It’s 6:23 in the morning and I’m stumbling alone in the dark along the Pacific coastline, south of Zihuatanejo in Juluchuca, Mexico.
“Just keep walking and you’ll see them,” they told me when I checked into Playa Viva, the regenerative eco-resort that is my home here for the next four days.
Eventually, perhaps half a mile down the beach, I came upon a group of people staring at the ground. And then, in the still-dark, I saw it, a just hatched baby turtle taking its very first, sloppy steps into the surf.
La Tortuga Viva, the onsite sea turtle sanctuary, has saved more than half a million turtles including some of the endangered leatherback species.
Playa Viva's onsite sea turtle sanctuary is worth waking up early for a visit.(Dave Krugman, Courtesy of Playa Viva)
This is Playa Viva, where there’s a bigger turnout for the baby turtle release before 6:30am than at the bar come happy hour. The WiFi password is “disconnect2reconnect,” a slight jab reminding you to put the device down and be present to the incredible surroundings.
I will tell you about the rooms, the amenities, the food, and the immersive relaxation to be had here. I can tell you that the average guest I encountered had been here before, several times even, a testament alone to plan a visit. But one could write many stories on Playa Viva. As owner David Leventhal says, “There’s a lot of layers to the onion.”
The founding hotel in the Regenerative Travel collection (there are now 29), the property is made up of 99 percent outdoor accommodations including 18 treehouses over 200 acres of nature reserve. At the core of that onion is the principle of sustainability: Since 2008, Playa Viva has been running 100 percent on off-grid solar power, solar thermal hot water, and grey- and black-water processing. Playa Viva also recently received its B-Corp Certification, earning a top score of 110, the highest of any B-Corp Certified hotel to date.
A permaculture farm onsite provides nearly all the resort's produce and meat, and also sells its goods at the local markets. For guests who care to learn more about it, farm manager Amanda Harris and her team will happily guide you for a farm tour, but even if you don't visit and see the goldenrod turmeric slices or magenta jamaica flowers drying on racks in the sun, you will certainly taste them come mealtime.
(Courtesy of Playa Viva)
The all-inclusive food is plentiful and mostly plant-based, with an early breakfast spread of chia pudding, fresh fruit, vibrant juices, and coffee with frothy homemade coconut milk. After the daily yoga class on a wooden platform with views of the crashing tide, you can head back to the communal dining area for a second breakfast, abundant with fresh tortillas griddled on the comal and eggs cooked to order. A late lunch features various salads served with an addictive house sesame dressing, beans, rice, and pozole. Dinner brings additional proteins, like an entire salt-baked fish, sourced from the farm and from local fisherfolk and filled to the brim in locally made clay pots.
In 2022, the resort unveiled six new treehouses, all crafted from natural materials grown onsite and all with the promise that the sound of soft waves will lull you to sleep each night. The room I’m staying in is called Dune Manta, inspired by an aerial view of the mobula manta ray migration. If you flew above Playa Viva, the treehouses would resemble that captivating scene.
My meandering wooden treehouse has two bedrooms, a bathroom, and shower; the master bedroom has its own balcony beneath the roof outcropping and a permanent hammock over 10 feet up in the air. There is organic cotton bedding, natural bath products, and thick Mexican blankets for chilly nights.
Once you've managed to unplug, you might lose motivation to leave the property, but you would miss out on the Eco Tianguis Sanka farmers market in “Zihua” (it's what the locals call Zihuatanejo), launched by Gabriela Quintero (of the band Rodrigo y Gabriela). Her organization, Cooperativa Eco-Vegana, cofounded with her sister, works to support and uphold local agriculture, community, and plant-based cooking—and slings out incredible food at this Saturday market. Go for tacos and burritos packed with rajas and eggplant plus a buffet line of salsas and toppings. Bandmate Rodrigo Sanchez is also on board with this movement, through his vegan restaurant, La Raíz de la Tierra, in nearby Ixtapa.
For a deeper dive into the nature of the region, check out the Whales of Guerrero Project in Barra de Potosí, which works with local fishermen on protecting whales and other ocean life; hop on a bike to try out the Ciclopista, a path that runs from Playa Linda in Ixtapa to Playa Principal in Zihuatanejo; or venture into the mountains to visit the family-run the Sierra Mountain Farm, to learn about and taste their cacao and coffee, which will you also find on the menu at Playa Viva.
For the ultimate chill-out, visit in low season—May, June, October, and early November.
// All-inclusive rates from $290/two guests for a studio and $677/four guests for a two-bedroom suite; playaviva.com.