Here's where to eat, play, and stay in Careyes, Mexico.
Careyes, Mexico, is a place that will change you, whether you’re ready for it or not. I don't know how to explain it better than that. I first visited this enigmatic, jungle-shrouded, rugged stretch of Pacific paradise in 2018. I didn’t know it then, but the wheels of a long-term plan that would shape my future had been set into motion.
But first, let’s journey back, all the way to the 1960s, when Italian banker Gian Franco Brignone flew his tiny plane over the vast landscape and craggy ocean cliffs of Careyes. That trip sparked a vision that ultimately led to the purchase of 20,000 acres of Pacific oceanfront, mountains, and jungle south of then-sleepy Puerto Vallarta. Brignone’s vision ultimately led to the birth of a community of well-heeled, highly cultured, fiercely creative people from around the world who were drawn both to the remoteness of Mexico’s Costalegre and the energy of human beings it attracted.
The community today is thriving, with nine miles of shoreline, carved with hidden coves, pocketed with sea caves, and peppered with extravagant villas and Positano-inspired colorful casitas — none of which can be seen from the snaking Highway 200 that winds its way down the entire Pacific Coast of Mexico. To know Careyes is to be in the know about Careyes.
"The coast is unique — pristine, remote, low density, and little known," said Zach Rabinor, CEO of Journey Mexico and one of Travel + Leisure's A-List advisors. "Dotted with small fishing and ranching pueblos, the coast became a luxury escape. Later, land acquisition and limited low-density development by the magnate James Goldsmith, and a few others, cemented the region as an eclectic playground for the rich, famous, eccentric, and creative."
The power of Careyes is that while it thrives as its own magical bubble, complete with no shortage of fine European wines and the highest of thread counts, the walls of that bubble are porous, and so life at Careyes is synonymous with life immersed in nature. In fact, of the 20,000 acres, only two percent of the land will ever be developed. Within the permeable boundaries of the community is a dizzying array of accommodations that range from regal ocean castles to open-air villas, colorful cliffside casitas, condominium-style apartments, and beachfront bungalows.
Careyes is one of the most accessible luxury escapes in Mexico, which blends a T-shirt-and-shorts aesthetic with a core ethos of living the very good life. For me, what started as a quick trip in 2018 evolved to the point where I have rented my own casita there for winter 2024. I doubt my story with Careyes will end there.
Like I said, Careyes will change you. Here’s why.
The collection of ocean-view casitas at Casitas de las Flores sits like a small hillside Italy-meets-Mexico village, within walking distance to most of the amenities and restaurants of Careyes.
At Copa del Sol, a spectacular concrete vessel sits perched on a cliff at the very edge of Careyes. A tribute to the female spirit, the vessel is used for healing ceremonies and is one of the many visual stunners in the community.
Camouflaged among the dunes, and known for its strong mezcal cocktails and succulent tacos and small plates, Casa de Nada is a bohemian beachfront hideaway.
You’d never know Careyes existed if you didn’t see it from the water. A boat ride along the coastline offers the most stunning perspective of this special slice of the world.
From Lunar New Year and film festivals to annual polo tournaments and an invite-only music festival, Careyes is always celebrating.
Best Hotels and Resorts
Perched on opposing cliffs, standing like sentries guarding a remote stretch of wild and rugged beach, the Ocean Castles of Careyes are the only parts of the community that can be seen from the jungle-wrapped road. Mirror images of each other, Sol de Oriente and Sol de Occidente are six-bedroom palaces, each with wraparound infinity pools overlooking the crashing Pacific.
Careyes is home to an impressive collection of clifftop villas. These architectural jewels are peppered all along the nine-mile coastline, each one individually named and completely different from the next. Architects have harnessed the power of nature to beautifully blend these private homes into the landscape, with infinity plunge pools, cliff-clinging stairways, outdoor living rooms, and dazzling views.
El Careyes Club & Residences
For a more traditional hotel experience, visitors can book one of the rooms in the Club & Residences section. Curved in a semicircle around an open-air lobby, two oceanfront pools, and a secluded bay, the residences come in configurations of one- to four-bedroom suites.
Casitas de las Flores
The muse for Careyes has always been the Amalfi Coast coastline, and nowhere is that more evident than in Casitas de las Flores. This collection of colorful casitas cascades down the hillside, splashed in bright Mexican-inspired colors. The casitas range from one to four bedrooms, some complete with plunge pools.
Chic and cozy, the beachfront bungalows sit directly overlooking Playa Rosa, one of the social hearts of Careyes. These palapa-topped one-bedroom rooms open out to the shoreline.
Best Things to Do
Get out on the water.
The best views of Careyes are from the ocean. In fact, you'd never know Careyes was there if you were just driving along the highway. "Getting out on a yacht to cruise the spectacular reef-fringed islands, appreciate the rugged landscapes, and enjoy the sun and sea breeze is a must," said Rabinor.
Careyes has a gym, but I was told it probably has moss growing over the equipment. Guests and residents of Careyes would rather get their exercise out in nature than be enclosed in an iron-filled gym. From daily yoga to surfing, hiking, and mountain biking, maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the pillars of Careyes.
Explore the property.
Twenty-thousand acres is massive. You can spend a lifetime exploring the beaten and off-the-beaten paths of Careyes and still not discover it all. "Exploring the Careyes property with its iconic Copa del Sol, pristine and little-visited beaches, and unique history is part of the program, too."
Enjoy the festivities.
With so many creative minds and deep souls (and perhaps a deep pocket or two), Careyes knows how to celebrate. The community puts on several events throughout the year, but it has a handful of programs that are the real showstoppers. From film festivals to the invitation-only oceanfront Ondalinda music festival, a fiery Lunar New Year celebration, and a world-class polo tournament, Careyes' calendar of events is all about over-the-top, though strictly word-of-mouth, pageantry.
The priorities of Careyes seem to be in impeccable order: spectacular natural scenery, low-impact development, high-end accommodations and amenities, and truly fabulous restaurants.
Playa Rosa Beach Club
The beating heart of Careyes, Playa Rosa Beach Club is a pink-splashed, open-air beachfront restaurant serving a Mediterranean-inspired menu of salads, crudos, grilled meat and fish, and homemade pastas.
At the center of El Careyes Club & Residences, La Duna is the breakfast and lunch poolside restaurant with stunning views over the infinity pool.
Casa de Nada
My personal favorite restaurant at Careyes is Casa de Nada. This beachfront hideaway is nestled among the rolling sand dunes along one of Careyes’ windswept beaches. A fire pit and poufs on the sand evoke a Moroccan-inspired setting alongside a menu of fresh tacos and mezcal cocktails.
A sinfully good sushi experience. Shio is a surprise in and for every sense.
Located in "the Pueblo," or the small village opposite the highway, Punto Como overlooks the main square and serves hearty cuts of steak, seafood, and fresh pasta.
Best Time to Visit
Careyes is a year-round escape, but its high season runs from November through end of April.
"November to April is the best, weather-wise, with hot sunny days and refreshing cool nights," said Rabinor. "May to June is hot and increasingly humid as the rainy season approaches. June to October is the rainy season, with high humidity and afternoon [showers] that progress into monsoon rains in late August through the end of October."
That said, I've spent much time in Careyes during the rainy season and can attest that this is perhaps when the environment is at its most beautiful, exploding with every shade of green imaginable and ripe with the scent of fresh blossoms and heavy, hanging fruit. And sometimes there's nothing more magical than a cup of tea or glass of bubbly on a covered balcony, watching the rains roll in.
How to Get There
Careyes is a three-hour drive south of Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport in Puerto Vallarta. It's also a 90-minute drive from the smaller, less heavily trafficked Playa de Oro International Airport in Manzanillo.
"Most people fly to Puerto Vallarta and then drive," said Rabinor. "The easiest, fastest way is by light aircraft charter, which cuts the trip down to 25 minutes."
Private airplane charters operate between the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and the small landing strip in nearby Chamela.
How to Get Around
Careyes offers luxury transfer service from both airports, but once guests arrive in Careyes, they will want their own car to get around, as there are no taxis or ride-share apps. The best way to see and explore the expansive playground that is Careyes is to have your own set of wheels.
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