PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico, Over the last century, the city of Puerto Vallarta has gone from fishing village to major beach destination. Starting at the innermost point of the Bay of Banderas, the city wraps its arms around the immense deep blue body of water. The entire postcard-perfect scene is ringed in lofty mountains. The hub of activity is the malecon, a fun party-like boardwalk.
Not far away is the old city with its cobblestone streets and an ornate church as its centerpiece. With such a variety of sites, it’s no wonder so many vacationers flock to the Vallarta region. Many stay in one of the beachfront high-rises, however there are some unique lodging alternatives that can make a trip even more special.
Floating above the bay, seemingly in the clouds, is the Grand Miramar Hotel, one of the most architecturally stunning hotels in the region. Its two whitewashed towers with thatched roofs combine a Mediterranean feel with a high end Mexican resort atmosphere. The balconies softly weave in and out of the structures, creating a sense of privacy and offering up a stunning view of the bay and city.
The two pools are on ground level along with a hot tub, a bar, and even a Ping-Pong table. Shade is a premium on the pool deck during the hottest part of the day. Staffers keep the cold drinks flowing to those trying to keep cool, but arriving early is the key to grabbing the coveted shade.
That commanding view of the bay is truly the gem of the resort, but those with an aversion to heights may want to request a lower floor. The view is even more inspiring from the rooftop restaurant, SKY Lounge. The menu has a strong Mexican influence for its base and leans heavily on the seafood of the region. The choices are mostly the same each day but a few items rotate on and off to create just enough variety. Those who like change and sampling the local fare will want to leave the resort every few days, but there are plenty of exceptional choices nearby.
River Café is an excellent option for a romantic dinner out. Built into the bank of the Cuale River, it is filled with the sounds of chirping birds and croaking wildlife. The meals range from $20-40 per plate and fuse Mediterranean cuisine with traditional Mexican dishes. The lush natural vegetation surrounding the open-air seating seems by design and the ambiance of the River Café is certainly the main draw.
Hotelito Desconocido is a remote eco-resort, a 2-3 hour drive from Puerto Vallarta, may seem too far off the beaten path for some, but as any wise traveler knows, the best things are often not on the main road. That most definitely rings true here and for an exquisitely relaxing experience, this is the place.
The entrance to Hotelito is less than stellar; the dusty road gives visitors the impression they are entering a farm. Rows of cabbage and herbs grow to one side while goats and chickens graze and peck together in the same large pens on the other. The only recognizable landmarks that denote one has entered the resort are a hand painted sign and a small gate.
Once inside the vegetation becomes a brighter green, and the soothing sound of birds greets guests as they enter, a modest rustic welcome foyer. After check-in and a short walk along the sandy palm-lined paths, sipping cool jasmine tea, the sound of thundering surf can be heard in the distance. Once visitors enter their personal “palifito,” or hut, it becomes clear, Hotelito is very special.
The palifitos open to the outdoors on one side, have no air conditioning, no television, no Wi-Fi, and only a few plug-ins. What they lack in technology they makes up for in atmosphere. The ocean provides not only the sound of the waves, but a welcome cool breeze and soon memories of emails not sent or TV episodes missed fade.
Hotelito Desconocido has two open-air restaurants serving at different times. El Diablito , open for breakfast and dinner, resembles a giant tiki hut transplanted from the south pacific, with its lofty thatched roof, devil masks hung near the bar, an eclectic variety of furniture, and a beautiful view of the lagoon.
For a beachside lunch, staff members row colorful rowboats, caring patrons across the lagoon. Once there, a walk over a small rise reveals the ocean in all its glory. Massive 10-12 foot waves pound the beach, so ocean swimming is forbidden most times, but the gorgeous hammock-laden infinity pool is a handsome upgrade from the salty waters of the Pacific.
At the pool restaurant, attentive staff treats every guest like a star – and some are. Hailing from Hollywood, Mexico City, New York, and around the globe, Hotelito is a place to hide away from paparazzi and busy lifestyles.
Hotelito Desconocido is an incredibly romantic resort in its own rite, but it’s the staff and management who take the experience to another level. Hearts formed from flower pedals are strewn on mosquito netted beds each night, naturally scented soaps, crafted by local artisans, and shampoos in the outdoor showers, meticulously raked sands on the pathways, and attentive servers and staff are just a few of the ways they make guests feel like royalty.
No matter which experience vacationers want, mountainside or remote beachfront, Puerto Vallarta offers it. The city can be reached easily from most anywhere in the U.S. Flights from major hubs like Dallas, Denver, and Atlanta fly in daily on major airlines.
The airport is roughly 30 minutes from the resort areas of PV and taxis are always available. A good rate from the airport is currently between 250-300 pesos or 25-30 dollars. As with many places, it’s best to negotiate the rate before hopping into a cab.
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