Sol de Occidente, Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico

Costalegre, Mexico


Some people build castles in the sand, while others, like visionary entrepreneur Gian Franco Brignone, create castles high above the Mexican jungle along the Pacific coast of Jalisco. Back in 1968, Brignone was a peripatetic financier from Northern Italy who went in search of his own Shangri-la. He found it along an undiscovered section of Costalegre between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. Spellbound by the region’s breathtaking beauty and by its topographical resemblance to the Amalfi Coast, Brignone purchased thousands of acres of rugged coastline and slowly began transforming the area into Careyes, an exclusive oasis for the cultural cognoscenti.

Named for the tortoiseshell of the region’s indigenous turtles, Careyes has become one of the world’s most extraordinary luxury locales, notable for its sustainable development of a 30,000-acre biosphere. The resort’s signature curvilinear architectural style is instantly recognizable in a series of technicolour ocean castles, private villas, beachfront bungalows, and cliffside casitas. Careyes’ polyglot community of global citizens is further brightened by various multi-day music and arts festivals, polo matches, and the numerous celebs and entertainers who find themselves equally besotted by the region’s boho chic sensibility. Brignone’s goal of creating a destination that honours Mexican heritage alongside a cosmopolitan aesthetic has resulted in a luxury resort that feels as rarefied as it is relaxing.

Since Brignone’s passing in 2021, his son Giorgio has become the impresario of Careyes, the nexus around whom the resort’s busy social calendar swirls. A witty raconteur with a trove of tales about Costalegre’s storied past and its colourful characters, Giorgio offers entrée to Careyes’ multiple activities and special events such as the annual Agua Alta polo tournament which takes place at the Careyes Polo Club. On Sundays, various residents and guests gather with Giorgio to watch polo players practice on Mexico’s two largest Bermuda grass fields. The club, founded in 1990, offers stables for 150 horses, and 60 playing ponies are available for guests of every level of play.

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While you’re Out There
Be sure to spend some time at La Copa del Sol, the 35-foot-high concrete sun cup sculpture which resembles a spaceship that landed atop a finger-like peninsula overlooking Playa Teopa. The vision for the sculpture came to Gian Franco Brignone in a dream and was subsequently built with an 88-foot diameter skywalk rim, accessible by a wooden ladder. The breathtaking views are particularly remarkable during the vernal and autumnal equinox when the sunset appears to pour directly into the concrete cup’s centre.

Nearly four miles of Careyes’ beachfront at Playa Teopa has been designated as a turtle sanctuary by the Careyes Foundation’s sea turtle preservation centre. Since 1983, more than 2.1 million hatchlings have been released by volunteers and conservationists – and, for many guests, the sunset ritual is a bittersweet experience as the young hatchlings swim into their uncertain future.

For those new to Careyes, the most difficult decision might be the choice of accommodations. Those who wish to experience Careyes like the Kardashians or Stevie Wonder might consider Sol de Oriente or Sol de Occidente, each of which offers a fully-staffed, six-bedroom residence encircled by a 10,000-square-foot infinity pool (which at least one family has filled with 10,000 bottles of Evian water) and a private heliport. According to Giorgio, when Careyes first started working with Mexican architects and designers, ‘there weren’t many décor stores, so we created our own’, the result of which is a series of built-in tables, shelves and desks in poured concrete, all with rounded edges and a nearly lacquer-like finish.

Designated the ‘Careyes style’, the resultant aesthetic is an amalgam of Mexican artisanal craftsmanship and Italian beach resort. The multiple variations of Careyes style are on view in the various private villas such as La Huerta, where the saltwater infinity pool bottom showcases a gold-leaf replica of a serpentine Bulgari necklace. Inspired by the surrealistic gardens at Las Pozas in the subtropical rainforest, La Huerta is a verdant open-air oasis complete with a sound garden, tequila bar, and a separate spa house. The property’s staff of six includes a butler, a driver, two housekeepers, and two chefs.

Located in the gardens above Playa Rosa, the six-bedroom Casa Selva is similarly luxuriant, complete with an infinity pool and ocean vistas, and fully staffed with a butler, housekeepers, and a chef. The Master Suite alone is a marvel of space with an oversized soaking tub, dressing room, private oceanfront terrace, and a canopied bed resting atop white concrete steps. At El Careyes Club & Residences, entry-level rooms and suites flank five infinity pools with access to the Playa Rosa Beach Club, the beloved restaurant where locals and guests gather and gossip over cocktails from morning to night. Apart from private chefs, dining options include seven restaurants, several of which are located across the courtyard from the offices of Careyes Foundation. Overseen and founded by Giorgio’s brother Filippo Brignone, the Careyes Foundation offers residencies to guest artists who work with children from the local communities… it’s one more example of the beneficent civic spirit that is pervasive at Careyes.

Photography courtesy of Careyes

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