Remote (it is reached by boat and donkey) yet high on style, Verana has six individually designed houses including the modernist Casa Grande, this page.
Bottom left, the bar by the dining area which is linked to the houses by steep stone paths. Opposite, the Studio house open-air lounging spaces, are secluded among the vegetation. There are no newspapers or mobile phones, no TVs and no radio reception. Peace and quiet are the order of the day; the only sounds are the crash of the waves, the rhythmic click of the cocktail-shaker and the screech of tropical birds. One of the first things I was warned about on arrival is that the forest harbours cinimalitos – little animals’ that sometimes invade the villas at night, attracted by the snacks in your minibar.
The main public area is formed by a beachfront pool sinuously incorporated into the landscape, and beside it La Higuera bar-restaurant, racked up on various levels of decking in a great barn of a palm-roofed palapa. The local architecture is combined with simple modern cement structures painted with clear Mexican colours and decoratively inlaid with glossy black pebbles. By night the restaurant takes on a certain elegance, with atmosphere provided by lights on the pools, walkways and palm trees.
The 29 villas themselves, tucked away off the forest pathways, are also palapa-style: open-sided pavilions with a core of bedroom and bathroom. Interiors make good use of local woods; the large power showers are enclosed by struts lashed together with rope. Sliding doors lead on to a outdoor chilling area with its own Jaccuzi and pool, as well as a hammock, and cushion-strewn platforms for sprawling with books, drinks, and/or beautiful thoughts. A quibble: 10 years of active service and the weathering effect of wind and salt have left a few scuffs and scratches on the doors and furniture – although you’d have to peer pretty closely to see them.
A US-style slickness dominates the service here, so there’s quite a lot of self-introducing and well-wishing (Hi. I’m X, and I’ll be your X’). Refreshingly, however, you sense that the smiles aren’t of the peel-off-and-stick-on sort. (This is true of the Costalegre in general, and of Mexico as a whole, for that matter.) Even better, the staff seem to know instinctively when you need to be left alone, a skill which doubtless appeals to celebrity guests such as Michelle Pfeiffer, who came here last year for the second time and rented five villas.
The Tamarindo dates from the first wave of Costalegre hotels, which considered your spiritual wellbeing to be as important as your physical comfort. Thus there are the now-customary trappings of spa treatments, massages and so on, including the option of a temazcal, a kind of pre-Colombian ritual sauna held in an igloo-like dome beside the beach. The other major pastime is that offered by a spectacular 18-hole championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr and David Fleming. It’s a tropical version of St Andrews, interspersed with palms and jungle, with the greens overlooking the thundering waves of the Pacific.
El Tamarindo, Kilometro 7.5 Carretera Melaque-Puerto Vallarta, Cihuatlan, Jalisco (00 52 315 351 5072; fax: 351 5070; e-mail: tamarindo@grupoplan. com; www. luxurycollection. com). Forest villas from US$389 (room only); ocean-view villas from US$587