Punta Mita: Golfers Say Adios to Winter
By Kim D. McHugh
I’m standing at the blue tees on Hole 3-B on “Pacifico”, a gorgeous course at Punta Mita, a luxe Mexico destination resort. I chose this hole over 3-A since its green is in the Pacific Ocean.
Billed as “the largest natural island green in the world” it looks impossibly small. A strong on shore breeze makes me rethink my club selection—twice. I eventually opt for a five-iron on the 179-yard Par 3, say a prayer and swing. In flight for what seemed forever, the ball triumphs over the wind, landing 40 feet from the flag. I ride the amphibious golf cart to the green (it was high tide), two putt for par and consider myself lucky to have conquered the “Tail of the Whale”.
For golfers, this place is an absolute joy. One of two Jack Nicklaus Signature layouts, this course features eight holes that play along the Pacific. Its sister course “Bahia” has six ocean holes. So appealing to golf aficionados, Pacifico was voted number one in 2006 and 2008 by Conde Nast Traveler readers. In 2016 GOLF magazine bestowed Gold Medal status on Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, while in the same year American Airlines Celebrated Living Magazine recognized the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort as one of the Top 10 Best Golf Resorts worldwide.
Measuring 7,014 yards from the tips and 5,037 from the forward tees, Pacifico is the shorter of the two courses by just 21 yards, and both give players a challenge. Ponds come into play primarily on Hole 4 and Hole 13, while bunkers are more prevalent around the greens on Hole 6, Hole 7 and Hole 14.
After my wife and I finish our round on Pacifico, we head back to our villa. Looking out towards the Bay of Banderas, it is hard to imagine a more idyllic spot.
Shortly after Punta Mita debuted in the late 1990s, the then little known destination quickly blossomed into one of Mexico’s most prestigious retreats. Its setting on a peninsula on the northern tip of the Bay of Banderas 28 miles northwest of Puerto Vallarta and toney hotels have caught the attention of discerning travelers that come to chill out in style.
Guests staying at the resort can dine at one of Four Seasons’ four eateries, two pool bars and The Shack, a thatched-roof spot favored for adult beverages and snacks such as kumai oysters and coconut fish ceviche. Mita Mary Bistro Boat is St. Regis Resort Punta Mita’s casual counterpart. The St. Regis also has a pool bar, the Altamira Cantina and a pair of “formal”, yet relaxed restaurants.
On the morning of day two we paddled a sea kayak just north of the “Tail of the Whale” before teeing up in the afternoon on Bahia. Playing 7,035 yards from the back tees and 5,080 yards from the forward tees, Bahia plays a bit tougher than its sibling, if only for fairways and green surfaces that undulate visibly more. An errant shot splashing into a pond on Hole 7 or Hole 9 on the front, or Holes 11, 12 and 13 on the back could ding your score, but it’s all part of the risk-reward of the game.
That evening we ventured into the small village across from the resort, dining at The Blue Shrimp, one of a number of local eateries along the shore. Between the ceviche, guacamole (prepared tableside), my wife’s shrimp dish, my grilled red snapper (served whole) and a number of frosty cervezas, we walked out for under $50. If you’re looking to economize on dinner, this is the route you should take at least once. Night three we traveled to Sayulita, a cool surfing/arty town about 20 minutes away. At the advise of a friend we pulled up chairs at Yeikame, a popular spot for both cuisine and people watching, particularly from the few tables stationed on the sidewalk.
One day we headed to Puerto Vallarta for a historic tour. It was then where we learned that, while it is generally accepted that the city was founded in 1851, Spanish conquistador and missionary explorations dated back to the 1500s. Of particular interest was Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, an iconic landmark defined by its Baroque architecture.
With rounds at Punta Mita checked off our bucket list, we were happy to enjoy a nice break from Colorado’s chilly winter and are already looking forward to a return visit.
Getting There: A number of major carriers serve Puerto Vallarta International Airport. Have Four Seasons, St. Regis or a private service take you to the resort (a 45-minute ride).
Accommodations: Four Seasons, St. Regis and numerous rental properties. Worth checking out is the Four Seasons Golf & Spa package, which offers unlimited golf. Note: Only hotel guests or people staying in qualifying rental properties can tee up.
Amenities: Two Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses; Beach Clubs, Tennis Center, Four Seasons restaurants, St. Regis restaurants, two spas (for guests of Four Seasons and St. Regis), walking trails.
High Season (November 1 – May 31)
18 holes: $255, 9 Holes: $165
Low Season (June 1 – October 31)
18 holes: $199, 9 Holes: $135
Multiple rounds available by paying a replay fee of $60. All prices are in USD; includes a shared golf cart and use of driving range; note that prices are subject to a 16% tax and a 10% service charge.
If you ONLY wish to play Pacifico’s ocean green, do the 3B Experience for $60.
If you’re looking to economize on golf head towards Puerto Vallarta. GolfNow shows rounds starting at $40 per golfer.
Stand Outs: Aramara and Bahia restaurants (Four Seasons); Carolina and Areca restaurants (St. Regis), great surf break, whale watching. Local restaurants: Blue Shrimp, Si Senõr, Yeikame, Tacos El Ivan and Café Des Artistes.
Kim D. McHugh has written about travel, snow sports, hotels, local restaurants and chefs, architecture and interesting people since 1986. A former associate editor at Rocky Mountain Golf magazine, the Lowell Thomas award-winning freelance writer is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. Based in Colorado, he enjoys sharing those “I-didn’t-know-that” revelations with readers in articles that have appeared in the San Francisco Examiner, the Denver Post, SKI, Hemispheres, 5280, Luxury Golf & Travel, Colorado Expression, Tastes of Italia, Vail/Beaver Creek and Colorado AvidGolfer.