I’ll admit it. I am not what you might call a “normal” traveler…
I am an elite traveler and when a hotel or resort takes the time and care to execute an experience, giving your vacation not only a sense of place, but of style and luxury, then I take notice.
As the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean on Mexico’s Virgin Coast, an actor (who I promised not to name in this article) sips a perfectly crafted cocktail relaxing on a beach chair next to me.
“Do you really want to write about this place?” the celebrity asks. “It’s just that. Well, when you have a recognizable face like mine and you find a hidden gem like this, you want to keep it hidden ya know.”
Cuixmala, which means “the soul’s resting place”, has long been a secret celebrity hideout, where Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan used to mastermind and relax. The good news is that this secret celebrity hideaway is now open to the public, but for elite travelers only. That is how I found myself enjoying an incredible adventure in this pristine private oasis.
I must admit my expectations were high. How could they not be? Departures named Cuixmala one of the “10 Best Hotels in Mexico”. Vanity Fair declared it the “#1 Finest Hotel in Mexico” and CN Traveler touted Cuixmala as the “11th Best Resort In The World”.
Set on a private nature reserve the experience from the moment you arrive makes you feel as if (even as a frequent luxury traveler and lifestyle enthusiast) that you have discovered somewhere better than anywhere else you have ever been.
“The palace,” my celebrity friend says. “The palace is the place everyone wants to rent. I won’t stay anywhere else.”
You see, in a place like Cuixmala, it is possible even for the wealthy to inhabit a life that seems more interesting than their own.
At the front gate, guards in shiny SUV’s take visitors down a five-mile-long driveway that meanders to the top of a bluff overlooking grasslands, coconut plantations, mangrove swamps, and a river, then heads down past a bridge adorned with a pink crocodile sculpture. Casa Cuixmala, a 37,342-square-foot affair, is capped by an illuminated blue-and-yellow Moorish dome, which glows at night like a cheery beacon. Included in the fee are seven guest cottages tucked into an overgrown knoll with views of the ocean and a dormant volcano. Each little villa is an exercise in pure charm, with more modest variations on the decorative theme—luminous walls, concrete built-in furniture, and white enamel floors.
For mere mortals like me, a reasonably priced, nature-driven vacation can be had in one of the cute-as-a-button rental casitas, originally built for the staff that accompanied big name celebrities–think pilots, doctors, and support personnel.
Once the private home of British financier and billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, he donated the land to the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve, a foundation formed in cooperation with the National University of Mexico: the protected area features 1,200 resident species of plants and trees; zebras, elands, and endangered jaguars; and the rare and venomous Mexican beerded lizard. Two uninhabited Galápagos-like islands nearby are full of frigate birds, snowy egrets, great blue herons, and yellow-footed boobies, which perch on top of enormous cacti like eerie sentinels.
Goldsmith’s main home was this luxurious tile–domed palace called Casa Cuixmala. Until recently, Casa Cuixmala was only available to those who could book the entire place for several nights. But the suites and bungalows are now available to rent individually. There’s a private pool, of course, and a tiled kitchen that looks like it came straight from Puebla, Mexico’s Talavera–tiled colonial city. Palapas soar over three expansive terraces; furnishings in the living room, library and other interior spaces are covered in raw silk. The staff includes butlers, waiters, chefs, maids, a laundress, gardeners, pool men, and security. Bars and cupboards are stocked with the guests’ favorite treats, along with a few regional surprises. Wishes are granted immediately.
As I sit in awe of the buildings, the service, the experience on this 25,000 acre private estate, it becomes clear to me why so many luxury travel experts have fallen in love with Cuixmala.
“A supremely hip ecoresort. Bohemian glamour on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.” -Forbes
Cuixmala was a singular vision, accomplished by Robert Couturier, the brilliant architect of Goldsmith’s dreamscape. Today there are three serene, private beaches for horseback riding, sea-bird-watching (because the property is an ecological reserve you will find some 270 species), picnicking and sunbathing. One of them is a white-sand-shored cove with water calm enough for swimming and snorkeling. Scuba diving and surfing can be had a bit further afield, and a 47-foot crewed sailboat can be chartered.
“Guests here include celebrities and in-the-know luxury elite travelers.” says my new actor friend. “This place is legendary. Yet, surprisingly welcoming.”
Now you dear reader, are in-the-know.