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Go South | Puerto Vallarta: Disappearing Act

Bruce Kelly | October 24, 2011 | Story Travel

How long can you hunker down in a dense jungle with someone you love and a million white butterflies dancing among the plants? How many days can you do nothing but ride the pocket beach’s warm waves, sip your coffee while padding barefoot on a stone floor, and lounge in your infinity pool reading a paperback? You could answer: two days max before you venture out—after all, you’re minutes from long white-sand beaches and all the amenities of famous destination resorts. Or you could lie together under the high ceiling of your palatial Indio-modern casa, looking out to the forest that cascades from the high bluffs, and decide to go absolutely nowhere.

Good decision.

Among the buzzy string of resorts north of Puerto Vallarta, year-old Imanta is the profound exception. Once you’ve immersed yourself in the rain forest–darkened 250-acre property, you have no visual contact with the rest of the riviera. Pick your metaphor: bubble, island, dreamscape. You’re one of 15 or so guests residing in a timeless-seeming compound built above a bluff-walled beach. It’s a place to focus on the blue jay sound of the parrots, the taste of mango specks in the freshly made fruit syrup, and the feel of the breezes that shift the treetops.

It’s all natural enough that you’re not surprised to hear that the Mexican family behind Imanta tromped the property for years, living in tents, before deciding what to build—nor that one member of the family works with Aman’s luxury-immersion hotels. Each monumental handcrafted casa—there are seven—was designed as a one-off and made from stone or wood harvested from the property. The flour for tortillas is ground in the kitchen (rare in modern Mexico), and the amberjack, cooked in banana leaf, is bought down the road by the chef. Recruited from the nearest town, the handful of unpretentious staffers—who drift about perpetually ready to serve you a meal on the beach or guide you by kayak up the rugged coast or by foot up a streambed—are like generous friends.

The one imperative comes at sunset, when you climb the stairs of the awesomely Moorish main tower to an open-air turret and take a seat on a couch. The villas, jungle, beach, and deep pink sky are spread before you. The air is warm. The fresh-cucumber margarita is cool. When you return to the Bay Area, someone will invariably ask where in Mexico you went. People do that; they want to latch onto a recognizable locale like “Puerto Vallarta.” Why not tell the truth? You were in a remote castle in a Pacific coastal jungle, and otherwise have no idea.

If You Must Leave:
Day-trip to the up-and-coming surf town of Sayulita (Imanta runs a complimentary shuttle). Play a few rounds at the Greg Norman–designed Litibu Golf Course, complete with ocean views. Go tequila tasting at the Four Seasons, the must-see resort in Punta Mita—the sommelier will help you choose from among the 125 varieties.


Photography by: