When one thinks of idyllic honeymoon destinations, Mexico often comes to mind, in part because there are oh-so many options. Los Cabos, Cancun, Tulum, Mexico City, Riviera Maya, Punta Mita, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca…the list goes on and on. But one secretly spectacular place is conspicuously absent from most brainstorms: Careyes.
The name means “turtle,” and while it’s an epic place for lovebirds of many personalities to vacation, it’s especially incredible for those with an affection for sea turtles, specifically baby ones. The Pacific Coast residential resort destination—an hour and a half drive north from Manzanillo, and three hours south from Puerto Vallarta—is home to five species and is where thousands of them come annually to lay eggs, which the Careyes Foundation protects and couples could help release at sunset. It’s pure magic.
But the adorable baby turtles are only one of many elements responsible for creating an environment that emphasizes the beauty of the natural world along with color, creativity and a bohemian spirit. Careyes was founded 50 years ago by an Italian banker who purchased a vast plot of beach-fringed jungle and set out slowly developing it into a vibrant community marked by jaw-dropping castles, villas, casitas and other imaginative structures, many of which are available for vacation rental. Funiculars move people up and down the hills and hiking trails have a definite Jurassic Park vibe. Community is important here, so whether you’re a celebrity, homeowner or a first-timer at Careyes, chances are you’ll end up at someone’s cocktail party meeting fascinating jet-setters from around the globe. It’s not a place for wallflowers: people are genuinely friendly, and love to get to know new visitors.
That said, if you want to spend two days in bed in your casita or condo-style apartment at El Careyes Club & Residences—the newest accommodation, complete with five infinity pools leading to the beach and a plethora of hammocks, loungers and paddle boards—you totally can. Just request a stocked fridge (there’s a full kitchen) or private chef ahead of time, and maybe a masseuse, too. But going “out on the town” is a blast, especially for social types. Playa Rosa Beach Club, where the chalkboard menu hasn’t changed since it opened in the ‘70s, is a blast, especially when out under the stars at night, lit by torches. And La Duna, at El Careyes, makes hands-down the best guacamole, with chips a la minute, under the sun. La Coscolina is a fantastic breakfast spot, while Pueblo25 is the most romantic spot for innovative courses dreamed up on the spot using the freshest ingredients from the sea and local farms (paired with fantastic Mexican wines). Don’t miss sunset margaritas and tapas at Casa de Nada.
See more: 22 Places to Honeymoon in Mexico
Beyond the edible pleasures there is plenty to do—or not do. There are a handful of perfect sandy beaches, after all. But for the culturally interested there are art exhibits and installations, wondrous structures to explore (think a giant cup for meditating, and a pyramid carved out of stone), as well as the option to volunteer time with the Careyes Foundation as its staff teaches local village kids English in their schools, or takes them for adventurous bike rides. There’s surfing on fantastic yet empty waves, boating and fishing. A tour of the architectural stunners is advisable. And it’s wise to keep eyes peeled for whales in season, since they’re known to breach just as the sun is setting in front of El Careyes. If all this fun, sun and R&R sounds appealing, it may be time to shop for a honeymoon kaftan and straw hat.