What to Expect: Welcome to the Mexican Riviera, with the Sierra Madre mountains on one side and the Pacific on the other. It’s a thousand miles of beaches, palm trees and seaside resorts.
Wedding Bells: “Planning a wedding in Puerto Vallarta could not be easier or more convenient than at the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta,” says Elsa Perez, director of event management at the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa (puertovallartamarriott.com), located in the swanky Marina Vallarta area. “With onsite, certified wedding planners and a staff trained to deliver impeccable service, agents can easily book weddings at our beautiful beachfront resort.” Brides can pick from several easily customizable packages and say “I do” on the sand, on the jetty with Banderas Bay in the background or in a secluded garden setting. The hotel has recently renovated ballrooms and accommodations, including 29 suites. Room rates start at $143 per night.
According to Priscilla Ariminio of Prisar Weddings & Events (prisarvallarta.com), the area also has great private venues, which is one of the advantages to contacting a local planner. She has created breathtaking events, partnering at times with Mishka Aznoe, owner of Mishka Designs (mishkadesignsmexico.com). “Vallarta is the kind of place where you can have a wedding designed around something modern and chic; something vintage and rustic or something with a Spanish Mexican flair—the combinations are as endless as the beautiful villa options and amazing beaches,” says Aznoe. “Whether it’s the starkness of Casa China Blanca (casachinablanca.com) tempered with colorful flair or the rustic hacienda setting of Hacienda Camino al Mar (haciendacaminoalmar.com), there is quite literally something for everyone.”
Combining a beach location with Puerto Vallarta’s downtown flair, the adults-only Villa Premiere Hotel & Spa (premiereonline.com.mx) is a chic 83-room property that can host wedding parties from two to 150. Their wedding package (for a spiritual or legal ceremony) starts at $1,680 and includes all associated paperwork, fees and gratuities (a big plus), as well as all the romantic touches a bride could ask for, including fresh flowers and rose petals down the aisle and in the suite. Book a minimum of 10 rooms for three nights and your clients can obtain a complimentary stay in the honeymoon suite along with several extras.
“Riviera Nayarit offers something for every bride,” says Richard Zarkin, PR manager for Riviera Nayarit CVB (rivieranayarit.com). “The beachfront surfer town of Sayulita is ideal for the boho-chic bride, or for a more ‘statement’ wedding, opt for one of our luxury properties in the exclusive community of Punta Mita.” Boho-chic? Yes, thank you, and Sayulita’s Playa Escondida, A Private Jungle-Beach Hideaway & Spa (playa-escondida.com) is just what the barefoot bride is looking for. “We’re experts at celebrating love!” says general manager Annie Pompa. They offer a number of very complete packages based on 10 to 50 guests starting at approximately $8,000 (including accommodations in their jungle and beach bungalows) and each one comes with a thoughtful gift from the house to the new couple. Their onsite wedding specialist can, of course, customize everything and anything.
Luxury in Punta Mita comes in all sizes: the Mexico Boutique Hotels member Casa de Mita (casademita.com), with six rooms and two penthouses, is the epitome of “hidden gem.” “We usually host weddings for groups of 50 to 60 people, so we do most of the coordinating in-house,” says owner Marc Lindskog. “For larger groups, special requests or if the bride or groom feel they need a dedicated coordinator, we typically recommend Laura Cardenas of I Do Vallarta (idovallarta.com).” This world-class villa offers brides an intimate setting on a secluded, white-sand beach, flowering gardens or the beautiful poolside deck with a view, and the elegant menu is created around the freshest ingredients available. Everything—including the honeymoon packages—is custom-designed. Room rates start at $645 per night.
According to the owners of Garrobos Catering (garrobos.net), an established local event planner and restaurant, weddings in Zihuatanejo have risen 60 percent in the past year, most of them commissioned by upscale clientele in search of small, unique venues. Consistently featured on “best of” lists in top magazines, Zihuatanejo’s La Casa Que Canta (lacasaquecanta.com) prides itself on its superb service, great location and matchless views. Its two private 4-suite villas, El Ensueño and El Murmullo, are a favorite with brides, who rent one or both and have their ceremony on the beach with dinner at the main hotel, or hold the entire event in complete privacy at the villa. With only 25 suites, the hotel itself is also ideal for a takeover. Note to honeymooners: There are no TVs in the suites. Room nights start at $395.
Sister hotels on Acapulco’s Punta Diamante, The Fairmont Acapulco Princess and The Fairmont Pierre Marques (fairmont.com) offer brides the opportunity to stay in one property and access the facilities of the other. Smaller than the 15-story pyramid-shaped Princess, the Pierre Marques can accommodate a reception for up to 500 people in its unique circular ballroom or set up a cozy affair in the gardens under a canopy of stars. Themed ceremonies are a specialty, complete with fireworks, folkloric dancers in full costume, even Aztec “warriors.” Inquire about the Platinum Honeymoon Program package, which reimburses up to 5 percent of the total wedding cost back in the form of a gift card when the bride books the wedding and honeymoon at either hotel (restrictions apply). Rates from $253 per night.
Acapulco’s hillsides are studded with superb villas, each more gorgeous than the last. Caterers and event planners to the stars, Susana Palazuelos and her son, Eduardo, owners of Banquetes Susana Palazuelos (susanapalazuelos.com) have access to some of the finest. Their events can very well be called spectacular and can include everything from brilliant firework displays to music by the Mexican Philharmonic and even live shows.
Sightseeing: There’s certainly a lot to see and do. For example, in Puerto Vallarta there’s everything from miles of beautiful beach backed by lush green mountains to cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings, galleries, superb restaurants and shops selling everything from huichol indigenous art to the fine wares of Sergio Bustamante. The new malecon is a wide, brick-lined and pedestrian-friendly boardwalk with lots of benches, shady spots and a collection of open-air art—a huge draw for visitors and locals alike. Culture runs deep in Vallarta and it’s home to one of the most dynamic and fastest growing arts scenes in Mexico. After the sun goes down, the city comes alive with live music and late-night dancing.
Outdoors, Vallarta delivers adventure with whale watching tours and turtle release programs (in season), ziplines, dolphin experiences, snorkeling, horseback riding, hiking and more. Outfitters like Vallarta Adventures (vallarta-adventures.com) can organize day excursions (by plane) to nearby historic towns like San Sebastian and Mascota, as well as land and sea adventures down the coast of the Riviera Nayarit. Note: Vallarta Adventures also runs Adventure Weddings (vallarta-adventures.com/weddings), hosting ceremonies on the secluded beach in Las Caletas, accessible only by boat.
With nearly 200 miles of coastline that start at the historic port of San Blas and move south to Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit is a destination unto itself. “We offer a lot of daytime attractions beyond the beach,” says the Rivera Nayarit CVB’s Zarkin. “From mid-December to March, visitors can catch the migration of humpback whales to our shores or, from January through February, head up north to San Blas and catch the largest migration of birds that make La Tovara National Park their home. Moreover, West Coast brides have the option of direct flights to Riviera Nayarit with several airline carriers.” The jungle-like setting is dotted with world-class resorts and hotels. Towns like Sayulita—a hotspot for surfing and SUP—the bohemian Bucerias and the artist/surfer’s paradise of “San Pancho” appeal to brides looking for something a little different.
Only 4.3 miles apart, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo are two entirely different places with two distinct lifestyles. Golfers in the wedding party will recognize the more modern Ixtapa for its championship courses. It also has charming village-style malls with handicraft shops, galleries, cafes, gourmet restaurants and all-night discos. Zihuatanejo is slower paced and more traditional, with a burgeoning cultural scene. The waters off of both destinations are top sportfishing hotspots—think giant yellow fin tuna, roosterfish and sailfish. There are numerous surfing hotspots in Zihua, plus calmer waters for scuba, sailing, sea kayaking, parasailing and more. Agents can book clients with DMCs like Sunnyside Tours (sunnyside.com.mx) and AMSTAR (amstardmc.com), which offer bilingual guides.
The flamboyant grande dame of the Pacific Coast, Acapulco welcomes wedding parties with restaurants that boast spectacular menus and even more spectacular views (including the famous restaurant and diver combination at La Quebrada). Add to that several professional golf courses, shopping, spas, beachcombing and an unforgettable nightlife at enormous discos like the iconic Baby’O and the high-tech Alebrije, great for bachelor/bachelorette parties. All along the bay, the golden beaches host sun worshippers, wave-runners, parasailers and every other watersport you can imagine. Farther out, the sportfishing charters go out daily for marlin, tuna, dorado, billfish and more.
Weather: The Pacific Coast enjoys a tropical climate with an average of 80°F temperatures, lowering into the 70s during the winter. The rainy season is between June and October.