Guests often gather around Las Casitas del Mar’s pool and manicured courtyard for pot luck dinners. // © 2011 Dawna L. Robertson
Las Casitas del Mar
Lola Perez is a pint-sized bundle of spunk that makes it her mission to greet guests arriving at Las Casitas del Mar. The friendly Chihuahua — along with her older sis Lucy, and her human parents Robin and Rick Perez — are naturals at making travelers feel more like lifelong friends who have come to “catch up” and relax at their Bucerias, Mexico, hideaway.
On the heels of a busy three-night stay in Puerto Vallarta’s hotel zone, I was smitten right off the bat with this sweet slice of easy-going paradise. Twelve miles up the Banderas Bay coast from Puerto Vallarta International Airport in the Riviera Nayarit, the private, gated retreat offers the slower paced atmosphere you would expect of a small fishing village.
When the expatriates purchased their one-acre lot in 1992, they recognized that Bucerias was short on casita-style accommodations.
“It was more about private homes, apartments and a few smaller hotels,” said Rick. “Once we opened in 1995, our property became a nice option for those wanting to stay longer and have homey comforts.”
Robin and Lola led me to Casa Ballena, one of three detached, two-bedroom, brick-and-tile cottages. All are individually decorated with traditional furnishings, artwork and pottery the couple has collected from their travels throughout Mexico.
With generous size, ample sunlight filtering in and Wi-Fi access, I instantly fantasized about nesting indefinitely. Apparently, others do as well. Robin and Rick see an enviable 60 percent repeat business booking anywhere from one or two weeks to a month. And the majority of this loyal cadre comes from the Western U.S. and Canada.
Spacious bedrooms feature an air conditioner and a ceiling fan, with living and dining areas also cooled by ceiling fans. Separated from the living room by a dining bar, my kitchen was decked out with everything I needed — pots, pans, cooking utensils, silverware, dinnerware, a full-size refrigerator, an oven with a range, a microwave, a blender and ample bottled water. And while there’s a dining table with chairs inside, each cottage has a second set for al fresco dining on its private patio.
In a separate two-level structure, the Casa Pez Vela upper-floor suite is accessible via an exterior stairway. This is the grandest accommodation, with its expansive living area, full kitchen, two bedrooms each featuring a bath/shower and lavish private terrace looking across the courtyard, toward the ocean. Tucked away on the first floor are two, one-bedroom suites with the same interior touches.
As a common gathering area within the cozy enclave, a well-manicured courtyard is filled with coconut palms, mango trees and colorful hibiscus shrubs. At its centerpiece is a cobalt blue tiled mosaic swimming pool and gazebo with shaded seating, a barbecue grill, a wet bar and bathrooms.
“What’s really nice is how guests who don’t know each other end up sharing pot luck dinners in the courtyard,” said Rick.
The size, style and buy-out potential is especially conducive to reunions and destination weddings. Rick works with several neighboring properties to accommodate larger groups.
Looking directly across the cobblestone Calle Lazaro Cardenas, it’s nothing but palms, gently breaking waves and an occasional stand-up paddler off the uncluttered beach. The five-mile stretch earns a thumbs-up for swimming, bodysurfing, boogie boarding and surfing.
Eco-tourism activities are also an option in the area, with everything from bird-watching and sunset turtle releases to ziplining in a subtropical jungle. Vallarta Adventures arranges major excursions throughout the region, or guests can sign up at Scott’s Tours across the street. For golfers, El Tigre and Flamingos serve up championship courses in adjacent Nuevo Vallarta.
One-bedroom casitas for two guests are $95 nightly (excluding tax), while two-bedroom casas, sleeping up to four, are priced from $175-$195. Prices are based on a minimum three-night stay through Oct. 31. Commission is 10 percent.