Puerto Vallarta - Read our Stories and Reviews

Puerto Vallarta

Marketed as the “world’s friendliest destination,” this thriving seaside resort mecca on the Pacific Ocean’s Bahia de Banderas (yes, as in Antonio) is a top choice for Mexico. We already knew that Puerto Vallarta offers plenty of action: it’s full of galleries, restaurants, golf courses and fun, summer things to do. But we were gobsmacked by the authentic 19th century architecture. It gave us a real sense of the colonial past behind the town’s obviously golden future as Mexico’s international winter drawcard.

The Punta Mita Four Seasons also delivered a bonus: it’s a world-class resort that actually welcomes kids with open arms and special child-friendly features. This was a drawcard that got us a good 45 minutes out of town. And our beachfront casita came with all the high-end service you expect from a Four Seasons property.
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I was bringing the whole family to North America to ski and take in some sporting events for our big annual school holiday. Because in Australia that takes place in December/ January we were in for a pretty chilly good time!

We still needed our hit of end-of-year Summer fun so Mexico was really calling us. Apart from escaping the winter elsewhere, many people head south at this time anyway because the local summer is way too hot for gringos, so the timing was a win-win.

If you want
guaranteed good weather all year round in Mexico you can find it on their EAST COAST, which is south of Cancun. I get a migraine at the mere thought of going somewhere as commercial as that town, but further south along the coastline there are some fantastic properties that really appealed to me, with plenty of Mexican texture like the ceramic tile work and thatched detailing. But at the top-end, properties just aren’t that child friendly. I didn’t want the kids tip-toeing around uptight adults, so no dice.

The West Coast had two places that had always intrigued me, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo. They seemed to attract jet-setters who were always popping up in the glossy magazines Should we join the party? I was curious, but am not a slave to the trendy so it was more a question of, would they suit us? These were my two first choices.

The other city that appealed to me was Acapulco, which has that amazing hilly topography in the harbour, and one or two properties that I liked - and retro associations of 60s glamour. But Acapulco had been off the radar for most of the decades since Richard Burton and Liz Taylor had made it the place to be and is only recently “coming back.” I did not want to be disappointed if it hadn’t pulled out of the slump yet or had got too built up in the meantime. I didn’t need to pioneer the Acapulco revival!

In the end, with only 10 days in Mexico a few locations was the best fit so I stuck with the two original towns on my West Coast wishlist. So where to stay in Puerto Vallarta? A lovely New York couple that I met at the pool at the Hiton Tel Aviv, had raved about this amazing nearby town, KAREAS but it was a bit too isolated from the main action.

Then there was LAS ALAMANDAS, the resort owned by Isabel Goldsmith-Patiño, Londons “it” girl, and daughter of the colourful British financier, Sir James Goldsmith. It looked chic and inviting. Billed as “Mexico’s most private resort” it is an amazing property in a reserve on the Coastalegre coastline further south - with stone washed and bamboo walls, bright pink borders on the arches and hallways in a coral and lime palette. It fit my brief for local colour and luxury but does not take kids - and is too far out of Puerto Vallarta. I wanted us to be able to go into the town at night to experience the town.

Small luxury spa, VERANA, also isolated, absolutely appealed to me because it has that lush, jungle feel with geckos and pristine scenery - a real hideaway. It has the advantages of ocean and lake and an eco-edge, with alternative powered ceiling fans and no flashy restaurants or buzzy night life. I loved details like the antique four-poster beds and stand-alone thatched huts. If ever I traveled this far on I would love to stay at these two properties.

I decided
that the FOUR SEASONS property was what I was looking for on this trip, even though I would be compromising on aesthetics. I had heard raves about it from a lovely couple that we met in Greece 6 months before. The wife was a savvy media person who worked for fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar in New York. They told us that although they don’t have kids themselves they noticed how fantastic it was for families. It was in a safe, gated community called Punta Mita.

I love
personal tips. 50% of what we search for comes from tips and I very often follow through on them. The big hotel groups sometime lack a little local flavour and culture but really know how to run a resort. Initially this was my fallback while I searched for a 5/6 star more independent, boutique hotel but in the end I went with it. It was still 45 minutes to an hour away from Puerto Vallarta but that was closer than my other choices and anything nearer town was getting too 4 star/commercial.

Our journey was from Mexico City - such a contrast. We were leaving one of the world’s most over crowded, spread out cities, coming from the grind to enjoy a little coastal languor. You would never do it the other way around! We didn’t have a direct flight, which always rings my alarm bells concerning lost luggage and connections. Always keep your baggage tickets close, it saves nightmares if there are any dramas.

We did enjoy stopping over in the city of PUEBLA, which is in a valley surrounded by volcanoes and is a little off the beaten track. The charming, crooked hilly streets and lovely architecture stood out - as did our visit to a very special boutique hotel, LA PURIFICADORA, a converted 1880s water-bottling factory. The raw stone walls contrast amazingly with sleek, new rockstar architectural features, like a see-though floor in the lift, glass wardrobes and unique, glass walled, see-through swimming pool.

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