Luxury villas in Puerto Vallarta serve one purpose: to provide unforgettable vacations in a stunning, native setting. Whether beachfront, cliffside or immersed in tropical foliage, these high-end, one-of-a-kind villas are magically rooted in place. Villa Mandarinas, designed to feel “sophisticated Mexican,” is perched in the ultimate fantasy location, where seamless design merges with nature, local heritage and a whole lot of views. Soulful, timeless and visually commanding, this 11-bedroom villa is a jewel along the coast and a work of art itself.
Near Mismaloya Beach on Puerto Vallarta’s south shore, Villa Mandarinas is storybook picturesque, but it’s also architecturally unique. Owner Gabriela Garcia, who’s native to Puerto Vallarta, gives credit to her husband and co-owner, Alberto Alvarez, a celebrated local architect who designed the 16,000-square-foot private estate. Cascading down six vibrant tiers (rather than a typical cluster layout), the entire property is nestled within the cliffside and faces the sea with impressive, unobstructed views. Guests may recognize the beach and cove where The Night of the Iguana was filmed; the villa overlooks the very spot that first put Puerto Vallarta on the map in the 1960s.
There’s a high degree of comfort and incredible attention to detail at Villa Mandarinas. It’s obvious Gabriela put a lot of heart and local heritage into decorating the villa, with the goal to be emblematic of the Puerto Vallarta she knows and loves. “I grew up on the beaches all around our bay,” she recalls. “My parents took us camping for days on end to the many beautiful spots here. We have traveled all over the world but when I come back, I always wonder why I go away, as the beauty, cleanliness, friendliness, and safety of this area are unmatched.” Villa Mandarinas, which she describes as “sophisticated Mexican,” perfectly captures the colors, sounds, smells, food and spirit of Puerto Vallarta—and therein lies its beauty. It has a strong, meaningful connection to its home city, and it feels natural. The villa experience speaks for itself but Gabriela ensures expectations are exceeded. “My husband and I are both obsessive-compulsive people that enjoy perfection and love making people happy,” she laughs.
When guests first arrive past the gated entrance, the direct ocean views put them in vacation mode immediately. Even from here, the soothing sound of the ocean surrounds you, and elements of nature woven into the villa’s design aesthetic—like plants, bamboo, stone, local woods—further conjure up tropical paradise. Stone steps and spiral stairs through the main building lead down to the heart of the property that spans a seamless indoor/outdoor design, including the heated infinity pool deck and eight strategically staggered-out rooms that, by definition and size, are essentially suites (three more contemporary suites are adjacent to the main property).
While Villa Mandarinas practically sprawls, it still feels remarkably intimate, and if you’ve ever fantasized about having a boutique hotel all to yourself, this is as close as it gets. The villa is equipped daily with a staff of eight, including a house butler Miguel (who makes killer margaritas) and Culinary Institute of America trained chef who has been part of the Villa Mandarinas family for seven years. There’s a daily turn-down service, gourmet Mexican cuisine, resort-style recreation and amenities and pets are more than welcome.
In addition to the main infinity pool and jacuzzi with thatch-roof palapa and day beds, there’s second pool and covered lounge one tier down. At the villa’s private cove, a well-crafted pier juts out to sea, the perfect launching point for kayaks and snorkeling but also an unforgettable spot for weddings. “Often when we do weddings, one half of the couple waits at the pier while the other half arrives by panga boat (local fisherman’s boat) to the soundtrack of James Bond or Mission Impossible,” says Gabriela. “Guests wonder where the other half is until they appear and descend magically from the boat to be married on the ocean terrace.”
Due to sheer space and the tiered design, all the suites have private bathrooms (many with jacuzzi tubs, separate rain showers and, yes, breathtaking views) and feature large, fully furnished terraces overlooking the sea. With floor-to-ceiling, sliding glass walls, suites are drenched in sunlight. Every suite reflects a unique color theme (ie: magenta or blue), and they’re all individually designed with one key feature. For instance, one suite has an outdoor jacuzzi; another provides a hammock on a double-sized terrace; a colorful wall mural is painted in another; and one suite was built around a beautiful, volcanic boulder.
“We try to always keep the Mexican touch in all the rooms and all details, from cushions and furnishings to staff uniforms and food,” says Gabriela. “My town inspires me, and I am inspired constantly by the nature around us.” The villa feels like a luxurious version of a traditional Mexican house. The roofs conjure up vernacular homes; papelillo trees are ubiquitous, and natural boulders are integrated into the architecture.
Some of the villa’s best features were never part of the original blueprint, like the humpback whales and manta rays that can be spotted flipping in and out of the ocean from almost every room. The colorful sunsets transform the villa into a painting, and you’ll even be happy when it rains when you see a double rainbow framing the view. While the nearest beach is a mile away, a manmade saltwater pool carved from the villa’s cove is a solid compromise. Guests can soak in the therapeutic tidal pool for a relaxing afternoon while soothing waves crash around them.
For guests’ last night at the villa, the chef prepares a traditional gourmet Mexican dinner based on what’s in season (his molé is outstanding), and guests dine by a blazing fire pit on a terrace under the stars, which later serves as an intimate gathering spot for S’mores and wine.
Staff can arrange memorable activities, whether massages with the natural soundtrack of crashing waves and an ocean breeze, a traditional Mayan blessing with a local shaman, a fun birthday fiesta complete with piñata, and, of course, intimate weddings. “We had a wedding group whose wedding, unfortunately, was a disaster (we normally do not get involved with the wedding coordinators),” Gabriela says. “They hired someone that did not deliver, so, one day before they left, we hired a pastor ourselves and had them married again with a little ceremony and special dinner. It was so nice and emotional, and they were very happy…and we were too!”
With the staff, the hospitality and the experience at Villa Mandarinas, you can’t help but feel part of the family. “We make sure the house has all the amenities of a five-star resort,” says Gabriela, “but at the end of your stay, you will know the name of our team. We had a group of three kids that, when they left, they shouted at our houseman: ‘Miguel, we love you!’ It’s very special, and you might never want to stay at a hotel again.”