With just 10 rooms, the intimate Hotel Cielo Rojo is sweet but not saccharine, thanks to the mix of Mexican folk art, old movie posters, photographs, and contemporary paintings that lend rooms and public spaces their distinctive charm. Cielo Rojo (red sky) is located three blocks from the beach on a cobbled street in San Francisco (locally known as San Pancho), a village of about 1,000 people. Renowned for its lush gardens, the secluded hideaway of San Pancho lies 40 miles and a world away from busy Puerto Vallarta.
A small boutique in San Pancho, with lots of Mexican charm
With about a thousand residents and not much to do but go to the beach, San Pancho is a hideaway town, and the airy, three-story, 10-room Cielo Rojo, three blocks from the beach and tucked into a side street just off the main street, is a great place to get away to. The design is clean and simple, with traditional Mexican materials and artwork (including vintage Mexican movie posters), and a blending of the indoors and outdoors in the lobby and open-air restaurant.
Three blocks from the beach on a quiet street in the small Mexican beachfront town of San Francisco, about 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta
San Pancho is a shady, green town, with countless flowering vines and trees that create a sense of peaceful seclusion. The wide, clean beach is even more tranquil, with its panoramic views of the sea, vivid sunsets, bird-filled estuary, and nearby jungle-draped hills. Sports enthusiasts of all stripes can find their mojo here, with a drop-dead beautiful 9-hole golf course, only recently opened to the public, a serious polo field that attracts well-heeled locals and visitors from all over, and occasionally good surfing right in town (plus plenty of other great waves within a half hour's drive).
And then it gets dark and everybody goes to bed: There is no nightlife to speak of, and the town generally shuts down by 10 p.m. That's when the party-seeking people head south, three miles down Highway 200, Mexico's Pacific Coast Highway, to Sayulita, where the bars stay open later.
45-minute drive (a $50-$100 taxi, depending on the exchange rate, season, and driver) from Puerto Vallarta airport; shuttle service can be booked through the hotel
1-hour, $5 public bus from the airport
5-minute walk to beach and adjacent bird-filled estuary
5-minute drive to Sayulita, a slightly larger town with more nightlife, street life, and surfing
1-hour drive to Puerto Vallarta
20 miles of paved road and 10 miles of dirt road to Alta Vista, a fascinating, under-visited archaeological site with natural swimming holes in a clean, free-flowing creek
An eclectic art collection and a tiny dipping pool
Tiny dipping pool with water feature is pleasant to look at, but not really meant for swimming, especially in the high season when the adjacent dining room is busy.
The eclectic art collection, which includes folk art, contemporary paintings, photography, vintage Mexican movie posters, and other visually stimulating bric-a-brac, most but not all of it Mexican, can be seen throughout the hotel's rooms and public spaces.
Hotel boutique offers a colorful selection of clothes, jewelry, and other items from all over the world, displayed in and around the small reception area.
Hotel sells specially blended house-brand organic tequila, whole grain tortillas, and vanilla.
Upscale restaurant serving vegetarian and seafood dishes
The high-end, open-air restaurant focuses on local and organic food, serving only vegetarian and seafood dishes. It serves three meals a day in high season, and dinner only May through October.
Meat-eaters need not worry. San Pancho has excellent restaurants in every category, from high-end continental dining rooms to cheap but great street taco stands -- and they are almost all within walking distance of the hotel.