Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic: A Culinary Hole In One

There's a private peninsula jutting out from the Mexican mainland about 26 miles north of Puerto Vallarta in the Mexican state of Nayarit. It's called Punta Mita, which translates to "point of the arrow" in the area's native language, and once you've passed through the actual gates of one of the two resorts that occupy much of the peninsula — the St. Regis and the Four Seasons, where I stayed from April 3rd through the 6th during their annual American Express Punta Mita Gourmet and Golf Classic  you'll truly feel like you've stepped into a different world, one you'll find yourself repeatedly referring to as Paradise.

Punta Mita Gourmet & Golf Classic: A Culinary Hole in One (Slideshow)

Located on 1,500 acres of land, the 173-room Four Seasons is a sprawling complex of 135 semi-private casitas, 34 suites, and 4 villas. The lobby is located inside a giant palapa, with views of the Pacific Ocean beyond. Many of the rooms face directly out onto the ocean, with the only thing between you and the water being a small cliff, perhaps a hammock, and maybe a couple seabirds. The grounds are maintained by a huge crew (the staff-to-guest ratio is about 8:1), but if you'd rather not walk through them to get from your room to the lobby, gym, spa, lazy river, or any of the other amenities, you can call for a golf cart to take you there.

"Our guests really feel at home here," Aurora Castaneda, the resort's public relations manager, told me. "Our people are really committed to being friends with the guests, always thinking how they can make them feel special. It comes from the heart; a lot of people who stay here say that it's the best Four Seasons because of the people."

Culinary options at the Four Seasons include four restaurants: Open-air Ketsi is located under a huge palapa, is open all day long, and serves Mexican classics; Bahia by Richard Sandoval is a seafood-oriented grille serving dinner, located right on the beach; Aramara serves Asian fare like sushi and sashimi but with a Latin twist; and Nuna Bar, on a patio overlooking the ocean, specializes in ceviche. 

The St. Regis is a five minute drive away, and is also stunningly beautiful. The 120-room resort boasts four restaurants: the Mita Mary Boat (above), a boat on the beach that's been outfitted with a grill, serving freshly-caught seafood; the Sea Breeze, an international restaurant with a pizza oven; Carolina, an upscale AAA 5-Diamond restaurant preparing Mexican fare using French techniques; and Marietta's, a traditional Mexican restaurant serving breakfast and lunch.

Hundreds of golfers descended on the peninsula for the festival, as both resorts co-hosted the fourth annual American Express Gourmet and Golf Classic. The two Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses on the property are among the finest in the country, and include the world's only natural offshore green. They're also quite exclusive: you need to be staying on the property in order to golf there.

While golf was the main draw, the "gourmet" aspect of it wasn't given short shrift in the least. Walk-around tasting events featuring chefs from the resorts' restaurants were held almost nightly, with a host of specially-arranged lunches, dinners, wine and mescal tastings, and cooking classes to keep the guests not there for the golf entertained.

Read on to check out some of the best bites from the festival, as well as some shots of the beautiful peninsula. 

View from Above

Flying into Puerto Vallarta, you can see just how remote the peninsula is thanks to a birds-eye view.

Opening Night

The Aeroméxico and Delta Opening Cocktail was held at the St. Regis, where guests had the opportunity to sample offerings from chefs participating in the festival.

Click here to see more photos from the Punta Mita Gourmet and Golf Classic.