Escape to Puerto Vallarta's Five-Diamond Hotel Mousai: A Rejuvenating Break
Richard C. Morais - Barrons
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June 18, 2017

The rooftop infinity pool at Hotel Mousai, a modernist tower 20 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. Courtesy of Hotel Mousai

The waves pounded Puerto Vallarta’s beach in front of me, a plate of roasted octopus and capers was at my elbow, and my private tutor, Laura Vazquez, was drilling me across the cafe’s table on my Spanish grammar and comprehension. “Pedro estudió en Playa del Carmen,” I said haltingly, and she flashed an encouraging smile. This Pedro fellow rather liked doing his homework on the beach—and I had to agree with him.

Roman philosopher Seneca astutely remarked that “leisure without learning is death,” a truism that can be observed in many resorts where there’s endless golf, shuttles to the mall, and 5 p.m. “drinkiepoos,” but also, for me, a deadly vacuousness in the air—precisely because, among all that forced fun, the soul and its needs have not been attended to.

So when February came around and I jetted off to the Mexican beach resort to counter the exhaustion and dreariness of an East Coast winter, I decided to supplement the usual diet of sun, sand, and tequila with two hours of Spanish lessons a day, long a cherished educational goal of mine. Before I left home, I contacted the Spanish Experience Center in Puerto Vallarta and paid a $100 registration fee and $375 for 10 hours of private lessons. My discovery: Studying changes the timbre of the holiday break, in good and bad ways.

Of course, nourishing the mind is always best done when relaxing in suitably pleasant surroundings. The driver who picked me up at Puerto Vallarta’s airport pointed his black Suburban toward Hotel Mousai, the only AAA five-diamond hotel in the state of Jalisco and a 20-minute ride down the coast from the resort town. The hotel, which opened in December 2014 to rave reviews, is a modernist tower that emerges halfway up a mountain covered in rainforest.

Inside its glass lobby, I was handed an icy green drink in a martini glass and then forced to sit through a painfully long check-in ritual, until a porter finally took me to my “ultra” suite on the 10th floor. The living-room couch and chairs were made from purple foam, beyond which a king-size bed commanded sunlit space. A massive mirrored partition separated the main chamber from a dressing room with a love seat and vanity table, and a full en suite bathroom with rainforest shower. The porter spent time explaining how I could open and close the curtains with the room’s iPad; it was impossibly complicated.

But the 1,000-square-foot apartment offered as compensation a private terrace complete with its own hammock and gold-tiled hot tub the size of a plunge pool—and a spectacular view of the towering mountains behind me; the jagged coastline below with James Bond–type jungle islands in aquamarine waters; and the expansive horizon brimming with the platinum sloshings of the Pacific Ocean, in which breaching whales are frequently spotted.

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