The Magical World of Costa Careyes
In 1962, legendary director John Huston arrived in the sleepy Mexican fishing village of Puerto Vallarta. He was there to film an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Night of the Iguana, and accompanying him were Hollywood darlings Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, in the early stages of their turbulent romance. When the movie wrapped, glamour had been permanently injected into the region. Huston bought a home nearby, and the film paved the way for wealthy visionaries and eccentrics to move in.
In 1968, Italian banking heir, artist and entrepreneur Gian Franco Brignone arrived on a tip from a Bolivian tin baron who had recently built a hotel near Puerto Vallarta. He hired a private plane to explore the coastline and was immediately taken by its unspoiled beauty – so much so that he bought an eight-mile stretch of it and moved his family over from Paris.
Soon after, Brignone began creating the vibrant fantasyland that is Costa Careyes. Inspired by socialite and fashion icon Gloria Guinness’ Acapulco villa (with its palapa roofs and curved stucco walls), he enlisted her architect Marco Aldaco, a disciple of the legendary Luis Barragán, to bring his own vision to life.
The eccentric Casa Mi Ojo was completed in 1975, and its Mexican modernism and eco chic are now the blueprint for Costa Careyes style. The walls of Casa Mi Ojo are painted electric blue, with two eyes peeking out over the coastline. An infinity pool meanders around the property, the rooms are cool white with beautiful art pieces, and a 90ft suspension bridge crosses crashing waves to a private island.
It is this eccentricity that makes Costa Careyes. From the ocean today, dozens of brightly-colored villas dot the undisturbed rainforest like exotic birds of paradise. Casa Mi Ojo is flanked by two “castles”: Sol de Oriente, a yellow sun surrounded in a blue pool and capped with a thatched palapa, and Sol de Occidente, its eggshell blue counterpart.
The ultimate in bohemian chic, Careyes has become a playground for jet-setters with eco sensibilities. Built around nature and deliberately underdeveloped (the resort had no phones until the Nineties), its luxurious villas offer a chance to commune with the environment without sacrificing self-indulgence.
To move into this community of well-healed partygoers, you’ll have to sign up for their code of conduct: protect the environment, respect the resort’s Mexican heritage, and show a commitment to the seven deadly sins – most importantly Sloth. Visit at the right time and there’s a good chance you’ll bump into Brignone himself, kaftanned and surrounded by elegant beauties, at one of Careyes’ frequent soirees.
Today, “Careyes” style has been mimicked along the 150 miles of beaches from Puerto Vallarta to Manzanilla. That style is European sensuality blended with Mexican daring – and a little Moroccan spice thrown in for good measure. Signature details include a bold use of color, sweeping open-air living spaces and palapas with thatched roofs. Infinity pools serve as modern-day castle moats. Interiors feature hammered concrete floors and custom furnishings to match the elephant-skin stucco walls.