This year Mexico has been the most popular international getaway destination for American travelers. Having just visited the beachy Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta on beautiful Banderas Bay, I put it at the top of my list. In addition to sun-kissed sand beaches, aquamarine water, a lush tropical landscape and the Sierra Madre Mountains, you’ll also find an authentic, culturally rich town with an eye popping art scene, amazing gastronomy and happening night life. Not to mention the warm climate and friendly locals. It’s ideal for honeymooners, couples and families alike. Additionally, it’s LGBT friendly with a trendy downtown Romantic Zone. The enchanting town with cobblestone streets and terra cotta roofed white stucco houses with bougainvillea bedecked balconies has long been a favorite of artists and creative types. Downtown galleries open for an Art Walk Wednesday evenings late October through May offering exhibitions, cocktails and an opportunity to chat with the artists and gallery owners. Check out Kevin Simpson’s Colektika Gallery for remarkable yarn paintings and colorful bead art from the Huichol Tribes. Stroll the scenic malecon, the lively seafront promenade lined with palm trees and cafes while taking in a golden sunset. For great shopping head to Badillo Street where you’ll find fashionable boutiques and ateliers such as Pepe Cerroblanco’s Gallery and Cassandra Shaw Jewelry. As culinary capital of the Mexican Pacific and site of the annual International Gourmet Festival, Puerto Vallarta is a foodie paradise with standouts like Café des Artistes, Vista Grill, La Leche, Portobello and La Palapa serving everything from tasty tuna tacos to world-class cuisine. Top your evening off with some cool jazz by international stars at the just opened Jazz Foundation or kick up your heels and salsa with Cuban musicians at La Bodequita del Medio, an outpost of the famed Cuban nightclub.
Take a scenic cruise to popular Los Arcos National Park to snorkel or to a secluded beach. Hop a water taxi to the seaside village of Yelapa, once a haunt of Bob Dylan, where you can walk to a waterfall and savor a lunch of fresh fish on the beach. Vallarta Adventures: www.vallarta-adventures.com
There is no shortage of top resorts where visitors sun, swim and laze. Here are some standouts.
Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa
This family owned adults only downtown beach front luxury boutique hotel featuring 83 chic, beautifully appointed suites with ocean view balconies is just a 10-minute walk from the malecon, and the many trendy restaurants and night spots. This gem of a hotel is ideal for those who like the idea of kicking back by day and being close to the action at night. Lounging beachside or poolside in a palapa on a cushy king size bed with a pina colada and soothing music felt idyllic. With its sophisticated ambiance and glamorous clientele, it’s no surprise that many magazines use this hotel for fashion shoots. Guests enjoy a welcome anti-stress massage, 3 gourmet restaurants and rapturous Andalusian music Wednesday evenings. Included in the pampering pleasures Villa Premier provides guests, their private butler service will unpack your luggage, set your in room Jacuzzi with candles, rose petals, aromatherapy and chocolates, and arrange romantic dinners. www.premiereonline.com.mx
The gate opens to a verdant garden filled with banana trees, palms and resplendent peacocks strutting the floral wonderland. Handsome suites with plunge pools, accented in marigold and burnt orange areadorned with native paintings, artifacts and striking sculptures – including artwork by famous Mexican artist, Sergio Bustamente – at this country club like oasis. This all-inclusive adults only 83 suite luxe resort in the posh, leafy district near the marina delivers the ideal romantic getaway – perfect for honeymooners and couples. It’s a cozy cocoon with gourmet dining, expansive pool, 18-hole golf course plus oceanfront Beach Club with infinity pool, cabanas, eatery and attendants to clean your sunglasses and refresh your cocktails. Indulge in a deluxe treatment at the spa which also offers a beauty salon. Guests can swan around the property in true country club style. Resort boutique Tabaqeuria, offers a seamstress who does alterations on the spot. Ladies can borrow a designer evening bag from the handbag menu; men can wear the dashing Montblanc shoulder bag. www.HotelCasaVelas.com
Westin Resort & Spa
Also near the marina is the family friendly beachfront Westin, with a recently renovated sprawling lobby in keeping with the brand’s commitment to sustainability. Built amid 600 palm trees on a formercoconut plantation this lush resort with an upscale clientele features 280 stylish rooms in beige and earth tones, with ocean view terraces. As part of the brand’s Westin Well Being Movement the hotel offers daily yoga sessions with Madonna’s famed teacher Wayne Krassner, a full service spa, the biggest gym in town, tennis courts and jogging maps plus rental of New Balance running shoes. The resort delivers culinary excellence with its outstanding international and Mexican cuisine including the best sea bass miso ever at amazing Arrecifes Seafood and Steak Restaurant. Guests, many of whom are loyal return visitors, relax by the enormous pool or on beach loungers a few steps from the sea. For MICE tourism, the hotel offers a facility with a separate entrance from the hotel. www.starwoodhotels.com/westin
An exemplar of sleek, modern design, the 72 room sumptuous Mousai which debuted November 2014 perched high on a hill is just a short drive from town. Lolling by the rooftop infinity pool with sweeping ocean views while savoring delectable delights, I felt like I was in heaven. There’s a beach down below but why leave the celestial realm. Except maybe for some divine pampering at their Imagine Spa. www.hotelmousai.com
Holiday Inn Express Puerto Vallarta
The brand new Holiday Inn Express near the airport and the International Convention center is the hotel of choice for business travelers. In Latin America the Holiday Inn is in a much higher category than its counterpart in the US. The gleaming glass walled lobby boasts colorful murals and a striking fountain. This IHG property features 115 spacious, modern rooms smartly decorated with floor to ceiling windows, large comfy beds, ample desk space, terrace and generous bathrooms, plus a guest pool and outdoor Jacuzzi. The hotel features facilities for meetings, presentations and to host events. Its location adjacent to the Amerimed Hospital makes it an ideal choice for the increasing number of medical tourists from the US. In high season many leisure tourists book the hotel, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the yacht filled marina’s outdoor cafes. A short taxi ride or convenient bus directly in front of the hotel makes it easy to explore the charming town and environs. www.igh.com
By Maxine Albert (from Jax Fax)