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Rivera del Rio and Garlands del Rio, two hidden gems just over an hour from Sayulita, are the kind of Bed and Breakfasts one goes to pamper themself. Situated alongside the river in Old Vallarta, one is greeted with ice cold face towels scented with orange blossom, a blended margarita so good you can’t help to want another, and guacamole and chips that are sure to rival the best you’ve had. The owner of these superb B & B’s, Alexander Andriadis, sits down with El Sayulero to share more about the history of these special getaways, everything they have to offer, and so much more.
There’s a lot of family history with Rivera del Rio. Will you tell me about this?
My grandmother, Silver, was one of the first foreigners in Puerto Vallarta and was the first foreigner to build on the river, as well as in Conchas Chinas on the beach. It was in the 1960’s, a little before Liz Taylor bought her home here. The only tourists at that time were mainly artists and movie stars. Rivera del Rio was our family home and Liz Taylor, Raquell Welch, and other actresses and actors, would hang out there. Multiple movies have also been filmed there, such as Revenge and Gunman. After my grandmother passed away, I spent years restoring the family home, and opened it to the public for the first time on Oct 24th, three and a half years ago.
What about the history of Garlands del Rio?
Well, Flores and Roberto Cueva, two men who basically started the nice restaurant trend in Puerto Vallarta (they’re behind Le Bistro, Café de Artist, River Café, Trio, and La Cuiza), we’re also friends with my grandmother, and together they built beautiful moldings and household pieces. When I walked in the warehouse after my grandmother passed away and saw all of these items, it gave me the push I needed to open Garlands. This project enabled me to continue something they had started 30 years ago. So, I purchased the property and recycled all of the things they used to have and put them here, at Garlands. Some of the balconies are actually old doors, and I built all the rooms. I had very good things to work with, but it did take a lot of restoration.
How did you get into the Bed and Breakfast business?
The state of Nayarit, where Sayulita is, does such a good job of not allowing high-rises, but in Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is, it’s totally different. So, were losing so much of the real Puerto Vallarta to condo developments and high-rises. One of the concepts behind what we’re trying to do is restore and maintain the original charm of Puerto Vallarta. There were also a lot of hotels on the beach and in town that didn’t grow and evolve. They didn’t update their mattresses, their air conditioning, and didn’t maintain their places, so basically there were no really nice places to stay. So, the idea was for people to come to Puerto Vallarta and not be in a condo or resort, and be able to experience the authenticity of the town, yet be able to do it in comfort and luxury. I was born in Puerto Vallarta and something that is really important is a lot of my staff has been with us over 30 years. At Rivera and Garlands, you’re getting served by people from Puerto Vallarta and you’re getting the opportunity to see the town through the eyes of real locals.
Will you tell me about the locations? What does the area offer?
The area offers absolutely everything you could want from Puerto Vallarta. It’s in the heart of town, and both properties are along the River Cuale. It’s only a few minutes walk to the beach along the river in the cultural center area, and you’re close to all the best dining, shopping, nightlife, and all the culture you can get.
The walls in Rivera del Rio are so intricately and beautifully painted. Will you tell me more about this?
I wanted to continue my grandmother’s style and hired three artists (two of them being Kriszta Molnar and Myriam Vengas). I worked with them for three years, continuing my grandmother’s vision, and also adding my own vision to make a true piece of art in every corner and crevice.
What is the room you are most proud of and why?
Well, there are actually two. The first is Penthouseito in Garlands. I always wanted to do a black and a white room, which is kind of hard to do in a place like Mexico that’s supposed to be so full of color, but it really worked out and it’s really sunny. I feel like I was able to give it an old classy feeling with traditional flair.
In Rivera, my favorite room is Alejandro. It was our old rooftop garden, and then it became my room, and now it’s our luxurious penthouse. I adore palapas (thatched roofs) and because of new regulation in Puerto Vallarta, you can’t build new homes with palapas anymore. So, the thatched roof ceiling is very unique in this era and I’m so proud to maintain that real feeling.
What amenities do you offer?
We have a pre-arrival concierge when you book your trip, which is one of our best amenities. Because we have such personalized properties, we can try to help people out with whatever they want and customize their stay to fit their needs. Basically anything you can think of that is possible, we’ll do our best to provide it. Onsite, we offer free WiFi, pool, jacuzzi, an honor system bar, high end beds, air conditioning, sunning, made to order breakfast, room service, room massages, romance packages, and more.
You offer an authentic Mexican breakfast. What is the most popular dish?
The Huevos Rancheros . It’s the secret recipe of our childhood nanny, Chayo, who has been with us over 3 decades. This is on the menu year-round. We also have seasonal specials, but you’ll have to stay with us to find out what we have.
What are the differences between Rivera del Rio and Garlands del Rio?
The main difference is that Rivera del Rio is a little more private in the sense that the pool is in the middle of the property, kind of tucked away. So, if you don’t really want to interact and wish to have a romantic getaway, or you want to rent one of the big suites and have a getaway with your friends, you can kind of make your own home within Rivera because it offers a lot of privacy. Garlands is a little more social because the pool and bar is right at the entrance and it’s a bit easier for people to meet each other. Also, Rivera has more a European fairytale flair (a multitude of stylistic approaches) and Garlands has more a traditional, vibrant, Mexican look and feel.
What about similarities?
The quality we provide, from mattresses and other goods, to service. High quality is very important to us. We want to make our guests feel like they are in their home and very well taken care of. We sit down with everyone who checks in with a map of places we’ve chosen and know they will be treated well. Also, if people want privacy, we give it to them. If they want to feel pampered and spoiled, we’ll definitely take care of that too.
Why are Rivera del Rio and Garlands del Rio the perfect getaway for those who live in Sayulita or wishing to extend their vacation in Mexico?
Sayulita travelers have already found that real piece of paradise they were searching for– they’ve already found that non-manufactured, authentic experience. So, staying with us is in line with that authenticity and knowing the real treasures of Mexico. Also, a lot of our guests enjoy the metropolitan feel of going to the theater or to a show because Sayulita doesn’t offer that yet.
What do you like most about owning and running Rivera del Rio and Garlands del Rio?
Vacation time is so precious since so many of us get so little of it. So, seeing the faces of happy guests or reading reviews about how wonderful their experience was, makes all the hard work worth it.
What is the best compliment you’ve gotten from a guest about their stay?
The highest compliment is to have people come back yearly to spend their time with us. Especially since a lot of people travel somewhere once and then move on to somewhere else.
Do you have plans to expand?
Due to high demand and so many properties getting torn down for condo developments, we’re continually looking for gems that need polishing in order to protect and maintain the original authenticity of the town.