By Meagan Drillinger
For the past three years, the Riviera Nayarit’s Matlali Hotel has been a secret luxury enclave, tucked away on a hillside overlooking Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay. But as the hotel is laying out robust expansion plans for the coming year, it appears the secret is out.
The Matlali Hotel is a 40-villa resort in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, one of the many quaint bayside towns along Mexico’s Pacific coast on the way up from Puerto Vallarta to the established luxury hotspot Punta de Mita. As part of the Puerto Bahia gated community, guests of the property will find all-suite accommodations, a full-service Makawe Spa, a restaurant, infinity pool and private beach club. Guests also have access to the resort’s private catamaran for day sails, diving, snorkeling and fishing in Banderas Bay and out to the protected wildlife sanctuary, Islas Marietas.
Still, despite the resort’s discreet and intimate luxury offerings, it is competing in a market with heavy hitters like St. Regis Punta Mita and Four Seasons Punta Mita, which have dominated the five-star scene for years.
With that in mind, Matlali has aggressive expansion plans slated for the end of 2015 through 2017 with investments of approximately $30 million. The expansion, scheduled to kick off at the end of this year, will include the addition of jungle villas behind the existing hotel development.
Puerto Bahia has an area of 71.4 acres and a maximum allowed density of 376 units. An additional development of 741 acres is also in the works for the hotel’s property across the highway in the actual town of La Cruz. This will include a golf course, solar park, pedestrian town, an additional hotel and vacation club, residences and a botanical garden. This phase will increase the room count under the Matlali umbrella to 3,000.
While the original hotel development is tucked back up in the hills overlooking the bay with shuttle service to and from the Eva Mandarina Beach Club, the new development will be built on the beachfront land where the current club now exists.
Until the expansion, however, guests of Matlali have plenty at their disposal. Upon arrival to the resort, guests are met at the reception and escorted up to their hillside suite via private buggy. There are four different villa-style accommodations on property, all with fully equipped kitchens with separate living and dining areas. The 40 villas range from the 470-square-foot Rolling Hill Junior Suites to the 3,260-square-foot Presidential Villa. All suites apart from the Rolling Hill Junior Suites feature expansive terraces with private pools. But the room to book at this resort is the Presidential Villa, a duplex with private balcony, private rooftop terrace and pool, as well as an outdoor dining area with a barbecue.
A short walk from the villas puts guests at the heart of the resort, where the spa, main restaurant and pool area all overlook the bay below. Raixes Restaurant serves a modern take on classic Mexican dishes in a palapa-style hut. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests can also select from the Raixes menu to dine in-room.
Just below the restaurant is the Casa Club, which features two infinity pools and Jacuzzis, as well as a bar serving snacks and cocktails.
A level below the Casa Club is the Makawe Spa, a palapa-style, open-air spa with a steam room, plunge pool and six treatment rooms.
Though the hotel does not sit directly on the beach, it offers its guests private beach club access. A shuttle takes travelers from the main hotel across the street to the town of La Cruz, where the hotel owns Eva Mandarina Beach Club. The whimsical beach bar takes on a retro vibe, splashed with orange and white and decorated with painted bicycles. Lounge under umbrellas in the sand or sit at the bar for fresh ceviches and tacos.
Matlali’s location in La Cruz puts it in a convenient location for travelers who want both the nightlife of downtown Puerto Vallarta and the tranquility of the Riviera Nayarit.
Matlali is no more than a 40-minute ride from Puerto Vallarta’s downtown Malecon boardwalk, which is jam-packed with touristed bars, restaurants and pulsing nightclubs. But if sleepy fishing villages are more appropriate, head north from Matlali along the coast to discover Riviera Nayarit’s more secluded spots.
Punta de Mita, perhaps the most known luxury spot, offers miles of white-sand beaches. This gated community is home to the Four Seasons and St. Regis resorts, and has a small selection of high-end restaurants and beach bars. Sayulita is another well-known beach spot, about 25 miles north of downtown Puerto Vallarta.
Known for its surf culture and native Huichol art, the village has blossomed into a bohemian hideaway with boutiques, bars, restaurants and art galleries. And for something even more low key and remote, consider a trip to San Pancho, another paradise for surfers with a focus on ecotravel. San Pancho also features the La Patrona Polo Club, which is the only polo club in the state of Nayarit. Here guests can watch professional matches on Saturday afternoons while dining at the club restaurant. Visitors can also participate in releasing baby sea turtles between November and January with Grupo Ecologica de la Costa Verde.