The Puerto Vallarta Most Tourists Don't See
There's a side to this Mexican hotspot that's more than spring breaks and fruity drinks, and well worth a visit.
John Huston fell so hard for Puerto Vallarta and its winding cobblestone streets lined with bougainvillea that he used it as the setting for his 1964 film The Night of the Iguana—which prompted an influx of Hollywood’s elite to this Pacific coast town throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Though most of us now associate the place with cruise ships, jam-packed beaches, and bars hosting all-day happy hours, there’s a handful of hidden gems, both in and outside town, that remind us why Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton ran away here together.
Your Home Base
Burton purchased Casa Kimberly in the hills overlooking Banderas Bay for Taylor for her thirty-second birthday, in 1964. He also bought the house across the street for himself and built a bridge—known as both Lovers’ Bridge and Reconciliation Bridge—to connect the properties. Last December, after sitting empty for a decade and then undergoing a five-year renovation, Casa Kimberly and Burton’s house were reborn as a nine-suite boutique hotel. Book the Elizabeth Taylor suite and you can soak in the heart-shaped pink-marble bathtub Taylor installed when she moved in.
The Table Worth Getting To
There are three ways to reach the Ocean Grill, an open-air, reservations-only lunch spot built into a rocky cove a few miles south of town. You can hike for 40 minutes through dense jungle; take a five-minute boat ride (provided by the restaurant); or—if you really want to make an entrance—anchor your yacht and swim to the restaurant’s dock. Your order: smoked marlin tostadas and a whole grilled lobster.
The Locals’ Bar
Head a few blocks inland, away from the crowded bars of Old Town, to El Patio de Mi Casa, where you’ll sink into a chaise longue and sip on raicilla—the smoky local version of mezcal.
The Secret Beach
It’s a 30-minute boat ride from Marina Vallarta, the main marina in town, to remote Yelapa Beach (boats can be hired on the spot for $200 round-trip). Pull up a stool at the thatched-roof bar Angelina’s Gardens Beach Club for fish tacos and a cold beer, and then spend the afternoon dozing in one of the many hammocks strung between the palms.
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler on April 28, 2016.
Featured photo of The Cleopatra suite at Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor. Photo courtesy of Casa Kimberly.