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BEACH BLISS AND VILLA MERCEDES IN PUERTO VALLARTA

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The humid air hits me on the jetway, causing a smile to remain plastered to my face from immigration to crossing the street outside of the airport to get a taxi (hint: it’s cheaper if you grab a cab off airport property).


I hop in the front seat of my taxi and produce the address to my hotel, a boutique property a two-minute walk to the beach.


“Voy aqui,” I tell my driver as I hop in.

“Si,” he responds, and we are off.

The entire drive, we chat in Spanish and my heart grows ever fonder of what I predict will one day be my home. It’s the second time in six months I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta, and that’s rare for me since the only spots I’ve repeated in my travels are London, Thailand, Spain and Croatia … and I’ve lived in three of the four of those places.


Like most of the boutique properties outside of the hotel zone (read: towering monstrosities of all-inclusiveness), Villa Mercedes is not massive . But, also like the other properties, when I step through the door frame and into the old-fashioned and charming hacienda, I am immediately blanketed in calm and relaxation.


It taps into the culture of the city, complete with murals by artist Ana Rifa, original architecture paired with vintage tile mosaics and more.

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The small lobby features a cozy couch and a Buddha and opens up to a courtyard complete with a pool, perfect for the sunny days when I don’t feel like paying for food and drinks in order to enjoy a lounge chair on the beach.

I smile to myself.

This will work just fine.

THE ROOM

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There are five different options that make up the 16 rooms at Villa Mercedes: the studio, junior suite, suite, master suite and penthouses. I land in a studio, and it’s more than enough for me.

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The room features a king bed, futon, table and chairs and a mini-fridge, sink and kitchenette area. In sticking with Mexican charm, it’s vibrant and airy. Although the bed is hard despite the claim that it has a Tempurpedic mattress top, the room itself is all anyone really needs. It’s bigger than other studios I’ve seen in Puerto Vallarta, is sparkling clean, includes a flat screen, fan and AC, safe, and fast wifi.

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My room opens to the street, and the first night I’m there, I can hear music playing from a nearby bar. But, it’s not terrible and it doesn’t keep me up.


Bonus: breakfast is included when you book your room (November – May). The breakfast is pretty basic and if you’re vegan like me, you’re eating fruit. And maybe some bread.

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At night, guests can enjoy menus from Maia (which is sensational and does have vegan options) or Pulpito 116. We dined at Maia instead of at the hotel, and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in the city. Note: if you want more vegan options, here’s a vegan food guide to Puerto Vallarta.

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Amenities at Villa Mercedes include complimentary wifi in-room and in public areas (although it was slow or not working when I was there), a pool complete with a pink flamingo raft, as well as a rooftop garden and sundeck with plush lounge chairs and day beds.

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The property also has beach towels you can use to take to the beach.


Perhaps the best amenity in the world isn’t what the hotel has, but what it doesn’t: anyone under 18. Yup. It’s adults-only and that’s dreamy.

THE LOCATION

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I’ve stayed in a few different areas in Puerto Vallarta — two spots on the Rio Cuale and one up the hill in Gringo Gulch. In terms of being where the action is, this is the spot. Tucked into the Los Muertos beach neighborhood, Villa Mercedes is near plenty of restaurants, clubs and the beach. My favorite salad spot, Salud, is about a two-minute walk, and Maia is adjoining the hotel.

It’s the ideal location if you’re looking to spend most of your time on the beach, at the beach or partying.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a charming hotel near the beach without paying beach prices, this is it. Staff are friendly and speak English. The rooms are bright and remind you of where you are, and you’ve got a pool and rooftop garden. It’s not posh but it’s also not basic, and if you’re on a budget but still want to feel like you’re in another world, Villa Mercedes fits the bill.

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