There’s a big, black gate that marks the entrance to Garlands del Rio in the heart of Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica.
To the left of the massive gate is a door bell. Buzz that and within seconds, a latch clicks and then the tiny door can be opened.
On the other side of the door is a quirky paradise that is Garlands del Rio.
The boutique hotel/bed and breakfast in Puerto Vallarta shows its wares nearly immediately: a bright pool area with lounge chairs and tables to dine, and a bar span the courtyard with balconies overlooking the curated paradise below.
I walk in and immediately am greeted by staff who speak English perfectly as they relieve me of my suitcase (my trusty Kelty I travel with everywhere I go) and whisk me through a sliding glass door and into the cool confines of a living room.
Yes. A living room.
Garlands del Rio — The Property
Garlands del Rio is made up of villas, and check-in isn’t the typical reception area. It’s a living room where you are guided to a couch, given freshly made guacamole (holy crap, is it good) and perfectly salted chips, and a homemade margarita.
Nestled against the Rio Cuale, this bed and breakfast is heavy on the quirk and heavy on the charm.
I’m led to my room, located upstairs off of the living room. It’s massive. And, the items in the room look like they were scoured from the antique shops scattered through the city. It’s a hodgepodge of stuff from a worn chair against a window to a chandelier, to random little lights that look to be more than 50 years old.
And, I fall in love.
The things about Garlands del Rio is that none of the rooms are the same. At all. Each has its own unique charm. Over the course of the two weeks, I stay in three rooms there. That’s how much I love the property and staff.
The first room — Julietta — is huge, measuring in at a whopping 5,000+ square-feet. And, I feel like a princess plopped down in Mexico. It’s designed to feel like a boudoir and I love it.
There are two entrances to the room — a main one and then one in the bathroom (I told you it was quirky).
There are also two balconies. One which has two wooden doors with stained glass windows that opens to the pool courtyard and another with more modern glass doors that features a bridge over one of the walkways and connects to the kitchen. Why that exists, I’m not sure. But, it’s so random and odd, I can’t help but like it.
The other rooms I stay in are different. The second, Esquire, is dark and situated in another of the property’s villas, with doors opening to the Rio Cuale.
The final room, the Pandora Suite, is even bigger than the first. It’s got a private entrance off of the courtyard and features an entire wall of windows which open to the pool area.
While each room is different the all feature the same things I love: a ridiculously comfortable bed, super fast internet and free calls to the US.
Bathrobes. Water coolers in room. Wifi. Complimentary breakfast. A pool. A hot tub on the river. Garlands del Rio covers it all, but it also has something many other properties don’t – an on-your-honor bar. It is loaded with booze, cocktail recipes and a notebook where you simply write down what you’re drinking. There’s beauty in trust and I appreciate immediately that I can grab a Corona, write down my room name and have it charged to me later.
Not only that, but the hotel also provides beach chairs, sunscreen and umbrellas guests can take down to the water. While I didn’t use it, I love that provide these thoughtful extras (because I totally wouldn’t check a bag just because of sunscreen).
The walk to the beach is about 10 minutes. The walk to the Rio market packed with sounveirs and goodies is two. It is in Zona Romantica, the place in Puerto Vallarta you want to be (unless you want the all-inclusive I’m-in-Puerto-Vallarta-but-never-leaving-my-resort-vibe). The neighborhood is packed with place to eat, drink and explore.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of places to stay in Puerto Vallarta. What sets Garlands del Rio (and its sister property, Rivera del Rio) apart is its bed and breakfast charm. It’s Mexican design. It’s amazing staff. They take the time to chat with you. Have a drink with you. Since I spent so much time at the hotel, I noticed many people echoing their love for the amazing customer service and cozy atmosphere.
For me, it’s all about the homey feel created here. Garlands rooms are so different, so unique, and the staff are so friendly, that it’s easy to spend the day at the pool or hanging out with other guests (who all seem to be pretty damn friendly, too). It’s not a break-your-budget property, but it certainly feels like you’re royalty when you’re here.