Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. A place where warm sapphire waters provide a steady surf, and the dense jungle mountains sweep straight overhead from the Pacific coastline. This region can be uniquely identified from other popular parts of Mexico—like the Caribbean stretch of Riviera Maya or the high-energy party locale of Cabo—due to the steep peaks, acres of untouched land and an array of charming seaside towns that dot the sandy shores. The innovators of the luxury development, Mandarina, with its centerpiece the Mandarina hotel site, are well aware of this verdurous region ripe with opportunity, and are currently crafting their own dream destination for those who are eager to call this coast of Mexico home—at least for part of the year.
Just an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, the breath-taking new project is more of a Jungle Book dreamscape than a concrete commercial resort. When driving up to Mandarina, you are met with a wealth of biodiversity teeming among the flatlands and volcanic-formed mountains all flanked by a nearly one-mile stretch of private beach. Set amongst this forever sunny swathe of land will be the discreetly constructed, yet decidedly decadent, Rosewood Mandarina Resort. Guests will have access to an equestrian club, a man-made jetty designed for sipping and strolling, a world-class polo and equestrian club, a nature-inspired spa and the Canalan Beach Club where a picturesque pool is set. The highly celebrated Carao is a striking lookout where an edge-less swimming pool tips over the cliffside, inviting an adults-only crowd to dine on locally-inspired cuisine while reposing across from the setting sun.
Mandarina was always intended by its developers to be a place of connectivity, not only to nature, but to one another. And that community will include some well-known faces, such as San Francisco Giants pitcher, Mark Melancon, who allowed the Wall Street Journal to showcase his building plans for his own private residence that is being designed. Famous names aside, the integrated and social environment is one that gives guests the option to connect as well as maintain a level of privacy from all other residences due to the physical space set between each residence.
The sophisticated infrastructure and high-design aesthetics of the first One&Only Mandarina Private Homes were conceptually designed by American architect, Rick Joy, who is celebrated for his global design projects. One of which was with the global hotel group, Aman, where Joy executed the luxury desert resort of Amangani in Utah. For this project, which is comprised of 54 custom-built residences, the design team will lend their expertise to clients through a hands-on approach to help create their desired dream private home. The floor plans range from 5,000 to nearly 11,000 square feet of indoor space, and up to another 8,000 square feet of outdoor space. Holistic interiors are paired with low-density land planning and an architectural approach that lets nature lead. “Each day, you can wake up and decide what kind of experience you want to have. The villas are really the instruments that frame those experiences,” Joy says about the developing properties.
The private homes are centered around the breezy outdoor living spaces with great rooms and suites opening to the pool terraces—a staple in the year-round 80-degree weather. Glass walls allow the wildness to be seen from nearly every room, while custom woodwork, warm metals and red clays add a dynamism to the beachy locale. Mandarina will also include a Mandarina hotel, debuting this year, that will be the a 104-room spectacle that appeals to the largest audience as they are available for nightly rentals year-round. Designed for those looking to dip their toes into all that the resort has to offer, guests can choose between a visit to the treehouse rooms or the villa-style hideaways, which are both a small-scale version of the homes and balance above the mountainsides as if suspended from the canopy.
Although these exclusive residences, ranging from $4.95 million to $12 million, are not for the everyman, putting your money into a branded residence like Mandarina is a long-term investment that will likely appreciate in value while also giving buyers the chance to lease their property while they aren’t using it. Mandarina is slated to open November of this year, and if you are considering laying stake at the resort, you might want to venture south soon before the area of Puerto Vallarta and the locally-populated and sleepy surf towns become even more discovered.
Mexico-based developer and property owner RLH Properties enlisted Mandarina Chief Business Development Officer, Ricardo Santa Cruz, to be the tour de force behind this epic project. We spoke with Cruz about what it took to make this dream a reality, from maintaining a sustainable approach to building a new community in this historical region of Mexico.
A CHAT WITH RICARDO SANTA CRUZ
ICONIC LIFE: Built on 640 acres, Mandarina is a massive undertaking for a real estate project. How did you choose and then acquire this portion of the coastline?
Ricardo Santa Cruz: The process of land consolidation for Mandarina, where the Mandarina hotel will sit, involved the negotiation of 640 acres of coastal property belonging to more than 58 families. Because this site was considered “ejido” meaning communal properties regulated under Mexican agrarian law, the requirement to buy the land was to have every single family member sign off on the sale of every land parcel.
From the initial land acquisition and RLH Properties’ efforts to make a positive impact on the adjacent small town of El Monteon, Mandarina has since invested more than $3 million and counting in the neighboring community infrastructure including potable drinking water, a church, soccer field, basketball court and a beach club replete with oceanfront swimming pool and restaurant, which attracts many local visitors every weekend.
With Mandarina’s ongoing initiatives to work with the local community, the project has received great local support as it has already enhanced their way of life and will bring jobs and education closer to home, allowing families to stay in the area for generations to come.
ICONIC LIFE: What was the process of developing the land while taking eco-conscious efforts to limit impact?
Ricardo Santa Cruz: On a personal level, having lived in Mexico for the majority of my life, I have seen how many development projects in the past that paid no attention to the environmental or social aspects around them are now suffering the consequences. Their projects are surrounded by social inconformity and they have lost the ability for their guests to have the true integration with unspoiled nature that the high end market is looking for.
Creating low density projects that have a high respect for nature and take care of the environment and the surrounding communities really pays off. These types of projects are very profitable, and the industry and Mexican government prefer these types of projects because they generate more and better paying jobs than higher volume all-inclusive type hotels and resorts.
With that said, to bring in these internationally recognized, high-end hotel brands, like Mandarina, the architectural and sustainable components become very critical. As a result of this, many developers have elevated the design on an international scale to introduce some of the most globally recognized and accomplished architects to design and develop out the latest resort and residential developments in Mexico while also being very mindful of the existing environment.
ICONIC LIFE: What are some of the unique design points in the villa estates?
Ricardo Santa Cruz: Each of the residences are unique with each thoughtfully designed after a detailed site analysis, investigating the geology, climate, views, availability of local materials and ‘the building culture of place.’ The result is architecture that is at one with the site and its heritage.
The innovative contemporary architecture harmonizes eloquently with the landscape. Each villa is architecturally unique and envisioned specifically for its location along the southern peak to capture the most favorable ocean views.
ICONIC LIFE: How were the private home sites chosen?
Ricardo Santa Cruz: The homesites were chosen based on views, feasibility of construction due to topographical constraints and environmental restrictions. Each of the private home sites were plotted by the developer to ensure each homeowner would have amazing vistas while maintaining their privacy. Buyers are able to choose their specific site of choice from the pre-determined home locations and customize their residence to suit their lifestyle.
ICONIC LIFE: What preservation efforts are being taken to protect the natural landscape?
Ricardo Santa Cruz: We have set out to create a destination that is at once, respectful of the past and mindful of the future. Through careful, very low-density land planning, Mandarina and Mandarina hotel will preserve the topography, native flora, wildlife and ecosystems that currently thrive here.
These fragile ecosystems will be kept living in their raw form and never be developed. Being a very low density project, Mandarina has 640 acres and the amount of homes is only 120. Low density decreases footprint and increases privacy. With less surrounding neighbors, there is a more real communion with nature, while still having access to One & Only Mandarina.
In addition to this, great care was taken in protecting the magnificent trees and nature present throughout. Within the hotel portion of the development, there are no cars, only golf carts and bikes. Also, owners are only able to travel via cars upon arriving to their homes. Within the property, they will use golf carts or bikes. By implementing green transportation, this allowed us to make the roads narrower and preserve the lush tropical jungle.
We have set out to create a destination that is at once, respectful of the past and mindful of the future. Through careful, very low-density land planning, Mandarina will preserve the topography, native flora, wildlife and ecosystems that currently thrive here.
5 Ways Mandarina’s Beauty is Balanced with an Eco-Conscience
1. The Delos Water Purification system cleans water of harmful contaminants and protects against microbes and aims to use less water with increased efficiency of the system.
2. By implementing green transportation, the roads were made smaller, meaning less destruction to the jungle landscape, because within the hotel portion of the development, there are no cars allowed. Only golf carts and bikes are used to reduce pollution from vehicle exhaust.
3. Their preservation efforts in environmentally sensitive areas such as the mangroves and estuary mean these fragile ecosystems will be kept living in their raw form and never be developed.
4. The materials selected for the homes are all sourced within Mexico, including stones for the retaining walls, tropical woods used for the homes and stucco walls using the sand to showcase the same earth tones of the area.
5. Because Mandarina is a low-density project, only 120 homes are planned to be built on the 640 acres of land available. This decreases the human footprint and increases privacy for each guest and aligns them to live more closely with nature to establish an appreciation for the natural world.
*Originally published in Iconic Life