Rooted in romance, Hacienda San Angel hotel, Puerto Vallarta’s hilltop hideaway in Old Town (aka la Zona Romántica), was once a Valentine’s Day gift. Actor Richard Burton gave the hacienda’s main villa to his wife Susan in the late 1970s. Later, when American Janice Chatterton stepped in as owner, she combined the original house and surrounding villas into one property connected by a series of statue-strewn courtyards and bougainvillea-lined pathways. Today, the suites are filled with antiques, the views of the Bay of Banderas are sublime and love is still in the air.
11am; check-in 3pm, but both are flexible, depending on availability.
Double rooms from £258.15 ($327), including tax at 24 per cent.
Rates include a Continental breakfast (freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee or tea, pastry basket and the choice of a fresh fruit plate or assorted yogurts), plus free long-distance and local phone calls.
At the hotel
Three swimming pools, laundry, air-conditioning, concierge services, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, hair dryer, drinking water, fridge.
Our favourite rooms
Honeymooners, anniversary celebrants and anyone who appreciates a stunning sunset soak should splurge on the presidential San Miguel Suite. It has a private Jacuzzi in an open-walled structure that overlooks Old Town, plus panoramic views of Banderas Bay from the king-size bed.
There are three pools – two inside intimate courtyards and the third on a rooftop, overlooking Puerto Vallarta. Have your breakfast or lunch delivered lido-side and eat on cushioned white loungers under the shade of bougainvillea plants. For a little sand, venture six blocks to the nearest swimming beach.
Visiting between December and March? Toss a pair of binoculars in your bag. This is whale-watching season and it’s possible to catch a glimpse from certain rooms, especially the Master Suites.
Setting off on an afternoon walking tour? Just remember to save some juice for the trip back – the hotel sits on top of a steep hill.
The nearer you can get to the rooftop railing, the easier it’ll be to soak up the mind-boggling views.
Beach duds are for daytime – Hacienda’s restaurant is more formal than tank tops and flip-flops.
The good news? The hotel’s much-lauded rooftop restaurant, Hacienda San Angel Gourmet, has 180-degree views of the ocean, the jungle and Puerto Vallarta’s colonial rooftops, plus a chef – Juan Carlos Perez Alvarez – who serves up fine international cuisine so good that even the locals scramble for a table. The caveat? The restaurant is only open October to June, so if you visit at an opportune time, be sure to take advantage.
Go ahead, sleep in. Breakfast goes until 11.30am. As for dinner, the last reservation is taken at 9.30pm.
Order chow to your room from 9am to 6pm during the summer and 9am to 10pm the rest of the year.
Follow the cobblestone streets to Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta’s Old Town and just four blocks from the ocean.
Fly into Puerto Vallarta Airport (officially Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport). From there, it’s a 25-minute drive to the hotel.
There’s no need to rent a car, as restaurants, bars, and shops are all just a five to 10-minute minute walk from the hotel, plus there’s no parking at the Hacienda. If you didn’t pack your walking shoes, you can always grab a cab or hop on a local bus.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beyond the Hacienda’s impressive sculpture collection (try to keep count of all the angels on the grounds), there’s a thriving art scene in Old Town. Dozens of art galleries feature painting, photography, glasswork, ceramics and more, from both Mexican and international artists. If you come from October to May, visit the city’s ArtWalk, a self-guided stroll between nine galleries. You’re also in walking distance of the beach, so take some time to feel the sand between your toes or the waves beneath your board. Puerto Vallarta is an ideal spot for both surfing and stand-up paddle. Try ziplining through the jungle or sample Mexico's spirit in a tequila tasting.
If you’re keen to get out of town, rent a car or hire a driver and head 40 minutes north to the much-less-known coastal town of Sayulita. Known as the ‘Pacific Tulum,’ Sayulita has yoga classes for Zen seekers, one-of-a-kind boutiques and secluded beaches. Take a day trip to the Marietas Islands and explore hidden beaches or snorkel in crystal-clear waters.
La Palapa (+52 322 222 5225), a Puerto Vallarta institution that’s been around since the 1950s, has a beach club on Playa Los Muertos, which is just a five-minute cab ride (or a 20-minute walk) from Hacienda San Angel. The restaurant will hook you up with a beach chair, a cerveza and some ‘guacamole loco’ (guac with chile ancho-marinated panela cheese and bell pepper). Or, stop by the main restaurant for dinner and chow down on tropical Mexican cuisine – a fusion of Mexican, Asian and French food.
Beer lovers should visit Los Muertos Brewing (+52 322 222 0308), just five minutes from Hacienda San Angel. Old Town’s first craft brewery, Los Muertos has Mexicana Rubia (a blonde beer), Anillo de Fuego (a chili ale) and Agave Maria (an amber ale) on tap. Up for a show? Act II Entertainment (+52 322 222 2357), which is also in Old Town, serves up cocktails and cabaret performances.
When plotting our next getaway, Mr Smith and I agreed that we wanted three things: warm weather, cool drinks and somewhere that felt unique. As we looked into Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, it seemed to tick at least the first two boxes; then we discovered the boutique-sized and history-filled – and certainly unique – hotel Hacienda San Angel, and we were sold on our next adventure.
However, sometimes you don’t need adventure exactly; sometimes you just want to spend time with someone you love, relaxing and lounging about in a peaceful environment, forgetting about all other distractions. And there was something about this spot in Jalisco, when the breeze blew in from the ocean, rustling the lush pink and purple flowers all around, that made everything seem a bit more romantic. Maybe that’s why Richard Burton was so enchanted with the place that he bought not one, but two properties in Puerto Vallarta, to gift to both his wife Suzy Miller and his mistress, Elizabeth Taylor. Love is in the air, as they say (or at least in the real estate), and Hacienda San Angel (the one his wife owned) is ideal when you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle, relax and enjoy the sea air with a margarita by one of three pools. This region of Mexico can be a destination for late-night parties, but if you’re looking for something on the quieter side, this is the right place. Mr Smith and I left our late-night ways behind us a long time ago, so if – like us – enjoying fresh guacamole by the pool is more your speed than ripping shots with strangers, book your stay at the Hacienda immediately.
Each room was unique, with its own personality, and styled with Mexican and European antiques from the 17th through 19th centuries. There wasn’t a hint of a touristy, spring-break aesthetic – each statement piece is hand-selected, so you feel like you’re staying in an open-air museum. There was a quietness too, but it doesn’t feel stuffy or forced; it’s all rather soothing. The ancient art and artifacts aren’t the only inhabitants – there were also three very friendly dogs belonging to the property owner who gave us a warm welcome. Surrounded by wooden altarpieces, mirrors in gilt frames and wagging tails, Mr Smith and I sipped our welcome cocktails and settled into this den, which felt as distinctive as we’d desired. Our room, the Crown View Suite, had a private balcony for reading, reflecting and looking out over the expansive courtyard; and a bathroom with tiny votive candles lined up above the stone-tiled tub set a relaxing yet romantic mood. Each piece in the suite felt imbued with its own history, from the painting of the Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel facing the queen-size bed, to the antique French crystal wall sconce above our heads. All of which created a sense of intimacy and made the stay seem all the more thoughtful – even more so when we received handmade chocolates at bedtime, sending us off to sweet dreams.
In the morning, we were treated to a free selection of fresh fruit and just-baked breads, with hand-squeezed orange juice. Breakfast happened in the kitchen nook, at a dramatic, large wooden table that looked like a prop from a period drama. It was the perfect start to a day of exploring in the historic center of town, only a 10-minute stroll away. It should be noted that Hacienda San Angel is at the top of a steep hill, so getting about can be a bit more strenuous than normal, but Ubers are plentiful, and we enjoyed walking off all of the local mezcal and regional agave-based spirit raicilla. If your trip overlaps a Wednesday evening, don’t miss the Art Walk in town, where numerous galleries are open late and host food and drink tastings. If you’re lucky, you might even get a personalized tour, like we did when we ran into an expat who – in search of his own peaceful place – had opened a gallery during the pandemic. Hacienda staff will gladly give you a map of the galleries participating so you don’t miss any of the local culture. Just make sure your shoes are able to handle the uneven stone walkways, and don’t forget to head due west to the Malecón to marvel at one of the most picturesque sunsets on the Pacific coast.
On our return to the hotel, we lazily climbed the stone steps, lit by candlelight and surrounded by small cherub statues, to the on-site restaurant for dinner. We listened in on the pleasant chatter of other visitors, and enjoyed fresh seafood: seared scallops and caught-that-day tuna to start, angel-hair pasta scattered with shellfish and shrimp risotto to follow, then a perfect coconut creme brûlée to finish, with several glasses of delicious Mexican rosé along the way, all while overlooking the city lights. We were almost too full for another round of chocolates in bed. Almost.
At check-out, we mused over our lazy vacation. We had found the warmth, drinks and quiet we desired, plus a cultural deep-dive to boot. And what was the most notable piece from the past at the hotel? In my mind, the original Renoir sketch that hangs in the manager’s office, which also acts as an apt metaphor for Hacienda San Angel: detailed, historic, and enchanting, and utterly memorable if you’re willing to seek it out.