grown-ups have plenty of playtime options as well. The hotel is located within a 1,500-acre resort development with a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course boasting an optional 19th hole on its own island. The four-court tennis center is illuminated at night; fishing, diving and sailing excursions are available.

The daily activities schedule begins with a serene yoga class on a rocky outcropping above the sea and continues with aqua-aerobics, surfing, birding and sightseeing walks, kayak fishing, scuba lessons and shopping excursions to Puerto Vallarta’s excellent fine-art galleries and folk-art shops. The shuttle to town costs $30 per person and runs once each day and evening. The drive takes about 50 minutes each way.

Unlike many destination resort hotels that look like they could be plopped down anywhere in the world, the design and style of the Four Seasons Punta Mita reflect its jungle setting on Mexico’s tropical Pacific Coast. The low-rise buildings blend into a virtual forest of palms that shade terraces and part of the mesmerizing horizon pool. Textiles in the rooms and public spaces are embroidered with designs created by the Huichol Indians, who create intricate beaded masks, figurines and belts in villages tucked in the Sierra Madre above Punta Mita.

Lectures on Huichol culture and Mexican art and cuisine are held in the large, comfy Cultural Center, stocked with books on Mexican culture. Guests are especially fond of the center’s tequila tasting; many follow up with a tequila-theme dinner at Aramara, the Chino-Latino fine-dining restaurant.

Tequila takes on healing properties at the Apuane spa, where it is mixed with sage oil for the signature Punta Mita massage. The Margarita scrub combines lime and sea salt with a dash of tequila. More traditional offerings include mud and seaweed wraps and a full beauty salon. The excellent fitness center is so popular that the spa is losing its pleasant lounge area, which will be converted into a fitness studio for classes.

Thus far, guests are undisturbed by the sounds and sights of construction, but the development is sure to boom soon. If your clients are looking for a total escape, send them to the Four Seasons before it’s too late.