Puerto Vallarta’s boutique hotels are an appealing alternative to its larger resorts. They continue to evolve, setting their sights on several different client segments.
Mexico's Premier LGBT-Friendly Destination
One example is Casa Cupula, which opened as Mexico’s first high-end LGBTQ property in 2002. Originally a five-bedroom guesthouse, it is now an 18-room property with a gym, spa, restaurant and pool club. Along the way, Casa Cupula has helped boost Puerto Vallarta’s reputation as one of Mexico’s premier gay-friendly destinations.
As part of ongoing “quinceanera” (15th birthday) celebrations, Casa Cupola has unveiled the Frida Suite.
The 860-square-foot suite celebrates the life of the artist Frida Kahlo, an icon of the LGBT community. It has a living area, kitchen, washer/ dryer and terrace with a hot tub and views of the city and bay.
Additionally, the Frida Suite is fully accessible, with ground-level access, wheelchair ramps and other accommodations.
But, it’s the suite’s design that truly evokes the spirit of Kahlo and her lasting influence. An original work of art by local artist David Estrada adorns the suite, as do fixtures and other retro pieces from her era.
“Décor was enhanced with Mexican indigenous items like sculptures, dolls and upholstery,” Don Pickens, owner of Casa Cupula, tells Travel Agent. "The large windows help join the suite with the tropical foliage outside. Frida loved nature. The result is unique, warm and beautiful."
Pickens first came to Puerto Vallarta in 1997, after working for Microsoft in Seattle.
“I fell in love with the beauty, the people, the culture and the cuisine of Puerto Vallarta immediately,” Pickens says.
His intention in opening Casa Cupola was to “create a property with that level of quality and a warm, embracing environment where you’d be proud to bring your mom," according to Pickens. "And my mom did visit many times,” he adds.
He believes the strongest selling point for Puerto Vallarta is its diversity.
“It’s all available, whether you want to lie on the beach every day or tour art galleries. Party all night or listen to live jazz music. Eat gourmet or street food, hike in the mountains or go boating on the Bay to snorkel or see the whales. Take in a show at one of our theaters and cabarets or enjoy Mariachis. If you want glamour, expensive boutique shops and snobbish, conspicuous consumption, go somewhere else. Puerto Vallarta is one of the friendliest, most beautiful tropical destinations in the world,” he said.
He also notes that the city’s current mayor, who is straight, marched in the local Gay Pride parade.
“The acceptance of the LGBT community here is icing on the cake and demonstrates the warmth of the pata saladas (locals),” says Pickens.
Puerto Vallarta's Hollywood History
Casa Kimberly's Elizabeth Taylor Suite
There’s also a Hollywood angle to the city’s allure.
“Puerto Vallarta came to fame in the 1960s when John Houston was filming 'Night of the Iguana' with Richard Burton. Then came along Burton’s lover, Elizabeth Taylor and all the world’s paparazzi followed,” Janice Chatterton tells Travel Agent.
Chatterton is the owner and designer of two boutique properties, Hacienda San Angel and Casa Kimberly. They sit atop a cobblestone-paved hillside overlooking Banderas Bay, the Sierra Madre mountains and an expanse of Terracotta rooftops.
Casa Kimberly was a gift to Taylor from Burton and Hacienda San Angel was a gift from him to his then wife, Susan Hunt.
Hacienda San Angel was originally a single villa known as Casa Bur-Sus. Today, it consists of four villas with 20 suites, each uniquely decorated. The property showcases Mexican colonial architecture and antique furnishings, and includes three pools, two restaurants, a wedding chapel and lush gardens.
“Hacienda San Angel has opened a new restaurant, La Cappella, which offers the most spectacular views in town,” said Chatterton.
The much-anticipated Casa Kimberly opened two years ago. A gift from Burton to Taylor in 1962, the actress kept it through several subsequent marriages.
Today, the property has nine suites, a pool, boutique spa, tequila bar and fine dining venue. Its showcase is the Puente Del Amor (Bridge of Love), connecting two wings of the property.
Design details include four-poster beds, claw foot tubs, private terrace Jacuzzis and sweeping views. Guests can stay in Elizabeth Taylor’s bedroom, replete with its original pink marble, heart-shaped bathtub and views of Banderas Bay.
“The clientele for these hotels tends to be upscale Americans and Canadians with some European and wealthy Mexicans mixed in. They tend to be very service focused, looking for personalized service and luxurious settings. We definitely have couples seeking romance as well as special occasion travel, such as anniversaries and birthdays. It’s also great for a girls’ getaway,” said Chatterton.
She adds, “Most guests have a distinct appreciation for design as that is definitely a highlight of both these properties.”