Mexico’s Pacific coast is in the news of late. That’s especially true of the Costalegre, the expanse of beaches, capes and bays between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta. Long the favorite of the private jet set, it’s about to become a bit more accessible -- in an exclusive way that is.
A new Costalegre airport is in the works, making it much easier to reach the region. At the moment, visitors flying commercial must arrive either at Puerto Vallarta or Manzanillo. Neither is particularly convenient.
“If all goes well within two years the new airport will be up and running. The runway is already there and they’re working on the buildings. They will also be widening the road going in both directions,” Wayne Hudson tells Travel Agent.
Hudson is spokesperson for Cuixmala, the expansive resort that was once the home of British tycoon Sir James Goldsmith. Cuixmala lies in the middle of the Costalegre, and attracts a distinct crowd.
“Exotic, bohemian, remote, off the beaten path. Cuixmala is truly the brainchild of a rather eccentric billionaire unconstrained by budget or the need to generate money. Where else can you go in Mexico and see free roaming zebras," Journey Mexico Founder and Director General Zach Rabinor tells Travel Agent.
Cuixmala’s remoteness and vastness are what appeal to visitors, said Hudson. The estate itself is more than 25,000 acres. Much of that is a remote jungle habitat to jaguars and pumas, accessed only by biologists.
Guests typically criss-cross an area of about 3,000 acres, including three miles of beach.
That suits Cari Gray’s clients just fine. The owner of Gray & Co. tells Travel Agent that her clients are primarily interested in custom, active trips that involve hiking, biking and surfing. A family group she recently sent for a villa stay was delighted that the resort had hired surf instructors for them. One instructor worked with the adults, the other with the kids.
The great vegetarian cuisine (much of it grown on site) was a surprise bonus.
“Places like Cuixmala are a really good fit. It’s not the classic resort where your clients are going to simply get up and wander to the pool. It’s not for someone who needs a blowout every day at the salon,” said Gray.
“Another attractive aspect is that there are different units and different price points,” she added.
The resort includes Casa Cuixmala, an 11-room boutique hotel. The former home of Sir James, suites feature 20-foot high ceilings and are quite elaborate. His former bedroom, the Cuixmala Suite, is usually $5,000 per day.
Ten small casitas share a pool, clubhouse, signature restaurant, lounge, library and game room.
“They appeal to younger clientele because of the price point, which is about $1,200 per night. They also appeal to those who want to come for an eco-adventure. They’re set farther back on the property, where there are hiking and biking trails. You start to get enmeshed in the jungle and the animals,” said Hudson.
Cuixmala’s private villas appeal to high-profile guests.
“We have celebrities stay there. It’s their own little world, their own pool, their own staff. Each villa is very private,” said Hudson.
Qualifying a client means taking much more than price point into account, though.
“You really have to know what your clients are looking for. Lots of people go just to sit by the pool and have margaritas served to them. That’s not us at all. We’re about an active experience,” said Hudson.
The added airlift will bring more visitors, but it won’t change the feel of Costalegre. Nor will other new developments in the pipeline.
“Luckily, the master plan for the Costalegre area calls for low density eco-oriented tourism. That has remained in place and authorities have been very stringent about approving new projects. It’s great to have some positive things happening with the infrastructure. The developments are of a very high quality. It will maintain what’s already there,” said Hudson.
What’s already there is also noteworthy.
Cuixmala’s neighbors include the splashy El Careyes Beach Resort, known for its jungle setting and polo fields. Across from Cuixmala is El Tamarindo Beach & Golf Resort. Under renovation, it will re-open this year. Half and hour’s drive north is Las Alamandas, another property set on a vast coastal estate owned by one of Goldsmith’s daughters (Goldsmith’s daughter Alix owns Cuixmala.).
New properties in the works include a One&Only on the Costalegre. Santa Maria de Xala will be an hacienda-like setting on five miles of beach. Plans announced thus far call for 75 luxury villas and suites with private pools.
It’s a smallish for the One&Only brand, in keeping with the low-density mandate.
“Jalisco wants to develop this area with high quality and have its own airport far enough from the border to any other state. They’ve felt kind of cheated with the Puerto Vallarta Airport. So many people arrive there and go straight to Punta Mita and Sayulita in Nayarit. That doesn’t bring Jalisco any revenue,” said Hudson.
As far as he’s concerned, Jalisco has the right idea.
“Funny thing about travelers. They can be extremely intrepid once they get here, doing hikes and other activities all day. But if you tell them they have to change planes or have a layover on the way here, they don’t want to go.”