After 2 hours of driving along the increasingly barren coast of Jalisco south from Puerto Vallarta, we mercifully spotted the small sign indicating the turn-off for Las Alamandas. Several kilometers more along the dirt road and we reached the grounds of the resort, where a smiling guard gave us access. Green grass along the road was the first indication of the diamond-in-the-rough nature of Alamandas.
As we entered the main complex, color surrounded us everywhere. From the pink-domed buildings to the namesake flowers to the blue of the Pacific, our eyes feasted on our surroundings. Sylvia and I were tired and a bit frazzled from the trip from San Francisco, but our tension immediately evaporated as we were escorted to our casita ("Casa Azul") and handed stunningly refreshing margaritas.
Alamandas is an exceedingly private and intimate place, a feeling reinforced by the fact that there were only three other couples staying at the resort, which can accommodate a maximum of just 22 people in six villas. Whether dining at the outdoor patio restaurant, soaking up the tropical sun and ocean breezes on our private rooftop terrace, or walking along the sandy beach, we always had plenty of our own space. The mood was one of casual elegance, with guests preferring discreet, yet friendly interactions with the staff and one another.
The resort’s owner, Isabel Goldsmith, clearly expresses her love of color in the design. Pastel blues, yellows, and pinks dominate, and combine with orange stucco, whitewash, and the beautifully landscaped vegetation to infuse the entire scene with a sensory feast of sights and smells. The contrast with the surrounding terrain of scrub brush couldn’t be more dramatic.
Our villa was quite comfortable, and the flower petals spelling out "Bienvenidos" on our bed were a nice touch that was very much appreciated after the long trip. The patio veranda came equipped with comfortable chairs, tables, and a couch, perfect for enjoying a sundowner cocktail or a sumptuous breakfast facing the ocean. The rooftop terrace added the option of private sunbathing or dining in an even more airy locale.
In general, the service was excellent, and the staff exceedingly friendly. While the limited daily selection at the restaurant was to be expected for such a remote spot, the food was consistently fresh and delicious: chicken mole, fish tacos, carnitas, fresh salsa, and, of course, the requisite salt-encrusted margarita. Only the desserts were less than interesting. Still, watching the big wave sets crashing on the beach as the Pacific met the shore while the sun set, with a cold Pacifico in hand--well, that was pretty close to heaven in my book.
Although relaxation and the recharging of life’s batteries while getting away from it all is definitely the name of the game at Alamandas, there are additional activities available besides walking on the beach and lounging by the pool. There’s taking an afternoon nap under the palapa, for instance. Or burning off the stress caused by that page-turner of a book you’re reading by squeezing in a quick workout in the small fitness center in between poolside drinks and meals. Oceanfront massage therapy is also available. If you’re still not content, hiking, biking, tennis, and horseback riding are all options. On the other side of the point at the south end of the beach (and on the other side of Ms. Goldsmith’s hilltop residence--a work-in-progress) is another, much larger, undisturbed beach just waiting to be explored.
One thing was painfully clear: Alamandas merited more than a quick holiday weekend escape. For citified folk like us, just getting into the luxurious rhythm of the place took a full day, and we even felt embarrassed by the attentive service. That is, until we fully "decompressed" and began to feel at home in our villa and with the place in general. However, no sooner had we started using the familiar "tú" form with the wait staff than we had to pack and ready ourselves to face the trip home. While a 2-3 night trip is doable, more is preferable, if time (and budget) allows. Unwilling to completely leave the colors of Alamandas behind us, we bought a plate featuring the eponymous flower at the gift shop on the way out. That way, even in the depths of the foggy San Francisco summertime, we’ll be able to remember the garden of earthly delights that is Alamandas.
Luxury has its price. If you’re prepared to spend in one night what many people spend on an entire vacation, Alamandas makes sense. Not that it’s not worth it: it most certainly is. As most discerning travelers know, there are very few places in this world where you can really get away from it all in complete privacy, in beautiful natural surroundings, and where every creature comfort and then some is extended without a thought. All-inclusive rates for the Casa Azul are $720/$940 depending on the season (low season rates run from June 1 – September 30). Other accommodations range in price from $630 to $1520 per night, inclusive. More details, including additional rate, reservation and transportation information can be found at www.lasalamandas.com or by calling General Manager Domingo Castro at 888/882-9616. A 50% deposit is required to finalize a booking.
We arrived by air in Puerto Vallarta and rented a car for the two-hour drive south. Other options include flying into Manzanillo or arriving by private plane at the resort’s own airstrip. The resort can also arrange air-conditioned airport transfers for $285. Keep in mind that all costs (meals, accommodations, beverages, transportation) do not include a 15% gratuity, a 15% federal tax and a 2% state tax. Your final bill can be considerably more than you expect if you have not factored these costs in.