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There’s a certain magic to Puerto Vallarta that defies the passage of time. Despite the fact that more than 50 years have passed since John Houston’s epic film “The Night of the Iguana” put this once unknown enclave on Mexico’s Pacific Coast on the map — changing it forever — visitors can still find vestiges of that “kinder, gentler world” and savor the genuine warmth of Mexican hospitality along the way.
One such place to do so is the luxurious, adults-only Casa Velas Puerto Vallarta. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the AAA Four-Diamond all-inclusive boutique resort gives new meaning to “Mi casa es su casa.”
Its distinctive Spanish-style architecture has the feeling of a private hacienda, while the excellent service and pampering by the staff allow clients to forget their worries (even if just for a few days).
Years ago, I lived in Mexico, and I spent a lot of time with my family in “PV,” as we called the area. I knew PV before it became a popular tourist playground, so I was a little hesitant to return because, allegedly, “You can’t go home again.”
The once scarcely populated area in which the hotel is located has morphed into a residential zone with a cluster of villas, condos and high-rise resorts interspersed in remnants of the lush jungle I once knew.
Tucked into the 18-hole Marina Vallarta Club de Golf, Casa Velas offers a welcome respite. And while the hotel isn’t located on the beach, guests have access to the exclusive Ocean Club, which features a private beach, an infinity pool and a restaurant. (The hotel shuttle transports guests there and back in just about five minutes.) The waters in that area are more conducive to surfing than casual swimming, but clients will have a satisfying beach experience nonetheless.
The graceful, four-story Casa Velas houses 80 comfortable suites, tastefully decorated and comfortably furnished with satellite televisions, coffeemakers and minibars. Bathrobes, slippers and L’Occitane amenities are a welcome addition, and goose down feather duvets and hypo-allergenic pillows assure a good night’s sleep.
Suites range in size from one or two bedrooms to the luxurious Presidential Suite with four bedrooms and dining and living rooms. Two recently unveiled two-story Wellness Suites promise total R&R with a personal Wellness Concierge and in-suite fitness amenities including an exercise kit with a yoga mat, dumbbells and resistance bands. These suites also feature a private terrace with an immersion pool.
My Grand Class Suite welcomed me with a king-size bed and a balcony with a plunge pool overlooking the golf course — one of three courses where complimentary golf is included. A pillow menu with choices ranging from “very rigid” to “soft,” and named after flowers, promised a pleasant sleep experience.
I’m a lap swimmer, so I quickly scoped out one of the comfortable chaises under a cabana that was strategically placed by the huge free-form pool. I made sure to take advantage of one of the newest complimentary amenities, the Sun Bar, which offers a selection of skin protection — from sunscreen to after-sun aloe vera gel and natural aloe vera.
While the resort offers many innovative concepts, one of the most intriguing is the new Handbag Bar, where guests are invited to borrow one of a dozen high-end purses from designers such as Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera and others, free of charge.
A slew of interesting and included daily activities range from martini evenings, beer pairings and casino nights to yoga classes and poolside painting classes.
One of the highlights of my visit was a massage at Abja Spa. Though small, it houses a jacuzzi, a sauna and a steam room, along with a slate of soothing treatments that incorporate herbs from the spa’s private garden.
Top-Tier DiningClients can have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the AAA Four-Diamond Emiliano. Here, they can dine indoors in an elegant, three-tiered dining room or on the outdoor terrace, surrounded by lush foliage overlooking the koi ponds and swimming pool.
The a la carte dinner menus rotate nightly and offer a selection of Mexican, French and Italian-Mediterranean cuisine, accompanied by live music as a romantic backdrop. The guitar music and the soft crooning of the strolling musicians at Emiliano took me back in time to another era.
For those who want a seaside dining experience, Ocean Club serves Asian-inspired dishes for lunch and dinner, along with refreshing cocktails, on its covered terrace. For tasty beverages and light bites, guests can also try the palapa-covered swim-up Aqua Bar at the resort’s main pool.
New to Casa Velas is Garden-to-Glass Botanical Cocktails, an interactive experience where guests can pick their own fruit and herbs for their drinks in the resort’s botanical garden. The on-site mixologist will then create a personalized drink from the selected ingredients.
On my last night, I found myself drawn to the recently opened labyrinth and meditation pods in the botanical garden. Based on the four elements — water, earth, wind and fire — guests are invited to walk the small labyrinth while immersing in the serenity and nature surrounding them.
After my walk, I tucked myself into one of the cozy meditation pods, and I was happy to admit: “You really can go home again.”
The DetailsCasa Velas Puerto Vallartawww.hotelcasavelas.com