Perched on a hillside with a jaw-dropping view of Yelapa Bay, which itself opens onto the magnificent Banderas Bay, Verana is paradise…for the adventurer who really wants it. Accessible almost exclusively by boat, the resort is surrounded by lush, Jalisco jungle and comprised (at the time of this review) of only ten individual and mostly open-air palapas. Each “house” is unique, but all were designed with a careful eye to the hillside geography for intimacy and perfectly framed panoramas.
The staff – a mix of expats, Yelapan locals, and big city Mexicans – seems at once urbane international and low-key local. Verana is their second home and they treat each guest with true hospitality: joking around, offering information, and enjoying conversation in equally fluid Spanish and English. Given an honorary spot on payroll are the téjon, also known as coatimundi, relatives of the badger that roam the grounds and take special pleasure in stealing your coffee sugar if you’re too sleepy-eyed first thing in the morning.
Each day starts with the chorus of jungle birds and the splendor of sunrise over the bay, followed by coffee and pastries, which are delivered to your doorstep around 8 am. Once the view and coffee have soaked in, you meander down (or up!) to the main patio, which includes the hostess desk, bar, restaurant, kitchen, and firepit, to enjoy a hearty breakfast. The day is then in your hands and many guests choose to relax by the pool, chill in their palapa, walk the twenty minute path to Yelapa (or ten minutes further to the bay’s sandy beach), or head out on a grander excursion by foot or by boat. If you stick around, lunch is served just below the pool and always includes the option of fresh ceviche, guacamole, and the catch of the day (red snapper, amberjack, octopus…). The bar opens at 3 although most guests don’t congregate at the watering hole until about 5, ready for Joel to serve up some seriously strong and delightful cocktails. Dinner, usually a hearty and inspired take on more traditional Mexican cuisine, is served just after nightfall and concludes with conversation at the firepit.
But the true glory of Verana is the space between dusk and dawn. As you snuggle between the sheets, ensconced in an expertly tucked mosquito net, the crickets are already deep into song and, if you listen closely, you’ll distinguish dozens of different tunes. In the wee hours, even the insects are quiet and the bay is perfectly tranquil for a short while before the jungle birds begin their daybreak cacophony against the drum of the ocean surf.
Other pros: Wifi at the main patio means you don’t feel completely cut-off…just far enough away to ignore what you don’t want to deal with! We can’t praise the staff enough; they were amazing, genuine, affable, and discreet. The kitchen, too, served up truly scrumptious fare and catered to any dietary allergy. The cleaning staff managed to make our room seem fresh daily, despite the fact that we were completely open to the jungle. And the boat skipper who ferried us to Boca de Tomatlán: wow. With serious swells, he turned boating into an art to get us to Verana safe and dry.
Other cons: As mentioned, you have to want this adventure. The jungle location means there are scorpions (rare), spiders (medium rare), and mosquitoes (prevalent). A téjon will visit your room in the middle of the night, but by the second time you ignore him. Verana itself is working to get heaters on all pools and that will be very welcome when next we return since they were a bit chilly on this trip. The spa and activities didn’t awe us, but neither were they major disappointments.
Verdict: Imagine boutique, six-star service without the pretention of walls. Plus good food. And amazing cocktails. Overlooking the most beautiful bay you’ve ever seen. Yeah, something like that…
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located 30-miles south of Puerto Vallarta floating above the Bay of Banderas, embraced by the mountains of the Valle de la Sierra Oriental, carved out of lush Mexican jungle on a hillside rests Verana. It is as unusual as it is remote. Unique design that is rustic yet sophisticated. Designed for travelers with a sense of adventure and appreciation of tranquility and natural beauty. An indoor/outdoor Spa adds to the amenities of a luxurious getaway. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Verana Hotel Yelapa
- Verana Yelapa