A Look at Puerto Vallarta's Iconic Casa Kimberly

A Look at Puerto Vallarta's Iconic Casa Kimberly

Formerly owned by Hollywood celebrities Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Casa Kimberly is now a historic hotel in Puerto Vallarta

By: Lina Zeldovich
<p>A striking painting of Elizabeth Taylor greets guests in the stairwell. // © 2017 Lina Zeldovich</p><p>Feature image (above): A bridge connects...

A striking painting of Elizabeth Taylor greets guests in the stairwell. // © 2017 Lina Zeldovich

Feature image (above): A bridge connects Taylor and Burton’s former homes. // © 2017 Casa Kimberly


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The Details

Casa Kimberly 
www.casakimberly.com

As I walked up the marble steps to the second floor of Puerto Vallarta's nine-suite Casa Kimberly boutique hotel, I found myself staring into the eyes of Elizabeth Taylor. She looked back at me from a huge portrait on the wall. An elaborate chandelier artfully hung in front of the painting looked like a diadem on the actress's head, giving her the look of Cleopatra - the Egyptian princess she once played on the silver screen. As I paused on the stairs to take a picture, Casa Kimberly's current owner, Janice Chatterton, an American expatriate originally from San Francisco, was pleased with the effect.

"I knew this arrangement would work," she said, smiling. "People stop and look."

Located in downtown Puerto Vallarta, Casa Kimberly is one of the city's most beloved historical landmarks; in the 1960s, it hid iconic Hollywood couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton from the unrelenting paparazzi. The two stars came here to film the now-famous classic film "The Night of the Iguana" and enjoyed a passionate affair while still married to their spouses. Burton bought the casa for Taylor's 32nd birthday, then bought himself a house across the street. To avoid being in the public eye when visiting each other, the celebrities connected their homes by a white bridge, inspired by Venice, Italy's Bridge of Sighs, and the property became a symbol of their relationship.

At a table in the hotel's eatery, The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar, Chatterton explained how she came to own this historic property.

"It was a bunch of coincidences," she chuckled.

In the 1980s, Chatterton wanted to rent a villa for the Christmas season in Puerto Vallarta, but everything was booked. Serendipitously, her friend spoke to Taylor's mother at a local bar.

"I bet you my daughter would rent you her place," the woman had said - and Chatterton ended up staying at Casa Kimberly.

"It was a really nice experience," she said. "It was spacious, it had a beautiful pool and nice views. I knew I would want a vacation house in Puerto Vallarta one day."

Twenty years later, she was able to renovate the property. She built a stylish courtyard in an empty lot, renovated the rooms and added new ones, carefully preserving Casa Kimberly's history and spirit.

Indeed, a walk through the hotel transports you back in time. Photos of the couple and the characters they played in movies remind guests of a bygone era, while the artsy Mexican decor blends nicely with contemporary amenities such as oversize bathtubs and spacious walk-in showers.

Each of the beautifully decorated rooms boasts its own style, but whenever she could, Chatterton kept original artifacts. The Elizabeth Taylor suite still features the actress' heart-shaped Jacuzzi, and Burton's quarters have the original azure pool. You can easily picture the couple entertaining their guests around it. Walking over the connecting bridge, I looked down at the cobblestone street, imagining the waiting paparazzi.

Revived and restored, Casa Kimberly has been welcoming visitors for more than a year, preserving the memory of a great love story that became part of Puerto Vallarta's history.

"Locals and visitors alike fill our dining room and guestrooms, and each one is curious about the building's history and Taylor's life here," said Juanita Gutierrez, concierge for Casa Kimberly. "We are happy to be able to share the space and the story with them."

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