Cigar Aficionado

El Tamarindo, Mexico

Out of the way. Out of sight. And, out of this world. El Tamarindo may be one of the Western Hemisphere's most luxurious hidden gems. Nestled on a small cove in the sweeping Barra de Tenacatita, about 40 miles north of the Pacific Coast port city of Manzanillo, it combines beauty, seclusion, first-class golf and excellent cuisine.

The 29 bungalows, dubbed villas, have thatched roofs and wide sliding doors that open onto spacious verandas. About eight of the villas face the ocean and afford beautiful vistas of the private white sand beach and spectacular sunsets. The rest of the bungalows blend into the jungle vegetation above the beach.

El Tamarindo, a member of the Luxury Collection of Starwood Resorts and Hotels, also has an 18-hole, David Flemingñdesigned golf course that winds through the 2,500-acre nature preserve surrounding the hotel. The par-3 ninth is one of the world's most beautiful holes, playing 150 yards downhill across a gully to a green tucked on the side of a seaside cliff. After a round of golf, the next must-do is a massage under a small beachside palapa where one of the hotel's expert masseuses work out your sore muscles while the breeze rustles the sheer linen curtains.

The cuisine hasn't been overlooked, either. With daily menus designed by Mexican cookbook guru Patricia Quintana, guests get a sampling of modernized but very typical native cuisine. The seafood is supplied by local fishermen and is extremely fresh. Ask for the seafood pozole, a hominy based Mexican-style bouillabaisse; it's outrageously good.

Cigars are sold in the hotel gift shop, and although the selection is small it was noteworthy during a visit in March; the collection included Vega Robaina and Cohiba. Pick one up, if you didn't travel with your own, and order a Margarita Tamarindo, made with the tamarind fruit, and savor the quiet and solitude while gazing out at the ocean.

Room prices run from approximately $250 to $500 a night, depending on villa location.

Call (52) 315 351-5032 or fax (52) 315 351-5070.