At a Glance
Cuixmala is as remote as tropical private playgrounds come: a three-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta brings you to this sprawling property amid coconut groves and lagoons, where late British-French billionaire Sir James Goldsmith spent years developing and conserving 30,000 acres on Jalisco’s Pacific coast with architect Robert Couturier and a fleet of wildlife experts and botanists. Alix Goldsmith Marcaccini and Filipe de Lencastre have since updated the interiors. Now, the one-of-a-kind estate includes Casa Cuixmala—designed like a Moorish castle with four suites—plus six bungalows, 10 casitas, three restaurants and an extravagant pool overlooking the beach. The Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve spans over 250 square miles and is home to dry tropical forest, orchards, alluvial plains, rivers and a 5,000-acre biodynamic farm. It holds 72 species of mammals and 270 species of birds—including zebras, endangered jaguars, leopards and ocelots as well as endangered turtles, crocodiles and iguanas—and is considered one of the world’s most notable eco-regions by the World Wildlife Fund. Beyond the three miles of beachfront, there is an abundance of activities to keep guests occupied: riding one of the 26 horses, whale watching, hiking, fishing, biking and kayaking, yoga classes and swimming at three wild beaches.
The Standout: Casa Cuixmala, the castle-like main building with its outdoor grand staircase leading to the beachside pool
Don’t Miss: A horseback ride through the exotic animal conservation area and along the beach at sunset
- The large acreage of protected land for jaguars, leopards and nesting turtles
- Playa Caleta Blanca, Cuixmala’s private beach club
- The four-bedroom villas with their own staff for privacy
A recent visitor compared arriving at the private landing strip at Cuixmala, the former estate of the late British billionaire, Sir James Goldsmith, as akin to landing on Fantasy Island. It’s an apt metaphor because of the property’s spectacular private playland possibilities and how it came to be.
The 25,000-acre ranch could only be created by a man of seemingly limitless passions and equal means; it was Sir James Goldsmith’s great labor of love. He started with an extraordinary slice of property and then put his taste and resources behind creating a family seat unlike any other. The property that he fashioned with the help of 2,000 workers—from engineers, botanists and wildlife experts to the famous French architect Robert Couturier—now belongs to his children, who have opened Cuixmala as a hotel with rooms and villas for rent.
The resort has three villas and nine casitas, as well as the stunning main building, Casa Cuixmala, which offers individual hotel rooms. Emulating a Moorish castle, this improbable structure on Mexico’s rugged Pacific coast is a sight to behold. The design could easily have tread into the territory of kitsch, but instead it is an elevated boho-chic, with wildly colorful prints and patterns set amidst stark, white-washed walls, all coming together in a harmonious blend of whimsy and precision.
Every part of Casa Cuixmala is so tasteful and fun, and yet so unusual and unexpected. The massive building is set on the cliffside, with a beautiful pool down on the beach. Casa Cuixmala offers a casual al fresco restaurant and formal dining room, and there are plans to add a spa, gym and boutique.
The activities on offer at Cuixmala include horseback riding, whale watching, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and kayaking through the preserve. There are also soccer fields, a nearby polo field, as well as spa treatments and yoga classes. Note that the ocean is incredibly rough, and you cannot swim at the main beach. Cuixmala has three swimmable beaches off the main property, and the nearest is half an hour away. Set on a small cove, the waters here are calm and the hotel operates a beachside restaurant and bar.
In the early ‘90s, the late billionaire Sir James Goldsmith and his family, under the auspices of the Cuixmala Ecological Foundation, worked with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to establish the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, a nature zone that covers more than 250 square miles.
The land includes dry tropical forest, orchards, alluvial plains, rivers and beaches and is home to incredible biodiversity. Among the 72 species of mammals it harbors are endangered jaguar, leopard and ocelot as well as endangered turtles, crocodiles and iguana. In fact, over the past two decades, conservation efforts have achieved great success in raising the existing number of nesting turtles, from only 20 in 1986 to many thousands in 2007.
Given these results and the rarity of its dry forest ecosystem, it’s not surprising that the World Wildlife Fund considers the reserve one of the 200 most important eco-regions in the world. Despite the efforts of the Goldsmith family and environmentalists to safeguard this extraordinary ecological preserve, new development projects threaten its pristine environment.
Who Should Stay
Couples and families with older children looking for a safari-style experience with top service and unique surrounding. Cuixmala was built as a house, not a hotel, and it’s worth noting that while the villas’ wide-open clifftop verandas are magnificent to look at, they’re not very suitable for young kids.