Editors' Picks

One&Only Mandarina

Rainforest retreat, romantic yet family-friendly, sophisticated

Riviera, 63779 Lo De Marcos, Nayarit 63779

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Indagare Adored

At a Glance

On a hilly swath of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, One&Only Mandarina is more rainforest nature preserve than sand-and-sea-focused—though there is plenty of the latter. Scattered across 80 acres of the densely forested coastal bluff, 105 stand-alone villas and elevated tree houses are a study in sleekness, with frequent use of dark Cumaru wood for flooring, ceilings and furniture. Each suite comes with its own plunge pool—an ideal spot to listen to the chorus of tropical bird calls. Of course, the open-air spa is an ideal spot for that as well. So too are the two beach clubs, five pools and network of hiking trails, which pass by 500-year-old trees, ancient petroglyphs and lagoons. The myriad ways for guests to keep busy—or relax with a dreamy view—mean that even when operating at full capacity (which it usually is), One&Only Mandarina feels blissfully crowd-free.

The Standout: The hillside spa, with a Temescal dome, mud grotto, tree-shaded pool and yoga/meditation pavilion (the resident spiritual guides are a favorite discovery for many guests, who sign up for small-group classes or private consultations)

Don’t Miss: A visit to the world-class equestrian center, which hosts polo matches and offers riding lessons and horse therapy

Indagare Loves

  • The adults-only pool at Carao, on a high bluff overlooking the ocean and the resort’s curved stone jetty
  • The warm, heartfelt service from the entire staff
  • The sanctuary-like treehouses, each with a private plunge pool suspended in the canopy
  • Review

    On a hilly swath of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, One&Only Mandarina defies almost all stereotypes of a typical Mexican beach resort: it’s more jungle nature-preserve than sand-and-sea focused—though there is plenty of the latter as well. And you won’t find any kitsch design details being passed for “authentic.” Instead, One&Only Mandarina charts its own path, with 105 villas and tree houses scattered along paved paths that snake around 80 acres of a densely forested coastal bluff.

    It’s one of two hotels in the new Mandarina development, from the same company behind the Mayakoba complex on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Mandarina at large features a separate beach club, hiking trails and an expansive equestrian center with its own polo fields. (The second hotel, a Rosewood property, is located on the opposite end of the development, and will debut in 2024.) All of Mandarina maintains its coastal jungle setting, and it’s common to see coatis (similar to raccoons) roaming the grounds and gorgeous tropical birds flitting through the woods.

    Each One&Only Mandarina accommodation is standalone, and has an outdoor tub or shower and at least one private plunge pool overlooking the trees, with options for partial or panoramic ocean views as well. The décor is sleek and reminiscent of Bali, with frequent use of dark cumaru wood for flooring, ceilings and furniture. Entry-level treehouses and one-bedroom villas have similar open floor plans, though subtle design differences: villas have soaring ceilings and swap out the wooden floors for cooling cement. Treehouses, meanwhile, are perched on stilts up to 40 feet above the ground, with their terraces seemingly floating at the canopy-level. For safety reasons, these lofty suites are strictly for guests 16 and older. The villas can have up to three bedrooms. Villa One, a palatial two-story complex with its own movie theater, gym, game room, spa, infinity pool and outdoor living room (suspended in the air) is the resort’s most indulgent villa to book, situated at one of its highest vantage points. ***Note:***In some instances, it’s possible to see other villas or treehouses from your own deck. Likewise, some of the outdoor tubs are actually visible (from a distance) to passersby on the paths. If privacy is a main priority, make sure to note that when booking with your Trip Designer.

    At some resorts, it feels necessary to set an early morning alarm to claim a prime lounger with your towel and a book. That’s far from the case here. Even when operating at full capacity, the two beach clubs and eight pools give guests ample seating options, each with sublime views—and that’s not including the private plunge pool in every suite. Yet while you could spend every day relaxing in a different spot, what sets One&Only Mandarina apart from many other beach resorts is the amount of activities available on- and immediately off-property. There are the expected complimentary fitness and wellness classes, yes, but also horseback riding at the equestrian center, surfing, kayaking, SUP-boarding, zip-lining, adventure courses and beautiful nature treks (where it’s possible to see 500-year-old trees, crocodiles and ancient petroglyphs). The spa is set in the jungle hillside, with multiple casitas for treatments, plus a temazcal dome, mud grotto, tree-shaded pool and yoga/meditation pavilion. The property healer is a favorite discovery for many guests, who sign up for her daily small-group classes or for private consultations.

    Many of these activities are family-friendly, but parents may have a hard time pulling their children out of KidsOnly, the resort’s 42,000-square-foot kids’ club. Academy Award-winning set director Brigitte Broch took inspiration from Neverland for the club’s multi-level wooden playground. KidsOnly, open from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily, also has a butterfly and insect house, plus plenty of indoor hangout space for children ages four to 12.

    Guests have access to five restaurants, and food is uniformly excellent. Most days start with breakfast at Alma, which has a decadent self-serve buffet along with enough à la carte options to come back every day and try something new. The casual spot serves lunch and dinner as well, either in its open-air dining room or out on the poolside terrace overlooking the ocean. Down by the resort’s main stretch of sand, Jetty Beach Club offers al fresco lunch, with a menu emphasizing ceviches, tacos and other Mexican favorites. Carao, on the opposite end of the property on a bluff with a dreamy view down over Jetty Beach Club, is One&Only Mandarina’s signature fine dining restaurant from Enrique Olvera (of Pujol fame). Dinners here showcase Olvera’s innovative take on Mexican cuisine, often with an Asian spin. And outside the main resort, but still within the Mandarina development, Allora at Canalan Beach Club is an ultra-casual beach spot with fabulous pizza and house-made pastas. Plus, Chukker offers weekly Argentinian asado nights at the Polo & Equestrian Club.

    Getting Around the Resort

    Guests get around by golf cart, requested by texting their dedicated butlers over WhatsApp, and driven by a team of exceedingly friendly conductores. For the most part, these golf carts are prompt to arrive, but requests around peak times—i.e. breakfast—can take longer. We recommend booking the pick-up times in advance to avoid too much wait. Walking everywhere is technically possible, but the resort is large and has steep hills. Getting from the beach club to the furthest restaurant, for example, would be a 25-minute uphill climb. Anyone looking for maximum independence should think about which amenities and activities they want to be near (i.e. within walking distance), and note that when requesting their accommodations.

    Who Should Stay

    Anyone who wants a glamorous beach vacation coupled with abundant activities; equestrians looking for world-class horse facilities, wildlife lovers and spa junkies.

    Getting There

    Most guests will arrive via Puerto Vallarta’s airport, and will take the hotel’s transfer service to the resort. The ride lasts about an hour and a half, but a highway currently under construction should shorten the route to around 45 minutes when it opens sometime in 2023.

    Written by Peter Schlesinger

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