Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hotel hopper: The best hotels in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s fastest-growing and most popular resort towns. Nowadays, you’ll find every kind of hotel and resort to suit all budgets and tastes. From beachfront all-inclusives to quirky historic boutiques, bed-and-breakfasts, luxury adults-only escapes and everything in between, Puerto Vallarta does the hotel scene very, very well. 

I may be a resident of Puerto Vallarta these days, but before it became official I was an avid visitor. I have stayed in more than a dozen of the hotels and resorts in and around Puerto Vallarta over the past decade and in that time I have curated a list of my favorites.

Dazzling ocean views make a hotel in Puerto Vallarta a great choice for rest and relaxation. (Unsplash)

If you’re looking to explore the best hotels in Puerto Vallarta, have a look at my list of favorites and see for yourself which one may be right for your next Puerto Vallarta vacation. 

Hotel Mousai

Funky, off-beat and a total departure from the trendy luxury aesthetic, Hotel Mousai is my go-to recommendation for travelers to Puerto Vallarta who want a little bit of everything. The two-tower hotel is all-inclusive and adults-only, with a decor inspired by a melange of styles: Art Deco, contemporary and a dash of surrealism. 

The rooms at Hotel Mousai are among my favorite in Puerto Vallarta. Each room has its own balcony with a hammock and a private plunge pool. This was one of the first hotels in Puerto Vallarta to use smart technology, with iPads that control the music, lighting and blinds. You can even order room service via the iPad.

Features at this resort are top-notch, from the Spa Imagine, with its sweeping Banderas Bay views, to the fitness center that rivals any luxury gym setup and the two sleek rooftop infinity pools. While the resort does have access to the beachfront at sister resort Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, you’ll need to take a quick shuttle ride to get there. That said, I have never once missed being on the ocean at this resort because its pools are spectacular.  

(Hotel Mousai)

Hotel Mousai scores great marks with dining, too. Each of its signature restaurants offers something different. My favorites are Hiroshi for Japanese and Dao for contemporary Chinese. A great perk of being a Hotel Mousai guest is that you get access to all the restaurants of Garza Blanca — a privilege that doesn’t go both ways. If you’re going to dine at Garza Blanca, make a reservation at Bocados Steak House. A table outside at sunset is the way to go. 

The only cons at this resort are that it is not beachfront — which, again, has never impacted my stay — and the fact that it’s a 10-minute drive from Puerto Vallarta. The attraction of Puerto Vallarta is experiencing the city itself, as well as its natural beauty, and I find when I’m staying at Hotel Mousai I don’t feel like getting in a taxi and making the trek into town — particularly if I’ve opted for the all-inclusive plan, which is worth every penny.

Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway

Not far behind Hotel Mousai is Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway. Also all-inclusive and adults-only, this intimate 80-room resort is both right on the beach in the Cinco de Diciembre neighborhood and within walking distance to Puerto Vallarta’s Downtown and Zona Romántica neighborhoods. You can’t get a better location for a beachfront resort in Puerto Vallarta.

All rooms here have private balconies and ocean views. I love the main pool area, which is the social hub of the resort. Here you’ll find two pools and a collection of restaurants. The hotel has three of them. You can also book a romantic private dinner out on the hotel’s jetty at sunset,  an experience I highly recommend. The hotel has a small spa, which has recently undergone a renovation.

(Villa Premiere)

I love the thoughtful touches at Villa Premiere too, from the five-minute welcome massage to the selection of aromatherapy and pillows you can choose to personalize your room. 

One thing to note: while the resort is on the beach, the beaches in Puerto Vallarta proper are not the destination’s best. The beach here can be rocky depending on the time of year, and you may have to deal with a parade of vendors trying to sell you souvenirs.

Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel

Bright, colorful and packed with history, I adore this boutique hotel in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romántica. Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel is an adults-only city hotel geared towards LGBTQ+ travelers. A block from the beach, the hotel is the former residence of the owner’s grandmother, which has been renovated, remodeled and splashed with bright paint and funky murals.

Rooms are centered around a central courtyard, which has a small swimming pool and plenty of places to lounge. The courtyard is connected to Restaurante Eclecticos, and guests can dine either in the restaurant or at the hotel.

Villa Mercedes’ rooftop terrace is a great spot for sunbathing or watching the spectacular sunset. And for those who want to be in the heart of the action on Playa Los Muertos, the hotel is just a block away. 

(Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel)

Casa Velas

Puerto Vallarta has a lot of fantastic hotels, but very few of them are on the beach. Casa Velas is another example of one of the city’s best hotels without beachfront access. I love this tropical garden oasis location. The luxury, all-inclusive, adults-only hotel is like a hacienda-style Garden of Eden, shrouded in thick tropical foliage and complete with a few roaming peacocks.

The pool here is one of the best in the city, with plenty of lounge chairs and day beds. For guests who want to play golf, Casa Velashas one of the best locations in town, lying directly on the golf course near the Puerto Vallarta marina.

If you do want to go to the beach, the resort provides a complimentary shuttle service to Táu Beach Club, where guests can enjoy all-inclusive perks and priority reservations. Táu Beach Club has a pool, jacuzzi and restaurant.

Casa Kimberly

It may be a bit of a splurge, but it’s a worthy one. Casa Kimberly is my favorite luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta. I love it for the design, the views, the food and the story. This boutique nine-room hotel was built from the bones of the former villa of Elizabeth Taylor.

The glamorous, European-style villa has ornately designed guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling glass-paned doors that open up to expansive terraces. The balconies overlook the scruffy, red-tiled roofs of Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romántica and Banderas Bay. 

A massive central courtyard has a beautiful fountain and connects to The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar, a must for dinner, particularly at sunset. In the lobby, you may notice a bridge that connects over the cobblestone street below. Modeled after Venice’s Bridge of Sighs, the Puente Del Amor (Bridge of Love) connected Elizabeth Taylor’s home to the home of her lover, Richard Burton. The two would allegedly use the bridge to evade the prying eyes of the public and the paparazzi during their not-so-secret love affair.

I love this resort’s location, tucked up in the hills of the exclusive Gringo Gulch section of downtown. Wandering the streets at this hilltop location takes travelers back in time to the romantic glory days of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a quiet break from the non-stop energy and complete modernization of the streets below.

(Casa Kimberly)

Rivera del Rio Boutique Hotel

Quirky, fun and with a fabulous location, this is one of my favorite boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta. Rivera del Rio sits in the back of the Zona Romántica alongside the banks of the lush, tropical Cuale River. Its 19 rooms are all individually designed, ensuring that no repeat stay is ever the same. A recent renovation saw the addition of a rooftop infinity pool and bar, too.

My favorite room to book here is the Carlotta Suite, which has its own entrance to Calle Aquiles Serdán. Inside the room is a spectacular crystal Venetian chandelier, a stately fireplace and a pop of color from the decidedly modern lime green couch. The room comes with a small private kitchen, as well. 

But my favorite place to be at this hotel is up on the rooftop, enjoying the 360-degree views of Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romántica. The hotel is less than a 10-minute walk from Playa Los Muertos and the restaurants along Basilio Badillo.

Hilton Vallarta Riviera All-Inclusive Resort

One of the largest resorts in Puerto Vallarta, the Hilton Vallarta Riviera All-Inclusive Resort is also one of the best-equipped. The family-friendly resort has 444 rooms, as well as a beachfront location, just a few minutes drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta.

This is a great resort for groups of all sizes, particularly families, who can enjoy the beach, the pools and the many activities. The rooms themselves are clean and comfortable but are fairly uninspired in terms of decor. What they do have are spectacular views of the Banderas Bay from the private terraces.

Guests can choose from a large selection of international restaurants, including Italian, Mexican, Asian and a steakhouse. My personal favorite is Sunan Sushi, which has great food and hand rolls their sushi with a view overlooking the bay. The hotel’s gym is one of the best I’ve seen, and it has a beautiful spa as well. 

Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

(Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa)

I rarely recommend that visitors to Puerto Vallarta stay in the marina because it’s so far removed from the best parts of the city. That said, one of the best family-friendly resorts in the city is right here: Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa.

Featuring one of the largest pools in the area, plus a wide stretch of beachfront and views overlooking the mountains and skyline of downtown, this is a great option for families looking for a traditional resort.

Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa offers six restaurants, including the lobby Ceviche & Tequila bar, which is my personal favorite. I also love Mikado for Japanese dining and Las Casitas for a romantic ocean-view dinner.

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at drillinjourneys.com.

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