By Laura Eckstein Jones By Laura Eckstein Jones | May 18, 2022 | Lifestyle
Jungle, mountains and ocean unite at One&Only Mandarina, a secluded luxury sanctuary on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit.
There are 105 stand-alone treehouses and villas at One&Only Mandarina, all decked out with private plunge pools and terraces.
Some people say the most precious commodity in the world is time. But for me, connection—to nature, to loved ones, to yourself—tops the list. I’m lucky to live in a busy city surrounded by people and lots to do, but so much sensory overload can oftentimes lead to feeling overwhelmed and disconnected.
Fortunately, there’s a recently opened retreat on Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit that’s the perfect place to recharge and reconnect. Located about an hour and a half from Puerto Vallarta, One&Only Mandarina is a sanctuary straddling three microclimates, with more than 50 species of ancient trees, exotic wildlife and accommodations built to enhance the environment—not reshape it.
The Treetop bar near the resort’s main restaurant Alma serves cocktails, natural wines and more, all with sweeping ocean views.
Speaking of, the treehouse suite my friend and I arrive in is an absolute stunner. Made from wood, clay, precious metal and stone, and equipped with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and walls that frame the surrounding nature, the expansive retreat is the type of place you can enter and never leave, especially with the roomy deck and plunge pool, outdoor shower and huge bathtub. There are 105 free-standing treehouses and villas on property designed in a warm, organic modern style; all are private and serene.
Alma’s fresh fish for two
But, alas, staying in the room for days on end is not on the agenda. There’s an endless stream of things to do, like dining at Alma, one of the resort’s restaurants helmed by executive chef Olivier Deboise, an all-day hub perfect for families, friends and couples alike. There’s also Carao, the fine dining restaurant from chef Enrique Olvera, known for Mexico City’s Pujol, NYC’s Alta and Damian in L.A. We dine mostly at Alma due to the expansive menu and the stunning view overlooking the main pool and ocean. At night, there’s often live music playing, further enhancing the experience. We also enjoy meals at Jetty Beach Club (freshly grilled seafood and quick bites) and Canalan Beach Club (Italian food on a 1-mile stretch of sandy beach), and have one special meal at Carao, where we marvel at the contemporary Mexican fare like the aged whole fish Zarandeado-style, and the horse mackerel ceviche with soybean germ and cucumber.
Located on the resort’s private beach, Jetty Beach Club is one of two beach clubs on the Mandarina development available to guests.
There are pools and beaches to while the day away, but for complete serenity, One&Only Spa is the place to be. Available to all guests—regardless of whether or not they booked a service—the spa is nestled in a volcanic rock garden and shaded by lush rainforest. Stepping inside feels like crossing into another realm—the calm and peaceful energy stays with you.
Beyond the expected, there’s a mud bath and a traditional temazcal, or sweat lodge. Services incorporate indigenous traditions and organic products, and this is the first spa to introduce natural skincare brand Tata Harper’s Sensorial Reset—an immersive wellness experience that goes beyond typical spa services. I experience the exclusive Nature Sanctuary treatment, a 120-minute bliss fest that includes a foot massage, a tuning fork ritual, face mapping therapy, a deeply relaxing face massage, a head massage and more. When that ends, I slowly sip tea and nibble on snacks in the relaxation room while soaking in views of lush leaves and the sounds of birds and insects.
Fresh seafood and refreshing bites, like the coconut ceviche seen here, are on the menu at Jetty Beach Club.
For those seeking more action, there’s plenty to do, from a guided mindful hike to the 500-year-old La Abuela tree to a jungle course to ocean adventures. Children can enjoy the Swiss Family Robinson-style KidsOnly, a 42,000-square-foot playground designed by Brigitte Broch, the art director and production designer behind Moulin Rouge.
For me, the most unexpected jolt of joy comes from visiting the Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club, where my friend and I are lucky enough to ride horses to the beach. As someone who last rode a horse at age 10, I was nervous at first, but after a few minutes of bonding with my equine companion, I felt nothing but sheer bliss, laughing and smiling until my face hurt. It was connection in its purest form—exactly what I needed.
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF ONE&ONLY; RESORTS