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One&Only Mandarina is tucked away in the Sierra del Vallejo mountains, less than an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. If you think you know this region from past trips to Punta Mita and Sayulita, prepare to be surprised. The resort’s charms sneak up on you, starting with the understated entrance and welcome pavilion — think Zen garden submerged in a diverse jungle landscape. Prepare to be greeted warmly with a choice of a taste of tequila or an energy shot of turmeric and ginger. The magic really unfolds once you hop onto one of the golf carts that transport guests around this unexpectedly lush and expansive property.
One&Only Mandarina truly distinguishes itself with its exceptional choices of accommodation. Whether you are traveling as a couple, with young children or independent teenagers, with grandparents or with a nanny, every villa option is well thought out, comfortable and elegant. The property designers made abundant use of natural wood and soft neutral fabrics, minimalist but luxurious furnishings and attention to detail to encourage guests to simply enjoy their rooms guilt-free.
Each of the 105 villas has a unique view of the Pacific Ocean and the jungle, whether it is literally perched in the treetops or tantalizingly close to the waves. Floor-to-ceiling windows in many of the villas immerse you in filtered light and tranquil surroundings. The open flow of these delightful suites blurs the lines between inside and outside. Nighttime brings the sounds of the forest and the ocean, with sunset joining peace and privacy as stars of the show.
Every space is thoughtfully designed, with intuitive use of space and light. All villas have private plunge pools surrounded by large decks or terraces with lounge furniture, as well as outdoor bathtubs, double showers and expansive bathrooms. Guests are provided with both plush and lightweight bathrobes, slippers, logo hats and a yoga mat. Bottled water is abundant and continually replaced. Each villa has Nespresso coffee and foam machines with a variety of espresso options and milk, as well as everything guests need for mixing their own cocktails. Wine, champagne, and sodas are chilled and ready for imbibing.
The resort has created its own swimmable beach with a protective jetty. An easy walk down the hill or a quick chauffeured buggy ride brings guests to a half-moon sandy beach with umbrellas, lounge chairs, beach toys, two small infinity pools and a full locker room. Another option is the Canalan Beach Club, located on a long beach on the adjacent property, which also has a larger infinity pool and its own kids’ club and soaking pool.
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Infinity pools with abundant deck seating and panoramic views are also integrated into the resort near the Alma and Carao restaurants. The pools are largely ornamental, more suited for soaking than swimming and playing. All pools and beaches have lifeguards, with the jetty beach being the safest for children to swim in the ocean.
Onsite activities include tennis and basketball courts, full horse stables with rides and weekend polo tournaments, and a zip line above the treetops. Instructors and guides are available for all activities and skill levels, whether novice or expert; an on-call buggy ferries guests to each site. The Treetop bar is an ideal spot to unwind after a day of sunning or riding and watch the spectacular sunset while the savvy bartenders create custom cocktails.
One&Only Mandarina’s spa is one of the many places where the eco-designer touches of the resort truly shine. With comfortable and inviting spaces to relax and gaze into the greenery, guests feel welcome to enjoy the amenities before and after their treatments. A welcoming outdoor pool is nestled in the hillside, and there are dry saunas and steam rooms for both men and women. The spa complex includes a well-equipped fitness center with an open-air pavilion for yoga and other classes.
Spa rooms and treatments are an extension of the Zen feeling of the entire property. Treatments are inventive and holistic, using local traditions to elevate traditional spa services. Practitioners take care to engage all the senses, with care and thought evident in everything from the curated music to the scented oils.
Guests would be hard-pressed to find a kids’ club as enticing as this one. The resort has integrated the spacious club into the surroundings and created programming to immerse its youngest visitors into the environment. A spectacular domed butterfly garden is run by an in-house biologist, dedicated to cultivating local species and sharing his love for them. A gigantic, multi-story tree house brings children in and out of the jungle and gives them ample space to run, climb, and explore. Other creative outdoor spaces include a splash pad and maze. Indoor programming includes arts and crafts projects and an area for kids to relax and zone out on vibrant poof chairs. There is a ten child limit for the club, and a parent or guardian must supervise children under four.
There are several restaurants onsite as well as in-room dining. Alma is where most guests go in the morning due to the extensive breakfast menu, and is also available for a Continental cuisine-inspired lunch and dinner. Carao, created by celebrity chef Enrique Olvera, focuses its fine dining menu on a fusion of seafood and traditional Mexican cuisine. Jetty Beach Club is an informal option with quick bites like tacos, salads and sandwiches. Additionally, there is an Italian restaurant, Allora, with beach seating at the Canalan Beach Club nearby.
One&Only Mandarina has extensive options for locally sourced experiences, including a naturalist-guided hike and meditation at La Abuela, a 400-year-old tree located on the 650-acre resort. A spirits tasting with an expert bartender takes guests on a history lesson of tequila and mescal, with palate cleansers and treats to match each sip. Experiences are led by bilingual guides who are well-versed and passionate about sharing Mexican traditions, leaving guests feeling connected to both the place and the culture.
One of the most memorable aspects of One&Only Mandarina is the universally warm and helpful staff. Everyone is fluent in English as well as Spanish and goes out of their way to make guests feel welcome and cared for. Despite the first-class surroundings, there is no formal stuffiness here. Staff are open, conversational and well-versed in the property and the surrounding area. They are clearly deeply invested in the guest experience, and when guests leave the resort, it is the staff connection as well as the beautiful surroundings that linger.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy, Michelle Luna and One&Only Mandarina.
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This is a challenging time for our clients given the uncertainty around the spread of coronavirus, particularly for those with near-term travel plans in impacted areas. We’re working with our suppliers on being flexible with their booking conditions, and enabling families to postpone travel to a later date without a penalty, when possible. Likewise, given the unpredictability around destinations that may be impacted in the future, we’re helping clients planning new trips and understand ways that they can protect themselves until the situation improves. We are ready to help our clients work through questions and concerns.