The Perfect Pair in Puerto Vallarta
Written by Amelia Jeffers
Dusting off my passport last fall, I prepared for my first post-pandemic excursion beyond the borders and into the sunny west coast of Mexico with friends. Our week-long trip was timed to make the most of the Día de Muertos festival, when the streets of Puerto Vallarta would be transformed by art installations and stunning traditional shrines. Despite a status as one of the world’s top vacation spots, Puerto Vallarta (PV) boasts a rich history of prosperous
commerce thanks to a robust agricultural industry and an active port that has served inland communities for more than 200 years. Perhaps because tourism represents only 50% of the local economy, PV retains an authentic charm and warmth noticeably absent in some of its Mexican counterparts. The malecón (boardwalk) is lined by quaint shops and lively restaurants, many of which do cater to the international audience of visitors, but wander just a few streets away for a more local experience. The “Romantic Zone”, also known as Old Town, is often cited as a must-see, and the historic buildings and cobblestone streets do not disappoint.
Seeking both a restful retreat and an opportunity to let loose a bit, our group decided to split our time between a pair of properties owned by Marriott. For the first several days of our stay, we celebrated Day of the Dead at Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa where the staff
hosted a memorable celebration that included personalized and elaborate ofrendas and sugar skull makeup artists for the more adventurous among us. Situated on a sandy strip along Banderas Bay, against the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains, the freshly renovated resort with six restaurants, a water-sports center, kids club and programming for the whole family is nearly a one-stop-shop for fun activities and great food. A seasonal sea turtle release program, when nature permits, invites guests to learn and take part in the conservation of the region’s Ridley Sea Turtle. A 22,000 square foot onsite spa is the largest in Puerto Vallarta. In terms of venturing off the property, our helpful concierge arranged a driving tour of culture-rich barrios for some of our group and a deep-sea fishing expedition for others. We decided to save a boat tour to Las Caletas (a private cove for swimming) and snorkeling off Marietas Island for our next trip.
We never ventured off the property for a meal, because everything we had was just too good - and convenient - to beat. Ceviche & Tequila Bar overlooks the pools and serves up one of my favorite dishes. It was perfect for a solo late lunch and cocktail on my arrival when my travel mates were catching a game in the sports bar, Champions. Availing ourselves of a tequila tasting and cooking class at Nosh, a bi-level, open air eatery just steps from the beach gave us an unmatched view of the iconic PV sunset.
After we had our fill of an action-packed several days of eating, drinking, and exploring, we packed our bags and headed just a few doors down for a restorative break before our return home. A former palm tree plantation converted to a luxury wellness resort, The Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta drew us in with its mountains-meets-the-ocean
landscapes and open-air decor spread
across 14 tranquil acres that personify the resort’s holistic focus on well-being. Strategically constructed around the palms (and preserving as many as possible), the quiet pools seem like hidden natural lagoons with tiny islands and partially-submerged lounging beds, inviting total relaxation. Curtained pergolas fitted with luxury furnishings provide a private retreat on nearly half a mile of gorgeous beach. Consistent with the Westin brand, the resort carries workout gear available for loan, so you can keep packing to a minimum without sacrificing fitness. Speaking of fitness, the gym is extraordinary - with soaring ceilings and lots of light, I was motivated to squeeze in several workouts, including a beach-side yoga class.
Determined to make the most of the amenities, every member of our party indulged in stress-relieving spa treatments. The tranquil environment is protected by one-to-one service from entry to departure. Escorting me to a changing room, my guide provided a cozy robe, fresh water, and direction for maximizing my visit. A steam sauna and cool bath prepared me for a thoroughly regenerative full-body massage and the (guest favorite) Seaweed Wrap with Guarana which promised to detoxify my system. The natural, mineral-rich seaweed deeply hydrated and noticeably firmed my dry skin.
The last night of our trip was spent on the expansive lawn (again with that sunset!), seated on comfortable cushions surrounding a low table filled with finger foods, champagne, and lots of candlelight. The custom dining experience left no detail unchecked, and gave us the perfect evening to recount a spectacular week - while planning for the next one.