Story and photos by Bob Schulman
Named after a tropical bird, western Mexico's new Litibu resort area is slowly spreading its wings over the powdery sands of the Riviera Nayarit north of Puerto Vallarta. On the drawing board are plans to build seven luxury hotels there – two are already partially open – along with residential units edging an 18-hole Greg Norman golf course.
When completed over the next few years, hotel-resorts on the 360-acre site are expected to offer a total of some 2,000 rooms, according to Riviera Nayarit spokesman Richard Zarkin.
Fonatur, Mexico's tourism development agency, hatched Litibu in 2006, but construction was halted when the project ran into the headwinds of the country's swine flu scare and the global recession. Early phases of the project debuted a little over a year ago with the opening of the golf course and the first 20 of 540 suites planned for Litibu's flagship hotel, La Tranquila (www.latranquila.com.mx).
Twenty more suites are slated to open this fall. Room additions after that “will keep pace with improvements in the economy and increasing customer demand.” according to La Tranquila General Manager Abel Santos.
Also being built by La Tranquila is an 18-unit condo building with some units priced as high as $1.3 million.
At Haixa, a nearby combination hotel/condo development, a half-dozen of its 36 initial units are now open in its first tower. Three more towers are planned, eventually to add 128 units. Among selling features of Haixa (its website www.haixa.com shows a price range of $301,000 to $802,000) is a “Sanctuary Spa” described as “...a separate village of healing, exercise and luxury (massage) treatments.”
Litibu's biggest tenant is Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, which began work before the recession on what will eventually be three hotels. A five-story section of the partially built project stretches out for about the length of a city block along the golf course to a bluff above the beach, then continues as a three-story section edging the sand. Iberostar has not yet announced its timetable for the resumption of work, but says details on the development “are forthcoming.”
Zarkin said local officials are talking to a number of global lodging chains that have shown interest in buying Litibu's two remaining hotel lots.
All's tranquil at La Tranquila
Designed as “an oasis of peace and tranquility,” La Tranquila features seven immense pools, six of which branch out like spokes from a nature-themed hub building. The seventh is an infinity pool as long as a football field paralleling the beach. Guests in the hotel's first tower look down on a quarter-mile-long panorama of waterfalls, palm-lined walkways and manicured gardens circling the pools and rimming the beachfront.
Guests who enjoy gourmet dining won't be disappointed at La Tranquila. Chef Manuel A. Lameran (who holds dual gastronomy degrees from Glion in Switzerland and the University of Mexico) delights customers nightly with dishes such as three-onion soup on a dark background of lamb; softshell blue crabs on ajillo, yellow curry and grated cheese sauces; and desserts of sweetened lasagna with pistachio ice cream.
Getting there: Litibu is about a 45-minute drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport and just a few minutes up the coast from the posh Punta Mita area, home to luxury resorts such as the Four Seasons, the St. Regis, Imanta and the recently renovated Grand Palladium, among others.
Several major airlines offer nonstop flights to Puerto Vallarta from U.S. gateways such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston and Phoenix.
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