Where Mexico Meets the Mediterranean

El Careyes Beach Resort blends the best of both worlds

By: By Jennifer L. Tse


El Careyes Beach Resort
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EL Tamarindo Beach & Golf Resort

Nearby El Tamarindo Beach & Golf Resort, a collection of 29 luxurious palapa-thatched villas, was named after a unique lone tamarind tree discovered growing along the beach. The resort is about an hour’s drive south of El Careyes Beach Resort, 30 miles north of Manzanillo International Airport and 130 miles south of Puerto Vallarta.

The property’s stunning 18-hole championship-style golf course is ranked second in all of Mexico by Best’s Golf Guide to Mexico. The par 72 course, designed by David Fleming and Robert Trent Jones Jr., is set amid a 2,040-acre natural reserve. The course is lush and vast and attracts avid golfers and novice players alike. The longest hole, the 11th, is 547 yards, while the shortest, hole 4, is 127 yards. Eight of the course’s holes offer views of the rocky coastline and Pacific Ocean. Hole 9, which is perched on a hill overlooking the green and ocean below, has a restaurant offering a light afternoon luncheon menu.

The golf course is open to guests of El Careyes Beach Resort, as well as guests of other resorts in the area.

The ocean sways gently against a shore lined with villas painted in vivid coral, yellow and blue, nestled under a shelter of tall palms. The image evokes a vibrant Mediterranean seaside village, but this is not a European island getaway.

This is El Careyes Beach Resort, which lies along Costa Careyes on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Gian Franco Brignone founded Costa Careyes in 1968, intending to combine a subtle mixture of Mediterranean sophistication with Mexican flavor and charm. Located about two hours south of Puerto Vallarta and an hour and a half north of Manzanillo, El Careyes is quaint in comparison to the mega-resorts of the Mexican West Coast. The resort is ideal for travelers seeking serenity and relaxation rather than a raucous party. A well-kept secret, it is also a member of Starwood Hotels and Resort’s Luxury Collection.


El Careyes Beach Resort makes an ideal West Coast getaway for travelers to Mexico. // © 2009 El Careyes Beach Resort

The beautifully maintained resort features 48 rooms and suites along with three oceanfront casitas of varying sizes. The colors of the Mediterranean come alive in its subtly ornate and comfortable accommodations. While the rooms and suites do not exhibit the customary ultra-modern furnishings of a new luxury resort, they provide guests with rich and colorful interiors, traditional furniture and a relaxed ambience. Rooms with balconies display wooden shutter doors that open out to a palm-scattered courtyard and the Pacific.

My comfortable one-bedroom suite provided the relaxation I needed. I kept my shutter doors open every night and often lounged on my patio with the sounds of the sea breeze lulling me to sleep. While my suite was quaint and lacked pretension, it fulfilled my need to unwind.

Guests can also book rooms with a resort view, or junior suites, garden suites, poolview suites and master suites overlooking the ocean, gardens and pool. Casitas complete with bedrooms, a small kitchen, dining area and terraces are ideal for families or guests booked for a longer stay.

Nestled just off the resort’s private beach lies The Spa at El Careyes, a tranquil and secluded spa equipped with European-influenced amenities, including saunas and warm and cold plunge pools. Here, clients can indulge in relaxing facials, massages, body wraps and scrubs. For extravagant serenity, guests can receive a soothing outdoor massage along the shore beneath a covered patio while listening to the gentle waves.

After a day of lounging poolside, I indulged in the Careyes massage, the resort’s specialty massage that blends Western and Eastern techniques, focusing on relieving tired and aching muscles. My tense back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs succumbed to the perfectly pressured hands of my masseuse and, when the massage concluded, I returned to the pool, feeling even more relaxed and pampered.

La Lantana is the sole dining option at the resort. The menu is modified seasonally and utilizes traditional Mexican ingredients with inspired preparation. The cuisine of chef Martin Raya reflects the region’s freshest seafood, meats and vegetables, and highlights authentic Mexican cuisine while incorporating modern innovations. I indulged in a feast of the freshest ceviche, lobster, grilled shrimp, macadamia-encrusted halibut, steamed mussels and spicy grilled octopus while dining al fresco along the beach. I also discovered the delightful and traditional flavors of Mexico while savoring grilled nopales (cactus) tacos, accompanied with freshly prepared molcajete sauce (a wonderful salsa of grilled tomato, grilled onion, chili and avocado, ground in a molcajete, or Mexican stone mortar and pestle). I also ventured into tasting a truly traditional Mexican dish, menudo, a rich stew made of tripe and beef tendon, seasoned in a spicy broth. Guests can dine at a variety of locations, including the main restaurant, rooms or suites, at the pool or along the beach.

Beyond the pool and the beach, nearby activities include horseback riding, tennis, snorkeling, scuba diving or boat tours of the lavish homes scattered along the coast. Guests can also enjoy simple indoor games in the recreation room or watch a movie in the resort’s screening room.

The people of Costa Careyes and the El Careyes Beach Resort staff conveyed a neighborly hospitality that reflects the Brignone family’s master design for the seaside destination. Service is of the utmost importance to general manager Miguel Rivero and his staff of 88 were both attentive and gracious. From the smiling receptionists and the kind waitstaff at La Lantana to the repairman who came to my suite to fix the safe I locked myself out of, I was greeted and cared for with a familial warmth.

“What makes El Careyes so special is the property, the food and, especially, the people,” Rivero told me.