Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 27, 2021
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Natural Perfection

Hotelito Desconocido is Mexico's first solar-powered luxury resort

At the end of a dusty road between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo on Mexico's Costa Alegre (happy coast), a tiny hideaway aptly named Hotelito Desconocido (little unknown hotel) proves nature and luxury need not be mutually exclusive.

Forget your laptop. Forget your hair dryer. There are no phones, no computers, no elevators -- in short, no electricity. Hotelito Desconocido runs on solar power. Only two years old, it's the brainchild of Italian fashion designer Marcello Murzilli, of 1970s Charro jeans fame. He explains that on a sailing trip around the world, he discovered these 40-plus hectares of hidden paradise. "I wanted to change the rules about hotels and reinterpret standards of luxury for the next century."

And he did just that. Hotelito Desconocido is located in the middle of a protected nature reserve. The estuary is an important bird sanctuary and the beach a hatching ground for sea turtles. "Windmills pump water for the resort and the sun heats it. Basically, we have everything we need," says Murzilli.

The hotel took four years to build, during which time Murzilli slept in a tent on the beach and worked with the townspeople of Cruz de Loreto, a remote fishing village four kilometres away. "The people thought I was loco," he laughs, "when I explained that I wanted the hotel to be built in the style of the fishing villages of their ancestors -- you know, with bamboo, matting, rope and traditional Mexican art and handicrafts." They realized he wasn't crazy after all when they finally saw the Murzilli master plan unfold. Today, almost all of the hotel's staff are Cruz de Loreto villagers.

Solar-powered Luxury
My husband and I arrive at Murzilli's hand-hewn paradise one midday in January. Jorge, the bellboy, peddles our luggage to our palafito -- a thatched hut built on stilts over the estuary that embraces the resort. There are no locks or keys here; valuables can be stored in the room's safety deposit box. The room has a certain rustic simplicity with designer touches. The whitewashed adobe walls are splashed with painted fuchsias. Balcony doors and window shades are made from woven mats and the four-poster bed is draped with a white mosquito net and covered in hand-embroidered linens. Jorge points to the rope beside the bed. Give it a tug in the morning and it raises a red flag on top of the palafito where the solar panels are cleverly concealed. Minutes later a cyclist arrives bearing Mexican coffee spiked with sugar and cinnamon, fresh fruit and cookies.

As a travel writer, I've had the pleasure of lounging in elaborate whirlpool baths and showering in head-to-toe marble surroundings, but Hotelito Desconocido's bathrooms are by far the most pleasurable. The shower is big enough for two with a cobblestone and concrete floor and a wall of bamboo poles, placed close enough together for privacy while maintaining an open-air feeling. Guests are strongly encouraged to use the eco-friendly herbal soap, shampoo and creams supplied in terra-cotta jars. What the brochure describes as a sophisticated sewage treatment is in fact the convenience of a flush toilet with a separate basket for paper. I feel as if I'm somewhere between a Mexican ranchero and a Tahitian beach hut.

At lunchtime we follow a path to a small dock where guests are rowed in a tiny skiff across the estuary to Hotelito's private beach. No power boats allowed: only rowboats, sea kayaks, canoes and windsurfers are permitted in these waters.

At Nopalito, the beach restaurant named for the tiny cacti that grow here, our waiter Kiki brings a refresher of mineral water and freshly squeezed lime juice. We help ourselves to colourful salads from a bar set in an old dugout canoe, then move on to fish seviche and grilled T-bone steaks. As we're on holiday, we make room for the mango mousse. Most of the fruits and vegetables served are organic, grown in Hotelito's own gardens, while local fishermen provide their daily catch.


We leave the restaurant and decide to take a swim in the ocean, but the red flag is up on the beach, meaning swimming is hazardous (there is an extremely strong current here), so we cool off in the saltwater pool and watch a family of whales frolicking in the surf before retiring into shaded hammocks for siestas.

In the late afternoon, we row ourselves back to El Cantarito, the mainland restaurant that is housed in a larger version of our palafito, for a couple of Pacifico beers and a game of billiards. As the sun sets beyond a rope bridge, we head to the spa where the steam room has been fired up and have a "mistical" experience, with candles flickering under the tile benches.

City of Lights
Each evening the staff light about a thousand candles in the palafitos and along the paths leading to El Cantarito. The restaurant is aglow as we gather around the bar for Tequila Sunsets and quesadillas. There are only 30 palafitos at Hotelito and the atmosphere is friendly and casual. Our convivial fellow guests include a couple from Mexico City celebrating their first anniversary, some honeymooners from Europe, bird-watching enthusiasts from Martha's Vineyard and two gregarious couples from New York who keep postponing their departure.

Behind the bar, in the open kitchen, three smiling women from Cruz de Loreto dish up plates of lobster and shrimp. The six of us dine together, the Chilean wine flows, Kiki turns up the solar-powered compact disc player and we dance to the Gypsy Kings till it runs out of juice. We make plans to go for an early morning horseback ride along the beach with Guayo, the first employee Murzilli hired.

Just after midnight we meander back to our palafito under a star-paved sky. The mood inside has changed: tiny candles that have been safely and strategically placed in glass lanterns around the room throw fanciful flickering shadows. We blow out the flames, fall into our romantically-draped bed and dream about returning to this remarkable place where everything is in harmony with nature. We feel healthy, happy and even a bit smug to have discovered how good the simple life can be


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