Editor's note: As we continue to practice social distancing, we encourage our readers to check the Center for Disease Control website for up-to-date information on how to safely travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, bookmark this Instagram travel guide for inspo—you're going to love it.
Move over, Cabo: Punta de Mita is Mexico’s hottest under-the-radar destination. Fly into Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, then drive about 45 minutes up the Pacific coast to the scenic (and not yet crowded!) spot. Since Punta de Mita is at roughly the same latitude as the Hawaiian islands, expect warm, balmy weather year-round and about 345 days of sunshine annually. After washing the journey away in the warm ocean waters, soak in the vibrant culture of the region, discover a hidden island offshore, or simply relax poolside at one of the high-end resorts.
Since Mexico is a vast country, social distancing and COVID-19 protocols will vary depending on the region and your method of traveling there. Cleaning, sanitizing, and disease prevention measures were in place at Puerto Vallarta International Airport when I visited this summer, including written signs and announcements reminding people to wear a mask at all times. Interestingly, floor markers indicate a social distancing guideline of 1.5 meters (4.5 feet) instead of the United States standard of 6 feet.
Check with your airline before booking your flight and again before your departure to stay up-to-date on their protocols, and research the COVID-19 guidelines at your hotel or resort before confirming your stay. At the W Punta de Mita, I was reassured by the hotel's maximum of 30 percent capacity and felt encouraged by the consistent mask policy that allowed me to relax and enjoy the beauty and culture of the region. Find out how you can do the same, below.
You'll feel transported as soon as you step onto the grounds of the W Punta de Mita resort. Lanterns light the lush foliage at the entrance of the spectacular hotel, which immerses guests in art and culture. The centerpiece is a vivid mosaic walkway made of more than 700,000 tiles called the “Camino Huichol” that will take you from the lobby, past poolside cabanas, to the ocean edge of the property. To help you capture the stunning architecture and surroundings, the W Punta de Mita offers an Instagram concierge (yes, this is real!) who will make custom recommendations based on your social media feed to capture the perfect vacay photos.
Discover a Hidden Beach
Take a boat to the Marietas Islands National Park (Islas Marietas), 7.9 kilometers out from Punta de Mita, to find a hidden beach surrounded by volcanic island. While the setting is idyllic, its formation was actually caused by the Mexican military using the islands for target practice in the early 1900s. Only a small number of people are allowed to go each day, so you can snorkel in serenity in pristine natural beauty. The Hidden Beach, also called the Playa del Amor, is encased within an island cavern that opens up to the sky above, and is only accessible during low tide.
Watch Gorgeous Sunsets in La Cruz
Head to the mariners’ town of La Cruz for sensational sunsets. Its full name is La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, named after "The Cross of Huanacaxtle” that greets you at the town’s entrance. Sip a cocktail in the Sky Bar at the La Cruz Yacht Club or take in the sunset from La Cruz Beach. Afterward, grab some street tacos at one of the pop-up food vendors that line the town.
Find Your Zen at the AWAY Spa
Tucked into the jungle, the AWAY® Spa is a refuge that will restore your mind, body, and soul. Indulge in a Blue Agave Butter massage on a treatment bed set above glass cutouts in the floor, revealing the fishpond below. After your treatment, bliss out on the Relaxation Deck, which is wrapped by a natural spring and houses a ludic therapy pool featuring hydrotherapy, cold mist, hydro jets, pressure showers, and waterfalls.
Learn to Surf
Aspiring surfers should venture 30 minutes north to the town of Sayulita. The beginners’ beach is shallow with steady waves and a sandy bottom, an ideal spot to take surfing lessons. The best waves are found from December to April when the North swells create perfect breaks, but you can learn any time of the year.
Shop Indigenous Crafts
While you’re in Sayulita, explore the Pueblo Magíco, a "Magical Village," with incredible history, important festivals and traditions, and great food. If you're looking for a keepsake from the town, browse the crafts made by the Huichol tribe, who sell their handcrafted wares in the plaza. Keep exploring the cobblestone streets to find international artists in shops like Revolucion del Sueno and Evoke.
Make (and Eat!) Ceviche
Grab a seat at the Chevycheria, a forever-parked 1950s Chevy 3800 truck on the beach at Punta de Mita, and learn how to make ceviche from the pros. The bed of the truck is a thatched roof bar, where you can pull up a stool on the sand and watch top chefs create ceviche specialties. Try your hand making aguachile (“chile water” in Spanish), composed of shrimp with lime juice, chile peppers, salt, cilantro, cucumber, and onion.
Sip and Savor Agave Spirits
If you want to learn a little something while sipping on your vacation cocktails, head over to the Living Room Bar for an education on agave-based spirits. You’ve tried tequila, but have you tried its saucy cousin, raicilla? Both are types of mezcal (the name for any spirit made from agave), but are very distinct from one another. Tequila is only made from the blue agave plant—which has a smoother flavor than other mezcals—found in Jalisco. It must be at least 51 percent blue agave, but the best tequilas are 100 percent blue agave. Like tequila, raicilla is made in the state of Jalisco; unlike tequila, it is made from two varieties of agave—lechuguilla and puta de mula, giving it a sweeter and more floral taste. While mezcal can encompass many different types of spirits, bottles labeled “mezcal” are usually from the state of Oaxaca and often have a smoky flavor from roasting the agave hearts with mesquite. Bottoms up!
If you've fallen in love with Punta de Mita, book a trip here.
Michelle Stansbury is a San Diego-based freelance writer who writes about travel, food, cannabis, and relationships. Misuse of the word "literally" drives her figuratively insane.
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