News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Mexico Review: Four Seasons Tamarindo, Mexico

Four Seasons Tamarindo was 15 years in the making.  That’s not nearly as impressive as the 65 million it took to make Jurassic Park, but it’s definitely a considerable amount of time when I think that 15 years ago, I was barely out of nappies.  I was 22 years old. Don’t judge me.  And you can see why it took an eternity to dream up and build this place. Nestled in a sprawling 3,000-acre private nature reserve, Tamarindo is so vast that the trek from the gate to the resort is nearly a 15-minute saga.  Which is about the same amount of time dinosaurs appear on screen in Jurassic Park.  Coincidence?  Yes, actually.  Relevant?  Not at all.

Dramatically perched on a cliffside, Four Seasons Tamarindo immediately frames the ocean like a masterpiece, accompanied by a symphony of roaring waves—very La Reserve Ramatuelle in its grandeur.  The entire property forces you to admire the spectacular ocean.  At first impression, I got a drone boner thinking how amazing it would be to endlessly stalk this property from above and every angle, but after the initial wow factor, it actually felt a bit underwhelming.  You might even say, very Four Seasons-y.  I went from getting swept up in the vibes of Greece’s superb Amanzoe to instead feeling like it was designed during Greece’s financial crisis.  The building looks so impressive with the grand entrance and epic view, but they went too big and bold and blew their load too quickly, as the rest of the property is somewhat muted.

Getting to Four Seasons Tamarindo isn’t exactly a walk in the park.  From Cancun, it meant flying to Mexico City, then catching another flight to ZLO—an airport so tiny, you could chat with the Four Seasons rep through the baggage claim door.  I never want to hear anyone complain about anything again – I did 9 hours of travelling with two kids to get here.  Surviving a nine-hour odyssey with two kids in tow, I feel qualified to say I’ve earned a PhD in patience.

We were greeted by a guest experience representative who escorted us on the hour-long journey to the resort.  This was a first for me, and it was an excellent addition, providing a chance to learn more about the resort, the surrounding area and local culture.  Things looked up even more when we arrived and were greeted by staff from the kids club, who had presents for both children.  Then we had a brief few seconds to take in that view, after which my daughter vomited on me, exactly like she’d planned it.

Four Seasons Tamarindo entrance – my daughter is posing for scale and also for her royalties.

Room

The room setup was wonderful, with a Tic Tac Toe gingerbread cookies set – a sentence we need to see more of in the world –  a bottle of Chardonnay, a written note on glass for our daughters, which was lovely and something I had only ever seen at Porto Zante, and then a Tamarind chocolate tree, which was possibly the tastiest welcome amenity I’ve ever had.

Most suites at the cliffside offer the same layout and design, differing only in the views they provide.  The downside is you’re not really in a walkable position to the resort and will rely on calling for a buggy to take you.  We chose a Premium Beachfront Room—essentially a bedroom and bathroom with a generous balcony, totalling 98 sqm.  We decided to stay in a room rather than opting for a suite, as it felt too excessive for what was essentially a review trip.  We went to see a Beachfront Suite, and I felt tempted to pay for the supplement to upgrade, but by the time I saw it, the hassle outweighed the upside.  But you should take it, as you’re much better looking and smarter than me.

If you can afford it, opt for their Beach House, a stunning three-bedroom villa that is their only room with direct beach access.  At over $20,000/n, I don’t see it as good value for money, but it was booked for a few nights during our stay, so clearly, at least one other person on this planet disagrees.

Our room, conveniently located near all the essential amenities, was just a short stroll from the spa, main pool, and breakfast spot.  Despite being “just” a room, it was surprisingly spacious, with ample wardrobe space, a large bathroom and enough room for a practical sofa bed. The TV is off to one side of the bed, but at least it’s directly viewable from the sofa.

Let me do my mandatory Toto toilet check: zero.

The design is modern and somewhat minimalist, but it’s all a bit Four Seasons-y in how generic the design is.  I think “simple” is a fair term, but they make up for it with the abundance of natural light, the views, and the sound of crashing waves throughout the night, which will either soothe you to sleep or make you think you’re being shipwrecked.  The bathroom led to an outside balcony with a hammock, but come mid-day, you basically can’t use the balcony as there’s no shade and the sun is directly in front of you.  On the positive, the sun does then set directly in front of you too.  They feel private, but you can comfortably stare into some of your neighbour’s balconies, too, so it depends on your definition of privacy.  Also, some lunatic could have a drone….

Overall, we were happy, but a beachfront suite is my recommended suggestion.

Facilities

Tamarindo has its moments, like its architecture, which is somehow both mesmerising and unremarkable at the same time.  It’s like squinting at one of those optical illusions of a duck or rabbi —only to realise it’s just a badly drawn picture by a three-year-old.  I could not stop wanting to photograph it, but kept being disappointed the more I looked at it — like getting closer to a roadside accident and regretting it.  It feels like it could only be a Four Seasons, which is not the compliment it used to be.

But it certainly knows how to maximise its picturesque setting, with each restaurant seemingly arranged atop one another, two boasting their own pool and offering spectacular, uninterrupted ocean views.  The property is split into different layers, starting with the reception area and working its way down to the beach.  Seeking shade by the beach?  Your only refuge is beneath Sal.  While it sounds innovative, it’s not exactly the prime spot for relaxation, and judging by its lack of popularity, it seems many others share this sentiment.  Seeking shade anywhere in the resort?  They didn’t seem to think of that either.

Your salvation from the sun.

But if a sun tan and years of skin cancer treatment is your thing, there are three pools, including an adults-only option.  The main restaurant boasts the resort’s largest pool, impressively nestled into the natural rock formations, but Amangiri it is not.  The golf course melds seamlessly with the landscape, appearing as if it’s naturally part of the resort.  A second beach, just a five-minute buggy ride away, serves as a nostalgic nod to the resort’s past, with some original residences still standing.  Mind you, ‘swimmable’ turned out to be a tad optimistic during our visit; apparently, it works union hours and is only swimmable during certain parts of the day.

Tamarindo’s hippest spot seems to be a teen paradise, featuring a spacious club where they can catch a movie or play video games amongst friends.  The design is all very unfinished, though, which is reflected in other areas.  The resort advertises a cinema that’s nowhere close to completion, along with tennis courts and areas for pickleball and paddleball undergoing refurbishment.  Seeing these amenities unfinished as the resort nears its second anniversary is odd.  There was also a boutique, which was very much finished, and for the sake of our marriage, I didn’t check the bill at the end.

Tamarindo shines when it comes to being kid-friendly; the kids’ club is bustling with complimentary daily activities, though the littlest guests under four will need a babysitter.  We hired one for our eldest, and she absolutely loved it.  The fact that they’re open from 9 am to 9 pm meant we, too, loved it.

The gym was spacious and well-organised, featuring a good selection of equipment, including my cherished Peloton, alongside a comprehensive array of strength and cardio machines.  Adjacent to the gym is a Pilates studio.  The downside was that it was the busiest gym I could recall seeing, meaning I was equipment swapping with people at times, and the view was just onto a rooftop with a small piece of ocean.

The spa features separate changing rooms for men and women, each equipped with a sauna, steam room, relaxation area, and outdoor pools—one heated with jets and one cool.  The communal area, dubbed ‘the mirror,’ includes a waterfall effect and a cold pool with loungers leading up to a shaman experience.  Other than Shaman’s experience, the design feels a bit generic.  It felt disappointing, given the space they had available to them and the opportunity to create something special.

Lucie found her treatment really bizarre and underwhelming, so naturally, she went back for another one and had similar feedback.  The language barrier with the masseur led to a silent session devoid of personal touch or communication, like pressure preferences, making for a rather disconnected experience.

Food

Each of their three signature restaurants is almost stacked one on top of each other, with only Sal missing out on a swimming pool, as it’s only a matter of steps down to the ocean.  Sal was my favourite, with the most dramatic location and the echo of crashing waves creating its own rock concert.  The design stood out, and the bar made this an area you could hang around for hours.  So, with it being my favourite, naturally, Lucie sent some food back as she hated it.  It specialises in seafood, which makes sense—you’re by the sea, in a restaurant, eating… well, seafood.  Choice is not in abundance here, though, with barely a dozen options for lunch.  However, during one lunch, we witnessed whales perform their ballet against the backdrop of the open ocean.  That’s my lasting memory.  That and the head of security scolding me for sending a drone out to try and spot it.  Fair – I deserved that.

Coyul offers a Mexican culinary experience, focusing on local ingredients and traditional recipes.  This is also where breakfast is served, where a buffet is offered along with an extensive a la carte selection.  I advise you to come early for breakfast, like we did, as the word “luxury” will not cross your lips later on unless it’s “remember what luxury used to look like?  Back in the halcyon days of an hour ago?”.  Nachos, with its laid-back vibe, serves a variety of comfort foods, and I’m gonna guess you’re intelligent enough to guess what some of them might be.

The cuisine at Tamarindo was, for the most part, superb.  It’s also much more affordable than Cancun, with a fair 15% service charge included without the expectation of additional tipping.  Moreover, the family-friendly approach is evident, as kids under 5 eat for free.

Service

We utilised the Four Seasons app for communication, yet, similar to other experiences, it often proved sluggish.  The more I look at the Four Seasons implementation of messaging, the less it makes sense to me – it’s never efficient, and it’s just messages passed around by different people who mostly have no idea who you are or what the previous correspondence is.  After checking in, we realised we didn’t have a key, so requested it, and it took them 45 minutes to get it to us.  Luckily, they sent the virtual key to the app (actually a cool feature) in 10 minutes – but that’s a lifetime of hanging outside your room with two kids.  Marriages have ended in less time.

The service missed the mark in several areas.  Despite requests for early housekeeping, they consistently arrived at noon, neglecting tasks like removing old room service items, not replenishing amenities, and leaving behind dirty nappies.  After repeated mentions of the lingering welcome food amenities, they finally cleared them almost two days later.

Language barriers also pose challenges, with imperfect English prevalent across various departments.  The resort’s concept of time seems flexible, as services advertised to start at noon often begin closer to 12:20.  There are no turndown gifts or extra touches, save for an unexplained bottle of wine and cheese left in the room, possibly as an apology.  Finally, the checkout process was frustratingly slow, taking 40 minutes due to a rush of people at 11 am, further highlighting the inefficiencies.

The team at the resort is definitely putting in the effort to please, with friendliness abound and a readiness to jump in wherever needed.  It’s like they’ve dipped their toes into the luxury tourism pool but haven’t quite figured out how to swim without floaties.  The biggest issue was the housekeeping department, as guest relations were often on the ball, and we felt well looked after by them.  The pre-arranged aspects, like welcome amenities, were executed brilliantly, yet the everyday operational elements need improving.

There’s this palpable eagerness to excel; a deep desire to please, but they weren’t doing it yet.  Kind of like my deep desire to marry Charlize Theron; full of ambition, yet glaringly out of reach.

The Good

  • Food
  • Kids facilities
  • Rooms
  • Activities

The Bad

  • Service needs work

The Luxurious

  • Setting

Rating

Good

Conclusion

The main reason to come here is the breathtaking setting and the ability to have someone take care of your kids or teenagers.  If clients are interested, I will give it the thumbs up, but with caveats—possibly the largest being whether you can easily get here.  Still, I enjoyed it.

This secluded region, fresh to the luxury hospitality scene, has Cuixmala as its only neighbour – and they seem allergic to service.  That’s certainly not the case here.  Four Seasons just needs to focus on the service aspect and pray for more solar eclipses to stop the sun from glaring down on me all day without any way to escape it.  And then manage how crowded it could be at times.  All of which made it hard to fall in love with the property.  If you can stomach the room rates, you will be surprised how affordable everything is once you arrive.  Laundry was so cheap that I felt like soiling myself because it made economic sense.  There are also many activities here, from photography to whale watching to nature walks and golf.

When starting this review, I noticed the similarities between Four Seasons Tamarindo and One&Only Mandarina.  Both are nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast, seamlessly merging the dense jungle with the pristine shoreline.  Despite not having a vast number of rooms, the sheer scale of their grounds is impressive.  They offer something completely different to the surrounding competition.  By year’s end, Mandarina is set to unveil a golf club, aligning itself with Tamarindo’s offerings.  But for me, it’s an easy choice which one I’d pick, and it’s not Tamarindo.

Beachfront suites start from $5,000 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 11th Apr '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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