In luxury real estate, it’s not uncommon to find developments boasting high-end amenities like pristine golf courses, private beach clubs, or Michelin-starred restaurants.
However, nestled in the coastal jungle of Western Mexico, a new luxury development offers a unique selling point: a pony named Karen.
Karen and her 48 equine companions are the stars of Mandarina, a billion-dollar residential resort currently being sculpted into a cliffside in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.
Based in Mexico, the developer is wagering that the grand stables, designed by a celebrity architect and housing two polo pros and their athletic horses, will draw the attention of the world’s elite.
As Borja Escalada, CEO of RLH Properties, the company behind the development, explains,
“In the ultraluxury market, this could be someone’s fifth, sixth, seventh, or tenth home. It’s the unique touches that make the difference.”
He believes that Karen and her fellow ponies provide that special touch, creating a unique experience where one moment, you could be walking along the beach or trying to catch a wave, and the next, you’re immersed in the world of polo.
The resort spans 636 acres, including a relatively untouched coastline compared to its neighbor, Puerto Vallarta.
In this riveting video, take an exclusive tour inside the ONE&ONLY Mandarina, Mexico’s most uniquely captivating resort:
Construction kicked off in 2018 with Phase One, a luxury hotel operated by One&Only, an international hotelier with locations from Rwanda to Malaysia.
Now complete, it features 105 standalone bungalows nestled among the local flora, each accompanied by a butler and priced between $1,300 and $31,000 a night for a suite.
Phase Two, One&Only Mandarina Private Homes, is currently under construction.
Starting at $5.3 million, the hotel franchise will also manage these residences, offering services such as scorpion removal, among other tasks.
So far, 23 out of the 55 available homes have been sold, some of which are located on sites that appear to be mere cliffs dropping into the sea.
These villas will be built on stilts to minimize disturbance to the surrounding forest. Their glass facades and infinity pools offer views into the canopy rather than over it.
Architect Rick Joy designed these homes, emulating the harmonious integration with nature he achieved with the acclaimed Amangiri resort in Utah.
The residences are surrounded by strangler figs, a parasitic vine that wraps around trees, creating a striking structure even as it consumes its host.
In many ways, these figs reflect the development’s approach: aesthetically pleasing yet overtaking a natural resource.
Coatis, adorable raccoon-like creatures, roam freely across the property, remnants of the original inhabitants.
Overlooking the site are the Sierra Madre Mountains, close to the home of the endangered northern jaguars.
The next development phase will introduce a Rosewood Hotel and its branded residences, which will be available for sale later this year.
Those who purchase a residence can choose additional features, such as a media room or a Peloton gym, and select from a range of minimalist decor packages.
As the residential sales director Catherine Martin puts it, “Everything, down to the last tequila shot glass,” is included.
Owners also have the option to add their properties to the hotel’s pool of available spaces, generating rental income when they’re not in use.
This unique blend of luxury living and equestrian lifestyle makes Mandarina stand out.
Whether you’re a polo enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates the beauty and grace of horses, this development offers a unique experience.
As a horse expert myself, I can’t help but be intrigued by the concept. Not every day you see a luxury resort that places such emphasis on equine facilities.
The stables, also designed by Rick Joy, host exclusive polo matches for residents and guests on weekends.
There’s even a library of loaner riding boots, helmets, and professional players to teach lessons.
A breeding program is also in the works, with the program’s firstborn foal, Mandarino, just turning two.
The resort offers varied facilities, including renowned chef Enrique Olvera’s omakase taco, an on-site biologist-led butterfly and mantis sanctuary, and a tropical spa with a mud cistern.
The resort showcases One&Only’s signature service, with staff expressing their respect with a heart-pressed hand gesture whenever a resident or guest passes.
However, the polo horses aren’t just for show. Some have been repurposed as beach-trail horses, a challenging transition for these typically high-strung animals.
But according to Gustavo Mejía, the Mandarina Polo and Equestrian Club manager, they’ve bravely taken to their new roles.
Despite the challenges, Kappner Clark, RLH’s marketing director, is optimistic.
“At this market level, which is ultra-luxury, people are looking for unique experiences. And the polo, it fits into that vision.”
In conclusion, Mandarina is a fascinating example of how luxury real estate is evolving to offer unique experiences.
As a horse lover, I’m excited to see how this development progresses and whether the integration of equestrian facilities becomes a trend in luxury real estate.
After all, who wouldn’t want a pony like Karen as their neighbor?
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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