If you're after a secluded, otherworldly experience on your next vacation, look no further than Verana, an intimate boutique hotel on Mexico's Pacific coast. Tucked in a remote hillside jungle just thirty miles south of Puerto Vallarta and accessible only by boat, Verana boasts indulgently private accommodations, a blend of old-world and modern designs and a philosophy of simple luxuries—all set against a backdrop of stunning water and mountain views.
The enchantment begins upon arrival, when guests disembark onto the hotel's small, private pier. A few stone steps lead to the full-service jungle spa, which offers aqua-therapy, scrubs, massages and the like, many of which incorporate locally grown plants. Next to the spa, the first of the hotel's two restaurants provides lunchtime service overlooking the bay, a perfect spot to enjoy the sights (on a recent visit, I saw a whale nursing her calf in the water below), while enjoying a stellar chef's menu, updated daily. (A weekday menu might include fresh-baked bread with roasted smoked eggplant puree, guajillo chile-encrusted octopus, and caramelized pineapple with fresh strawberries and yogurt citrus sorbet.)
From there, it's a 15-minute hike through the jungle, up winding stone steps to the hotel proper. Along the way, guests pass by a dramatic, eight-foot-tall urn, as well as rustic busts made in the likeness of Verana's owners. (Meanwhile, mules stand-in for bell-boys.)
Beautifully simple, the nine individually-designed villas dotting the hillside combine the traditional architecture with modern design, also marrying the indoors with the outdoors. The hotel's lush natural surroundings inspired the overall color palette, and its decor (all of which had to be brought uphill by man or mule) mixes streamlined, contemporary pieces with artisan-made furniture and Mexican handicrafts, carefully selected by owners, former movie set builder Heinz Legler and set decorator Veronique Lievre. The couple originally began construction on Verana intending it to be their dream house—even sleeping in a tent the first year during construction—but soon realized they wanted to share the beauty of this locale with others in an intimate hotel setting. Describing the remote estate, Lievre says, "Verana is really about the outside setting with the option to go inside."
Guests can choose from open, tranquil palapas with traditional thatched roofs, few to zero walls and rock floors, or more modern, enclosed rooms with dramatic walls of steel-framed windows overlooking the bay. The hotel's second restaurant and spa location blend in up here as well, where guests meet nightly for a casual cocktail hour at the outdoor bar, enjoying contemporary designs and stellar service, followed by impeccable dinners—yes, once again, overlooking the bay. (Taco Tuesdays are particular standouts at Verana, with a salsa offerings fit for the spice novice or the fiery masochist.)
If you somehow tire of lounging by the spring water pool while taking in 180-degree views of the mountains and ocean on your personal terrace, or have had enough of all those pesky, relaxing spa treatments, Verana also offers private and group yoga classes, kayaking, whale and bird watching excursions, an outdoor couples starlit bath (as good as it sounds, lit only by the heavens and candlelight) and the like. The nearby town of Yelapa is just a twenty minute hike away, with a long, lovely beach and a local celebrity of sorts—"the cake lady" who walks up and down the beach carrying delicious cakes and pies on her head for sale. Plan accordingly though, the trail between Yelapa and Verana is impassible when the tide is in.
For those looking for the perfect getaway, Verana's rooms for two include three daily meals, taxes and boat transportation. Verana is open to the public 1 November-31 July each year, rack rates start at $380 a night. To reserve, contact Verana.