The Secret Charmer
John Huston fell so hard for Puerto Vallarta and its winding cobblestone streets lined with bougainvillea that he used it as the setting for his 1964 film The Night of the Iguana – which prompted an influx of Hollywood’s elite to this Pacific coast town throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Though most of us now associate the place with cruise ships, jam packed beaches, and bars hosting all-day happy hours, there’s a handful of hidden gems, both in and outside town that remind us why Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton ran away here together.
Your Home Base. Burton purchased Casa Kimberly in the hills overlooking Banderas Bay for Taylor for her thirty-second birthday, in 1964. He also bought the house across the street for himself and built a bridge – known as both Lovers’ Bridge and Reconciliation Bridge – to connect the properties. Last December, after sitting empty for a decade and the undergoing a five-year renovation, Casa Kimberly and Burton’s house were reborn as a nine-suite boutique hotel. Book the Elizabeth Taylor suite and you can soak in the heart-shaped pink-marble bathtub Taylor installed when she moved in.
The Table Worth Getting To. There are three ways to reach the Ocean Grill, an open-air, reservations-only lunch spot built into a rocky cove a few miles south of town. You can hike for 40 minutes through dense jungle, take a five-minute boat ride (provided by the restaurant), or – if you really want to make an entrance – anchor your yacht and swim to the restaurant’s dock. Your order: smoked marlin tostadas and a whole grilled lobster.
The Local’s Bar. Head a few blocks inland, away from the crowded bars of Old Town, to El Patio de Mi Casa, where you’ll sink into a chaise longue and sip a raicilla – the smoky local version of mescal.
The Secret Beach. It’s a 30-minute boat ride from Marina Vallarta, the main marina in town, to remote Yelapa beach (boats can be hired on the spot). Pull up a stool at the thatched-roof bar Angelina’s Gardens Beach Club for fish tacos and a cold beer, and then spend the afternoon dozing in one of the many hammocks strung between the palms.