Dreamy, rustic Puerto Vallarta often gets overshadowed by splashier Cancún and Cabo. But the resort town, tucked away on the west coast of Mexico, is a historic and cultural gem. (No wonder it was a favourite getaway for golden-age A-listers.) Here’s what to do and where to hang on your next visit.


If you’re going to splash out on one meal in Puerto Vallarta, make it French-Mexican fusion spot Café des Artistes. The setting alone is worth it; there are five stunning dining rooms, each more glamorous than the last, and the food will have you clamouring for seconds. (Try the fresh tuna with peanuts.) For brunch with a side of Old Hollywood glamour, head to Casa Kimberly. Now a hotel, the mansion was once home to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton—complete with a bridge separating their sleeping quarters. Return in the evening to catch the sunset on the patio and take lessons from the resident tequila experts at the bar. Salud!


Vallarta Botanical Gardens is about a 40-minute drive from the cobblestoned downtown—we scored a rental for the jaunt— and there’s plenty to occupy you for an entire day. The gardens’ 16 hectares (read “you’ll be hiking, so leave your espadrilles in your luggage”) are home to rare orchids and striking succulents. Cool off with a dip in one of the many swimming holes hidden in the surrounding jungle. Back in the city, instead of doing that vacation thing where you walk for blocks because you can’t decide where to eat, explore the local food scene with Vallarta Food Tours. We opted for the Original Downtown Tour, spending a few hours stopping at restos we never would have known to try and sampling taco after taco, ceviche and a minty pineapple drink we’ll definitely be recreating at our summer barbecues.


The Hacienda at Hilton Puerto Vallarta. The luxury all-inclusive—think bright-tiled walls, Spanish-style roofs and open courtyards—is adults only (so peaceful) and located steps from the tumbling Pacific Ocean (again, so peaceful). There are also two pools where you can show off your new one-piece, but one has a swim-up bar, so you know where you’ll find us. If you are looking for an off-the-grid experience without sacrificing any amenities, we recommend recharging at nearby Casitas Maraika. The thatched-roof cottages—there are just six, so book well in advance—scattered in the jungle and along the beach are accessible only by boat. Guided hikes in the tropical forest are available. but we had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the white-sand beach, which turns into a dance floor at night thanks to visiting international DJs.

This article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of ELLE Canada.