On a quiet, flowery side street, American owners rebuilt a venerable house, thus creating the Hotel Cielo Rojo (Red Sky) bed-and-breakfast (Calle Asia 6, tel./fax 311/258-4155, www.hotelcielorojo.com), seemingly perfect for those who appreciate quiet relaxation. A tiled entrance walkway guides visitors indoors, through an artfully decorated small lobby to an airy breakfast garden patio partially sheltered by a gracefully traditional palapa roof. A hot tub for guests’ enjoyment is tucked on one side.
Stairs lead to three luxuriously open upper-room stories, of six spacious rooms and a larger suite, all tucked beneath a handsomely rustic top-floor palapa-roofed two-bedroom suite. The accommodations themselves are simply but elegantly furnished with handcrafted wood furniture, wall arts and crafts, designer lamps, and colorful native-style handcrafted bedspreads. The exquisitely tiled bathrooms are fitted with gleaming modern-standard wash basins, toilets, and showers. The six rooms (with either queen-size bed, or two twins) rent for about $45 d low season, $55 d high; the larger suites (with one queen, one twin each) go for about $70 low season, $80 high. The top-floor two-bedroom suite goes for about $100 high season, $80 low; all with ceiling fans and continental breakfast included.
Lovers of nature and solitude should head north of town (past the Costa Azul Adventure Resort) and continue a mile and a fraction (about 2 km) along the gravel coastal road to a signed driveway leading through the palm-tufted tropical forest. At road’s end, find Bungalows Lydia (Km 111, Carreterra Puerto Vallarta–Tepic, tel. 311/258-4337 or 311/258-4338, www.bungalowslydia.com or www.vrbo.com/8853), the mini-Eden and life dream-made-true of sprightly and welcoming Lydia Cisneros Mora. Her (and her sister’s) offering consists of four smallish but clean kitchenette studios ($70 low season, $80 high) and two larger one-bedroom bungalow suites (one for $90 low season, $110 high, the other for $140 low, $160 high, for up to six), with hot-water shower baths and simply but thoughtfully decorated in whites and pastels. They’re set in a charming oceanfront garden on a spectacularly rocky point buffeted by wild, foaming surf—the place is kept nearly bug-free by the ocean breeze. Discounts are negotiable for longer-term rentals; no phones or TV, but plenty of fresh air, sunsets, and animal friends—coatis, raccoons, armadillos, and squirrels (ardillas)—in the neighboring vine-hung tropical forest. Paths lead down to a pair of secluded beaches, separated by a rocky outcropping, naturally equipped with an oceanfront tidepool whirlpool bath.
Nature notwithstanding, Lydia is part and parcel of the charm of her place. She bustles around, followed by her dog companions, watering the plants, adjusting the generator, bringing in the laundry, and generally being helpful for her guests. When asked why she and her sister are out in this isolated spot, Lydia says (in Spanish, of course): “I started renting out rooms. Every time I made enough money, I would build another bungalow. The money I make allows me to help people in town and gives me time to read my Bible.”
If on the other hand you prefer to stay in the village, consider Palapas Las Iguanas at the edge of a shady palm grove, only half a block from the beach. Realtors Geno Lamphiear and his partner Elvia Garcia (Av. Tercer Mundo 50, tel. 311/258-4285, www.calandriarealty.com) manage the rentals, divided between a thatched open-air palapa complex and a more conventional, but nevertheless attractive, enclosed apartment section. The palapa section is made for romantics: two cozy open-air studios and a larger suite beneath a luxurious palm-thatch palapa fit for an Aztec king, with luxuries—gleaming designer baths, soft queen-size beds, designer tile floors, up-to-date kitchenettes—that an Aztec king never dreamed of. Being open, however, mosquito nets (above each bed) must be used, especially during the summer and fall. The studios go for $80 d high season, $60 d low; the suite for $90 high, $75 low. For their more practical guests, Geno and Elvia also offer two comfortably enclosed fan-equipped kitchenette apartments next door. The smallest, Casita Tamarindo, is a petite one-bedroom studio with small kitchenette (for $72 d low season, $75 d high); the largest, Casa Tamarindo, is a spacious two-bedroom, two-bath apartment with full kitchen ($104 low season, $115 high).
Back on the town main street, a sign on the right marks the good gravel road to the Costa Azul Adventure Resort. In-hotel activity centers around the beach and the palm-shaded pool patio and adjacent restaurant-bar. Farther afield, hotel guides lead guests (at extra cost) on kayaking, biking, surfing, and snorkeling trips and naturalist- guided horseback rides along nearby coves, beaches, and jungle trails.
The main hotel building, at the foot of a hillside of magnificent Colima palms, offers 20 large comfortable suites. Uphill, sheltered beneath the palms, stand eight villas (six one-bedroom and a pair of two-bedroom). Suites in the main hotel building rent, high season, for about $120 d; the one-bedroom villas go for about $160 d, and the two-bedroom villas about $300, for up to six. Up to two children under 12 stay free. Reservations (224 Av. del Mar, Suite D, San Clemente, CA 92672, local Mex. tel. 311/258-4120, fax 311/258-4099, U.S./Can. tel. 949/498-3223 or 800/365-7613, U.S. fax 949/498-6300, www.costaazul.com) are strongly recommended, especially in the winter.
Past Costa Azul, north a block or two, turn downhill toward the beach and continue another block north to lovely, secluded Casa de los Obeliscos (local Mex. tel. 311/258-4315, U.S. tel. 415/233-4252, www.casaobelisco.com). Here, welcoming American owners have created their version of paradise for their guests to enjoy. They offer four super-comfortable airy, art-and-tile decorated suites, two of them with private oceanview patios, all overlooking a luscious hibiscus-decorated pool patio. Rates run $180 d low season, $225 d high ($275 Christmas–New Year’s), including a big breakfast. Sorry, no children under sixteen or pets; closed August and September. Get your reservations in early (by email only, reservations [at] casaobelisco [dot] com).
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition