This article is from the December 2000 - January 2001 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Casa Gardenias, An Aerie in the Hills Above Puerto Vallarta

by Marian Jane Sanders

Marian Jane Sanders is a freelance writer who lives in Silicon Valley and likes escaping to quiet, out-of- the-way places whenever she can.

On a recent visit to Puerto Vallarta, I discovered Casa Gardenias, a charming, moderately-priced B&B nestled high in the jungle, a few minutes from town. 

Unlike properties in the hotel zone, Casa Gardenias offers no disco, no tobacco shop, no beauty salon.  What it does offer is seclusion, intimacy, and the opportunity for complete relaxation in a beautiful setting.  

Perched on a hilltop at the end of a winding dirt road, the inn is oriented to maximize views of lush tropical forest below and the bay beyond. Owner Diane Raye has decorated it in regional style featuring terra cotta floor tiles and throw rugs, arched open-air windows with wrought-iron grillwork, rustic wood furniture, local artwork, and bright wool blankets for the cool evenings. All six guest rooms have tiled showers (but no tubs) and two share a deck. 

Diane is an expatriate who managed rental units in Oregon before deciding she “might as well be fixing water pipes here, where it’s warm.” When she purchased Casa Gardenias eight years ago, it was a private residence with no water and only three lights. 

Today the inn is far from primitive, but, as Diane says, “it’s not for la-ti-da types.” Tap water is nonpotable (purified water is provided in coolers and bedside pitchers); taxi drivers tend to get lost (just insist they continue to the very top of the hill); and guest rooms have no phones or TVs (some people prefer it that way).  

But this aerie in the hills is certainly comfortable. A cozy downstairs lounge contains plush sofas, shelves filled with books, a refrigerator, a large basket of fruit, and a guest phone. The emphasis is on privacy, but for the socially-inclined there are five inviting common areas and a daily cocktail hour. During my visit, the international guest list included Europeans, Canadians, and Americans. 

I stayed in the Lavender Room, where I awoke each morning to a view – from my bed – of gently swaying palms against a clear  blue sky. By mid-morning I’d manage to slip into a guest robe and make my way to the upstairs terrace for a leisurely breakfast. Diane prepares it in the adjacent open kitchen, while guests help themselves to coffee and juice. She’s a superb cook whose specialties include delicious huevos rancheros, with or without chorizo and salsa, and possibly the world’s best pineapple-coconut muffins. 

After breakfast, Diane usually offers guests a ride to town or to the local beach; if she’s busy, a taxi to either costs $2 to $4. Some guests simply remain on the terrace all day though, reading or enjoying the view –  “activities” perfectly suited to a stay at Casa Gardenias.  

Dinner is an event in Puerto Vallarta, and Diane is a good source of inside information regarding the area’s best restaurants, in all price ranges. She also keeps a “things to do” file for guests, and she can arrange a class, pack A picnic, and even supply a tote bag for shopping or  beach excursions. 

“I like to watch over guests, not too close, but enough to ensure a memorable holiday,” she told me. “In truth, I’d love being a guest in my villa.” 

I know I  loved being a guest there. I planned to stay one night, and stayed six.

Casa Gardenias has 6 rooms with rates from $49 to $95 including a full breakfast.  Airport pick-up and delivery is included with a minimum stay of 4 nights. Jungle Dinners are offered 3 nights a week to both guests and non-guests. Besides dinner, the evening includes drinks, live music, and transportation. Cost is $40-$50 per person. Tel/fax owner Diane Raye at 011 52 322 25409 or e mail: