By Nikki Ekstein
October 27, 2015
Cuixmala resort
Credit: Michael Gilbreath

Hurricane Patricia has come and gone, and left in her wake far less damage than was feared—a relief for all. For now, no deaths have been reported, and the resort town of Puerto Vallarta has already bounced back to normalcy; its airports have fully reopened and its hotels, cruise port, and ground transit are back in full force.

Off the traditional tourist track, though, there’s upwards of $200 million in damage. Roads and infrastructure were wiped out entirely, homes and farms were destroyed, and mudslides have been adding to the assault on a series of small villages and towns along the Jalisco coast. One luxury resort bore the brunt of the storm: Cuixmala, a 36-room, Moorish-inspired retreat where guests like Madonna and Heidi Klum rent out suites and villas for upwards of $1,200 a night.

Luckily, the damage is manageable: where the rooms are concerned, the resort went relatively unscathed save for a few blown palapas. But Cuixmala is much more than its 36 rooms. Not only does it play a crucial role in the employment and education of its surrounding local communities—99% of the resort’s staff is local, and the property runs the local primary and middle school—it’s also single-handedly to thank for the enduring biodiversity of Mexico’s dry tropical forests, which house 1,200 species of plants, 270 types of birds, 70 mammal species, and thousands of different insects and invertebrates.

Since opening in the 1980’s, Cuixmala has been an environmental steward first and eco-resort second. It created the 36,000-acre Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere reserve, right on the edge of both forest and sea, and its Cuixmala Turtle Protection Program has brought the Olive-Ridley turtle back from the brink of extinction. Just last year, these efforts won Cuixmala recognition in Travel + Leisure’s Global Vision Awards.

The aftermath of Hurricane Odile, which rocked Cabo San Lucas just a year ago, may offer a glimmer of hope. If that storm serves as any indication, things will begin to turn around as soon as power is restored to the area—so says Marc Rodriguez, general manager of Esperanza, An Auberge Resort. This step, he says, “was vital in getting businesses up and running again,” and allowed aid organizations, including the Marines, Navy, and Army, to make a bigger impact in their missions. One year later, he says “Cabo feels like the amazing desert-meets-sea destination that has always attracted tourists. But the community feels stronger, and the resorts that were destroyed are back, bigger and brighter than ever.” Here’s to wishing the same for Cuixmala and its neighboring villages.

Want to help through official channels? Consider donating to the American Red Cross, Operation USA, and AmeriCares, which are all mobilizing resources on the ground and working directly with affected communities. Cuixmala itself is playing a big role in rebuilding the villages of Emiliano Zapata and Arroyo Seco through this CrowdRise page. And you can also support Cuixmala’s work directly by making donations to the Cuixmala Ecological Foundation and Cuixmala School.