The Getaway

Puerto Vallarta

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It is difficult, when thinking about Mexico, to shake off the image Cancún, the notorious party city beloved and - depending on your disposition, spoiled - by the thousands of American youngsters who go there every year to party.

Thankfully British travellers who wish to visit the South American country – and wish they should – are instead increasingly opening their eyes to the country's west coast, and in particular an area called Puerto Vallarta.

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A costal destination that opens onto the pristine beaches of the Bahía de Banderas and is backed by stunning, palm-tipped mountains, Puerto Vallarta is an area no less safe and accessible than Cancún but – for now at least – considerably more undiscovered.

Along the malecón you'll find a vibrant nightlife, alright – as a bonus, Puerto Vallarta also happens to be one of Mexico's most LGBT-friendly areas – but not at the expense of getting an authentic glimpse of life in one of the most obsessed-over countries in the world.

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Thankfully for the discerning traveller, the luxury options are improving all the time, with the pick of the hotels undoubtedly being Casa Velas.

Stunningly designed and landscaped around a series of lush tropical gardens, Casa Velas is an adult-only boutique (the advantages of which scarcely need pointed out) that is slowly creeping up the rankings of Mexico's leading luxury hotels – and for good reason.

Ponds of Koi fish pepper the entrance that opens out into a gorgeous foyer, at the back of which is Casa Velas' huge pool and more of those lush gardens (watch out for the resident peacock). Nearby is Emiliano Restaurant, a semi-oval of high ceilings and thick wooden beams in which faultless gourmet Mexican cuisine is served (naturally, dining al fresco is also an option). From sautéed Baja mussels to fried tuna tacos with avocado-tomatillo salsa, you're left with no doubt that the UK could do with more fine dining examples of a cuisine sadly still best known back home for lacklustre burritos and fajitas.

Elsewhere in Casa Velas, a spa on par with luxury resorts anywhere and a challenging onsite 18-hole golf course offer plentiful ways to relax, as does the less formal food and drink options at the Beach Club situated a short shuttle ride away on the hotel's private stretch of gorgeous coast. Rooms – not that you'll want to spend too much time in them - are available all-inclusive, all boast good views of the grounds and are decorated with a quaint nod to traditional Mexican textures and colours.

All in all you couldn't ask for a better base from which to relax and explore Puerto Vallarta, a town at once rustic and vibrant, where crumbling side streets wind down to a picture-perfect pier and Mexican life goes on uninterrupted as it has for centuries. Get there before everyone else does.

hotelcasavelas.com

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