Located 60 miles south of Peurto Vallarta, this magical, extraordinary hotel is unique within Mexico. Translated as “little unknown hotel”, Hotelito Desconocido is nestled on a beautiful wetland estuary between the towering Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and next to one of the best, undeveloped beaches in the country.

Constructed in the style of a Mexican village, Hotelito offers guests unusual accommodations: palafitos, bungalows built on stilts over the edge of the estuary, or snuggled in the sand dunes right on the beach, and casitas surrounded by bougainvillea, stands of banana trees and flowering hibiscus. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular palafitos can only be accessed via water, and come equipped with a private row-boat tied to the front door.

All, however, are rustically elegant with wooden-pegged floors and palapa roofs adding to their charm, and complimenting decorative details such as hand-painted murals, and whimsical curios that are unmistakably and memorably Mexican. The bathrooms even have bamboo showers that provide privacy alongside an outdoor feel, and the warmth of the sea breeze. As with the rest of Hotelito Desconocido, palafitos and casitas also feature clay-covered walls, rope-tied beams, brightly cushioned Equipales chairs, hand-painted furniture and splendid Mexican antiques. There’s not a nail to be found anywhere.

Nor is there any electricity, which adds to the romance and mystique of the place.  There are no blaring televisions or jangling telephones; room service is summoned by raising a flag while solar-power provides cooling, in-room ceiling fans, and hot water. And when the sun drops into the Pacific, hundreds of candles light the pathways, bridges and rooms, creating one of the most gentle and tranquil small hotels anywhere. Look for the novel range of candle holders from the bizarre to the practical, including intricate bird cages in the beach rooms and an enormous glass chandelier in the reception.

During the day, the pleasures of Hotelito are equally sublime whether it’s languishing in a hammock above softly lapping water, or finding a sandy haven to stroll at sunrise.

You can hike or horseback ride along the beach and in the backcountry, kayak or canoe the lagoon, birdwatch the 150 or so species, mountain bike through palm groves, windsurf and sail. From June through January, under the protection of the resort’s biologists, you can also tour the sea turtle preserve where, under the cover of darkness, turtles lay their eggs, and the newborns struggle back to the raging ocean.

The El Mundo Del Salud – World of Health – Spa is an open-air casita adjacent to the estuary, and is the essence of relaxation, with steam saunas and cold water Jacuzzis. Spa treatments range from massages, herbal steambaths, loofa scrubs, and reflexology, to Mermaid Bath with rich roots from French Polynesia, a mineral rich mud bath filled with organic ingredients and facials that include a light peeling, hydrotherapy and natural mask. Yoga and stretching classes are also offered.

Food, too, is health-conscious and although the menu is pre-set, it changes daily, and features numerous regional specialties. Much of the cuisine is homegrown or caught and collected locally and prepared according to regional customs. Breakfast and dinner are served in El Cantarito, the main dining room, while for lunch and afternoon hors d’oeuvres, guests are rowed across the lagoon to the El Nopalito open air beach bar – an oasis overlooking 40 miles of unspoiled beach that extends on either side. A gorgeous fresh-water swimming pool is only a step away, filled daily and free of chemicals.

A guest once commented that staying at Hotelito Desconocido was like being an exotic movie set or in the middle of dream, and as rustically romantic as it gets. Who are we to disagree?

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