Discovering Careyes: The Hidden Mexico Resort That’s Drawing The Creative Elite
In 1968, an Italian banker and entrepreneur named Gianfranco Brignone flew over a remote stretch of Pacific coastline south of Puerto Vallarta and envisioned an exotic international getaway where there was only dense jungle and inaccessible beaches at the time. This is the origin story of Careyes, an increasingly popular spot with discerning post-pandemic travelers who’ve grown tired of ho-hum corporate luxury.
Today, the resort that’s not really a resort, spans more than 35,000 still-wild acres, including nine miles of beach, and stays true to the spirit of its founder, who died last year at the age of 95. Brignone’s children and their development partners continue to maintain a low profile for Careyes’s high-flying visitors (Heidi Klum and Seal once owned a home there, and Kevin Hart and Kendall and Kylie Jenner are among its famous fans). It’s all to keep the Careyes magic in the family and for a privileged coterie of residents and guests from around the world. The creative class in particular loves the place and grew more enchanted with its charms during the pandemic.
Brignone safeguarded the culture at Careyes as much as he protected the natural beauty (Careyes has contributed to the preservation of more than 70 species of mammals, 270 species of birds, and over 1200 species of flora and fauna). The colorful Mediterranean-style design makes the place look more like the Amalfi Coast than Mexico but it’s not just the architectural vibe that stands out. Brignone had 12 quirky rules for anyone eager to buy a place there, and those guidelines hold for casual guests, too, starting with #1), “Have will, love and fantasy in your life,” and ending with #12), “Know how to appreciate the happy moments and see the silver lining of life’s challenges.”
If you’re looking for an uncommon, unforgettable Mexican getaway that goes way off-list, here are few more things to know about visiting Careyes.
It’s definitely not the Four Seasons, and Careyes people are fine with that.
With 40 casitas and 65 colorful villas designed by renowned architects, including Alberto Mazzoni and Luis Barragán, and 20 more oceanfront rooms at the condo-style El Careyes Club & Residences, Careyes looks and feels like a luxury beach hotel, but that’s not quite right. Anyone who books a room, from a $350-a-night one-bedroom casita to a $12,000-a-night clifftop castle, is officially booking from a resident. And even in high season, community members can be in the majority, making short-term guests feel like interlopers at the poshest party this side of Ibiza or St. Barths.
Cookie cutter, it’s not. You won’t find a pirate-themed kids club, or name-tagged waiters chasing you for lunch orders, or someone proffering chilled cucumbers by the pool for your tired eyes. If that’s what you’re expecting, head to Four Seasons Punta Mita or the newly opened Four Seasons Tamarindo. At Careyes, the luxuries are more subtle, more nuanced, more immersive. Think: watching Hawksbill sea turtles lay their eggs on a protected beach (Careyes means “tortoise shell” in Spanish); or meeting the most fascinating people you’ll likely meet all year over gin and tonics (“Wait, did you say your last name was von Furstenberg?”); or communing with new friends at a sunset soul-healing session. Careyes is unapologetically offbeat like that. As Gianfranco put it in rule #6, Careyes is for those who “appreciate the music of the sky, the earth, and the sea, and feel the silence of the spaces.” 24/7 room service is another story.
It helps to be super creative
The more you look around Careyes, the more interesting it gets. Gianfranco, in another push for unconventionality, didn’t want sharp points or harsh angles, so the buildings and interiors are designed mostly with rounded edges. There are sliding walls of wood instead of glass. Dull white paint is basically forbidden. At the fuchsia open-air Playa Rosa Beach Club, which is essentially the Careyes town square, you might have breakfast alongside a group of intelligent young hipsters who just flew in from Summit at Sea; or you could meet a descendant of the artist Fernando Botero, whose family keeps a residence there.
And yet, there’s nothing stuffy about these encounters. Everybody is open to talking on nearly any topic, and there’s a sense of playfulness and delight, even when the conversation turns to politics, religion, psychedelics or whatever else surfaces. Careyes never took itself too seriously. In the 1970s, local fishermen would trade seafood for copies of Playboy magazine; and even now, you’re likelier to find a bestselling author or art collector in the beach chair next to yours than a boring hedge fund dude.
Again, it’s Gianfranco’s legacy that drives this spirit of nonconformity. One night he dreamed of a giant bowl on a clifftop overlooking the sea, and when he awoke he started thinking about a design. Today, you can climb inside Copa del Sol (the “cup of the sun”), a cement half-sphere 88 feet wide that is open to the skies and a perfect spot to sit in meditation or sing siren songs to the whales breaching in the Pacific waves below.
Are you beautiful and rich? That’s good, too.
You don’t have to be a billionaire or a gorgeous nepo baby to hang at Careyes but it’s not a bad idea. If you have money or connections, you can pretty much do what you want there. Hire a full-time live-in staff for your hilltop manor home. Stage a rave. Rent the outdoor cinema for a private screening. Polo is popular—Careyes has one of the largest private polo fields in all of Mexico. There’s deep-sea fishing, too, and boats ready to whisk you to private white-sand beaches, where you can ride horses or commission a fireworks display for you and 50 of your nearest and dearest.
One of the current owners has a giant wooden ladder perched against a wall at his clifftop villa, Tigre del Mar (you can rent that castle, too; it comes with its own suspension bridge to a private island). At the top are two bottles of excellent Careyes tequila, an offering to extraterrestrial visitors. Elsewhere at Careyes, you will find vertiginous towers perched above the sea and reachable by private funicular, where pinnacles are shaped like phalluses, and a 360-degree moat-like infinity pool is perhaps the fourth most compelling architectural feature of your abode. Really, anything goes at Careyes. You just need to know who to ask.
Expect the completely unexpected
The logo of Careyes sums it all up: ?! Think of it as curiosity meets holy &[email protected]#! It’s what separates this destination from anyplace else you’re likely to visit. On the Venn diagram of experience, Careyes is somewhere at the axis of “wow” and “what the eff?” In the very best ways, Careyes defies expectations: you don’t know who you’ll meet, what you’ll see, or what new ideas will occur to you. It’s the opposite of a by-the-numbers beach resort. No, things don’t always run efficiently here. Don’t try calling the front desk to speak with the concierge—because there is no front desk or concierge. But bland doesn’t fly here, and isn’t that the whole point of travel? We go places because we want to shake up our world and return home fresh and invigorated and reinvented somehow. That’s what Careyes does for you. You arrive with your tightly held beliefs and your hard-won points-of-view, and promptly give over to the sun and the colors and the endlessly curved edges—real and metaphorical—until you discover something new, something surprising, something wonderful, something positively… ?!
Read more about Careyes and book here.