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“Luxury in the Rough”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Playa Viva

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Playa Viva
Ranked #1 of 1 Petatlan B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersPlatinum level
Houston, Tx
Level Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Luxury in the Rough”
Reviewed 17 July 2012

My wife and I don't mind traveling rough. It's often worth giving up the conveniences of the tourist-zone to get a truer sense of your destination and its people. But I'll never claim that the first hot shower, well-cooked meal, and comfortable bed on our return don't feel like heaven.

Playa Viva manages the remarkable feat of providing many of the comforts and luxuries of an upscale resort while still offering enough unfiltered access to the rural Pacific community and coast to gain something of an understanding of it. More remarkably, it does so while living its values-- limiting its impact on the environment and treating its neighbors and staff with fairness and respect. My five star rating isn't meant to suggest an experience devoid of trade-offs. It's an acknowledgement that those trade-offs are well-chosen and worth the cost.

We stayed at Playa Viva for a week in early July with our two sons, ages 4 and 6. With over 200 acres of land, over 1km of breathtaking beach-front, a pool, a turtle sanctuary, an archaeological site, two lagoons, and endless hiking trails (some impassible during the rainy season, all requiring bug spray and long pants), Playa Viva had more to offer than we had time to explore. The many expeditions and time spent lounging in the pool or playing in the waves took up the better part of our daylight hours most days.

Each morning, local fishermen who volunteer at the turtle sanctuary brought in a bucket full of baby turtles that hatched overnight for us to release on the beach. The experience of watching dozens, sometimes hundreds, of baby sea turtles cross the beach and disappear into the waves defies description and would justify the trip all by itself. Witnessing a sea turtle laying its eggs requires a bit more luck and a willingness to sprint across the sand on short notice late at night or early in the morning. Over the course of the week, I managed to catch this remarkable moment three times-- once around 10pm, once past midnight, and once at 6 or 7 in the morning.

We stayed in the impressively elaborate and (relative to the other rooms) spacious bamboo-and-thatch Private Casita, which sits apart from the other structures on the far side of the common area. Like the other rooms, it features an open-air design, which both helps offset the lack of air conditioning and immerses you (for good and for ill) in the sights and sounds of the outdoors at all times. Watching coatis harass the birds on the coconut trees or spotting any of the dozens of colorful and charming local birds from the comfort of your room is delightful. Falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and chirping insects is a peaceful experience, but the mosquito netting around the bed can block enough air flow to make some nights uncomfortably warm, even with the aid of a fan.

The Private Casita is bordered by a thicket that swarms with fireflies at night. Sometimes they even fly into the room to dance constellations over your bed as you drift off to sleep. Less magical guests are the (thankfully small and harmless) ants which will stream into the room quickly and in disconcerting numbers if you aren't militant about sweeping up crumbs and busing plates. Beds must be checked each night for (rare, they promise!) scorpions using a black-light. Wasps, spiders, and giant beetles all put in occasional appearances as well, though they're more often a curiosity than a problem.

The open air design also means that "private" is a relative term, even in the Private Casita. While the shower itself relatively well-screened, the sink and dressing area in the Private Casita is pretty clearly visible from the (often empty) upper floor of the common area, so dressing after a shower can require a bit of careful positioning. Folding doors can be closed to obscure much of the sleeping area from the outside although secondary beds are immediately adjacent to the main one, not in another room.

Every room has a hot shower (courtesy of very effective solar water heaters and draining into a gray-water system that waters the plants), comfortable bedding, a commode (feeding into an impressive black-water processing system, though toilet paper must be thrown in a basket rather than flushed), electric lights (run off a photo-voltaic array), a safe, and other amenities. Wonderful smelling handmade soaps are provided, as well as daily turn-down service and cleaning. The electricity is sufficient to charge electronic gadgets during the day, though anything as hefty as a hair dryer would be off-limits.

Until the addition of a few more rooms justifies doubling the solar array, a generator is used as an occasional stop-gap. While it was barely audible from our room, other guests complained that it was a good deal louder for them. There are plans afoot to move the generator further away.

Dining is family style at long tables in the common area, encouraging you to meet and mingle with your fellow guests. The food, much of it prepared from organic, locally-grown produce by a team of talented cooks and chefs, is uniformly excellent. A wide array of dishes is served at each meal and requests and dietary restrictions are cheerfully accommodated. At lunch and dinner, freshly-made corn tortillas, sliced avocado, handmade cheese and salsas materialize at the center of each table. These ingredients make superb tacos which could constitute a meal of their own if so many other excellent foods were not on offer.

The dirt road to Playa Viva runs through the small, sleepy community of Juluchuca, from which much of the staff walks each day. A local tour in Playa Viva's van gives a good sense of the town, which is populated by fisherman, farmers, and makers of astonishingly tasty toasted coconut treats. Dwellings are modest, vehicles a luxury, and sports (particularly soccer) a popular pastime. The nearest ATM is in Petatlan, perhaps 15-20 minutes away, so plan accordingly.

As for technology, a projector can be set up after dark to screen films. A very decent selection of films is available, but guests are welcome to bring their own DVDs. The remote was damaged beyond repair, so subtitles and other extras are (or at least were) a no-go. Wi-Fi is offered, though it was down for most of our stay (the salt air seems to destroy everything eventually). The good news is that the repair person doubled the modest connection speed. The bad news is that the wifi signal is spotty even in the common area and doesn't reliably reach the Private Casita at all. Cell phone coverage is poor for some, acceptable for others (maybe depending on the bands each phone supports?), but text messaging seemed only to work for staff.

Of the expeditions officially offered, the local tour, kayaking, and the wildlife refuge were all well suited to younger children-- most of the others were not. While not directly offered in any of the literature, child-care can be had at reasonable cost so parents can go on expeditions or have quiet time to themselves-- a fact we learned unfortunately late in our stay.

The van used for transportation can present a few challenges. The rough dirt roads, and the sweeping turns and hills on the highway can make for a nauseating ride in the back seats (and the last row of seats gets very limited air flow from the A/C). Riding near the front, when possible, helps tremendously.

Alcoholic beverages cost extra -- $1.50 for beer (sadly, only Corona and Victoria) and $5 for the basil margarita (superb), as of the time of our stay. The selection of wine was limited and pricey. I didn't ask about other mixed drinks, though the bar seemed reasonably stocked.

It was a pleasure to discover that all of our fellow guests were truly amazing people. Even the 7 teenage boys who were visiting at the time were remarkably respectful and polite. Perhaps it's just the sort of place that attracts interesting and decent people. Whatever the reason, we felt lucky to have met them and hope that we'll cross paths with them again.

Playa Viva provided an amazing experience for our whole family. It's not for everyone, but if you don't mind trading a convenience or two for the remarkable experiences it has to offer, it's a destination well worth visiting.

  • Stayed July 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
10 Thank Eric L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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198 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (51)
Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Burlingame
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 17 July 2012

It wasn’t a perfect trip. After two hot and humid days and nights, we were hit with a hurricane. Howling winds blew rain into our room. The ocean roared so loudly I had to wear earplugs. Four of us ended up in one damp bed. There was no hot water for at least 2 days (solar only works when the sun shines). The ocean was too choppy to swim in and the planned excursions were cancelled because the roads were flooded.

So, why the five stars? Because the baby turtles still hatched, storm or no storm, and needed to be released to the ocean. Because the food was still lovingly and scrumptiously prepared. Because the yoga classes were still killer, and the massage afterwards transcendent. Because all of the men on the property - staff and guests alike - worked together to re-install the very heavy umbrellas that broke in the storm. Because we got to watch two mother turtles lay their eggs in the beach at midnight on our last night. And because we felt more connected to Mother Earth and her critters - and to each other - than we do at home in our suburban jungle.

We’ve been back for a few weeks now, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on why this trip has made such a big impact on our family (3 boys - ages 11, 13 and 17). I think it’s because Playa Viva provides a sense of place that’s so hard to come by nowadays. When we went to Hawaii last year, we stayed in a two-bedroom condo with all the accouterments of home. Problem was, it was too much like home. We went to Costco for groceries and Walmart for sundries. The kids watched TV and played video games, I cooked and my husband barbecued. Same routine; different place. We could have been Anywhere, USA.

At Playa Viva, you feel a connection to the land and to the people. There’s an intimacy and authenticity you don't get with the big corporate resorts. The ethos of the resort resonated with our values. We felt cared for. We fully decompressed, and bonded with the staff and other guests. It was truly an escape. Best of all, I ate with abandon and didn’t gain a pound! Kudos to the owners, David and Sandra, for their vision, passion and execution, and many thanks to to the staff at Playa Viva for a magical, memorable experience.

No, it wasn’t a perfect trip. It was perfectly imperfect and I can't wait to go back!

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
8 Thank sym
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
leventhald, Owner at Playa Viva, responded to this review, 24 July 2012
Thank you for the wonderful review. Yes, we all lived through hurricane Charlotte and have great memories to share. Playa Viva is powered by solar for our energy and hot water (solar thermal for water and solar panels with battery storage for solar electric), Playa Viva does have a back-up generator that kicked on and stayed on until we had enough sun to generate solar power again. While other locations that are hooked up to the grid had to wait for the public utility (CFE) to reconnect them, Playa Viva had back up power immediately. Unfortunately back-up generator electricity did not translate to hot water until the sun came back out. However, we all eventually dried out, warmed up and got back to the routine of vacationing (rather than being battered by the elements). Thank you to all of our guests who took the brunt of the storm with us and came out the other end smiling. Adversity does make you appreciate what you have, when you have it. Thank you for your glowing review.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Portland, Oregon, United States
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 July 2012

If you desire a truly unique, relaxing, luxurious resort experience, then visit Playa Viva. The remote location was magical. From the minute we arrived, it was the perfect blend of nature, comfort and personal attention. I think the staff outnumbered the guests most days that we were there and the service was impeccable. We stayed for 7 nights during the last week in June in a deluxe suite and adjacent studio with our children, ages 5 and 8. The architecture design detail was remarkable with all of the structures 'at one' with the beach and surrounding flora. Each communal meal was delicious and local with more than enough variety to suit our kids. Not to mention the seemingly never ending supply of fresh fruit (melt-in-your-mouth mangos!). Playa Viva sets the standard for lavish eco-tourism. We can't wait to return.

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
Thank RhettCummings
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Tempe, Arizona, United States
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 15 July 2012

Where to start when describing how much we loved Playa Viva? How about the fact that when we got home from our trip we named our new puppy Viva, in honor of the best vacation of our lives!
When we were searching for a place to spend our honeymoon, we had several important criteria. We wanted a relaxing and luxurious beach vacation in Mexico that was not exploitive of the local people or the land. Typical all-inclusive resorts leave us feeling guilty for the incredible waste and the poor pay and treatment of the local employees. Playa Viva was the ONLY resort in all of Mexico that met our criteria, and was still within a reasonable price range.
Playa Viva lives its values in every way, and in more ways than we expected. The food is ALL fresh, organic, local, and absolutely incredible. We could not stop eating!! The simple casitas were absolutely magical – open air, comfortable beds with turn-down service, walls that open entirely to the beach. It was like living in paradise. What's more, the nearby sea turtle preserve is amazing and the opportunity to release baby sea turtles is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Finally, the feeling of community is truly inspiring. We knew we’d have a community experience by eating meals with the other guests and interacting with the staff, but we didn’t know just how much we’d LOVE getting to know all the guests, David & Sandy, and the staff. This was truly hospitality at its finest. Our experience was so much better for the people we met, both the hosts and the INCREDIBLE people that work there.
We cannot recommend Playa Viva enough if you want to have a luxurious, relaxing and responsible vacation. Part of living your values does mean dealing with some bug bites but it’s 100% worth it to experience the beautiful land, magical accommodations, out of this world food, and of course, the basil margaritas!

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Veronica L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Montclair, New Jersey
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 June 2012

My wife and I were desperately looking for a Christmas escape and not having much success. I normally do our travel booking, but with too much going on, I left it in her hands. PV turned up on her weekly Gilt Jetsetter email and she booked it. Skeptical as I often am, I turned to Trip Advisor to gauge consumer sentiment. I found the unanimous 5-star reviews very dubious. But now I know they're not...

From the moment we turned off the "highway" in Julachuca, I had a feeling we were headed somewhere special. Indeed it is. Everything about this place is paradise. Yet it's very simple and unassuming. By the end of our week, the staff felt like family. Believe everything you read about Johnny. He is essential to your time--from mixing drinks to fishing, local knowledge, tour guiding, etc, etc. He is the ultimate host.

Jaime is a brilliant Yoga instructor and fantastic masseuse. 6 straight days of Yoga with her was one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

Chef & his kitchen staff blew away my expectations of resort eating. We are the ultimate food snobs and could not get enough of the genius Franco-Hispanic cuisine put out at every meal. A chance encounter with a successful spear fisherman on the beach, turned into the freshest entree you can ever imagine. Interested in making mole? No problem, Olga ran an impromptu cooking class and made mind-blowing mole in 45min. Chef's night off resulted in a simple classic local meal presented by the cooking staff. You will not go hungry w/ a steady stream of food beginning with a 'pre-breakfast' and all-day self-serve beverages.

Accommodations are rustic while elegant. The architecture and craftsmanship are superb. However, do plan to be more or less outside for your entire stay. 5-star camping…?

The place runs impeccably, yet seemingly without effort. Days drift into perfect evenings spent sipping margaritas in hammocks and watching perfect sunsets and gazing at stars.

Excursions are hit or miss, but animal lovers will find the preserve quite special.The whale watching was an unexpected bonus. Beware the rip currents!

Big thumbs up.

  • Stayed December 2011, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank S S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Mountain View, California
Level Contributor
21 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 June 2012

One of our favorite places in the world. The perfect balance of gorgeous and deserted location (think 1.3 km of beach front just for you), fantastic design (the walls of your Eco casita open completely leaving you with the most amazing views of the Pacific), fantastic meals (one local chef and one French one so you get plenty of Mexican classics but you will get to enjoy a perfect tarte tatin for dessert :-) Can't wait to go back!

  • Stayed June 2012
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Helpful?
Thank valontheroad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Los Angeles, California, United States
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 June 2012

I cannot even begin to describe how absolutely perfect this place was. From the amazing rooms, to the amazing food, to the amazing people, Playa Viva was everything I expected it to be and more.

Not touristy in the least, all of their food is locally grown (if not from their own garden) and made from scratch. Each guest is welcomed with a glass of their fresh juice of the day (ours was melon) and a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit, maybe some chips and guacamole, fresh tortillas, whatever they have that day.

We all sat at a communal table for 3 delicious meals every day, complete with fresh tortillas, salsa and cheese at every meal.

The rooms were all open-air buildings, allowing for a beautiful view of the ocean from the bed, the shower, even the toilet! This also allowed for a glorious breeze to flow through the room during the hot, humid days (which I personally love).

We had the amazing opportunity to take baby turtles from their turtle sanctuary and release them into the ocean. So cute!

One morning, we boarded an ATV for a trip up the mountain to visit a family who lived off of the land with no electricity and an hour away from civilization. They grow their coffee, cacao to make their own chocolate, corn that they grind into flour to make their own tortillas, rice, beans, bananas, mango, pineapple! You name it, they grow it. And they were so happy to open their home to us, to show us how they live their every day life, to cook us yet another fantastic meal.

As if that weren’t perfect enough, we hiked past wild cows and horses to a hidden waterfall and were able to cliff-jump into a lake at the bottom before continuing our journey back to Playa Viva.

We made friends, drank coconut water straight from coconuts (we may have added a bit of rum), got massages, had yoga class every morning, watched dolphins play, swam in the 85 degree ocean, relaxed by the pool, played games, took cooking classes, brushed up on our spanish, witnessed incredible thunder and lightning storms, and most importantly, we learned that it doesn’t take a 500 million dollar cruise ship and endless food and entertainment to make a vacation truly great.

I can officially say we have spent the best vacation of our lives at Playa Viva.

We will be returning, and hopefully soon.

  • Stayed June 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank Amanda R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about Playa Viva

Property: Playa Viva
Address: Carretera Zihuatanejo-Acapulco | Playa Icacos Juluchuca, GRO, Petatlan 40834, Mexico
Region: Mexico > Pacific Coast > Guerrero > Petatlan
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 B&Bs / Inns in Petatlan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Playa Viva is a sustainable boutique hotel with 8 rooms on a private beach located 30 minutes from Zihuatanejo-Ixtapa International airport. Play Viva is located on 200 acres with 1.3 kilometers of beach front. 85% of the property is in a Private Reserve for use of guests and includes a turtle sanctuary, archaeological site, working permaculture farm, forest restoration, estuary and much more. Come enjoy yoga, surfing or any of the many local activities. Playa Viva is off grid, operating 100% on solar power, solar thermal water heating, grey and black water management systems and built with local materials and craftsmanship. We specialize in farm to table, sourcing much of our food locally and can handle a wide variety of dietary concerns from vegetarian and vegan to many types of allergies. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Playa Viva Hotel Petatlan

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