Backstory: Capella is a luxury hotel management company founded in 2002 by Horst Schulze, the legendary hotelier whose instinct for luxury propelled Ritz-Carlton to global acclaim. Within its first decade as a prestige brand, Capella’s North American portfolio boasted four resorts in Mexico (in Riviera Maya, Riviera Nayarit, Cabo San Lucas and Ixtapa) plus an absolutely exquisite skyscraper hotel on 5th Avenue in New York City (now The Langham).
By the time of my visit to Ixtapa in 2014, this was Capella’s only remaining property in the Americas. All the others had closed, sold or otherwise ended their contracts. Schulze sold the company in 2017 to a wealthy Singaporean family who already owned the flagship Capella Singapore (and quite a few other luxury hotels across Asia).
Almost immediately after that, the U.S. State Department issued a dreaded “Do Not Travel” warning for the Mexican state of Guerrero, which likely had more to do with Donald Trump’s feud with Mexico than it did any actual escalation of danger in the region’s popular tourist areas.
Long story short: Capella pulled out and the resort (which was always locally owned) rebranded as Cala de Mar, completely revamping its management team. Otherwise little else changed.
So, is this still the nicest resort in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo?
Well, maybe. As far as accommodations and facilities go, Cala de Mar is as beautiful and romantic as ever. The property has been exquisitely maintained. As chance (or perhaps an astute front-desk agent) would have it, I stayed in the exact same room this time as my previous Capella visit, and I couldn’t spot a single difference.
Every room still boasts its own private plunge pool. The view from every corner of the resort still takes my breath away. The palm trees and pink bougainvillea that cascade down the hillside are as immaculately manicured as ever. The spa, still a welcome refuge. The poolside cocktails, even more fantastic than I remembered. Personal assistants still respond around the clock, and service throughout is stellar.
But I say “maybe” it’s still the nicest because I haven’t yet stayed overnight at the newly opened Thompson Zihuatanejo, which was formerly Viceroy and in those days wasn’t as luxurious as Capella, but Thompson just spent a fortune upgrading that legacy beachfront property (where some rooms have private pools but most don’t). Also: Thompson stole Cala de Mar’s executive chef, the extraordinarily talented Miguel Baltazar. That’s a huge blow, as Baltazar is probably the best chef in all of Guerrero.
But for one dish (an extravagant pork belly taco), the cooking at Cala de Mar’s top restaurant, A Mares, failed to impress — rubbery lobster, severely overcooked duck, watery pasta sauce… It was not quite the celebratory dinner I envisioned. I learned the following day that I had dined on the chef’s night off. Thankfully my meals at the resort’s poolside restaurant, Las Rocas, were exponentially more pleasurable (if not exactly destination dining), simpler fare like aguachiles and ceviches and grilled local octopus. And I enjoyed a genuinely terrific pozole in the bar. Meanwhile, the outdoor seafood grill was closed mid-week (open weekends only), so I didn’t get to try that one.
Bottom line: Will I be back? That’s a tough call. I adore this property and sincerely hope to return. However, dining is hugely important to me when I travel, and my meal at A Mares just wasn’t special — when it should have been the highlight. If I do come again, I’ll stick to poolside ceviche. And I might spend more time off-site at mealtime.
Rates from about $310 (USD); Paseo Punta Ixtapa S/N, Zona Hotelera II, 40880 Ixtapa, +52 (755) 555-1100, calademar.com