I recently got a call from my Arizona-based bestie, begging me to take her someplace easy for some R & R. (She has barely left her nabe, let alone the country, over the past 2 years.) After going through a long list of choices, and scrapping 90% of them as waaaay too adventuresome (my preference) I decided that since she has never even been to Mexico, Puerto Vallarta, just a two-hour flight for her, would fit the bill nicely.

There is no shortage of places to stay in Puerto Vallarta, ranging from sprawling beachfront hotels sporting a plethora of pools filled with (screaming) children to more sedate, family-owned properties often found downtown, where the tiny pools are simply an afterthought.

Villa Premier is just right!

I felt like Goldilocks when I came across the understated Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway, because it was just right! Not too big, not too small (about 80 rooms) it had a peachy beachfront location that was near enough to all the action, but far enough away to offer peace and tranquility. The best part was NO CHILDREN ALLOWED — hence the “peace and tranquility”.

View from our room.

At check-in, we were greeted with a cool towel and, even better, a cool cocktail. Our room, though on the small side, particularly the tiny bathroom, was bright and airy, sporting unparallel views of Banderas Bay from our veranda. This was our sweet spot for catching the sunset.

One of the spacious suites

Stark Insider - Puerta Vallarta Travel Guide - Where to stay - Hotels and roomsInsider tip:

If you are there for a “romantic interlude” I would strongly suggest you upgrade to one of the roomier suites, such as the 1,400 square foot Master Suite which features a whirlpool on the terrace balcony.

I greatly appreciated the “Pillow Menu” since my neck was sore from the flight and promptly selected both a firm orthopedic neck pillow and a softy, hypoallergenic pillow as well. There is also a “Fragrance Menu” with a selection of yummy smells ranging from Amber-Ginger to Lavender Fields to ensure a good night’s sleep.

Our gracious welcome.

Other welcome room amenities include a fresh fruit plate, a bottle of chilled bubbly, L’Occitane toiletries, plenty of towels, robes, slippers, and a Nespresso coffee maker.

Since our main goal was to just chill out, we opted for the all-inclusive meal plan, so we could indulge in never-ending drinks pool-side or even IN the whirlpool with a swim-up bar. The main pool had uber-comfy lounge chairs and private swinging beds, or you could venture a few steps down to the beachfront and nab one of the cabanas.

Stark Insider - Puerta Vallarta Travel Guide - Where to stay - Hotels and rooms

Insider Tip:

The lounge chairs fill up fast so we quickly learned to save a spot by plunking down a hat or book on our favorite loungers before heading to breakfast.

There are 3 restaurants to choose from, all with al fresco options, plus the pool bar and 24-hour room service. All meals were ala carte- no buffets. The food ranged from traditional Mexican cuisine utilizing the finest local produce and freshly caught seafood to fine dining featuring many molecular gastronomic twists and surprises.

Our fave brekkie spot was La Ceiba.

We’d start our day with a pretty fruit platter and perhaps the huevos rancheros or lox and bagel, seated under a palapa roof that overlooks the ocean at La Ceiba.

Lunch was usually guac and chips, the daily fresh ceviche or shrimp cocktail coupled with a cerveza or two-delivered poolside.

The food was beautifully plated.

For dinner, we fluctuated between the elegant La Corona, where the Chef Sebastian Verona (who honed his skills at the Culinary Institute of America) adds sophisticated personal touches to the classics. The grilled Kampachi, surrounded by purple cauliflower and roasted beets was almost too pretty to eat, as was the Burrata, with grilled peaches accented by a peanut crunch.

The grilled Kampachi, surrounded by purple cauliflower and roasted beets was almost too pretty to eat

FYI: Veg-heads and vegans are in luck since they offer a full menu just for them.

The other restaurant, Murales, offers a more casual, scaled-down menu, if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter.

Flavorful Porcini risotto.

To keep your palate entertained there is a variety of fun, themed evenings held outdoors at La Ceiba, such as Friday‘s “Mexican Fiesta” which features local music and indigenous Mexican cuisine from various regions. Thursday is “Stella Night”, where musicians, dancers, and Spanish cuisine come together for a unique, sensory experience.

Don’t Miss Cooking with the Chef and Mixing it up with Mexico’s top Mixologist

Lively culinary tag team.

One of the highlights of our stay was the Cocktails and Culinary workshop conducted by the charming Executive Chef Sebastian Varona and his more-than-able sidekick mixologist, Enrique, aka Kike. They are absolutely ready for a prime-time TV show.

Chef Sebastian creating cauliflower ceviche

Chef Sebastian taught us how to make both a traditional ceviche as well as one of his more unique vegetarian creations, a piquant cauliflower ceviche.

Finishing touches.

The wildly enthusiastic Kike actually created a special drink in our honor, utilizing his secret stash of homemade potions and tinctures, which we got to name.

Loved his secret stash of potions.
Kikes fave tequila.

Although I’m not a fan of tequila, he convinced me to try his favorite brand, Trujillo, and now I’m a convert.

Stark Insider - Puerta Vallarta Travel Guide - Where to stay - Hotels and rooms

Insider Tip:

Kike also turned us on to a wonderful Mexican craft beer, Loba, which I highly recommend. Note: You need to reserve this super fun workshop in advance so you might want to do it when you book your stay.

Mind and Soul Spa

Wonderful roster of spa treatments.

We give two very relaxed thumbs up for our incredible, highly professional, massages here. If you like a softer approach, ask for Elizabeth, or if you live for that sweet pain, go with Diana. Get there a little early to further unwind in the sauna and steam rooms.

Saving this for next time.

They also offer a popular, morning yoga class, which I really wanted to try, however, I opted instead to watch them from my balcony while sipping my morning mimosa. There were also bikes available to rent but it really cut into my afternoon passion fruit margarita time so never did that either;)

Best Off-Prem Attractions

Admittedly, it was hard to pull ourselves away from the allure of doing absolutely nothing except eat, drink, relax and repeat, we did manage to tear ourselves away occasionally.

Keep an eye out for the sand sculpture artist.

 Walking the Boardwalk

For sure you will want to take a sunset walk along the popular El Malecon boardwalk which is lined with a variety of shopping options, as well as touristy restaurants and raucous nightclubs. But you will also see tons of local families, happily licking their ice cream cones while taking in the views and enjoying the street performers and ar-works. The boardwalk is only a ten-minute walk from the hotel so we actually did this every night-to works off a few calories.

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Take a half-day side trip (about a 45 minute uber ride) to see the internationally acclaimed Vallarta Botanical Garden.

So many beautiful flowers…
but my favorite was this funny one with the ghostly hug  figure.

Explore the lush tropical forests and hiking trails surrounding cultivated gardens filled with orchids, rhododendrons, bromeliads, magnolias, etc. See where Mexican vanilla and chocolate are grown, swim the “Los Horcones” tropical mountain river (bring a swimsuit), and end with a tasty gourmet lunch at the magnificent Hacienda de Oro Restaurant overlooking the forest.

Sunset from the El Malecon boardwalk.
Janice Nieder could be the love child of Indiana Jones and Julia Child. Previously a specialty food consultant in NYC, Janice is currently a San Francisco-based culinary tourism writer who has wined & dined her way through 80 countries. To keep things in balance, Janice also enjoys writing about her Girlfriend Getaways which include spa visits, soft-core adventure, cultural events, shopping, boutique hotels, and chef interviews.