Hotelito Desconocido

Opposite, La Pera master suite at the luxury eco-resort whose name translates as little unknown hotel little houses, each entirely different in concept and feel, are arranged on a stretch of hillside dotted with palms, citrus and mango trees. Steep stone pathways link the pool, bar area and restaurant with the various houses – if you’re not fit when you arrive, you will be when you leave.

Verana’s creators have been known to say the hotel is like a movie with six different sets (seven if you include the library, a corridor-like construction of glass and cement).

The Palapa, the first of the six to be built, is a bohemian dwelling with no walls: the bedroom and basic washing area are virtually open to the elements. The Stone House, however, has a rustic-Mediterranean feel, with warm colours and thick stone walls. Perhaps the two most striking of the houses are the Studio and Casa Grande, modernist hideouts in polished and treated cement. Throughout the hotel a sophisticated design sensibility has been at work. Hardware-store staples (low-tech taps, black metal window frames) jostle with objets trouves, un-matching furniture, and bits and pieces of Mexicana. There is even an occasional blast of 1960s kitsch, such as the bright-orange plastic armchairs by the pool. The funky, eclectic mix works brilliantly.

Verana also works well as a laid-back place to stay, possibly appealing to a younger, hipper crowd than Costalegre’s other smart hotels. Verana’s in-house spa specialises in voluptuous open-air baths by candlelight under the night sky. There are boat trips, yoga classes and walks to waterfalls. Lazier guests can simply lounge in that cover-shot pose at the corner of the infinity pool with its dreamy views over the Bay of Banderas, the thatched roofs of the village and the croissant of Yelapa beach.

Whichever way you look at it, Verana must be counted a huge success. An average 98 per cent occupation rate, even if it only means a maximum of 16 people at a time, says something about a place whose only form of promotion is its Internet website. Caveats are few. Scorpions are an ever-present danger, so much so

that you are warned never to go barefoot. It has been suggested that a greater Mexican presence among the front-of-house staff (they are almost all young Americans and Australians, and none the worse for that) might give the place a greater sense of connection with its surroundings. On the positive side, the resort’s international chefs make a laudable effort to give local dishes and ingredients a touch of Pacific Rim fusion, with excellent results. Verana Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco (00 52 322 200 5107 or 00 1 310 455 2425 in Los Angeles; e-mail: ana@verana.com; www.verana.com). Houses from US$380 (full-board); Casa Grande (maximum six people) from US$660 for four. There is an apartment in Puerto Vallarta for overnight stopovers

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