The Pacific Coast of Mexico is full of hidden beaches and coves, but more of them get developed each year by large resorts and it gets harder to find a place to kick back with a small crowd. If you’re looking for a real getaway where you can chill out and do close to nothing except swim in the ocean and lounge, head to Punta Monterrey Beach Resort about an hour and a half north of Puerto Vallarta, a few coves north of San Pancho.
This laid-back retreat is not for everyone. There’s no cell service, the satellite internet is spotty at best, and there’s no infinity pool with a swim-up bar. When you head out to relax on the beach you’ll do it old-school style: on a provided beach towel or a woven natural palm mat. You’ll ask, “What’s for dinner?” instead of perusing a long menu and there’s no social director goading people into volleyball games or aerobics.
All of this is by design. The “right” people find out about the place and book a room direct at Punta Monterrey Tropical Beach Resort. The others won’t even know it’s here. There’s no sign on the main road heading north from Sayulita and San Pancho. Just some vague directions on the website about turning onto a dirt road at a certain mile marker. Until new owners took over a few years ago, the people who run Punto Mita Suites and Hostel, there wasn’t even a sign at the entrance when you arrived. But hey, the memory of the bumpy dirt road to get here fades in the memory after you change into bathing suits and have this stretch of sand to call your own.
There are only 16 bungalows and rooms at this place: half at ground level, the others perched on the hillside above. There’s a total capacity of 42 people if every single bed is occupied. So even when Punta Monterrey Beach Resort is sold out, it’s not going to feel crowded on the gorgeous beach. After all, it can only be reached on the rutted and hilly road you came in on or in a boat—and it’s not an easy beach landing for the latter in this surf.
There are several styles of rooms at different price points, with different levels of space and comfort. The ones billed as “Rustic Cabins” are not air conditioned, which is no big deal for at least half the year, but you’ll need to really crank the fans in the hottest months. Rustic Cabin #1 actually has the best view in the whole place though—the one you see at the top of this post.
The Luxury Cabins have a mini fridge and air conditioning. There were just two of us in our unit but these are great for families since they have beds in a loft above reached by a wood staircase. All the cabins have palm thatch roofs, but that is covered by a tarp to avoid any leaks in the rainy season.
All have comfortable beds, colorful tiled baths with furnished toiletries, a sitting area, and often some kind of writing desk. Most have a furnished outdoor balcony. These units are not ideal for those with limited mobility since they several terraced levels, but they’re good for those who want at least a little bit of exercise between lounging sessions.
The best bets for those who want to avoid climbing a hill, be closest to the beach, or have a more typical hotel room style are one of the six air-conditioned Jungle Suites that went up a few years ago. They’re relatively standard rooms, not suites, but each one does have a furnished outdoor balcony or two. Otherwise, the only furniture in our room was a solid wood desk chair.
The middle units (2 and 4) have a king bed, while the others have two queens and can sleep four. the best unit is the corner #6 one upstairs facing the ocean as there’s a partial view of the water through the palms from the corner balcony. This and #3 below feel larger with the additional natural light.
These six have outlets by bed, separate reading lights, a full dresser with lots of storage in six drawers, marble tile floors, and several good pillows on firm but comfy beds. There’s a full closet with a small safe. The hot water takes quite a while to arrive and is hard to control, but it works. See a rundown on these rooms here.
Meals are served at general times on a somewhat loose schedule—few people are paying much attention to what time it is. There’s generally one one main dish and several sides, with seafood in the mix often for lunch and dinner. If you have dietary restrictions you let them know when you book at they’ll accommodate with a substitution. The food is nothing to write home about or post on Instagram, especially the basic beans-and-eggs breakfast. At that meal, there’s also some cereal and fruit laid out.
There are a few extra items you can order from the bar as well in the afternoon or evening if you get bored with what’s on offer or get hungry before sunset. Otherwise, bring some snacks. Everyone sits at a long communal table, which generally works out well because you can meet the other guests and have a leisurely chat.
All day there’s filtered water and something else to drink like jamaica tea or some kind of agua fresca made from tropical fruit. There’s a big cooler of ice for this. There’s a full bar open most of the afternoon and evening, with regular beers, craft beers, reasonably priced wine, and liquor. The meals are included in the rates, the booze is extra. They keep track of what you’ve had and you settle up at the end. It’s best to bring cash since the credit card machine can sometimes have trouble connecting to an internet signal.
Apart from the dining area and the small bar, the other lounging around spaces are a covered set of tables on the beach, a covered area with several hammocks just above the beach, and two sitting areas near the long dining table. One of these has three colorful swinging chairs you can sit in.
Groups sometimes book yoga retreats here and there’s a large yoga bungalow with plenty of floor space for everyone. Naturally there is plenty of beach space as well for doing it there.
There’s no gym on site, but there are a few hikes you can take from here. The most accessible is to another hidden beach even emptier than this one just around the bend. Punta Monterrey has kayaks you can take out, but this is better done by experienced kayakers or those who can at least get on in open water because the waves crashing on the shore can be intense and tough to get past.
Otherwise, most guests are content to lounge around and not do much besides read, listen to music on their earbuds, and admire the scenery. This is a good place to truly unwind or do some deep thinking. Oddly in such an unplugged place, there’s no collection of board games or even a book exchange, so be sure to bring plenty to entertain yourselves, plus some snacks to hold you over between meals. It’s not all that far to San Pancho or even Sayulita if you want to go out somewhere during the day, but after facing the rather rough dirt road to get here, most are content to stay put for two or three nights until checkout time.
The limited staff at this small, reasonably priced resort is best described as “laid-back,” but the people who work at Punta Monterrey are friendly and helpful, the housekeeping staff cleaning the rooms is diligent. A wide mix of traveler types and nationalities books here, both Mexican nationals and foreign tourists.
Sustainability is at the forefront much more at Punta Monterrey tropical beach resort than you’ll see at the more expensive ones along this coast. No throwaway plastic, no air-conditioning in public areas, efficient LED lighting that’s only used at night in the main complex, and recycling of gray water and A/C water discharges for watering plants, for instance. Drinking water is purified. The room bathrooms have dry urinals and all kitchen waste is composted.
Think of Punta Monterrey as more of an upscale backpacker place than the kind of fancy Mexican beach resort you see splashed all over social media. The people who come here are looking for a chilled-out place that’s not trying to over-stimulate them and they love spending time on this hidden beach, surrounded by 300 acres of nature. If that sounds like your idea of paradise under the palms, see more and book direct at the official website. Because of their limited connectivity, you won’t find them on any of the usual booking sites. And they’re okay with that…
Rates range from $80 to $130 per person depending on season and unit, including all meals, non-alcoholic drinks laid out all day, parking, and sporadic Wifi. (Come here to unplug, not to work.) Come take a video tour with us here:
Review and photos by editor Tim Leffel, who was hosted at Punta Monterrey for purposes of review. As always, all opinions are his own.