For everyone with a pulse, the pandemic lockdown seemed never ending. On the international front, travel is thankfully slowly returning. Travelers though must pay close attention to details for travel requirements, both for arrival to the destination country and return requirements for reentry to the U.S., keeping in mind requirements are fluid and subject to change. Most Asian countries remain virtually closed to U.S. tourism. Amid surges in India, Thailand and Japan, unrestricted tourism to Asia sadly will not likely return anytime soon. Several countries in Europe are now opening to Americans but some are re-closing. As the situation is ever changing, travelers must keep abreast of requirements prior to departure. And if you are traveling, it’s best to be fully vaccinated.
While the U.S. Mexico land border will remain closed for non-essential travel until at least July 21, 2021, all Mexican airports open to Americans, with enhanced screening, cleaning and temperature checks in place. For the period ending July 2, 2021, no Mexican states were coded “red” under their measurement. On arrival to Puerto Vallarta, temperatures were taken, everyone wore masks and hand sanitizer stations were plentiful. As health certificates were completed online in advance and customs and immigration forms done en route, I was outside 15-minutes after wheels down.
If you are looking for a romantic get-away, a golf or adventure trip or a multi-generational gathering, Mexico with its many charms, remains a great travel destination. Nowhere is this truer than a stay at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita where there is literally something for everyone. www.four seasons.com/puntamita
Gloriously set on a secluded 52-acres, the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita is within the 1500-acre resort and residential community of Punta Mita in Riviera Nayarit about 45-minutes from the airport. From the moment you arrive at the community’s security gates and pass through a virtual sea of swaying palm trees and emerald-green winding pathways – with mainly golf carts for transport – the lush tropical flora and abundant bird life is reminiscent of a paradise found.
Open 22 years with recent remodeling and refreshing, the Four Seasons has 177 airy guest rooms, 31 suites and 32 villas and residences. Within the community are four beach clubs, 18 residential areas and two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses. Golf widows and widowers may wish to check the 3-B hole for missing spouses. Called the “Tail of the whale,” it’s the world’s only natural island green. Even for the non-golfers among us, is a sight to behold.
Rooms are expansive with private ocean view patios are beautifully appointed containing some of the world’s finest bedding. Indeed, it was a constant refrain overheard around the glorious infinity pool, the hotel’s four al fresco restaurants, the bars and the two beaches, “I cannot believe how well and how long I sleep here!” The fantastic beds, bedding and black-out shutters meant that the average five-hour sleeper will likely slumber hours longer.
The lobby boasts several pieces of colorful Huichol beaded art for which the region is famous and the entire property is an expansive outdoor gallery for captivating bronze sculptures.
There is an adult only pool, state-of-the-art fitness center, daily tennis lessons and clinics, cultural activities, hikes and all manner of water activities, including “Lazy River” where guests can float with the current on an inner tube. For those traveling with kids, “The Container” has virtual reality activities, a video and game room will test arcade skills and the Kids for All Seasons Club will keep even the smallest guests busy and happy. While the glorious surroundings are eye candy, and Four Seasons is known the world over for impeccable service, the natural warmth of Mexican hospitality makes the resort unforgettable.
With four on site ocean facing restaurants, boredom is not an option.
At Dos Catrinas mornings were magical with fresh juice concoctions boasting clever names like “Beet of my heart,” and continental items including perfectly prepared eggs benedict and brioche French toast. Traditional Mexican breakfast specialties were magnifico, especially the enfrijoladas with chicken stuffed tortillas, black bean salsa, chorizo and cotija cheese.
Having lived in Asia, I’m always in need of Asian food and dinner at Aramara didn’t disappoint. Inspired offerings such as miso eggplant roll with tofu and portobello mushrooms, torched salmon roll and fresh ahi sashimi made me happy.
Just before lunch one day I ambled beachside to see what local fishermen had brought to Four Seasons’ Sous Chef Fernando Mendez. A 40-pound jackpot of red snapper, corvina, flounder, snook, rainbow runner and jack fish. Chef Mendez then took our orders for the evening meal at Dos Catrinas.
The jack fish made excellent ceviche coupled with avocado, corn, onions and tomato. The grilled snook was thick, yet tender and bursting with delicately defined flavor. Though stuffed to my gills, the aroma of warm churros freshly made in a repurposed boat’s bow were required eating.
As the sunset another evening at beachside Bahia, a nine-ounce USDA prime rib eye steak with a piquant dry rub was so tasty it rapidly disappeared. The tart, creamy key lime pie tasted like pure joy.
For runners, joggers and walkers, Punta Mita is heaven. Paved pathways amid lush tropical forests with all manner of flora and fauna, including mango laden trees, numerous flittering butterfly species of various hues, iguanas and enough bird life to qualify as an ornithological orgy. The multiple bird species often chirped simultaneously resulting in a concerto crescendo. By the second day, I intentionally left my AirPods in the room to marvel instead in Mother Nature’s music.
The onsite Hakari Mexican Arts & Crafts has a good selection of Huichol art including several mythical animals. There are also hand-painted ceramic Calavera skulls and colorful Catrinas - the skeletal icon of the Mexican dia de los muertos – day of the dead – made famous by Diego Rivera’s 45-foot long 1947 Mexico City mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon along Central Alameda.”
Although tequila and mezcal are the most well-known Mexican liquors, there are many others to enjoy. With a Mexican spirits flight, I sampled four others including Sotol and Raicilla. As these spirits volumes run 40 to 53.77-percent, it was good my room was nearby.
The property’s Apuane Spa outfitted in calming, neutral colors and natural stone is a true respite. The Punta Mita tequila stone massage utilized a seamless mélange of my therapist’s hand pressure, forearms and hot stones. An 80-minute extravaganza involves an ancestral recipe using tequila-infused sage oil.
Imagine a long, lingering, luscious experience channeling Don Julio but minus the calories or the potential morning after festivities reminder. Indeed, slumber will come so easily in the well spring of relaxation that follows, remembering your name may prove challenging.
The Lesson Learned
If the pandemic taught us anything at all, it was that we control precious little in our collective lives. That said, choosing to be with friends, family or loved ones at the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita may be the best travel decision you make.
Written by Julie L. Kessler
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