Review: Villa Mandarinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Villa Mandarinas Puerto Vallarta

Luxury villas in Puerto Vallarta serve one purpose: provide unforgettable vacations in a stunning, native setting. Whether beachfront, cliffside or immersed in tropical foliage, these high-end, one-of-a-kind villas are magically rooted in place. Villa Mandarinas, designed to feel “sophisticated Mexican,” is perched in the ultimate fantasy location, where seamless design merges nature, local heritage and a whole lot of views.

Soulful, timeless and visually commanding, this 11-bedroom villa is a jewel along the coast, and a work of art itself. Travelbinger checked into Villa Mandarinas with 11 friends. Here’s our review.

11-Bedroom, Luxury Vacation Rental Villa Mandarinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Review

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta birthday party.

Location, location, location

Rainbow at VIlla Mandarinas
Rainbow at VIlla Mandarinas

Near Mismaloya Beach on Puerto Vallarta’s south shore, Villa Mandarinas is storybook picturesque, but it’s also architecturally fascinating. Owner Gabriela Garcia, who’s native to Puerto Vallarta, gives credit to her husband and co-owner, Alberto Alvarez, a celebrated local architect who masterfully designed the 16,000-square-foot private estate.

Dramatically cascading down six vibrantly lush tiers (rather than a typical cluster layout), the entire property nestled within the cliffside faces the sea with impressive, unobstructed views. From here, guests may recognize the beach and cove where The Night of the Iguana was filmed; the villa overlooks the very spot that first put Puerto Vallarta on the map in the 1960s.

Impressive design over the sea

Villa Mandarinas main room
VIlla Mandarinas main room

There’s a high degree of comfort and incredible attention to detail at Villa Mandarinas. It’s obvious Gabriela put a lot of heart and local heritage into decorating the villa, with the goal to be emblematic of the Puerto Vallarta she knows and loves.

“I grew up in the beaches all around our bay,” she recalls. “My parents took us camping for days on end to the many beautiful spots here. We have traveled all over the world but when I come back, I always wonder why I go away as the beauty, cleanliness, friendliness and safety of this area is unmatched.”

Villa Mandarinas, which she describes as “sophisticated Mexican,” perfectly captures the colors, sounds, smells, food and spirit of Puerto Vallarta—and therein lies its beauty. It has a strong, meaningful connection to Puerto Vallarta, and it feels natural. The villa experience speaks for itself but Gabriela ensures expectations are exceeded. “My husband and I are both obsessive compulsive people that enjoy perfection and love making people happy,” she laughs.

First impressions at Villa Mandarinas

Villa Mandarinas Puerto Vallarta
Villa Mandarinas Puerto Vallarta

When we first arrived past the gated entrance, we were spellbound with the direct ocean views that promptly put us in vacation mode. Even from here, the soothing sound of the ocean surrounded us, and elements of nature woven into the villa’s design aesthetic—like plants, bamboo, stone, local woods—further conjure tropical paradise.

Stone steps (or spiral stairs through the main building) lead down to the heart of the property that spans a seamless indoor/outdoor design, including the heated infinity pool deck and eight strategically staggered-out rooms that, by definition and size, are essentially suites (three more contemporary suites are adjacent to the main property).

While Villa Mandarinas practically sprawls, it still feels remarkably intimate, and if you’ve ever fantasized about having a boutique hotel all to yourself, this is as close as it gets.

The villa is equipped daily with a staff of eight, including a house butler Miguel (who makes killer margaritas) and Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who has been part of the Villa Mandarinas family for seven years. There’s daily turn-down service, gourmet Mexican cuisine, resort-style recreation and amenities and pets are more than welcome with plenty of green lawns to frolic.

The suite bedrooms (each with private balcony)

Guestroom at Villa Mandarinas
Guestroom at Villa Mandarinas

Due to sheer space and the cascading, tiered design, all high-ceiling suites with private bathrooms (many with jacuzzi tubs, separate rain showers and, yes, breathtaking views) feature large, fully furnished terraces overlooking the sea.

With floor-to-ceiling, sliding glass walls, suites are drenched in sunlight, and luxurious netting over four-post beds and Mexican-inspired sitting areas make them hard to leave.

Every suite reflects a unique color theme (ie: magenta or blue), and they’re all individually designed with a distinguished feature. For instance, one suite has an outdoor jacuzzi; another provides a hammock on a double-sized terrace; a colorful wall mural is painted in another; and an entire suite was built around a beautiful, volcanic boulder.

It’s hard to decide which suite stands out the most as they’re all bold in design and soulful. “We try to always keep the Mexican touch in all the rooms and all details, from cushions and furnishings to staff uniforms and food,” says Gabriela. “My town inspires me, and I am inspired constantly by the nature around us.”

That said, the villa felt like a traditional Mexican house that’s luxurious with raw nature and local sensibility inspired throughout. Roofs conjure vernacular homes; papalillo trees are ubiquitous; and boulders are integrated in the architecture.

The vacation rental amenities

Villa Mandarinas massage
Villa Mandarinas massage

With double-height walls painted solid in various, vibrant colors, and lush, green foliage surrounding the tranquil oasis, the villa is a dreamy, tropical paradise. In addition to the main infinity pool and jacuzzi with thatch-roof palapa and day beds, there’s yet another pool and covered lounge one tier down.

At the villa’s private cove, a well-crafted pier juts out to sea, the perfect launching point for kayaks and snorkeling but also an unforgettable spot for surprise weddings.

Some of the villa’s best features were never part of the original blueprint. From virtually any vantage point, large humpback whales and manta rays can be spotted flipping in and out of the ocean. The colorful sunsets transforms the villa into a painting, and we were happy with quick rain showers that produced a double rainbow framing the view.

While the nearest beach is a mile away, a manmade saltwater pool carved from the villa’s cove is a solid compromise. Guests can soak in the therapeutic tidal pool for a relaxing afternoon while soothing waves crash around them.

The vibe at Villa Mandarinas

Villa Mandarinas breakfast
Villa Mandarinas breakfast

On the last night, under a starry sky, the chef prepared a traditional gourmet Mexican dinner based on what’s in season (his molé is outstanding), and we dined by a blazing fire pit on a terrace, which later served as an intimate gathering spot for S’mores and wine.

Staff arranged memorable activities that take place here, whether massages with the natural soundtrack of crashing waves and an ocean breeze (which were amazing); a traditional Mayan blessing with a local shaman (our favorite highlight); an exciting birthday fiesta with piñata (too drunk to remember honestly!); evening meditation under the moonlight and, of course, intimate weddings (I’ll be back for that).


Puerto Vallarta beaches are nearby.
Puerto Vallarta beaches are nearby.

Villa Mandarinas is the perfect set-up for yoga retreats; a thatch-roof, open-air yoga shala/pavilion is the newest addition to the property. By design, the suites are set far apart so that guests still have a level of privacy, and there’s enough amenities to keep them busy when they’re not downward dogging.

Essentially, with the staff, the hospitality and the experience at Villa Mandarinas, you can’t help but feel part of the family. “We make sure the house has all the amenities of a five-star resort, with ocean views from all bedrooms and huge terraces,” says Gabriela, “but at the end of your stay, you will know the name of our team.”

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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