When it comes to golf destinations in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas used to hog all the headlines, but a new destination along Mexicos Pacific coast has emerged as a rival every bit as spectacular for golfers ' Puerto Vallarta.
For years, Puerto Vallarta was well known for its beaches and for its role in the film Night of the Iguana, a 1964 classic featuring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton. Today, Puerto Vallarta has developed into a noted golf destination. Its climate seems perfectly suited for golf. Near 80-degree temperatures is the norm, a major reason why more than 3 million tourists flock to the region every year.
ClubCorp, the company that owns Pinehurst Resort, has helped the destination come of age. The Dallas-based company runs the spectacular 36-hole Vista Vallarta complex, home to a Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf course, and the Marina Vallarta Golf Club. These courses have sprung up to complement the many all-inclusive resorts that are a staple of the region.
Both Vista Vallarta courses (www.vistavallartagolf.com) opened in 2001 to immediate acclaim. Players will love their rugged, natural beauty spread among 478 acres in the shadows of the Sierra Madre mountain range. Golfers must navigate extreme terrain filled with dense jungles, deep ravines and meandering creeks. The facility hosted the 2002 EMC World Golf Championship.
Designed by Joe Finger, the par-71 Marina Vallarta Golf Club features natural lagoons and views of Banderas Bay. Dont bother searching for any loose shots that end up in or near the water hazards. Alligators can be seen lounging in the lagoons. The only knock on the 6,701 yard course are the hundreds of condos and homes that line its fairways. But its conveniently located next to the Casa Velas Hotel Boutique (www.HotelCasaVelas.com), a great place to rest your head in between rounds.
Casa Velas, a member of the exclusive The Leading Small Hotels of the World club, is the only adults-only all-inclusive golf resort in Mexico to receive the AAA Four Diamond Award. It resides just 15 minutes from the Puerto Vallarta Airport and just 10 minutes from the downtowns popular El Malecon, a boardwalk lined with art galleries and shops along the shores of the Banderas bay. The 80-suite, hacienda-style hotel isnt located on the beach, but it offers a private beach club just a short five-minute ride away near a sister hotel, Velas Vallarta.
The resorts theme is a garden oasis. Streams and fauna decorate the lobby with fish ponds just off the outdoor patio. The 80 suites have all been redone with marble floors, sun-god mirrors and other local art and dcor. Many offer a balcony with a private hot tub, perfect for an intimate evening under the stars.
If you must stay on the beach, the Grand Velas, a member of the Leading Resorts of the World, is a sister property of Casa Velas 20 minutes away in Nuevo Vallarta. Grand Velas (www.grandvelas.com) is also an all-suites, all-inclusive resort. Either property will allow you access to the great golf in Puerto Vallarta.
And after all, thats the most important part of any golf destination, right? The hotels must be clean and comfortable, but its the golf that youll remember most. Puerto Vallarta certainly delivers its share of memorable tee times.