Site Inspection at the One & Only Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Travel Advisor Tarika Richter in a hat, a flowery dress outside.
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Tarika Richter

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  • Nature Escapes

  • Beaches

  • Mexico

  • Relaxation

  • Outdoors

  • Romantic

Site Inspection at the One & Only Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
Curator’s statement

Welcome to the Jungle! In November 2023, I spent five days and four nights at the One & Only Mandarina, where I conducted a site inspection with the sales coordinator, Roberta Vantolra.

This hotel is incredibly special, with its unique location nestled in the jungle and its thoughtful, ultra-chic design. The outstanding hospitality and culinary experiences make it the perfect destination for romantic getaways and family adventures alike. Since opening its doors in November 2020, the hotel has achieved remarkable recognition, being named the #1 hotel in North America and the #8 hotel in the world by the 50 Best Hotels in just three years! Mandarina is a place to escape, relax, and reconnect. It's a dream destination that I highly recommend!

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Where to stay

One&Only Mandarina

Nestled within the rainforest in Riviera Nayarit, One&Only peaks out through the lush flora with cutting-edge design and unique wellness offerings.

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Location

The location is approximately one hour from Puerto Vallarta Airport (PVR) and is situated between the beach towns of Sayulita and San Pancho in Riviera Nayarit. The luxurious resort is nestled between the Sierra Madre mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Covering over 700 acres, the hotel spans tropical rainforest, flatlands, and a coveted white sand beach.

Spa entrance - Tarika Richter

Rooms

The hotel boasts 105 villas and signature residences, each meticulously designed to seamlessly blend with the lush tropical jungle, ensuring ultimate privacy. The villas were carefully constructed to harmonize with the native landscape, leaving you in awe of these remarkable structures.

Among them, there are 49 Treehouse villas offering four distinct view categories: Jungle, Ocean, Panoramic Ocean, and Premier Panoramic Ocean. These rooms can accommodate three people (two adults + one child, only over 10 years old with a signed waiver). The Treehouse villas feature a king-size bed, a private terrace, a plunge pool, a lounger, and a table. The spacious bathroom, extending the length of the Treehouse, includes a double sink vanity, a double shower, and an outdoor bathtub. With ample room, generous closet space, and drawers, you'll feel right at home. A daybed in the middle of the room, illuminated by a skylight overhead, adds to the charm. The rich, dark decor is complemented by floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides.

Given the expansive property, the chances of encountering neighbors are minimal. The only sounds you might hear are those of native animals like the coati (similar to a raccoon), birds mimicking monkeys, or the soothing sounds of the ocean.

Tip: If you're interested in staying in one of the Premier Panoramic Ocean Treehouse villas, please note that there are only two available.

Moving on to the next category, the Cliff Villas, of which there are 26. These villas make excellent choices for small groups or families of all ages, accommodating up to four people. The Cliff Villas have four categories: Cliff, Ocean, Panoramic Ocean, and Premier Panoramic Ocean. The room decor features a muted neutral color palette, creating a calm and serene ambiance. Equipped with a king-size bed and a queen sofa bed, these villas are more spacious than the Treehouses. The bathrooms come with a set-in tub and an indoor/outdoor shower. A beautiful terrace with a plunge pool, lounger, and table adds to the charm.

For those seeking even more space, consider the Grand Villas; there are six in total on the property. During my visit, I had the opportunity to see Villa Banderas and Villa Pacifico.

Villa Banderas stands out because it can be rented as a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom unit, depending on the size of your group. It can accommodate eight people in total, with one king bed and a queen sofa bed in one bedroom, and in the second bedroom, there are two queen beds with a common space in between, featuring a dining table and sitting area. This villa boasts a beautiful terrace with a large pool. According to Roberta, this is the unit that tends to be booked first by groups and families. Additionally, this villa offers some extra amenities.

To enhance your stay, Villa Pacifico is the ideal choice! The two bedrooms, accommodating seven guests, are completely separate from the entertaining space. The bedrooms are expansive, with the first one featuring a king-size bed and a walk-in closet larger than life! The second bedroom offers two queen beds. The lower-level entertaining space boasts a full kitchen, a movie room, a spa treatment room, an outdoor BBQ, full-size dining tables both indoors and outdoors, a pool with unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean, and a wrap-around terrace. This property comes with additional amenities, including a 24-hour host who can stay on-site (they have a separate room off the kitchen), a dedicated buggy driver, a chef, special treats, and spa amenities.

For those requiring more space, the resort offers signature villas with 4-10 bedrooms, catering to various needs.

Hosts

Upon check-in, your host will warmly welcome you and guide you to your villa. Your host(s) will provide a detailed overview of the property and the villa. As part of their welcoming rituals, they will sage the room upon your entry. They will initiate a WhatsApp group chat, serving as your daily communication channel. Your hosts are well-acquainted with your entire schedule during your stay, ensuring you are informed about spa or dinner reservations and facilitating your transportation to various activities. Whether it's freshening up your fruit bowl daily or delivering chocolates during your turndown service, they go the extra mile to add special touches to your stay. Undoubtedly, the hosts play a significant role in making this property exceptionally special.

Restaurants

Alma:

This serves as the main restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and acts as the central hub of the resort, featuring two pools, including the iconic cliffside infinity pool. The breakfast menu offers a full range, complemented by a beautiful continental spread. Savor one of the fresh fruit smoothies while taking in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Lunch and dinner at Alma showcase wonderful Pan American and Mediterranean flavors. In the afternoons, live music adds to the ambiance on the pool deck, making this restaurant suitable for all ages.

Carao

Regarded as the standout restaurant on the property, Carao is the adult pool destination during the day and transforms into an exceptional culinary experience at night. Enjoy the sun at the cliffside infinity pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where you can indulge in fresh ceviche, rib-eye tacos, and shrimp burritos. Take in the panoramic views while sipping on classic cocktails or trying something a bit more adventurous. The staff is attentive, offering hibiscus tea coolers and light bites as you lounge around.

Come nighttime, Carao becomes a true delight. Upon entering, you'll be greeted by a vast open kitchen, setting the stage for a unique culinary journey. It's recommended to visit Carao twice during your stay to fully appreciate its offerings. On the first visit, explore their regular menu with each dish being equally amazing, notably the Fish Chorizo and Cheese appetizer - a dish that exceeds its simple name. For the second visit, inquire about the nine-course taco tasting, a fun and creative experience. You can even add a beer and mezcal tasting to elevate the experience. Carao has only one seating per night at 7 pm with a maximum of 10 guests.

Due to the resort's high occupancy right after Thanksgiving, Carao extended its offerings to include breakfast. While we didn't have the chance to try it, we heard it was exceptional. (This restaurant is suitable for all ages.)

Treetop entrance - Tarika Richter

Jetty Beach Club:

During the day, Jetty Beach Club is a highly family-friendly destination, featuring a beachside pool and a beautiful swimmable beach. The daytime menu focuses on fresh seafood and other family-friendly options. Don't miss out on the grilled shrimp Nayarit style and the flavorful fish tacos, both grilled to perfection.

In the evening, the restaurant offers a tasting menu with a focus on water. Various seafood dishes, prepared in different ways, make for a delightful dining experience. We had the privilege of enjoying a private dining opportunity as the only guests in the restaurant. The staff was gracious, ensuring a relaxed and unrushed experience. (This restaurant is suitable for all ages.)

Allora

For a departure from tacos, venture to Allora, an Italian restaurant located at the Canalan Beach Club, just steps away from the ocean. Open for both lunch and dinner, Allora serves delicious pizzas and pastas. The standout is the pizza, featuring a super-light and fluffy crust. All ingredients are fresh and flavorful. (This restaurant is suitable for all ages.)

Chukker

Chukker offers an Argentinean open-air barbecue experience, available only a few days a week (Thursday - Sunday). Often paired with a polo match, Chukker grills meat and vegetables over an open fire, complemented by a full bar and DJ. While we didn't have the opportunity to try it, it looked like a lively and enjoyable experience.

The Treetop

Situated just below the Alma swimming pool, The Treetop is a bar open only in the evenings, providing an excellent place to catch the sunset. With just 24 seats available, plan accordingly to secure your spot. This is the prime location to witness a breathtaking sunset with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The bar serves classic cocktails, wine, and light bites.

Experiences

Beyond the pool and beach, there are numerous land and sea activities to explore. I highly recommend trying out a few during your stay. From guided hikes and mountain biking to horseback riding and cooking classes, check out the Experiences guide for a full list.

Jungle Course

Embarking on the Full Adventure course, which includes four ziplines and a hanging bridge obstacle course, proved to be a thrilling experience for my husband and me. Accompanied by attentive guides every step of the way, we soared through the jungle, enjoying an aerial view of the property. While the hanging bridges obstacle course was more challenging than anticipated, it added to the overall excitement. We highly recommend this as a fun morning activity, and it's suitable for kids over seven.

Polo

Witnessing a polo match was a unique experience, especially since we don't often get the opportunity in San Francisco. Polo exhibition matches are hosted on weekends during the cooler months. A buggy picked us up from our villa and transported us to the Equestrian center in the flatlands of the property. Adjacent to Chukker, the Argentinian BBQ restaurant, there was a DJ playing music, a full bar, and comfortable seating with couches and chairs along the field. Before the match, you could purchase drink and food packages. The match, lasting about an hour and a half, showcased horses and players. At halftime, guests were invited onto the field to fill in the divots, reminiscent of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. After the match, you have the option to stay and enjoy a delightful dinner at Chukker.

Beach Clubs & Pools

At the resort, guests have access to two beach clubs with swimmable beaches and five pools.

Jetty is the primary club nearest to all villas, featuring a family-friendly beachside pool and an onsite restaurant. Cabanas and lounge chairs are strategically placed along the beach, ensuring ample space for privacy. Water sports activities, from kayaking to stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling, are available for guests.

Canalan Beach Club, a short buggy ride away, offers full service exclusive to One & Only Mandarina guests. Allora, open for lunch and dinner, is located here.

For those who prefer pools, there are five in total: 2 at Alma (family-friendly), 1 at Jetty (family-friendly), 1 at Carao (Adults only), and 1 at the Spa (Adults only).

Spa and Wellness:

The spa, nestled entirely within the jungle, offers a private and calming experience. Before your treatment, enjoy a dip in the vitality pool under the trees. Separate men's and women's facilities provide changing rooms, steam rooms, saunas, and cold plunge pools. The steam room resembles a cave with a skylight, while the sauna offers different tiers, including a top one with a window to gaze at the trees.

With six treatment rooms, the spa uses Tata Harper skincare for facial treatments. They offer a traditional Temazcal treatment for holistic healing. The spa never feels crowded, making it ideal for booking treatments or simply enjoying the facilities. Complimentary yoga and meditation classes are available each morning, along with a well-equipped fitness center.

Kids Club:

Families with children aged 4-12 can make use of the excellent Kids Club, equipped with games, books, and crafts. Daily activities keep the little ones entertained while parents relax. There's also a play structure and a butterfly farm. For teens, a separate club offers activities such as horseback riding, ziplining, tennis, and more. Babysitting services are also available.

Need to Know

The property is expansive, and while walking is an option, the buggy service is recommended. Reservations for activities and dining are highly recommended especially during festive or peak seasons. July to October is the low season due to hot weather. While the property is welcoming to all ages, it may be more suitable for slightly older children than babies. Highly recommended for romantic getaways or families seeking a blend of relaxation and adventure. You'll find it hard to leave this magical place.

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Mexico. In need of further inspiration? Check out Sequoia Armstrong’s guide, Visiting Mexico’s Culinary Capital of Oaxaca.

Travel Advisor Tarika Richter in a hat, a flowery dress outside.

Travel Advisor

Tarika Richter

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