Puerto Vallarta has long been an escape for those seeking a coastal vacation along the west coast of Mexico. In the past decade, resorts, casitas and villas are sprouting along the Banderas Bay, from Nayarit Region in the north, to Jalisco Region further south.
Sheltered by the Sierra Madre mountains, vacationers are discovering there’s more to this area than lounging on the golden sandy beach and catching a wave. There’s a range of adventures from deep-sea fishing expeditions, ziplining in the jungle, horseback riding, and playing golf at award-winning golf courses. The area has a rich eco-system of marine life and visitors can see whales, dolphins, or manta rays at the Marietta Islands. There are even turtle hatcheries and monarch butterfly sanctuaries. If you’re interested in the history and culture, you can visit Huichol villages and historic towns.
We visited Puerto Vallarta, Punta de Mita and continued further north to Nayarit, past Sayulita and San Francisco to find out some of the best places to stay, dine and go. Sharing our favorites below.
Note: We are continuing to update this list, so please check back often.
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Take a walking tour through the historic district and visit the flea market, the Isla del Cuale, Romantic Zone, Muelle de los Muertos and to the Malecon.
One of the world’s most romantic boutique luxury hotels is nestled high above the narrow cobblestone streets of Puerto Vallarta. As guests enter the wooden-carved doors at Hacienda San Angel, you step into a courtyard surrounded by colonial charm with Mexican architecture and turn-of-the-century furnishings.
From the top floor of the hotel, we could see terra cotta rooftops and the iconic Guadalupe Church bell tower with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. This intimate hotel presents twelve elegant suites enveloped by lush gardens and breathtaking views of the Banderas Bay to the west, the Sierra Madre mountain range to the east. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels chain, Hacienda San Angel will enchant you with its history, fragrant flowers, tropical foliage, courtyards and trickling fountains.
We slept in the San Gabriel Suite with garden and pool views. This spacious suite has two double beds, with ornate wood-carved headboards. The large bathroom has a claw foot bathtub and an open shower. The hacienda is filled with Mexican antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries including icons and devotional paintings of the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary, wood carvings of angels and other items.
Don’t Miss! Hacienda San Angel Gourmet Restaurant – Dine at the upscale rooftop restaurant serving Mexican and international meals. Patrons enjoy 180-degree views of the town, azure Banderas Bay, and Puerto Vallarta’s evening fireworks display and Mariachi music. Note: the restaurant is open to hotel guests and the public.
Interesting to note – the hotel manager shared with us that, “the late Richard Burton purchased the Hacienda’s main villa as a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife, Susan in 1977, after falling in love with Puerto Vallarta as he filmed John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana there in the mid 1960’s. The cult classic film put Puerto Vallarta on the map as a favorite vacation spot for the international glitterati, including Burton’s ex, Elizabeth Taylor, who owned a house mere blocks away from Susan’s. The Burton’s aptly named their home, Casa Bur-Sus. In 1990, Janice Chatterton purchased Casa Bur-Sus from Susan Burton to use as a vacation home, and Casa Bur’Sus evolved into Casa San Angel then finally Hacienda San Angel in 2003. Since Janice passed away, her family has continued to manage the hacienda as a boutique hotel.“
Punta de Mita is only 30 mins from downtown Puerto Vallarta and the perfect spot for relaxed vacations – lounge on the beach, watch sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
Located on Playa Careyeros in the tranquil Mexican Riviera Nayarit, Casa de Mita opened its doors in 2001 and offers luxurious comfort and service in an intimate, secluded setting.
If you are looking for an all-inclusive intimate hideaway, check into the popular Casa de Mita. This oceanfront boutique hotel has 6 rooms and 2 penthouse suites that get booked up quickly, even in low season. All rooms are ocean-facing with private balconies. Each room has open showers, and each suite has its own private balcony with floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The property offers free Wi-Fi, minifridges and coffeemakers. Suites add sitting areas, while upgraded suites provide canopy beds, bar areas and/or separate living rooms with flat-screen TVs.
This luxury villa exudes charm with the hand-painted Mexican talavera tiles to the custom, carved furniture, and local artisans represented in their design.
Why do guests return here year after year? The heated saltwater pool, all-inclusive delicious meals and drinks, access to a private white-sand beach where guests swim, kayak, paddle board. No lines, no traffic, no timeshare sales, no beach vendors. Most of all, the impeccable service the friendly staff delivers, tending to every need, and has been awarded the coveted AAA Four Diamonds rating the past 10 years.
What’s Included? Meals, drinks and laundry are included, as are water sports, parking and a local area shuttle. There’s an outdoor pool with a swim-up bar, plus a restaurant, a gym and gardens. Very impressed by the chefs and servers who present locally caught fish brought in every day, organically grown fruits and vegetables, and fresh herbs grown on-site. Meals are made to guests’ dietary preferences. Traditional breakfast foods: freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee, assorted teas, homemade tortillas, bread, and pastries, eggs, waffles, pancakes, french toast, and anything else you may crave! In the afternoon, lunches lean toward traditional Mexican cuisine with 2 or 3 choices daily. Nightly, dinner service begins as the sun is setting, a memorable dinner at a table overlooking the ocean. The menu features four- or five-course gourmet meals changed daily.
Other services are available – spa treatments, surfing lessons, at an extra cost. Activities can be arranged and transfers to nearby towns. The Litibú golf course is only 5 mins away, and the surfing town of Sayulita is a 20 min drive.
The Four Seasons Punta Mita was the first resort in the area, and since there have been many new resort developments. The “mi-casa, su casa” attitude permeates the property with the true spirit of Mexican hospitality, along with the high-level of service that comes with the Four Seasons brand.
We arrived to our Oceanfront casita and went straight to our terrace to see the panoramic views and breath in the fresh ocean air.
John O’Sullivan, Regional Vice-President and General Manager shared with us, “Your escape starts here – choose between two secluded beaches; the family friendly Lazy River; the adults only Tamai Pool and the Instagram worthy infinity-edge Nuna Pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean – we’ll bring the towels. The charming spirit of the Mexican people results in deeply personal connections. Here, you arrive as a guest, leave as a friend and return as family.”
Dining Options: there are several dining options including Dos Catrinas – authentic Mexican fare with a contemporary twist; Aramara – Pan-Asian cuisine from sushi rolls to Thai dishes. Be sure to order the crispy cauliflower; BAHÍA BY RICHARD SANDOVAL – the beachside restaurant presenting grilled meats, seafood and vegetables. Guests can visit the Chef in the morning and select their “catch-of-the-day” from local fish like yellow snapper, Pacific snapper, Mahi Mahi.
The resort caters to couples, families, friends and solo travelers. Discover the pools, 18-hole golf course, panoramic hikes and more. Check with the concierge on the schedule of daily activities from Spanish speaking classes to Sound Bath Healing and Mezcal tastings. There are several activities for children including releasing baby sea turtles (seasonal)! Children and adults delight in this experience as they release Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings into the sea.
Don’t Miss! Visit the Spa and book the Tequila Stone or Hakali treatment.
The Tequila Stone signature treatment that uses an ancestral recipe that combines tequila and sage oil to release muscle tension, stimulate circulation and improve joint mobility. The Hakali treatment applies antioxidant properties of the Hakali cactus through a relaxing massage, targeting the lymphatic system
The Conrad is one of the most stylish, modern resorts along the Riviera Nayarit. Our King Ocean View Suite looked out to the Pacific Ocean and included a private terrace with a private plunge pool. The suite had a separate living area with a sleeping sofa, large bedroom with a king-size bed and spacious bathroom with a walk-in shower and soaking tub.
The outdoor dining restaurant is the ideal place to watch the sunset and savor locally inspired cuisine.
There are several activities offered at the property including ziplining to horseback riding, or relaxing in resort’s three swimming pools. Golfers head for a round at the adjacent Greg Norman 18-hole golf course.
The spa offers a variety of treatments, therapies and ceremonies inspired by the traditional Huichol culture with symbolism, ancient rituals and interaction with the natural world. The Huichol Indians are a centuries-old, pre-Columbian tribe native to the region. Be sure to experience the temezcal journey.
Don’t Miss! The Agave Experience – our hostess Anna shared the history of the agave plant and how tequila and mezcal are made. The tasting and food pairing is amazing.
Sayulita – this town is fun to walk around, shop, enjoy local cuisine at cafes or take a surf lesson!
San Francisco – another charming town to visit with a great beach.
One&Only Mandarina: We briefly visited this new resort and look forward to staying here one day. It’s about a 1 hour drive from the Puerto Vallarta airport and ideal for guests who want a remote getaway. There’s even a Polo Field, tennis courts, archery and lots of water activities at the beach club. The tree villas and beach villas are spectacular, some with their own plunge pools.
How to Get Around
Vallarta Transfers and Incentives
For airport transfers and tours, contact Vallarta Transfers and Incentives. Our drivers were punctual, professional and shared their local insights about the area.
Global Adventures thanks those mentioned in this article for hosting us during our stay.
Some tour companies to consider – Vallarta Adventures and Punta Mita Expeditions.