“Intimate boho-chic jungle retreat high on a hillside overlooking Mexico's beautiful Bay of Banderas”
Created by Heinz Legler, a former film production designer, and his French wife Veronique Lievre, Verana started life as a truly offbeat boutique hotel. As Puerto Vallarta hit the map, it evolved into the type of place which attracts a faithful following of like-minded people: those with a love of beauty, intimacy and nature. You can book bird walks, whale watching and paradise picnics on a deserted beach - or just swing on a hillside hammock. But don't think you have to do without your creature comforts. With an open-air spa, a springwater pool, a candlelit restaurant and a yoga hut, this is a far cry from camping in the jungle.
- Location, location, location: it's totally secluded and surrounded by greenery, with a carpet of blue sea below
- The open-air construction means you can lap up the views from your bed, deck or lounger (as well as keeping it breezy)
- Staff are handpicked from the surrounding areas, and are welcoming to a fault
- You can enjoy a blissful massage in the open-air spa while the hummingbirds and butterflies fly above you
- Fantastic for honeymooners and weddings (houses are very private!); the couples' starlit aromatherapy bath is sublime
- Getting to Verana from Puerto Vallarta is convoluted and can be problematic if you land late in the day
- Steep hillsides and a rough 15-minute hike from the dock / beach are problematic for the less agile
- Chances are you'll wake early to birdsong and sunrise, but fresh coffee and biscuits will be waiting on your terrace
- We didn't see any scorpions, but we were warned to keep our shoes on at all times and not to leave clothes lying around
- You're something of a captive audience for dinner - it's pricey, though the food is excellent
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Don't bring expensive or flashy items - it's not that sort of place, plus there are no in-room safes (and in some cases no doors!). That said, there's one safe at reception for small valuables but don't switch off completely and leave them behind!
- Do bring comfortable walking shoes for walking the rocky route to the beach, and carry your flip flops for once you get there
- Beach Resort
- Restaurants and bar
- Over 16s welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
Verana's accommodation is as eclectic and unencumbered as the guests - so, how many walls would you like? Casa Piedra has all 4 for those who like to 'lock up' at night. Its traditional Mexican artisan style makes the cool, dark interior cosy and very comfortable.
In contrast, the multi-level Tea House is completely open. Relax on the Japanese-style sitting platform, gaze on the blue sea and green jungle, then pad across to your palm-fronded bedroom.Extremely popular with honeymooners, you needn't worry about passers-by: each house is screened to feel completely private.
At the top of the hill is the Jungle Suite, with commanding ocean views, a jungle-facing patio and 12-foot ceilings. An additional bedroom and a living room make it ideal for groups; if you're more than 4, rent it in conjunction with 1-bedroom Casa Amor to make Casa Grande.
Another favourite is open-sided Palapa, which is also very romantic, with enough loungers on the panoramic terrace to create a private sun-tanning circuit. We also liked the Bungalow (very private and well-appointed), and the Studio (2 patios and an open-air shower).
However many rooms (and walls) you've got, the warm, candlelit evenings and the cacophony of the jungle seem to melt behind the palapa fronds, wooden decks and mosquito nets blowing in the Pacific breeze. You won't find any of the usual diversions: phones or TVs. But you will find bathrooms lavishly stocked with hand-made soaps and lotions, hot showers, and plenty of purified drinking water. There's reliable electricity and hundreds of candles dotted about the resort.
- Mosquito net
- Torch / flashlight
Food marks time in the jungle, and a typical Verana day goes something like this. As the sun slants through your walls (or lack of them), a tray of coffee is quietly laid out on your private patio. When you're ready, the terrace restaurant serves an invigorating breakfast : a home-grown fruit platter, plenty of fresh juice, eggs cooked to order, perhaps a serving of huevos rancheros.
If you're staying put for lunch, the pool restaurant offers healthy Asian-inspired fare: coconut shrimp soup, spring rolls, fresh watermelon. If you have activities planned, you'll get a specially prepared picnic: ceviche, cous-cous, carrot salad and cold beers.
Pre-dinner drinks include excellent tequilas, including some only found in Mexico - ask for a sampler or join one of the Tequila classes. Dinner is served at candlelit tables on the terrace. It's a fixed (and fairly limited) weekly menu, offering regional Mexican dishes with an international twist. You might get coconut prawns served in curry with ginger mash or even filet mignon - all excellent. Adventurous appetisers and desserts include a delicious chocolate and chilli cheesecake. Everyone raves about 'Taco Tuesdays' (with 15 or more gourmet salsas), so try and include one in your stay.
- Room service
- Visit the rocky Marietas Islands, an uninhabited nature reserve, for whale-watching and sea-bird spotting (it's the only place you'll see a blue footed booby outside the Galapagos); you can snorkel through sea-caves if waters are calm
- Arrange a trek along the Pizota or the Rio 'El Tuito' bird walk, or hike to the Tecumata waterfall and other self-guided hikes
- Enjoy a paradise picnic on a deserted beach and take Verana's snorkelling gear with you; many honeymooners rate this as the highlight of their stay
- Indulge at the Jungle Spa: blissful massages, delicate pedicures, a great coconut-sugar scrub - and the starlit, candlelit aromatherapy bath (an absolute must for honeymooners)
- Learn the artistry behind Verana's cuisine with a private cooking class making moles, salsas, tortillas, and horchata
- Go fishing at dawn on a panga using poles or lines - a fun 3-hour trip, but rough seas can mean choppiness or even cancellation
- Visit the town of Yelapa, a 30-minute walk away; it's quite touristy, especially when the tour boats come in, but it's the closest beach and we had fun browsing for trinkets and delicious pecan pies
- It's really worth getting up for the early morning yoga class, before a day of snorkelling off the jetty (free) or renting sea-kayaks (watch out for speeding pangas driven by 16-year-olds!)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Cooking classes
- Plantlife / flora
- Well being
- Whale watching