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  • Forget flashy Cancun. These eco hotels and deserted beaches are the place to be on Mexico's Happy Coast

    If you watch Entourage, you’ll recall the episode where Vinnie goes off to stay on a remote beach in a bid to escape the pressures of fame.

    His hideaway was on Mexico’s central Pacific Coast, where hip Hollywood types are now holidaying in private and eco-friendly hotels. Eschewing flashy resorts like Cancun, they want nature and tranquillity over bling.

    You can see why. The Costa Alegre (‘Happy Coast’) stretches from Puerto Vallarta down to Manzanillo, pairing pristine jungle and breathtaking sea.

    Dotted with a handful of hotels, much of the coast is divided into private estates, some of which are now open to paying guests.

    Fly in via LA or Mexico City, and you can drive along the coast visiting one extraordinary property after another. Although warm year-round, the best weather is from November to April. You’ll find delicious food, friendly locals and plenty to do.

    Do you entertain desert-island fantasies – but with hot showers, icy cocktails and clued-up staff? Then you’ll love Hotelito Desconocido.

    Selling itself as ‘somewhere on the Pacific Coast of Mexico’, it lies at the edge of a remote nature reserve. Simple but eco-fabulous palafito shacks perch on stilts above a lagoon, peering towards the hotel’s beach (see photo).

    Impacting as little as possible on its environment, the resort uses limited electricity. Arriving at night, a long avenue is lit by candles. Inside our large, airy hut, there’s power for reading lights and a ceiling fan, while outside frogs croak in the lagoon below.

    My morning sluice is in a semi-outdoor bamboo shower, while breakfast on the terrace can be ordered on a walkie-talkie or by raising a red flag. Rowing to the beach, I’m greeted by a school of dolphins. That’s quite a start to the day.

    Essential info:
    Do Lunch on the beach bar’s upper gallery; try the prawn ceviche; have a mud foot massage in the spa.
    Don’t Bring kids (the terraces, the lagoon); visit in summer; swim in the Pacific (rip tides). Instead, there’s a superb swimming pool and sheltered bays nearby.
    Famous fan Madonna.
    Verdict A divine eco-paradise.

    Cuixmala might possibly be the most extraordinary place I have ever visited. The estate of the late financier Sir James Goldsmith (father to Jemima and Zach), this 25,000-acre property sits bang on the Pacific Ocean and features a ginormous, grandiosely bonkers palace with just four bedrooms.

    There’s a private airstrip, deluxe villas for high rollers, an organic farm, extensive coconut plantation, two stunning beaches, a menagerie that includes zebra and eland, and virgin forests said to be home to rare jaguars. In fact, it’s so huge you have to hire a car to get around.

    Wonderful wildlife
    Most guests stay in a collection of one-bedroom casitas (‘little guest houses’) grouped around a swimming pool that
    offers panoramic views across the estate. Ours is spacious and well-appointed with a terrace featuring giant daybeds – not that we have much use for them, as there is so much to do, none of which you would want to miss out on.

    During our stay, we go iguana-spotting and cruise the lagoon in an electric boat. We tour the palace, which has a master bedroom the size of a tennis court. We eat astoundingly good tuna tartare and guacamole at a central clubhouse that serves inventive, organic, delicious meals for an all-in daily rate. We visit a beach at midnight to release baby turtles hatched in the conservation programme. We fish for tuna and spot the first two humpback whales of the season (from November to February). Then we plot how we can find the money to come back.

    Essential info:
    Do Visit Caleta Blanca, a private beach about half an hour away; watch the turtles hatching.

    Be consumed by jealousy.
    Famous fan Heidi Klum.
    Verdict Like a Bond villain’s lair.

    Given that Las Alamandas is a 1,500-acre estate encompassing miles of deserted beach, lakes dense with exotic birds, a huge river delta and great chunks of forest, it’s astonishing the property has just six villas, accommodating up to 30 people in total. And what luxurious homes they are. Our villa has two enormous terraces with an uninterrupted, palm-fringed vista of the Pacific just 200 yards away. True, the decor is somewhat 1970s – brightly hued with a bath like a footballers’ trough – and the restaurant seems to follow this theme.

    Calm down dear…
    The food is tradtional Mexican staples, plus classics such as steak with a baked potato, sour cream and half a grilled tomato. And yet, this is the most relaxing resort I’ve visited.

    Las Alamandas is a place to lie in the sun, reading and admiring the views, with the only nightmare being that you might run out of books – the library majors on the likes of Danielle Steele and Jeffrey Archer. We expect to bump into Michael Winner or Roger Moore, but sadly they’re not available, and we leave feel-ing surprisingly refreshed.

    Essential info:
    Do Take the driving tour of the estate; have sundowners on the private beach.

    Forget to bring your own entertainment.
    Famous fans ennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt.
    Verdict Perfect for an absolute drop-everything, do-nothing chill out.


    Where to stay
    Exsus (020 7292 5050) offers tailormade holidays to Mexico. In November, five nights at Hotelito Desconocido costs from £1,160 per person, including private transfers to and from Puerto Vallarta. Additional nights at Las Alamandas cost from £408 per room, and at Cuixmala from £322 per room. Rates include breakfast, but not flights.

    Getting there
    British Airways flies from London Heathrow to Mexico City from about £650 return, including taxes, then domestic flights connect to Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

    More information
    See or pick up a copy of Puerto Vallarta & Pacific Mexico (£14.99, Lonely Planet). For the latest health advice, log on to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or call 020 7008 1500


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