Guillermo Villa is an excellent driver he has to be. As Villa
zigzagged our van up the narrow, rocky route into the Sierra Madre
Mountain range from the quaint village of Mascota, it was obvious
he knew every dip, curve, nook and cranny intimately.
This final 10-mile leg of our three-hour road trip from Puerto
Vallarta to Sierra Lago Resort & Spa was an adventure in
itself. Up to this point, we stopped to view the shimmering agave
fields and slowed for an occasional cattle drive sharing our road,
so the trek seemed quicker than the clock. That certainly wasn’t
the case at the end, however.
Remote and secluded, Sierra Lago is an exclusive 200-acre mountain
retreat developed around the Juanacatlan Lagoon. I was instantly
overwhelmed by the crisp, clear air and tranquil atmosphere. The
sights, sounds and smells were relaxing and invigorating at the
Villa took me directly to my room, one of seven standard cabanas.
Sierra Lago also features nine canvas-clad eco-cabanas geared to
families, plus suite cabanas designed for couples and honeymooners
with their freestanding Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, mini-refrigerator
for champagne, television and spacious sitting area.
Scattered amid pino, roble and madrono trees, all suites are
brightly furnished in rustic, traditional Mexican style with
remarkable views of the sparkling lagoon and surrounding suncapped
I actually felt like I was staying at the home of a friend a very
wealthy friend with incredible taste, mind you. The taja-tiled main
building housing the lobby, dining area and kitchen was actually
the home of Fernando Gonzalez one of the trio of owners of The
Villa Group hotels.
Spotting the pristine area from the air, Gonzalez decided to build
a residence there. Several years later, he added the cabanas and
spa. Today, The Villa Group manages the property, an ideal
complement to its diverse beach resorts in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo
The design is a dream. Rock pathways meander along Juanacatlan
Lagoon in both directions. Toward the right sits a tennis court,
pavilion and area where guests can actually pitch tents for
camping. The other direction leads to a freestanding spa facility,
outdoor Jacuzzi and La Terraza, where all-inclusive benefits cover
a three-course lunch daily.
Both Mexican-style breakfasts and candlelight dinners are
presented in El Lago, the lobby restaurant which brims with
regional artwork. Chef Albaro’s daily specials typically include a
choice of fish, chicken and beef delicacies prepared with his
Aside from the sumptuous fare, the setting is exquisite.
Floor-to-ceiling doors and windows bring the lagoon inside. A giant
fireplace, chandelier of deer antlers and two large paintings of
San Rafael and San Miguel highlight the cozy room with its cozy
sofas. Most of the artwork was created in Michoacan, some four
hours away from the resort.
Here in the lobby, guests kick back to read, enjoy evening
cocktails and get aquatinted. This is the property’s social hub, so
to speak, since Sierra Lago basks in its idyllic isolation. As for
activities, diversions include freshwater fishing, kayaking, pedal
boating, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing or
sailing around the peaceful lagoon.
Clients can also indulge in the spa’s array of services that
include aromatherapy along with a variety of other relaxing massage
options. A steam bath is available, as well as the outdoor
“We have visitors who come only to fish all day and relax,”
explained Leticia Garcia, general manager.
Some try their luck from shore, while others take out kayaks or
“Whatever they catch, the chef will clean, prepare and serve to
them for dinner,” she added.
Swapping the bustling lifestyle of Mexico City for these quieter
environs, Garcia came to the property four years ago to establish
hotel operations. She lives on site full time with a handful of
“Sierra Lago means you’re home,” noted Garcia. “We have strong
return business that the staff gets to know year after year.”
Garcia feels the atmosphere is a natural for those wanting to meet
others like themselves in a relaxing, low-key environment.
She added that the property is especially appealing for young
couples and just-marrieds who enjoy fine cuisine and wine.
While I was neither a honeymooner or with my family, I found
Sierra Lago a wonderful escape for enjoying solitude, fine cuisine
and a chance to regroup. I left uplifted for the journey ahead,
especially since it was all downhill with Villa at the wheel.
Sierra Lago Resort & Spa
Commission: 15 percent
Rates: Standard Cabana, $389; Eco-
Cabana, $338; Suite Cabana, $458
All inclusive rates are per couple, per night, and are effective
through Dec. 31.