by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua Marketing
Ultra-lux travellers, high net worth individuals and incentive travel qualifiers now define luxury as authenticity and seek out travel experiences that evoke emotions, stir up stories and trigger personal transformation. Naviva in Punta Mita, Mexico is a brand new concept from Four Seasons that’s already delivering on all these goals. Book it now before it’s not a secret any more.
Naviva – a new experience from Four Seasons
The unmistakable opening bars of “Just like that” started playing on the mini-Marshall speaker. Bonnie Raitt in John Prine mode telling a poignant and beautiful redemption story. Here come those tears again. They flowed freely, Bonnie’s song the final release valve for a surge of emotions that had started to rumble earlier in the day.
We were at Naviva, the new glamping concept from Four Seasons in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. Glamorous camping applies only in so far as the accommodation pods are referred to as tents. In reality we’re talking about a guest room experience that extends, at entry level, to around 1250 square feet (25% bigger that the 3 bedroom home we lived in when we were first married) and includes full bath, sleeping area, lounge, panoramic deck with fan and recliners, private pool, outdoor shower and so on.
Naviva opened in December 2022 following a two year building and development program. Comprising only 15 tents for a maximum of 30+ guests, and set on 48 acres of pacific hugging jungle, Naviva is new luxury personified, offering a home-from-home sanctuary, extensive personalisation and uncompromising authenticity. It’s also operates to impeccable sustainability standards, harvesting and filtering its own water, generating its own energy and minimising food waste by only cooking to order.
Naviva combines elements of a super-luxury Safari lodge in Kruger Park and a high end wellness retreat in Bali and delivers more than the sum of the two. All formalities are dispensed with – including check in – and, while the on-site guides will design an itinerary for you, all time is yours. Naviva is the brain child of Four Seasons veteran, and overall Renaissance-man, John O’Sullivan, who spent over a decade with the company in Asia before taking a regional GM role in Mexico.
We arrived with John and Cathie soon after noon and Osvaldo escorted us to our tents, casually pointing out where stuff was, and how it all worked. We quickly settled in, enjoying restorative views of the Pacific, framed by a natural gap in the surrounding foliage. Soon Osvaldo returned to walk us over to our massage that took place in a wooden pod, located deep in the forest. Irma and Vanella discussed oil and technique preferences with us and thus it started, the gradual withdrawal, the easeful retreat, the slip, sliding away from routine, schedule and timetables.
Following our massage, we found ourselves drawn to the remote and natural seclusion of the beach, although the terraced pool area looked inviting too. The brewing storm was already generating massive ocean swells and it was exhilarating to feel the water’s thundering power as it crashed and lashed the gnarled and craggy coastline inlets. There were cabanas dotted around the beach too but we felt the call of our tent and ascended the wooden stairway to our haven and another chapter of Richard Ford’s latest, Be Mine.
Prior to showing up, we did little or no research on the Temazcal other than noting it was a “gratitude ceremony” yet this is where Naviva really revealed its uniqueness, doing its deep digging and bringing light to all those places where the light needs to be.
The Temazcal, or House of Heat, is a domed shaped, half sphere with a narrow door or Puerta through which you enter the symbolic womb of mother nature and undergo a four stage fire and heat ritual. For the four of us, and the young couple that joined us, the ritual was led by Gustavo, a traditional Shaman whose Huichol name is Piwame.
Gustavo is the real deal and the Temazcal experience is thoroughly authentic, un-sanitised and hard-core. It is definitely not for the faint hearted. We assembled outside the dome near a bonfire in which lava rocks were being heated.
Traditional blessings were dispensed and our bodies were cleansed and incensed before we entered the dome. We arranged ourselves in our best yoga positions around the dome’s circumference and gradually Gustavo fed red hot lava rocks into a central fire pit, sending waves of intense heat around the dome.
After round one of the four part ritual, most of us we on the brink of calling “time out” but, to our collective credit, we persevered, although by now the yoga positions were abandoned as we lay flat out on the floor. After about 90 minutes we re-emerged. One of us joked that we’d never complain about the length of mass again.
We took the beach route back to our tents, catching the final rays of a dazzling sunset, surrounded, ominously, by pitch-dark clouds. The rain fell like warm, fat needles as we made our way to the kitchen for a truly memorable dinner with a freshly caught grilled lobster entrée.
Dining at Naviva
There’s no menu at Naviva, although each day there is a “special”. Like everything else there, it’s down to what you feel like in the moment. You’re also free to wander around the kitchen, watch the chefs prepping and cooking, check out what drinks are available at the well-stocked bar.
When we complained about the lack of Irish whiskey, John and I were brought back-of-house and shown a delectable Jameson Redbreast 15 year old. We were also shown an extravagant range of in-house potions, elixirs and fermentations. On the previous day, Sandy from LA, a returning guest, donned the chef’s hat and cooked Chinese for the entire Naviva community – it’s that kind of place!
And just like that the day drew to an end and we returned to our tent. The unmistakable opening bars of “Just like that” started playing on the mini-Marshall speaker …
Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner at SoolNua Marketing, a boutique agency advising destinations on strategy, marketing and training for Business Events. He also serves as Chief Marketing Officer for SITE – the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence.
More details on Naviva – https://www.fourseasons.com/naviva/