By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor
There is just nothing quite like a vacation to an exotic foreign land—especially one that immerses visitors in the local culture so they can enjoy the essence of the region in an authentic way. This the CasaMagna Marriott Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta delivers in droves, offering guests the opportunity to partake in a bevy of genuine experiences that exemplify why Puerto Vallarta has become one of my favorite Mexican destinations.
It was toward the end of spring when I visited the CasaMagna Marriott—just before the annual rainy season so the weather was hot and sunny, but without the oppressive humidity notorious in the summer months. It was perfect since my intention was to sunbathe both beach and pool-side often throughout my stay. This is made easy since the resort is optimally situated right on the Pacific coastline nestled alongside the “Banderas Curve.” The property’s particular location offers breathtaking views of the Sierra Madre Mountains from both the expansive pool deck and the adjacent private beach just beyond. With no other commercial or residential properties in plain sight, it feels like this resort inhabits its own private island.
Attitude of Gratitude
As a premier Mexico-based Marriott property, it’s apparent that CasaMagna Marriott prides itself on offering a litany of rich and unique offerings that are representative of Puerto Vallarta on the whole in tandem with gracious hospitality that’s doled out in abundance. Travel anywhere throughout this city and you will quickly note how charming and affable the locals are and how appreciative they are toward tourists. This cordiality is equally engrained in the staff at CasaMagna Marriott where genuine smiles, warm greetings and gratefulness is plentiful.
The CasaMagna Marriott has 433 complete guest rooms, 29 of which are executive-quality suites with large, private balconies that overlook the property’s spectacular infinity pool, tropical landscaping and the vast ocean backdrop. Also serving as an outstanding retreat for families, the resort has been touted as “the most kid-friendly resort in Mexico” by Travel + Leisure Family. Abundant in kid-safe entertainment, children can enjoy playground equipment, picnic facilities, and a shallow kiddie pool surrounded by soft sand. To give a more immersive experience to kids at the resort, there are also Spanish and cultural lessons, barro clay pottery painting, bilingual folktales and cooking classes tailored for the youngsters.
For those seeking an especially relaxing respite, a visit to the on-site Ohtli Spa will do wonders. At a whopping 22,000 square feet, this spa is the largest in Puerto Vallarta. Also adhering to a cultural enrichment protocol, this spa introduces and honors ancient healing techniques and shamanistic treatments and rituals from the Huichol Indians, a reclusive tribe living in the heart of the surrounding Sierra Madre Mountains. Additionally, with the plentitude of agave that grows in the region—including around the CasaMagna Marriott grounds—it’s no surprise Ohtli Spa features specialized agave treatments like its Agave Syrup & Sea Salt Scrub.
Eat and Imbibe
Of course, there’s no better way to experience a foreign culture than through authentic food and drink. I particularly love this property’s Catch of the Day program that lets guests participate in a local customary way of living. Before becoming a mecca for tourists, Puerto Vallarta was once a fishing village. The property’s Catch of the Day option pays homage to this tradition and history. Each Friday and Saturday guests are given the ability to meet a local fisherman on the beach and select fish from his morning catch, or use their own catch, to be prepared on-site at the resort for their evening meal. Selections often include red snapper and sea bass, and the resort’s chefs are on-hand to make pairing and preparation suggestions. Guest catches do need to include a signed waiver of responsibility prior to meal preparation.
As notable, CasaMagna Marriott is one of the few resorts in the world that produce and bottle their own brand of tequila. The resort grows its own blue agave plants that are harvested in the traditional Mexican way by jimadors. The juice from the plant’s pineapple is then fermented, distilled and aged in oak barrels for up to one year. The resort offers a complimentary tequila tasting experience for all Marriott Rewards Members every Friday at 5:00 p.m., and is available to all other guests on Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. for $15 per person. Tastings include a vast tequila education about the libation’s history, traditions, suitable food pairings, and proper tasting etiquette by the resort’s affable Master Sommelier, Audrey Formisano. The tequila tastings are held at La Cava, the resort’s private dining room and exhibition tequila cellar.
Guests Give Back
Each year from June to November CasaMagna Marriott commissions biologists to comb the beaches and gather sea turtle eggs that are to be transported to the Marriott nursery for incubation. The National Institute of Fisheries and the Fishing & Marine Biology Station of the University of Guadalajara have established procedures for keeping the turtle eggs and babies safe and giving them the best chance for survival.
The resort invites children staying at the property to participate and name the tiny sea turtle babies. Families staying at CasaMagna Marriott then gather at sunset to wish the delicate babies luck and release them into the ocean. This special event not only provides long-lasting memories for the families, but also contributes to a critical regional conservation effort. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,000 nests have been incubated at the resort’s nursery.
Speaking of children, CasaMagna Marriott provides access to a myriad of nearby activities and excursions that allow participants of all ages to revel in Puerto Vallarta’s beauty and bounty both on land and at sea. There is something for everyone with such activities as jungle canopy zip line tours, ATV trail riding, white water rafting, deep sea fishing, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, birding tours and more. While the location of the resort is well off the crowded hotel path, it’s close enough to enjoy the splendor of downtown Puerto Vallarta by day or night.
Of course, the CasaMagna Marriott property itself is rife with recreation options. Those who love the water can indulge in snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing and SCUBA at the adjacent private beach. There is also the convenient choice of the sprawling oceanfront infinity pool complete with a palapa-style swim up bar, a sunbathing desk with 14 rentable cabanas and a lovely view of the mountain range and bay.
Keeping in shape while vacationing at CasaMagna Marriott is made easy since the resort has a complete health club with a whirlpool and sauna, in addition to three lighted tennis courts. Golfing at the resort also doesn’t disappoint. A dedicated golf concierge ensures preferred tee times at each of the three available 18-hole courses showcasing the splendor of indigenous foliage and flora.
Upon checking out of the CasaMagna Marriott I reflected on how much I learned about the people who live in the beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta, as well as their way of life, revered traditions and what they value. Having this more in-depth knowledge of both people and place has certainly made me appreciate this locale on a higher level and has left me longing for more. Farewell Puerto Vallarta…we shall meet again.
"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***