Vivo Resorts & Residences – A Stunning Secret Escape
by Susan Campbell
I’d been meaning to get to Puerto Escondido- an under-the radar fishing town in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico on the Pacific Coast for some time. Puerto Escondido means hidden port, and it certainly is not on the mainstream tourism radar. But hardcore surfers had discovered it in the 70’s as an ideal place to “hang ten” due to conditions that form ideal tubular waves at Zicatela Beach- the wave break is called “The Mexican Pipeline”- and now it hosts several domestic and international tournaments year-round. In fact, that beach is now rated among the top ten spots to surf in the world.
But not being a surfer, I’d probably never have heard of it if my Canadian friend and travel writing colleague Michele Peterson had not been constantly sending me photos of all the whales, wild dolphins, sea turtles and flying rays she kept spotting in the cobalt blue sea from the balcony of her newly adopted winter home there. She had stumbled upon the town quite by accident, and then fell in love with it so much she eventually wrote an iPhone app and a guidebook about it, and now maintains a blog on Puerto Escondido Travel Essentials. So, when I finally did get there last winter to check out the new Vivo Resorts & Residences, I was very eager to explore the area already having received such intriguing previews of the many wonders there ahead of time.
A Welcoming Community
Another Canadian that fell in love with this secret gem was Cary Mullen, two-time Olympian and World Cup downhill champion from Calgary, Alberta. When his athletic career was cut short by a tragic accident, he changed gears to become an inspirational speaker and real estate mogul. He had been scouring the globe for an ideal oasis for him and his family to escape the winter cold a few months of the year, and maybe a great spot for his parents to retire. When he finally landed in Puerto Escondido, he knew this was the place. Mullen found the charming community warm and welcoming, and the vast expanses of pristine nature and ocean life framed by the majestic Sierra Madre Sur Mountains sealed the deal. So, he decided he would create a beachfront resort and condo community there. The result: Vivo Resorts & Residences – a collection of luxury stays just outside of Puerto Escondido.
A Vibrant Vacation Village
As soon as I arrived and checked into my amazing third floor one-bedroom suite with a spectacular view of the sea, I could tell this was not a sedate or stuffy retirement style of development. Watching the lively troupe of all ages enjoying volleyball on the beach, sipping big drinks in coconuts around the infinity pool bar, and lounging in colorful hammocks by the sea while barbecuing on their balconies, I could see it had more of a community vibe designed for extended stays rather than a stand-alone hotel atmosphere. During my visit, phase one had already been completed, but there was much construction underway on all sides as they were striving to build an entire village, that when done, would offer 115 private home sites and up to 600 condominiums. The towers already standing featured gorgeous all-suite abodes that included full kitchens, private balconies with ocean views, well-appointed living areas and even laundry facilities all situated on 12 miles of pristine beach.
And they had just christened their new common area clubhouse- an awesome indoor/outdoor emporium that features Ernesto´s Farm to Table Restaurant and Mezcalina´s Sport Bar. Also, just added was the Vivo Kids Club, a Senszes Spa by Elaina, and a sea view fitness centre. Room service is also available if you don’t feel like leaving your sweet suite, and there’s also a business centre, excellent Wi-Fi and a library. It’s very self-contained, but I was glad to note that they really want you to explore the area, get to know the towns, and connect with the local communities, so they offer shuttle service to Puerto Escondido. But I highly recommend taking some tours with their go-to onsite guide Jesus Silva, he is such an expert in everything local, and such fun to hang out with, too!
Awesome Excursions & Activities
Our guide planned our excursions and accompanied us on many of them. A few must-dos are a visit to the Playa Carrizalillo, starting with lunch at the cliff top Espadin Restaurant for probably the best postcard perfect sea view in the region. Then walk down the 167 steps to go snorkeling or swimming or paddle boarding at their insanely beautiful beach. (Trekking back up those steep stairs in the hot sun is not as fun though, but it’s worth it.) The buzzing, colorful downtown Benito Juárez Market (also known as Mercado Principal,) is another iconic Puerto destination. It’s an entire square block of local produce, meats, fish, seafood, locally made cheeses, coffees chocolate… you name it- all fresh from the farms and seas- it’s seriously comprehensive. They also have women making fresh tortillas for sale right off the hot clay griddles called “comals”. So authentic.
A boat tour of Manialtepec Lagoon was another highlight. We saw so many exotic seabirds in the brackish waters; it’s home to over 300 species, and we happened upon a huge colony of nesting wood storks, too. Visitors can also take night boat tours there to witness the rare phenomena called bioluminescence where the water emits spooky neon glow trails when things move in it. They also have a great dining spot there with authentic Mexican feasts.
There are so many great dining spots around town, and the nightlife is eclectic and electric. The night market at Adoquin is also well worth exploring for creative locally made souvenirs and products. And the state of Oaxaca is also known for its fine quality mezcal made from the agave plant. Visit little cottage industry Los Cantaros distillery to sample a multitude of versions they make the old-fashioned way including unique delicious cream and fruit blends. We also took a small boat tour to go whale spotting, but though we did see some turtles and a huge spotted eagle ray up close, the whales were elusive that day. Ironically, when we returned to Vivo the guests said we missed a bunch right out in front of the resort! Bad timing, I guess, but we did return just in time to release baby sea turtles!
Taking Root in the Region
The Vivo owners have taken great pains to blend into the local eco- system and they’ve also made it a point to vigorously support the resident sea turtle population. Working with The Palmarito Sea Turtle Camp, visitors are encouraged to help protect and also release the hatchlings when they are ready to head to the sea. It’s always a touching experience, but I was delighted to see that they don’t allow literal touching! They use coconut cups so that human contact does not affect the turtle’s inherent radar and natural imprint they receive from the home beach where the females will instinctively return to lay their eggs one day. This protection program has saved over 300,000 turtles to date.
They have also made great strides to take deeper root in the region by establishing The Vivo Foundation- a volunteer organization where guests and residents can donate their time, money or possessions to help the local communities and the landscape. The foundation puts money into environmental efforts, construction projects, kids’ programs, orphanage donations and local agricultural developments as well. They also give guests free Spanish lessons!
And since my last visit, Vivo has launched a new concept of residential choice called “Botanica”- beach condominiums inspired by Oaxaca’s vibrant culture and unspoiled natural landscape that will include more pools and gardens.
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