Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Exploring the Riviera Maya: Andaz Mayakoba, Mexico

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The Cenote-inspired lobby of the Andaz Mayakoba

I recently spent a few days at the brand new Andaz Mayakoba just north of Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The chic beach resort, located within the Mayakoba Eco-Resort, opened in December 2016.

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Birds of Paradise in the Andaz Mayakoba Lobby

Located about 45 minutes from the Cancun International Airport (CUN), It’s the just the sort of spot on Mexico’s Riviera Maya that appeals to luxury travelers who want the golden sand of Caribbean beaches without the spring break vibe of a mega resort.

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One of the three pools at the Andaz Mayakoba

I was suprised to find that Cancun was only 4 1/2 hours from Los Angeles by plane, and my flight had tail winds and landed thirty minutes early. The user-friendly nature of Mayakoba makes the resort geographically desirable from both US coasts, since Miami is only 90 minutes away by plane.

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Colorful octopus mural by Senkoeat the Andaz Mayakoba

I was amazed by how well-oiled the resort Andaz Mayakoba ran after being open less than a month. The service was surprisingly seemless. We were the first guests to occupy our suite. The only “tell” I could find of the property’s newness was trying to find out how to adjust the fan in my suite’s bedroom. Matainance showed up and we figured it out together in less than a minute.

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Fun floaty toys at the Andaz Mayakoba

All the construction on the property was finished and there are a few murals that were not yet complete, but that also allowed guests to have a chance to spot Playa del Carmen-based street artist Senkoe on the property.

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Left: Pool side at the Andaz Mayakoba Right: Colorful patio furniture on the suite’s patio

Keeping with the clean, contemporary, and cool vibe of the Andaz brand, the Andaz Mayakoba also has some cool Mexican touches. There are some local snacks in the complementary mini-bar.

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The Mayakoba Resort is technically located in Playa del Carmen, but it’s a destination unto itself. Mayakoba features luxury hotels from Fairmont, Banyan Tree, and Rosewood and now the Andaz. It’s less than 15 minutes to the main drag of Playa del Carmen, but you won’t want for anything if you never leave the resort.

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Rainbow in paradise at Mayakoba 

Mayakoba also has a Greg Norman-designed golf course, El Camaleón, a tennis center, and a nature trail and bike path that connects all the individual hotel properties. This helps the resort feel big but not overwhelming. It’s not a mega-resort and it’s low profile makes it feel more connected to lush mangrove jungles and Mexican landscape.

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Ferry service at the Andaz Mayakoba Resort

There is even a ferry service connecting all the properties, making it easy for guests to stay at one property and dine at another. Complimentary bikes are available for guests to cruise from the Andaz to the any of the other Mayakoba properties. There is even a cenote, or water-filled sink hole, right on the Mayakoba property.

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Guest rooms at the Andaz Mayakoba

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In-room tequila set up at the Andaz Mayakoba

The rooms at the Andaz are contemporary Mexican chic with lots of light and colorful accents. Each building of the resort boast colorful bird murals painted by Senkoe.

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Interior of a bedroom at the Andaz Mayakoba

Our suite was spacious with a huge bedroom, walk in closet, bathroom, living room, two balconies and plunge pool.

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Mayan whimsical touches in the interior of the Andaz Mayakoba

I really like the laid back luxury of the Andaz brand. Service is top notch but not intrusive. The staff at the Andaz Mayakoba is very friendly. Jorge, who was in charge of taking care of us at the property, introduced himself to me as “your new best friend.”

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Another view of the Andaz suite living room

The Andaz has 214 guest rooms, 41 of which are suites. It is a family-friendly resort and has a kids club called Kimbo that hosts a killer movie night under the stars that adults are known to crash.

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Set up for movie night at Kimbo, the Andaz Mayakoba’s kids club

With three pools and generous stretch of white-sand beach, the resort doesn’t feel cramped. Of course there is also bright and airy spa with outdoor rooms that I did not have time to visit during my brief stay at the property.

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Margarita with lemon at OllaTaco

There are four restaurants on the Andaz property, with my favorites being the seafood-centric OllaCeviche. I was also delighted to lear that OllaTaco serves tacos for breakfast on extremely cute Mexican wrestler plates.

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Patron tequila at OllaCeviche

OllaCeviche also has a nice cocktail menu featuring Mezcal and tequila-based cocktails. It’s patio boasts a nice view of the beach.

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Chilaquiles + Mexican wrestler plates = win

Two days was not enough time to stress test all three pools and the beach. I did make a point of taking the nature hike and cenote tour, which is offered daily. It’s a cool way to check out one of the natural limestone sink holes and learn about their lore without too much effort.

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Left: a spicy Mezcal cocktail at OllaCeviche Right: broiled lobster tail for lunch

After spending a few days at the property my husband told me that he could “stay here a week.” This is high praise coming from a notoriously fical guest who usually gets sick of every property’s food after three days.

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Portrait of Jorge, my new best friend at the Andaz Mayakoba

One thing I especially liked about the Andaz Mayakoba experience was that while it had all the bells and whistles one needs in a Mexican luxury beach resort, it wasn’t isolated. You can easily head to a different hotel for lunch or dinner without requiring a taxi.

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The chapel interior in El Pueblito

The resort has El Pueblito, a small traditionally inspired Mexican village, complete with a cooking school, a church, art gallery, and a coffee shop that Jorge told me had the best coffee in the area. He was right!
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Left: exterior of the Chapel Right: a statue in the Chapel

The chapel hosts a Catholic mass on Sundays that is attended by guests as well as employees.

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Dappled light in the Mayakoba cenote

Two days wasn’t enough to fully explore all the Andaz has to offer and I’m certain I’ll be back soon to check out that spa. Room rates start at about $450.

ANDAZ MAYAKOBA RESORT RIVIERA MAYA

Carretera Federal Cancun-Playa Del Carmen Km. 298

Playa del Carmen-Solidaridad, Quintana Roo, Mexico, 77710

Tel: +52 984 1491234

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Exploring the Riviera Maya: Tulum, Mexico

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Bohemian chic vibes at Be Tulum

Tulum, a small resort town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, has been a much buzzed about destination for a while. It’s developed enough to have great food and some chic eco-resorts, but still intentionally off the grid and understated to keep the vibe low key.

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Gorgeous pool at Be Tulum

For those who want a dose of Mayan culture with their vacation, it’s even got the Tulum Ruins, right on the beach.

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Sandy white beach of Tulum

My husband and I recently visited Tulum for a  couple of days, and two nights wasn’t really enough to explore the area and chill out. Confession– I did not even get to explore the ruins on this trip. But I loved the area so much I’m planning a return visit as soon as possible.

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Bicycles are the preferred form of transport in Tulum

For luxury travelers like me, wifi access is a necessity and not a privilege and many of the resorts in Tulum are intentionally devoid of it. We chose to stay at Be Tulum, a luxury eco-resort that had strong wifi and great reviews.

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Interior of a suite at Be Tulum

While not a true business hotel, I was impressed that the wifi signal worked all the way to the white sand beach.

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Interior of a suite at Be tulum

Be Tulum also has next level margaritas, chic rooms, and a lovely beach with multiple daybeds. It’s not a business hotel so you won’t find a proper desk in your room, but if you can handle the distracting ocean views while checking email, it’s a lovely place to spend a few days.

Greetings from #Tulum is today's virtualvacay #Mexico

Sunhat in Tulum

Friends of mine have also spoken highly of the rustic chic Azulik and all-inclusive luxury resort Kore Resort Tulum, although I did not get a chance to check them out for myself.

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Morning walk on the beach in Tulum

My favorite places to visit are those with a vibe or spirit. Tulum definitely has a vibe. There is a effortlessly chic thing going on that is sort of hard to describe but easy to spot.

Cloudy morning time lapse from Tulum

Watching the sun rise one morning, I saw a lot of toned legs and dogs get walked on the beach. You can’t help but notice that there are a lot of beautiful people in Tulum. It’s a gorgeous spot where pretty people gather. I enjoyed people watching here and would like to spend a few more days doing that.

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Cloudy sunrise in Tulum

Located about an hour and forty five minutes by car from the Cancun airport, Tulum is fabulous destination on it’s own or combined with another spot on the Mayan Riviera. I split by time in Mexico between Mayakoba and Tulum.

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 Day beds on the beach

NOTE: I’ll cover my stay at the new Andaz Mayakoba in a future post.

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 Vacation vibes at Be Tulum

As relaxed as Tulum is, you still need reservations if you want to get dinner at some of the interesting restaurants. We got to Hartwood before 6 pm and did not manage to get a table.

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The chilled out bar at Be Tulum

According to the concierge at Be Tulum, Hartwood only take reservations by email and it usually takes a few days to get a response so if you wan to eat there be sure to book ahead.

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Shrimp tacos at Be Tulum

But there are plenty of good dining options in the area. Be Tulum’s restaurant had a great menu for breakfast and lunch, with the shrimp tacos being a standout item.

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Mezcal cocktail at Gitano

Foodie friends suggested Gitano. It’s a gorgeous space and has the prettiest cocktails in town.

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Basil guacamole with jicama at Gitano

Gitano’s menu of modern Mexican food, includes small plates with nice touches. Like the basil guacamole with jicama served with roasted corn tortillas. Their Sopa de Lima and ceviche were also delicious. 4v1c5961

Laid back romantic atmosphere at Gitano

Be sure to have cash on hand when going out to eat in Tulum. Many of the small restaurants only take cash. Both pesos and US dollars were accepted.

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Gitano exterior in Tulum

The food scene is getting more exciting in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera and I’m sure there are more small spots to check out in Tulum.

 

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Come with cash!

For those who can only spend an afternoon in Tulum, local institution Ziggy’s Beach Club  allows diners to use their sun loungers and amenities for $25 USD per person per day. Ziggy’s also has wifi.

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Magic hour in Tulum

Tulum is a place I look forward to getting to know better. I think I’m going to be coming back here soon.

Be Tulum

Address: Carretera Tulum-Boca Paila Km.10, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Ziggy’s Beach Bar

Address: Carretera Tulum – Boca Paila Km 7,5, Zona Hotelera, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

Gitano Tulum

Address: Beach Road Km. 7, Boca Paila, QRO, Mexico

reservations@gitanotulum.com

Hartwood

Address: Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km, 77780 Tulum, Q.R., Mexico

open for dinner only, 6-11pm closed Monday and Tuesday

 

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A Stay at Las Alamandas in Jalisco, Mexico

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My favorite hammock at Las Alamandas

I recently visited Mexico’s Costalgre for the first time, spending a few nights at Las Alamandas resort. Located about About 120 km south of Puerto Vallarta, getting to the resort takes more than 2 1/2 hours along a long, winding, and frequently bumpy road from the PVR airport. It’s clear from the moment you arrive that the best and worst thing about Las Alamandas is it’s remote location.

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The bougainvillea-filled courtyard

Located on 1,500 acres and with only 16 suites (which can accommodate up to 42 guests), Las Alamandas is incredibly private and the type of property that gets bought out for weddings and celebrations. Old press clippings in the hotel’s library feature images of Hollywood celebrities spending New Year’s Eve here. The hotel has also served as a backdrop for a bunch of catalog and photo shoots. Las Alamandas is also a favorite of honeymooners, again because of it’s privacy and tropical romantic charm.

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Left: colorful stairs Right: welcome drinks served in coconuts

Las Alamandas offers activities from horseback riding to kayaking to fishing. But it’s also a great place to do absolutely nothing. Wifi only works in the common areas, so it’s a great place to unplug and recharge.

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the gorgeous swimming pool

The resort is extremely private, which makes it clear why celebrities might like it so much. There is no way a paparazzi is going to be able to photograph you in an unflattering swimsuit on one of the property’s private beaches. The main stretch of beach, which my Domo Master suite was situated directly above, was experiencing unusually strong wave and current activity due to seismic activity in the Pacific. This was a bummer since it made the beach unusable, but the owner told my husband she had never seen the waves that large before.

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A cozy banquette at Las Alamandas

I stayed in the Domo Master Suite which was large, with a king sized bed, a living and dining area, an outdoor jacuzzi, and seating area. Only the bedroom had adequate air conditioning and fan coverage, so the rest of the indoor space was not all that usable. The patio was nice and used often, with a great hammock and comfy sitting area. The staff would deliver my morning coffee here and it was a very pleasant spot to gaze the Pacific ocean and wake up.

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The living room of our Ocean front master suite

The living room of the Domo Suite was large, but lack of good air-conditioning and a fan made it mostly wasted space.

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flower petals on the bed at Las Alamandas

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One of the daily gorgeous touches at Las Alamandas

The welcome greeting on the King-sized bed. The bed was not the most comfortable, but it was adequate. The bedroom had a fan and small air conditioning unit for when the breezes weren’t enough.

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The master bathroom featured dual sinks

The master bathroom had dual sinks and a fantastic shower which was large enough for two people and had ample water. It was hot during my stay so the outdoor jacuzzi never got used.

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Well-placed hammocks are abundant at Las Alamandas

My favorite amenity, a well-place hammock, is where Las Alamandas truly excels. I was happy spending the afternoon here with a book and a quick call to room service for a round of freshly made margaritas.

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Foosball in the gallery at Las Alamandas

The public spaces in the property are beautiful. There is a gallery complete with a foosball game. The only time I saw other guest was during meal times, hen eating breakfast and lunch at La Palapa restaurant or dinner at Oasis. For more about dining at Las Alamandas, check out my previous post, Mexican Food in GIFs: Dining at Las Alamandas here.

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The view from La Palapa restaurant at Las Alamandas

Las Alamandas was relaxing, rustic, and stylish. The staff was very nice and accommodating. It’s also for those who don’t mind privacy and a bit of a hassle to get there. If you want a bar scene, you’re better off staying in Puerto Vallarta. Las Alamandas’ remote location isn’t close to much of anything, so you should expect to stay on site for your visit (unless you’ve booked excursions through the hotel).

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Margarita with a view

My trip was booked through Suzy Xiu at Smartflyer. You can book directly through the hotel’s website and check out Las Alamandas special offers section here.

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Succulents near the beach

Las Alamandas is great choice for couples and families looking to get away from it all who don’t mind getting to the resort’s location. If you’re not a fan of bumpy roads, the hotel can book you a transfer to and from the Puerto Vallarta airport in a small Piper airplane.

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Left: Current warning sign during my stay Right: unusually strong waves 

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Lookout Point at Las Alamandas

Lookout point on the Las Alamandas property is great place to take in the sunset. The staff can also provide a picnic or cocktails to enjoy while you watch the sunset.

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The beach at Las Alamandas at dusk

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Killer sunset views along the Pacific

Las Alamandas could not be any prettier. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular property to buy out for weddings and other private events.

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If bumpy roads aren’t your thing, book the Piper!

Room rates at Las Alamandas start at about $260 per night.

Las Alamandas Resort
Carretera Federal 200 km 83.5
Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico

Toll Free US: 1888 882 9616
Toll Free Mexico: 1800 8366640
Tel 52 322 285 5500

​General Information: info@alamandas.com

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Nemi Eco Villa: A Next-Level (and Green) Private Villa Experience in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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A view of the chic and green Nemi Eco Villa in Puerto Vallarta

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Puerto Vallarta for the NAJTA conference was the opportunity to tour some of the newest hotel properties in the area. The standout was the Nemi Eco Villa, a chic, contemporary and green property located in a quiet residential neighborhood called Amapas which is situated close (3 minutes drive or 10 min walk) to downtown Puerto Vallarta and a 10 minute walk to two favorite local beaches – Playa Los Muertos and Playa Conchas Chinas.

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Left: The bar and outdoor space near the pool Right: the gorgeous naturally filtered pool 

I usually gravitate towards hotels because I like having concierge services and amenities at my disposal. But as part of a couple who sometimes travels with other couples, the private villa experience has always seemed appealing at first glance. It’s when you look closer and find that not all the rooms are equivalent and read the fine print when the appeal fades.

That’s where Nemi Eco Villa succeeds– this was the first property I’ve seen that I could easily envision renting out the entire six bedroom, eight bathroom property for myself and friends, and I think it would work for everyone. Even better, if you have enough people to fill the 4-6 bedrooms, the Nemi Eco Villa goes for $800 for 4 bedrooms during the low season to $1500 for all six bedrooms during the high season, with a three night minimum.

This is about the same rate you’d pay at a generic, forgettable name brand hotel in the Hotel Zone.

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This sofa is crafted from repurposed shipping pallets

Nemi Eco Villa started as a passion project for the then Chicago-based architect who had duel citizenship and his wife, who were drawn to Puerto Vallarta’s vibrant ex-pat community. The villa, which can be rented as 4-6 rooms, was built by Max Living and Design and consists of rooms build from re-purposed shipping containers off site. The furniture includes custom sofas built from reclaimed wood from shipping pallets. The property features speedy wifi (great for those wanting to stay connected), solar panels, a 40 foot naturally filtered pool, and grey water toilets.

None of these green choices make the property any less luxurious, instead they make this the ideal choice for tech and design savvy travelers in their 30s to 50s who a villa experience and those who are interested in these new technologies and systems.

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Left: staff can order food from local restaurants like Tapas Barcelona Right: A dining area in the main living room

Nemi Eco Villa also comes with staff. There is a housekeeper, gardener, and houseman and bartender. You get a chef for daily gourmet breakfast and afternoon snack/cocktail hour. Food & beverage are not included in the room rate, instead the staff just gives you the grocery bill. The chef can be hired to prepare dinner on site as well, although most guests prefer to go out to check out the thriving local restaurant scene. Staff can help with reservations and sourcing additional needs (like a driver).

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Ron, a fellow NATJA journalist, kicking back in Pod #3

The entire villa can be booked for private events such as weddings and books up a year in advance for holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. With such great on-site amenities and a reasonable price point, Nemi Eco Villa is a great fit for those who want a luxury villa experience that is contemporary, cool, and cutting edge. This place is ideal for destination parties like birthdays or holidays, or a get together with friends and family.

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Nicole, one of the owners of the Nemi Eco Villa, in a queen bedded pod

All the bedroom pods feature queen or king beds and have features like outdoor hammocks and showers. Bedroom pod #3 was originally the prototype and is the master suite.

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The stylish and airy living room

The main level features a living room, kitchen, the dining area and a communal lounge, a bathroom and tons of indoor/outdoor space around the show-stopping naturally filtered pool, whose distinctive green water is filtered by sand and plant life and is devoid of chemicals and chlorine.

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Left: the poolside lounge Right: local fabric and art in a bedroom pod

The villa is comfortable and crisp and features a lot of local touches like fabric and artwork. There are energy efficient air conditioning units throughout the villa for when the tropical cross breezes aren’t enough.

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Looking at one of the bedroom pods from the outside

Some rooms feature outdoor showers and hammocks. The master pod has a small kitchenette and the most luxurious bathroom, which includes grey water collection and bio-digester. None of these features feels preachy or intrusive.

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 Bathroom details from bedroom pod #3

All these eco-friendly details are attractive and bold choices which allow guests to consider if some of these green technologies might work for them back home.

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A hammock on the terrace of one of the bedroom pods

Nemi Eco Villa has a passionate and cool couple of creatives behind it and they want their guests to be happy. That vibe is what you feel at Nemi Eco Villa, once you get past the cool “wow” features.

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Another gorgeous view from the Nemi Eco Villa

Nemi Eco Villa is a very intriguing private villa at a very accessible per room rate. Now I just have to decide who I’m inviting when I book this place, and how long we want the bartender to stay to make margaritas by the pool.

Nemi Eco Villa

Address: Calle Gardenias 223

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco 48399

Phone: 1.888.276.1953

Email: info@agavevillasmexico.com

Much thanks to NATJA for arranging the New Hotel Infrastructure tour in Puerto Vallarta. Without them, this post would not be possible.

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Mexican Food in GIFs: Dining at Las Alamandas Jalisco, Mexico

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The shrimp tacos became a daily must have at Las Alamandas

My recent trip to Mexico involved my first visit to Jalisco’s Costalegre, where my husband and I stayed at Las Alamandas. We’re both fans of good Mexican food and arrived hungry and ready to eat a late lunch at La Palapa Beach Club.

Shrimp Tacos

 Shrimp tacos GIF

We were quickly served our first round of excellent (and inexpensive) margaritas and were very surprised when we saw the menu and found very little Mexican food on it. Instead selections included dishes like Asian shrimp and pasta. Who comes to Mexico to eat Asian shrimp? We asked our waiter to speak to the chef and Head Chef Alejandro Morales quickly arrived to chat with us.

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Gazpacho GIF 

Chef Alex (as he’s called) was very friendly and had no problem letting us order off the menu. He prepared chicken enchiladas, shrimp tacos, and guacamole for us. He even honored my request for no raw onions and the dishes were all muy delicioso. We continued to order off the menu for the rest of the trip, and Chef Alex had no problem serving whatever we asked for.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros with green tomato salsa GIF

The breakfast menu featured many more Mexican specialities– eggs a la Mexicana, Eggs Machacha with dried beef, onion and poblano chile. Chilaquiles were on the menu as well as what became our go-to favorite, the Huevos Rancheros, served with either red salsa or green. The green salsa was outstanding and Chef Alex remembered our preferences.

Fresh Fruit

Tropical fruit platter with Mexican lime GIF

The breakfast menu also had a host of other non-Mexican options, including organic oatmeal, muesli with coconut milk, French toast, pancakes and waffles.

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Coffee con leche with a hammock at La Palapa Beach club

The coffee was tasty and the views of the pacific from La Palapa were a great way to start the day. The space is beautiful and also includes a lovely hammock should you wish to hang out while you’re digesting.

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Top notch margaritas for $6 US at Las Alamandas

I don’t think the menu at Las Alamandas would work for serious foodies who are looking to explore the vibrant and happening Mexican food scene. Chef Alex had no problem accommodating all our requests, which is great since the resort is so private and isolated that there are not a lot of other options for dining nearby.

Las Alamandas Resort
Carretera Federal 200 km 83.5
Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico

Toll Free US: 1888 882 9616
Toll Free Mexico: 1800 8366640
Tel 52 322 285 5500

info@alamandas.com

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