MEXICO’S PACIFIC COAST: Costa Careyes

In Destinations, North America by Leslie Moore

If you consider yourself a seasoned traveler and think you have covered all that Mexico has to offer you may need to think again. Just a quick two and a half hour flight from LAX is Costa Careyes, one of those undiscovered destinations that you may only have heard of in passing at a cocktail party. As of yet it has not broken through as one of Mexico’s well known vacation spots but that is about to change.

Named after the turtles that return every year to nest on the pristine beaches, Costa Careyes is an ultra-exclusive resort community of 52 castles, villas and casitas protected from the rest of the world by a 32,000 acre land reserve. It is quickly apparent that life is very different here and that privacy and luxury is taken very seriously. The lifestyle and community of this curated destination has been nurtured and cultivated by the Brignone family for the past 45 years. Just to purchase a castle or villa in Costa Careyes, you must first meet all of 27 requirements that range from “To appreciate the music of sky, earth and sea…” to “having committed most of the seven deadly sins”, and only when you get to number 26 do you have to consider whether you can “…find the financial means to acquire a home.”

It is not about the money and here lies the appeal; it is about being part of a very unique community and from the beginning, all guests feel included, as if they are a part of Careyes.

Costa2smDepending on guests needs, Costa Careyes has something for everyone when it comes to accommodations. Choose from a palatial castle, private villa, cute casita or even a charming bungalow and no matter where you decide to stay your every need will be more than met. The castles are some of the most stunning homes on the coast of Mexico complete with breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding ocean and rugged, jungle swathed hills. The villas are designed in the unique style of architecture that is synonymous with Careyes. Similar to the castles, all have commanding views and lush tropical gardens encompass your own perfect little paradise; a true home away from home. The castles and villas are staffed with a butler, chef and maid to ensure that you quickly slip into absolute relaxation.

For those who like to experience a bit of adventure, there is a lot more to Careyes than meets the eye. Playa Rosa is sleepy in the morning so hop on a boat and explore the 9 miles of Costa Careyes coastline. If you don’t experience the view of the villas by water, you are missing out on something spectacular. On the land, cobble stone lanes disappear into beautifully landscaped gardens, with only a distinctive swatch of Mediterranean color or a ubiquitous tower visible to the passerby. From the ocean the cliff-side castles and villas of Careyes emerge one after another, as if turning the pages of your favorite posh architectural magazine.

This area of the Mexican Pacific Coast has a micro climate all its own, a wild but hospitable coastline that, thanks to the environmental stewardship of the Brignone family, will remain mostly unchanged for decades to come.

There are constant reminders that you are far from the chaos of city life. Not far from the striking cliffs and secluded beaches, rustic fishing villages dot the shoreline all of which have been positively impacted by the many philanthropic programs undertaken by the Careyes Foundation.

Take a break and explore one of these bright, bustling villages. Visit the local restaurant, La Viuda (The Widow), where you can enjoy fresh regional cuisine.  Sample a wide variety of dishes and experience reliably homemade Mexican soul food. As you sit relishing the moment, you will see locals approach the kitchen to sell their wares, giving extra credibility to the homegrown flavors.

After a full day of exploring, return to your quiet sanctuary to lay poolside and indulge in a dip in the translucent waters of your own infinity pool. Frozen margaritas and perfectly prepared guacamole somehow magically appear. Feel like staying in tonight? Send your chef to the fish market with a shopping list for a very special meal.

If you are a horse lover don your riding gear and venture out on a long rambling ride through jungle trails to Playa Teopa. As you ride along the picturesque crescent of sand that seems to go on and on forever, you realize that you are the only people on the shore. This is almost always the case in Careyes and again you appreciate the uncommon solitude and seclusion that is possible here.

In the afternoon take a tour of sprawling castles and sun-drenched villas, some for sale, some for rent. All are the rustic, modern, chic of Careyes; bright Mediterranean colors, primitive ethnic artifacts, rich grained parota wood furniture, and the magnificent strangler fig logs that support the palapas – art is everywhere. As you explore each villa, little surprises tell a story of an architectural playfulness created to bring joy. Expansive views and spectacular sunsets, the focal point of every villa, seem made to order for painters, poets and lovers.

Polo 2smIf you are a polo enthusiast, today is the day you have been most looking forward to since you arrived. You are going for a polo lesson!  Polo is said to be both the “Game of Kings” and the “King of Games” because it is costly and requires multiple skills.  Spectators have long admired the extreme level of horsemanship required as riders thunder past, a tightly packed group of competitors, mallets aloft, causing the ground to shake under foot. And now it’s your turn! With two well-trained polo ponies and a couple of mallets you set out onto the field. Even if you are an expert rider you soon realize that this sport takes a whole different level of concentration. As you get your timing down and a feel for the mallet, you too will quickly become addicted to the exhilaration and thrill of the Game of Kings!

If you don’t care to ride, you can join in the fun as a spectator! Costa Careyes is already recognized as one of the premier Polo facilities in Mexico with 275 teams competing at last year’s Easter Polo Tournament here. There is talk of expanding the equestrian program to include cross-country, endurance or dressage and plans are well underway to promote and develop a vibrant equestrian community in Careyes.

While the Careyes lifestyle is restful, lavish and exciting all at once, it is the Brignone’s dedication to helping the communities around Careyes that is most impressive.  The Careyes Foundation was created to help the local communities by providing programs for children such as an early start in English and Math, surfing and bicycle polo lessons to encourage an active lifestyle and an innovative agriculture program designed to teach the children to grow their own vegetable and bring a sense of pride back to farming.

During your trip, if you’re really lucky you may have the enviable opportunity to become involved with another one of these programs, the Careyes Foundation’s turtle preservation program. The Brignone family is justifiably proud of this program. In 1983, only 11 turtles returned to the beach to lay their eggs; thirty years later in the 2012/2013 over 1900 turtles nests were protected and 170,000 hatchings were released.

Stand by and wait to receive a call that some newly hatched baby turtles are ready to be released an when you arrive at the turtle nursery you will be amazed by the size of the facility. In three fenced compounds, row upon row of catalogued turtle nests lie completely protected from natural predators. From the beginning of the season, staff and volunteers work 24/7 to collect the eggs within 4 hours of being buried in the sand by the giant female turtles. The eggs are moved immediately to their new nests to incubate in safety. As your turtle guru uncovers each nest, a dark mass of flippers and shells started to move instinctively toward the water. You help gather up the determined babies and head proudly to the beach. After a brief delay as you wait for the dreaded frigate birds to turn in for the night, you let the babies go and watch your turtles scuttle bravely into the crashing waves, not to return for another 20 years. Soon nothing is left but their tiny tracks in the sand. What an amazingly emotional experience.

The next day as you are about to step onto your airplane you leave knowing one thing for certain; unlike the turtles, you will not wait another 20 years for your return visit to Costa Careyes.