Elixir de Careyes

This is a world within a world, a discreet enclave within the already somewhat secretive environs of the Costalegre. The area was virgin forest and pristine coastline until the late 1960s, when it fell under the beady eye of maverick Italian magnate Gian Franco Brignone. In the intervening years Brignone has built up his private estate as a collection of superb architect-designed villas and one hotel (the Careyes), combining elements of the local palapa architecture with a breezy modernism drenched with colour and tinged with hippy chic. All sorts of famous

people have second homes here, although Elixir folk think it deeply vulgar to discuss names and details; and the New Year party scene is as groovy as a Mexican Ibiza. It says something about the Zeitgeist of the place that Quentin Tarantino shot part of Kill Bill 2 in Elixir, taking over almost the entire estate for the duration.

Of the various villas available for rent in the area, the three at Elixir de Careyes are very possibly the jewels in the crown. Poised on a hillside above Playa Rosa, the three – whimsically named Candelabro, La Huerta and Altiplano – are conceived as self-sufficient spaces, but all share the same spirit of high-rolling bohemian glamour, with multiple terraces and podiums, curvilinear walls and staircases, infinity pools and fountains, and balconies with unexpected views of sea and forest. Elements of Brignone’s personal design style are common to all three villas, in the shape of giant floor candles, sun-bleached driftwood trunks carved into eccentric furniture, generous use of Mexican fabrics and blazing arrangements of tropical flowers. In the well-tended gardens, bright splodges of bougainvillaea reflect the no-holds-barred colour-scheme of the villas themselves. Big butterflies decked out in sizzling blues and yellows flop by like silk handkerchiefs.

Elixir is an interesting hybrid of hotel and villa-rental, aimed at a clientele that increasingly finds conventional hotels tedious and intrusive, but likes the idea of Total Service. Each villa duly has its own permanent staff of four, including local cooks who serve up delicious, simple Mexican dishes at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Should you want to eat out, a funky beach restaurant down at Playa Rosa (Italian-run, of course) serves superb, locally caught fish.

The villas each sleep a maximum of 10. Guests need not lift a finger except perhaps to order another iced Margarita or to request the services of a masseuse. Young Mexican couple Viviana and Diego run the villas with grace and efficiency, doing their best to make sure that even your most self-indulgent whims are

catered for. They can also arrange yoga sessions in a yoga studio with steam bath and deck jutting out over the jungle, or lay on boat trips to a range of stunning nearby beaches.

Design freaks will love Elixir; so will lovers of sumptuously stylish settings, and anyone who has ever bought one of those coffee-table books on Pacific Style or Mexican Interiors. Personally, I found the Candelabro villa the most comfortable and atmospheric of the three. And, I have to admit, knowing that Uma Thurman had once slept in my bed added a frisson to my stay. Elixir DE Careyes, Costa Careyes, Jalisco (00 52 315 351 0344; 351 0339; e-mail: vividean@elixirdecareyes.com; www. elixirdecareyes.com). Villas from US$1,500 (accommodation only) per night. A single guest or couple can rent one villa, using only one room, from US$750

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