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Puerto Vallarta…The Amalfi Coast revisited!

November 2009
by Liz Drayton

Brant Point Lighthouse

We headed south from Punta Mita with our driver and concierge. The drive to PVR from PM takes about an hour – and curiously, you enter a different time zone as you cross the bridge from the state of Nayarit to Jalesco!

We headed south from Puerto Vallarta, through two tunnels in the mountains, to the older neighborhoods of Conchas Chinos and Mismaloya. As we emerged on the other side of the mountain, I felt as though I had passed through some twilight zone and had been transported to the Amalfi Coast in Italy! The similarities between these two dramatic mountainous coastlines were uncanny. The narrow two way road was cut into the cliffside, dropping off on the ocean-side to rugged rocks with small stretches of creamy colored sand beaches far below. The road zigzagged along the coast and rounded corners to reveal breathtaking views of mountainous coastline snaking along for miles ahead. Chiseled into the cliffs on the ocean side were towering hotel or condominium resorts, with steep roads leading down to them and their beaches below. You could see the top floors from the road. On the inland side, the mountains were lush with palm trees and verdant tropical foliage. Signs along the road told of hotels and neighborhoods hidden in the greenery, not visible from the road. While other mountainsides flashed a mosaic of houses, apartments, restaurants and small hotels stacked up the cliffside, cheek-by-jowel and atop each other, with sun glinting off of their windows. How do they build them like that?

Nantucket Farmers market

Puerto Vallarta town is fun and exciting – a mix of old and new, sea and city, Mexican tradition and the demands of tourism. With the arrival of Hollywood in the 1950s to shoot “Night of the Iguana”, Puerto Vallarta morphed from a quaint fishing town to a favorite getaway for Hollywood notables like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Since then, there has been a boom of building following the real estate trends. From what I can tell, the early sprawl was to the south of the city of PV, and the latter sprawl has been to the north – in the areas of Nuevo Vallarta and beyond. Cruise ships still loom large on the waterfront north of the city and deliver up bus loads of cruisers to an array of activities ranging from scenic mountaintop restaurants, to zip lines or to the celebration of Mexican culture and place in a Luau-esque beach/jungle/cabaret extravaganza. Lots of fun stuff to do and see for sure! The heart of Puerto Vallarta’s city life is well connected to her lifeblood of the sea by the Malecon (promenade), with its dramatic display of statuary, which creates an ever-changing show for photographers against the changing colors of the Pacific sky – especially outrageous at sunset!

NAN SS5

We headed further down the coast towards the town of Mismaloya. I continue to be dumbfounded by the similarities between this coast and the Amalfi, especially as we traverse a turn and come around to the view of two huge rocks rising majestically out of the sea – the Faraglioni Rocks of Capri! NO… it’s Puerto Vallarta’s Los Arcos - a slightly stunted version of Capri’s signature rocks, surrounded by a flotilla of snorkels and flopping flippers, as opposed to the bobbing boats exploring the grottos of Capri. We pull into a parking area in front of a tangerine colored stucco entry arch. As the wrought iron gates opened, we stepped onto a stone terrace to behold a series of crayola colored buildings cascading down the cliffside, amidst towering trees and vines to an extended dock and little private beach area below. The MIT MAN owner - a vivacious, funny, fit, wife of the architect, mother of two teenagers – is dressed in an immaculately pressed white linen shirt tucked into a perfectly fitted mandarine colored linen skirt. Such style! It was easy to understand the inspiration and energy behind this daring house! Not only was the architecture an homage to the rocks, trees and views which define its extraordinary location, but the vibrant colors, artwork, blown glass lights, plump furniture, gracious living spaces and intimate terraces were an invitation to enjoy the comfort and joy of it all. Any family with independent children, would absolutely love this house for its internal comforts, and for the access to a world of wonder in the ocean below. Kayaks, snorkels, and a natural salt water soaking pool sit at the water’s edge. Los Arcos rocks, one of the primo snorkeling destinations in Puerto Vallarta, are a 10 minute kayak paddle away. Birds flit about in the tree canopy, at eye level from the upper decks. You are just 20 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta for excursions into the City, or you can arrange to have the best of Puerto Vallarta brought out to the villa for nights of entertaining and fine dining right in your own home. It is hard to beat the views and excitement of this dramatic house.

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