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I thought the taxi driver was lost as we turned inland to reach Grand Sirenis Matlali Hills Resort & Spa, 30 minutes north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. I could see a tiny bit of ocean to the left, yet we turned right toward a huge mango grove and drove up a forested hillside.
After a quick check-in, I boarded a golf cart for a winding ride to my room. Although I could spot the ocean far on the horizon from my deck, the closer view took in a jungle canopy complete with rustling birds. I felt like I had arrived in Costa Rica.
The Grand Sirenis isn’t like most hotels along Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. Rather than claim a chunk of the 186-mile-long coastline, the 117-room all-inclusive hotel sprawls over a nature preserve in dense jungle. A paved road circles the property while trails wind up and down between the various facilities. From my room on the fifth floor of an adults-only tower, I could barely see any structures other than the peaked roofs of the freestanding jungle suites and a blue pool perched above treetops. My weekend getaway was looking quite promising.
I changed quickly and got in a lap swim before dinner. The adult pool area became my favorite spot, thanks to its easy access, snack bar, large sun deck and three hot tubs amid the trees. I walked downhill to dinner and discovered a free-form mineral pool tucked in a quiet enclave, with padded lounge chairs and a health bar serving smoothies and juices. A gentleman who was on his third stay at the hotel pointed out the proper trail to the Ikebana Japanese restaurant, where I enjoyed shrimp and veggies prepared with flair at a teppanyaki grill.
The all-inclusive Grand Sirenis has three specialty restaurants and two buffets on the main property. My favorite meal, however, was a leisurely lunch at the hotel’s Eva Mandarina Beach Club. This seaside haven is 10 minutes away by a shuttle that goes through La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, past a small church where the hotel’s weddings are held. Fellow guests headed for the shaded lounge chairs on the beach as I honed in on the rustic, open-air restaurant. I feasted on auguachile, ceviche, tuna tartare and chunky guacamole, and sipped chilled micheladas.
On Saturday night, I checked out the property’s Sky Blue Bar, where a Latin band had couples swirling on the dance floor. The next day, an equally excellent rock band played in the main pool area while guests played volleyball in the pool or lazed in giant flamingo floats by the bar.
Guests seeking pampering can visit the serene Makawe Spa. With its wooden walls and thatched roof, the facilities are designed to blend into the natural jungle surrounding it.
On my final morning, I had time for an early swim before my flight home. As I left my room, four blue magpie jays with sweeping tail feathers swooped from the railing perch. Near the pool, bright-yellow finches flashed in the trees as a woodpecker hammered away in the distance. But I had the pool all to myself — happy to have discovered a jungle escape amid the beaches of Riviera Nayarit.
The DetailsGrand Sirenis Matlali Hills Resort & Spa www.sirenishotels.com