Smith Awards 2018 Above & Beyond Runner-Up

Jalisco, Mexico


Rates per night from$650.00

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD650.00), via, using today’s exchange rate.


Millionaire’s Moorish playground


Sprawling plantation estate

Moorish-inspired villas and casitas dot the grounds of Cuixmala hotel, the former home of a British billionaire and now a boutique hotel in Costa Alegre. About two hours from Puerto Vallarta, this sprawling estate of beach, jungle, nature reserve and fruit plantations has hosted the likes of Reagan to Nixon during its days as the home of Sir James Goldsmith. Today his daughter runs this Pacific paradise, attracting the smart set with flawless suites.

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An hour's horse-riding session for two


Photos Cuixmala facilities

Need to know


Thirteen, including nine casitas and four private villas.


There are no set times for check-in or check-out; each is determined on a case-by-case basis.


Double rooms from $650.00, excluding tax at 19 per cent.

More details

Casita rates exclude meals. A Continental breakfast costs US$48.72 a person, a day; lunch is $64.96 a person and dinner is $113.68 a person (prices include non-alcoholic drinks and tax). A la carte options are also available.


You can hop on board Cuixmala’s 47ft sailing boat available for trips to the nearby Chamera Islands nature reserve, and there’s a smaller Boston Whaler available for fishing jaunts.

At the hotel

Massages and beauty treatments, free WiFi in the villas and the clubhouse, 25,000 acres of grounds, tennis court, airstrip, DVD library. In rooms: TV, DVD/CD player, bar, open fireplace. The four villas each come with a full complement of staff.

Our favourite rooms

Of the four casas, the enormous La Loma was Sir Jimmy’s private house, so naturally it’s the most gasp-inducingly opulent, with four bedrooms, an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the beach, a movie lounge, lounges and dining rooms galore, and more than a passing resemblance to Florence’s Duomo. Casa Alborada, perched on a hillside with great views of the estate, is humbler, but still magnificent: a three-bedroom villa with a sparse white sheen, complemented by blue accents and light terracotta hues. Artworks and ornaments from Mexico and India are dotted around and there’s a team of four staff on hand to ensure your every need is met instantly. Guests staying in the casitas share a pool, clubhouse and restaurant – Gardenia and Primavera have pretty day-bed terraces with enviable views.


The villas all feature their own private pool area, and the casitas share a pool overlooking the coconut groves and the turquoise waters of the Pacific. The main pool is generally reserved for guests in the main house's suites and bungalows, but is sometimes open to Casitas guests on request.

Packing tips

Guests are often given a sarong on arrival, but you may want to bring a sun hat to go with it, especially if you plan on horse riding during your stay.


Dogs weighing less than 9lbs are welcome, but you’ll be expected to feed them and ensure they’re appropriately leashed in communal areas.


Under-12s stay free and cots are available. Babysitting can be arranged with two days’ notice ($15 an hour). Meals are free for under-fives, and half the adult rate for under-11s.


Sir James Goldsmith became something of conservationist during his last years, and it shows: Cuixmala includes a wildlife sanctuary, and food is sourced from the grounds or the nearby farm. Even the lobsters are plucked straight from the sea.

Food and Drink

Photos Cuixmala food and drink

Top Table

Most tables in the clubhouse and on the villa terraces offer beautiful views of the estate, but for an added romantic frisson, ask staff to set up a low table on the beach and dine on cushions in candlelight.

Dress Code

Boho beach style with linen trousers and espadrilles, supplemented with a flash of stupidly expensive jewellery – you may not be a holidaying billionaire, but you can certainly look the part.

Hotel restaurant

Each casa has its own cook who can prepare whatever you want, whenever and wherever you want it; casita guests dine in the Casa Gomez clubhouse on a menu of classic Mexican dishes such as enchiladas, mole and chiles rellenos. Additionally, La Loma restaurant offers an ever-changing menu of gourmet organic Mexican cuisine made from fresh ingredients straight from the on-site gardens on Thursdays to Sundays – take your pick of the ocean-view terrace or the elegant dining room for your relaxed, romantic culinary experience (if you're staying in a casita, you'll need to make a reservation to dine at La Loma). An extensive and impressive wine list pairs perfectly with each day's offerings.

Hotel bar

Each villa has a bar area where you can help yourself to drinks or have ‘your’ staff mix a cocktail for you. Casa Gomez, the clubhouse, is a relaxed spot to enjoy a margarita, and there’s waiter service around the pool.

Last orders

Everything about Cuixmala is tailored to your needs, including meal times. At La Loma, lunch is served 1:30–3pm and dinner is served from sunset to 10pm; the restaurant is only open Thursday to Sunday.

Room service

Only available in the casas, where staff are on hand to provide whatever you require, 24 hours a day.


Photos Cuixmala location
Km 46.2 Carretera Melaque-Puerto Vallarta


Manzanillo International Airport is just over an hour away. Alaska Airlines ( and United Airlines ( both fly here. Alternatively, Puerto Vallarta airport is three hours from the hotel and connected to Mexico City and various US cities by Mexicana (, United Airlines and American Airlines (, among others. The hotel can arrange ground transfers for around US$230 from Manzanillo and US$420 from Puerto Vallarta.


There are no rail links close to the hotel.


The hotel is located along Highway 200, which connects Manzanillo with Puerto Vallarta. The entrance, marked by an ochre-coloured house, is located by the 46km sign between the towns of Careyes and El Tamarindo. Car hire is available at both Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta airports, and at Cuixmala itself – you'll want a car because the estate is so vast.


Private air charters to Cuixmala’s airstrip can also be arranged upon request.

Worth getting out of bed for

Head to Cuixmala's stable and mount up for a horseback jungle trek – or even a polo match at the nearby fields. If you prefer steel to steed, take a mountain bike on a plantation trail and admire the abundant wildlife. If mucking about in the water is your thing, try kayaking in the Pacific, snorkelling from a hidden beach or taking a fishing boat out to see to try your luck catching dinner. There's an 18-hole golf course at El Tamarindo resort, a short drive away.

Local restaurants

Cuixmala's in the middle of a nature reserve, so there's not what you'd call a burgeoning gastro scene. Luckily the hotel's own cuisine is exquisite.


Photos Cuixmala reviews
Will Beckett

Anonymous review

By Will Beckett, Meat merchant

As Dr Johnson once (famously, patronisingly) wrote, ‘when a man is tired of London he is tired of life’. When Sir James Goldsmith became tired of London, and the rest of England for that matter, he left and bought Cuixmala – a 25,000 acre estate in Jalisco, on Mexico's Pacific coast – to live out the rest of his days. Only after SJG died was the estate converted into an ‘eco resort’, with casitas and bungalows ranging from $400 to $15,000 a night.

Mrs Smith and I arrived late at night and (I cannot lie) I was in a foul mood entirely of my own making following a ludicrous decision to visit San Miguel de Allende the day before – a mere nine-hour drive away. I intended to be unimpressed: what kind of eco place has an airstrip anyway? Why wasn’t I in the $15,000 a night room? That kind of thing.

The manner of arrival at Cuixmala didn’t help, as I was completely unprepared for it. As we arrived (turning off a long, winding road to discover a four- by 10-inch ‘46km’ sign was the only indicator of location) we were met by two members of the Policia Federal, complete with enormous handguns, bullet belts and clip pads. I’m not sure whether these men are intended to reassure you, but their presence had the opposite effect on me. Having taken our names, Policia #1 offered to lead us to our casita, and herein lies the cause of my confusion – we weren’t ready for the sheer size of the domain we were entering. To get from the front gate to our casita was a seven-kilometre drive, at the end of which I was at my lowest.

From then on, things started to look up. The staff at Cuixmala instantly made me feel better – providing a wet towel and cold margarita on arrival, showing us to our Casita Gardenia and amply feeding us. As we sat at our table talking to our waiter he told us that, this being the week before the peak period, we were the only people at Cuixmala that day. I finished up the evening in a better frame of mind, but with a nagging doubt this was not going to be everything I had hoped it would be. It didn’t really feel like the kind of place that might cost $15,000 a night to me.

Morning came and changed everything. From the moment I opened the bright-blue shutters of our whitewashed casita I understood. Out of the window, in immaculate early morning light, I saw an indescribably picturesque expanse of palm trees and animal-filled fields, all leading to a pristine beach and, eventually, the Pacific. All that, just for us. In fact quite a lot turned out to be just for us. By my calculations we were the sole beneficiaries of 25,000 acres, 150 staff, one guest house, around six kilometres of private beach, 700 river crocodiles, 28 antelope, 18 zebra and a few horses on whose backs you can roam around the grounds (as Mrs Smith very happily did). All of which might well be described as reasonable value for money.

We spent most of our time lying in the sun capturing the wonder of it all, but Cuixmala does offer an array of things to do if sipping margaritas by the pool is not your thing. These range from hiring a yacht for a day ($1,500) to helping hatch wild turtles and release them into the sea ($0). Having quickly counted up our pesos, we opted for the latter, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the whole trip – we ended up on the beach, bathed in moonlight, releasing some 500 turtles no bigger than a baby’s hand onto the beach and watching them crawl into the crashing waves. Unforgettable.

Cuixmala is a place where big is beautiful, and can only be fully appreciated in that context. The food was excellent. Fresh produce, often organic, is grown in the grounds, or in the (also Goldsmith-owned) Hacienda de San Antonio. Our casita epitomised that old hotel cliché of barefoot luxury – the whitewashed building comes with a blank canvas interior lavishly sprinkled with hand-crafted Mexican masks, statues, inviting day beds and (Mrs Smith would never forgive me for failing to mention them) stunning, vibrant, colourful cushions that are on sale in the resort boutique – as our battered credit card can testify. However, even our temporary home pales into insignificance next to Casa La Loma, the incredible main house. If $15,000 a night is within your means then I imagine few places provide more persuasive arguments to part with it. Spectacular.

On the morning of our departure we met another couple over breakfast who had arrived late the night before. Their eyes were as wide open in astonishment as ours had been a couple of mornings beforehand. Later, however, as we wound our way slowly back to the main entrance we passed another couple arriving, and we began to feel sorry for them all. There is, after all, nothing worse than having to share paradise.

The Guestbook

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