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 £318.60 ($389), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of 3% per room per night on check-out and an additional service charge of 5% per room per night on check-in.
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, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, hair dryer, unlimited DVDs to borrow, drinking water, Bulgari toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
If you hope to feast your eyes on the Pacific first thing each morning, book a Master Suite – all six have ocean views. 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 – Eduardo Michaca – who serves up 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.
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.
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. Another spot with great grub and ocean views is Bistro Teresa(+52 322 113 0281), which is just a ten-minute drive away. Try to time your dinner so you’re there at sunset and consider the seafood tamale – a marine smorgasbord wrapped in a leaf. And then there’s Café des Artistes (+52 322 222 3228), one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants (even Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes gave it two thumbs up). There, chef Thierry Blouet gets inventive with signature dishes like cream of pumpkin in prawns. If you can, grab a table in the courtyard garden.
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.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in Puerto Vallarta and unpacked their sketches of humpback whales and hand-painted guacamole bowls, a full account of their Mexican luxury break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta …
Much like its east coast counterpart, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta has a rep for spring break shenanigans and hard-partying hooligans. And while, yes, there’s bound to be college-aged kids in town sowing their wild oats, the city is also brimming with colourful marketplaces, quiet winding streets and small sanctuaries. Hacienda San Angel is one of those undisturbed retreats. After checking in, you could spend the entire afternoon admiring the collection of antiques that the hotel’s owner has selected for your suite. Picture ornately carved wooden headboards, claw-foot bathtubs, Victorian-era dressers, 19th century tapestries and oil paintings. Tour the hotel’s inner courtyards and plant yourself by one of three intimate pools. And forget about competing for lounge chairs or struggling to drown out the sound of rambunctious swimmers: here it’s possible to go for a dip in the communal cloisters and never see another guest. Later, have a tequila cocktail (you’re in the state of Jalisco, after all, the birthplace of Mexico’s most famous elixir) on your private veranda and gaze out at the terracotta roofs and the blue waters of Banderas Bay. Certainly, it would be a stretch to call Puerto Vallarta ‘undiscovered,’ but a stay at Hacienda San Angel makes it feel that way.