Everyone (especially in winter) has a fantasy beach, a place to get away from it all. For some, “beach” means the edge of a wild sea to challenge with surf and kiteboards. For others, it is a seaside cerulean landscape of calm, tiny waves lapping at a white sand shore. The secluded beach at La Troza, a villa in the Las Animas area of Puerto Vallarta, is both. Some months the sea that borders La Troza is so quiet and clear you can see lazy turtles and rays playing near the shore’s edge. Other months, powerful and beautiful white-tipped waves crash on the beach. In both seasons the beachfront, seven-bedroom villa is the definition of getting away from it all.
“It was a crazy notion,” Renee Perez says, laughing. “Absolutely insane!” She is talking about the plan she and her husband of more than three decades, guitarist Alberto, hatched in the early 1990s to build a family retreat on a piece of lush jungle and oceanfront land they had inherited in Mexico. Problem number one for longtime Puerto Vallarta residents? The land was remote. “No road, no infrastructure, no services,” says Renee. She chuckles as she reminisces. “No nothing!”
In fact, she says, the only way to get there was by panga, the little flat motorized skiffs used in the area. And a panga is exactly what the Perez family used to transport all the building material to what would become their little Garden of Eden vacation home on an unspoiled stretch of jungle, mountain, and sea. Load the boat with building supplies in the little village of Boca de Tomatlan and empty it on the beach at La Troza. Back and forth. “Oh yes,” she adds, “and we had toddlers. Yup, toddlers in the boat too.” She laughs again. Renee and Alberto built their beach house. The family grew. Renee worked as a librarian. Alberto played music in his sister’s popular restaurant La Palapa and, of course, the family, including their three growing children, enjoyed their secluded vacation home.
Fast-forward two decades. Renee and Alberto start dreaming about future retirement when suddenly (Renee would say “magically”) about four years ago, a new piece of property became available on the same deserted beach, Playa La Troza. “So we are crazy,” she says with some of the joyful spirit of someone who revels in his or her own bit of eccentricity. “Instead of building a little retirement house somewhere with a road,” she says, “We built a villa and then two little houses, casitas, between the beach house and the villa.” She pauses. “With the boat and the loading and unloading again.”
The new project was their passion. The hand-built new structures were constructed of beautiful tropical warm red-tinged Mexican guapinol wood. The roofs would all be palapa, palm fronds hand-woven by artisans called palaperos. The floors, champagne-hued conchuela, a natural stone laden with seashells, would be drawn from nature too.
The couple was unstoppable. With Alberto at the construction helm and Renee leading on the interior design side, they set out to explore the most elegant resorts in the area to find elements of design that they loved and wanted to incorporate. “We took notes and a million pictures. We knew we wanted really high end touches for La Troza and we wanted to fill the villa and casitas with colorful regional handicrafts.”
Their research paid off. The couple integrated details such as traditional tapetes (decorative circular mosaics made of oval river stones) in a palette of grays throughout the exterior common areas of the home. A local artisan carefully created each one of these charming smooth stone circles. They added another artistic detail to the bathroom mirrors. Each frame is embedded with iridescent oyster shells, an idea Alberto came up with that was also executed by a local artisan. They searched out hand-woven runners for the bedrooms from Oaxaca where weavers still use natural dyes and traditional Zapotec designs. Alberto designed wooden armoires inspired by Mexican furniture, which they then had handcrafted. “Elegant Mexican,” Renee says, explaining the look of La Troza. “Nothing about us is rustic. Everything is comfortable, natural, and elegant.”
She points to the spacious living room in the villa with its soaring palapa ceiling of woven palm fronds. This is the Perez family’s go-to super comfort area with a long inviting rattan sofa piled with bright oversized pillows. This is the home’s center of gravity. Of course, Renee adds, that is indoor life. So much of the family’s time is spent outside where they dine al fresco, read, swim, kayak or paddleboard in the ocean, or just lounge by the infinity pool. Outdoors the “décor” is provided by nature in its most glorious. Bougainvillea, hibiscus, and the bird of paradise-like heliconia explode with color. And don’t forget the trees. La Troza is surrounded by jungle (the family is proud that they never cut a tree in the whole building process). There are fruit trees like guava, lime, mango, and banana all around the villa, Renee says. Fruits, she adds, that are likely to end up on guests’ breakfast plates.
That breakfast might be enjoyed on the big teak round table built over the beach, shaded by a palapa with panoramic views of the ocean. That same perch at night offers views of the twinkling lights of the city of Puerto Vallarta in the distance.
While it is true that a small boat, a panga, is still the only way to reach La Troza and that urban life does seem a million miles away, restless guests can take a 20-minute walk to explore the beach town, Las Animas, with its local restaurants or vendors serving up tasty red snapper, lobster, or chimichangas.
The list of beach activities around and at villa La Troza is exhaustive but guests may just want to emulate Alberto and Renee Perez and their family. For Alberto’s part, he’s most likely napping in a hammock, and Renee, well, she says you’ll find her in the living room, just looking out at beautiful Playa La Troza. “There is just a special energy here,” she says, of her hideaway and spiritual oasis. “Nothing bad ever happens here and, best of all, you just never stop hearing the ocean.”