RHA Festival, Punta Mita
Mexico's newest boutique event adds luxury to the equation
by Nicolas Stecher
With boutique music festivals now a booming business, Mexico's four-day RHA Festival organizers knew there had to be something more. Of course, the musical talent was carefully selected for the stunning location, but RHA brought a decidedly luxurious filter to their festival. "We want to offer people something that other festivals don’t, or simply can’t," says Corey Citron, RHA's founder and organizer. Located between a sandy beach and the yacht-filled La Cruz Marina, RHA looks to establish Punta Mita as a significant destination for top-tier electronic music, delivered in a beautiful location.
For the 2017 iteration, house music icons like Green Velvet, Dimitri from Paris and Doc Martin joined forces with emerging artists including Catz N’ Dogs, Teenage Mutants and Purple Disco Machine to create a musical experience on par with just about any other small festival. But Citron and his team were committed to adding a relaxing component that equaled its musical output.
Away from the festival location, about 15 minutes by car, is the five-star St. Regis resort. Featuring a private shoreline and half-dozen pools dotting its leafy, palm-studded grounds, the hotel was the venue for a pool party for festival-goers to recover from Saturday’s late-night hijinx. On Monday, RHA organizers charted the Chica Loca—a 60-foot trimaran—to sail across the Bay of Puerto Vallarta to a remote marine reserve called Colimilla. There, attendees were able to paddle-board in the remote cove, snorkel, and splash down the waterslide from the second story of the boat. Afterwards, the Chica Loca anchored at an even more remote beach town called Yelapa for guests to enjoy piña coladas and plates of grilled dorado under a palapa.
"I've been involved in electronic music ever since I got introduced to it in my 20s. It changed my life. I just loved the culture. Then I started traveling to this region of Mexico, and combining them together was just a natural evolution of why I'm here, of what I was meant to do essentially," Citron tells us. "And I've traveled to a lot of places all over the world, but in Mexico and in particular the Riviera Nayarit, there's something really special about it: the people, the area and the energy."
Although it appears to be an acronym, "RHA" (pronounced "rah") is not—rather it's the Huichol word for water, or more specifically the flow of water. And fittingly, the day before RHA was to take place a tropical storm swept through the Pacific coast and drowned the field under a foot of water. The debacle sent organizers scrambling, moving the stage to higher ground and filling the dance floor with gravel to avoid disaster. On Friday the air swelled with sticky humidity until the skies broke open and doused the festival in a deluge. Instead of destroying morale, however, the rain cooled off the thousands in attendance as they danced. Meanwhile lightning cracked overhead, filling the horizon and outdoing the professional light show.
Of course there were flaws, as can be expected of any first year festival. A lack of shuttles, a handful of delays and a last-minute shuffling of set times resulting in many missing Dimitri from Paris' set. But despite these issues, the organizers booked Green Velvet to headline—and he delivered. Talking to the crowd in his signature dislocated ramblings, the artist otherwise known as Cajmere treated partygoers to iconic hits, all but underwriting the musical bonafides of RHA.
Of course, if you're visiting somewhere as special as the Riviera Nayarit, there's value in exploring the area beyond the music festival. Just 15 minutes from the RHA grounds you’ll find Sayulita, a designated "Pueblo Magico" that makes a great alternative to stay and taxi in from. There, visitors will find incredible surfing, delicious food and art. Below we share some highlights.
La Glorieta de Enrique
One of the most enjoyable aspects of RHA was prepping for the marathon dance sessions by fueling up on delicious plates of golden fried fish tacos, glasses of chilled Herradura Blanco, and fresh ceviche. The best place to accomplish this mission within walking distance to the festival was La Glorieta de Enrique, located at Calle Langosta 17, Cruz de Huanacaxtle. Several taxi drivers said it was one of the best in town, and they weren't wrong.
Mary’s (Avenida Revolucion, Sayulita) is one of the best taquerias we’ve ever been to, anywhere in the world. There’s more to offer on the menu, but there’s no reason to stray too far from the traditional fried fish taco and “Sayulita”—a taco piled with grilled shrimp, strips of poblano pepper and perfectly ripe avocado.
Unlike many tourist spots littered with stores selling the same trinkets, Sayulita is loaded with authentic galleries and boutiques selling original Mexican art. Right on the main plaza you’ll find Botic'art (Calle José Mariscal), a charming gallery that focuses on vintage Mexican photography and art made and signed by local artists. Not only do they take great pains to supply their artists with a living wage, Botic'art also offers a well-stocked collection of Asian teas and herbs.
Located at Avenida Revolucion 40, Sayulita, La Rústica offers homemade gnocchi and specialty pizzas (our favorites being "La Picosita" with grilled shrimp, jalapeño, cilantro and slices of fresh avocado on a spicy tomato sauce)—were superb, but even their coffee drinks and mussels (sautéed with thyme and Spanish chorizo, and infused with mescal) were unforgettable. Further, their craft cocktails were the best in town. This is the spot to hit if you have (finally) tired of fish tacos.
Images courtesy of RHA Festival