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The morning sun rises sluggishly, first over Banderas Bay and then over the rolling hills of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, before appearing in my line of sight. At the recently opened 40-room Matlali Hotel, tucked away in the Puerto Bahia development of Riviera Nayarit, life moves at a leisurely pace.
After a short ride from the Puerto Vallarta airport, my fellow travelers and I were shuttled on golf carts from a detached lobby to a collection of beautiful villa-style accommodations. Guestrooms range from junior suites, which start at $350 per night during peak season, to two-story presidential villas, starting at $1,500 per night. All are designed by architect Jaime Barba.
My room fell somewhere in the middle: a master suite villa decorated in comforting, sandy hues and blues that featured a king-size bed; a private terrace with a plunge pool; a studio room with a sleeper sofa; a fully equipped kitchen; and two full bathrooms, one with a rain showerhead. Each time I stepped through the front door, the soothing smell of bamboo greeted me — a scent I was able to preselect myself, and an example of the many thoughtful touches that Matlali offers.
Opened in June, the luxury resort still feels like a well-kept secret — one that, quite frankly, I was tempted to pocket away for myself. Days and nights are quiet, and a walk to the on-site Casa Club, which features an infinity pool, a heated pool, a Jacuzzi, a gym and an alfresco bar, is likely to remain uninterrupted, save for a few small lizards scuttling across the pathway.
“Matlali is all about the experience, this feeling of being in the jungle but still having high-class, personalized service,” says Aleksandra Wiecka, sales and marketing director for Matlali. “We want guests to feel as if they’re at home, because that’s what luxury is nowadays. At the same time, we want them to open their balcony door and hear the birds and other sounds of nature.”
A 10-minute drive from the resort takes guests to the delightfully eclectic Eva Mandarina Beach Club, owned by Matlali and designed by renowned Guadalajara-based artist Abel Galvana. Bright white bicycles and yellow rubber ducks ornament an orange wall near the thatched-hut bar, which serves cocktails, cervezas and appetizing small bites such as aguachile de camaron (shrimp cooked in lime and chili spices). A swing set, more colorful bikes and even a wheel-less car embellish a large patch of green grass. Transportation to the beach club is provided.
Tucked into the hills of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle in Riviera Nayarit, the recently opened Matlali Hotel offers understated luxury to its guests. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
Guestrooms range from junior suites to two-story presidential villas and feature beach-inspired, calming decor. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
Diners at the on-site Raixes Restaurant can appreciate open air views while enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
A dessert served by a private chef at Matlali // © 2014 Valerie Chen
The full-service Makawe Spa is palapa style and includes six treatment rooms, a plunge pool and a steam room. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
Owned by Matlali, the colorful and funky Eva Mandarina Beach Club is about 10 minutes away from the resort. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
Guadalajara-based artist Abel Galvana designed the eclectic beach club, which serves cocktails, cervezas and small bites. // © 2014 Matlali Hotel
One excursion for guests is boarding Matlali’s private yachts for a relaxing trip to Islas Marietas. // © 2014 Valerie Chen
Matlali chefs select only the top catches of the day at Mercado del Mar, the local fish market. // © 2014 Valerie Chen
The Mercado del Mar, a small fish market, is an easy stroll from Eva Mandarina. Each morning, Matlali chefs sift through the fishermen’s morning haul, selecting the best catches of the day for the resort’s chic Raixes Restaurant. From the adjacent marina, guests can board one of Matlali’s private yachts for a sunset cruise or a trip to Islas Marietas, just a few miles off the coast. Catamaran sailing, diving, snorkeling, surfing and fishing are also activities available for guests.
An additional excursion that can be arranged by Matlali takes guests to Sayulita, a nearby surf town that pulsates with Mexican tradition and vibrant colors. I recommend sipping from a freshly cracked coconut as you wander up and down cobblestone streets lined with small shops and open-air restaurants.
After a long day exploring, guests can book an appointment at the full-service, palapa-style Makawe Spa back at Matlali. The spa has six treatment rooms, a steam room and a plunge pool to dip in, either before or after your appointment. Makawe’s treatments draw inspiration from the local Huichol culture; the 80-minute Hikuri Therapy, which entails various indigenous flora and local techniques, is the most popular. I opted for the Chucua treatment, which honors the ancient city of Teotihuacan and involves a cocoa body mask, a massage and exfoliation.
There’s still more to come for Matlali, including thermal waters that are currently under construction, a meeting space and a park with yoga offerings. An extension of Matlali — to be located on the beach next to Eva Mandarina — will also soon be underway.