Imagine this: On a special day at sunset, arrangements are made for a Mariachi troupe to serenade an unsuspecting bride-to-be from the street below her suite’s arched window or balcony. As she listens, with the sea, the sand, the city and the mountainside in the background, her lover enters and asks her to spend his life with him.
Perfect for honeymooners or anyone appreciating a relaxing getaway, the retreat is truly one of Puerto Vallarta’s most intimate and luxurious hotels. With views of the Sierra Madre Mountains and azure Banderas Bay, the boutique hotel is owned by American entrepreneur Janice Chatterton, who knows every guest by name. It houses five open air villas.
Once owned by Richard Burton and his wife Susan Hunt, when Burton was filming Night of the Iguana, it became his residence. (Yeah, we know that there was a woman whose name was Elizabeth Taylor, who lived two doors down.) In 1990, Chatterton purchased Casa Bursus, named after the owners, even before there was a Bennifer nickname in the entertainment world. In 2003, she converted her home into a hotel, so that others could appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
When you step into the non-descript entrance from a windy, cobblestone street, you have no idea what’s in store. Once inside, you experience simple opulence and nooks and crannies of the antique-filled lobby with white call lilies in vases, pink bougainvilleas and red Mexican tiles. The building is Mexican colonial architrave, turn of the century furnishings, lush gardens with fragrant flowers, and trickling fountains with open air villas. Tiny votives twinkle in lush courtyards. Water spills from terracotta angels into small dipping pools.
Sadly, we only had a day to experience the resort, since this was a final stop in port from a week-long Holland American cruise. We booked a suite for the night, even though we were unable to stay. It was well worth the visit, since we were familiar with the area and opted for total seclusion. This was the place!
Our suite had wraparound views of the sky, water and countryside. Each suite is different. Our large patio had luxurious lounge chairs and a soaking tub with hand painted mosaic tiles. We never saw another guest, and privacy is key.
There are three pools on the property. The one we chose had covered (in shade) cabana type couches, perfect to sip a margarita and break from the sun.
Each suite has carved wooden canopy beds in a room of whitewashed walls and crystal chandeliers.
A restaurant, primarily for guests, has gorgeous views of the city. There is a complimentary happy hour in the courtyard with hors d’oeuvres and live music. Breakfast is included with each visit. You can opt to dine in the privacy of your suite. You may not need an alarm clock, as bells from the Basilica could very well wake you up.
Although there has been reported violence in Mexican towns, Puerto Vallarta has not been hit. Even though the hotel is not on the beach, it is centrally located in Old Town. Once inside, you have no reason to leave.
Sue Facter owns a news agency specializing in the luxury lifestyle brand. Her work has appeared in “USA Today,” “People,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Greer’s OC” and “Women’s Day Australia.”