Mexico’s 200-mile Riviera Nayarit and the gorgeous hillside haciendas of the Real del Mar community live like a secret seaside sanctuary that casts its spell on Exclusive Resorts Members year after year. Tucked away in a gated community adjacent to the authentic town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Real del Mar is a 45-minute drive from busy Puerto Vallarta but feels worlds away. Of Exclusive Resorts’ 75+ destinations, this Club flagship is a perennial favorite thanks to its combination of spacious homes, tranquil setting, and warm staff who deliver elevated service. Exclusive Resorts introduced the destination to its Portfolio in 2004 with just one home. It’s since grown to include 13 cliffside residences, all of which recently underwent renovations. Members certainly approved of the updates, as their feedback positioned the property as the 2018 Destination of the Year.

Jenkins Family

Members Since 2006

Like many Members, Keli and Mike Jenkins were initially drawn to Real del Mar’s accessibility. The destination is an easy flight from their home just north of Dallas, and after their first stay, they fell in love with all the property has to offer. Members for 13 years, the couple has now logged 32 visits to Real del Mar. One of the draws is the selection of residences. Keli estimates they’ve stayed in nearly every home. “Each has a different layout, style, and personality to experience,” she says. “Trying to pick a favorite is like picking a favorite child, it’s just not possible.” She finds some homes better suited for little kids, like Casa Patio, as most of the bedrooms are located inside the large main living area and the beach club is only a few steps away. When they travel with other couples or older kids, they choose homes with the privacy of separate rooms, all of which have unforgettable views of Banderas Bay. The Jenkins are keen on traveling with multiple families, often hosting large group gatherings and festive al fresco dinners on the outdoor terraces.

McKibben Family

Members Since 2005

Dallas-based members Tim and Lydia McKibben also like how the destination is less than a two-hour flight away. In addition to the variety of the homes, they love the privacy the resort offers. “We’ve been to nearly every Exclusive Resorts destination and this is unlike any other offering,” says Tim. “About 70 percent of the gated community is private and the rest is devoted to Exclusive Resorts. The maintenance of the grounds, the service, the food, and the Beach Club are all a 10—absolutely perfect.”  

Over the past 14 years, the couple has also accrued 32 visits to Real del Mar. The ocean views are one of their favorite aspects of the villas. “There are very few places where you can have whitewater views (of the ocean),” says Tim. “The homes are perched on cliffs and appear to cascade down the mountain side. You have this rare vantage where you can see the ocean and the waves right in front of you. And hundreds of whales migrate to Banderas Bay so you can whale watch right from your home.”

Rodríguez Arregui Family

Members Since 2005

Unlike Cabo san Lucas, where the ocean tends to be too rough to swim, Banderas Bay is like a large pool, making it an ideal beach getaway for families with young kids. Members Álvaro and Marcela Rodríguez Arregui have been vacationing here since 2006 and joke that their twin sons Mateo and Lucas practically grew up at Real del Mar. They learned to surf here at age four, and at the ages of 17, they venture further afield to ride bigger waves in nearby Punta Mita and Sayulita. The family owns bragging rights of 33 stays—the most of any other Club Member. They typically visit for three weeks each summer, using their villa as a family beach retreat with a rotating cast of visitors. 

“One week we’ll have my family, the next Álvaro’s family, and then the third week we have friends,” says Marcela. Álvaro adds that even the nicest hotels in the world can’t accommodate family groups as comfortably as Real del Mar’s residences do. “One person can be reading in the living room, others playing a board game, another fixing something in the kitchen,” he says. “We can easily have meals together without a hassle of reservations. These residences were designed to support multigenerational travel.” 

Marcela appreciates that the destination offers something for everyone. “You can be really active and nonstop all day with zip-lining, scuba diving, golf, hiking,” she says. “Or you can just sit and lounge by the pool.”

Milestone Moments

The selection of four- and five-bedroom residences has made Real del Mar a popular option for Members looking to celebrate holidays and special occasions. The Rodríguez Arregui family booked four residences and invited 20 couples to celebrate Álvaro’s 50th birthday. Keli Jenkins celebrated her mom’s 60th birthday there this year—a surprise soirée with close friends and family. “The team helped us hire a saxophone player for the cocktail reception and passed around hors d’oeuvres and even set up a tequila tasting station,” Jenkins adds. “They grilled freshly caught fish, shrimp, lobster, and steak to order. We also had a mariachi band surprise her during dinner and dessert. The Concierge team had a beautiful cake made from a local bakery and ordered the most beautiful floral arrangements for the table centerpieces as well as arrangements for inside the home during the week.” 

More than a vacation home, Real del Mar is truly a Members’ home away from home. And after its recent design face-lift and being named the 2018 Destination of the Year, this Riviera Nayarit gem is poised for continued applause.