Puerto Vallarta has earned a reputation for being one of the most tourist- and family-friendly destinations in Mexico. Part of that status can be attributed to its starring role in films and television shows. It was the preferred port o’ call for the Pacific Princess cruise ship on The Love Boat, and its beaches were the backdrop for the 1960s film The Night of the Iguana starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton. Burton and wife Elizabeth Taylor even owned two homes here, conjoined by a bridge, known as Casa Kimberly, which recently reopened as a luxury hotel.
In addition to a dose of Hollywood lore, Puerto Vallarta gives travelers options beyond just the main boardwalk, known as El Malecón, and the typical bars, restaurants and artisanal shops that pepper Mexico’s coastal vacation destinations. For those who want accessibility to action but enough distance to decompress, the Puerto Vallarta marina district and outlying Riviera Nayarit are the spots to stay.
How to Get There
American Airlines operates flights through Phoenix that will get you there in less than five hours, including the layover.
Where to Stay
Puerto Vallarta is one of those towns with accommodations so divine it’s not necessary to venture away from the hotel. Located about 30 minutes from the airport, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit appeals to foodies with five gourmet restaurants. The resort recently unveiled a $300,000 teen club where guests 13 to 18 can chill out and play X-Box, pool, air hockey, ping pong, foosball or sing karaoke and practice their moves on the light-up dance floor.
What to Do
Grand Velas’ 12 new 1,750-square-foot wellness suites, which come with an exercise kit including a yoga mat, dumbbells, resistance bands and an exercise bike. For those who select this room type, a spa concierge counsels on treatments using local flora and fauna. At night, break into the Alchimia Apothecary Aromatherapy Kit with scents ranging from cedar and lavender to tangerine and myrrh. Other amenities such as a Nikken Kenko pillow, comforter and LED lamp with a clock and timer that increases gradually, simulating the dawn and dusk, help guests fall asleep and wake up more naturally. Taking vitamins also gets a new twist here—a vitamin C sprinkler is placed en suite to spritz guests on command with essential oils.
If you need a change of scenery from all the pampering at Grand Velas or prefer a more casual vibe, sister property Velas Vallarta, located in Puerto Vallarta’s marina, offers a seaside massage experience that adds another layer of relaxation to the typical spa day—the soothing lull of the ocean. What’s more indulgent than daydreaming away tension and to-do lists with a rubdown in rhythm with the ocean in an outdoor cabana perched on a jetty?