It only took 18 years. After laboriously answering the same questions hundreds of times, we figured that there had to be a better way. As they say “you get too soon old, and too late smart”. Let us know if you have a question not answered here, and we will add the answer to the list.
The list is a good read if you want to learn about Estrella quickly. Its not just dry fact, but also reflects some of our passions and biases as well, so enjoy.
Where is Villa Estrella?
Fly to Puerto Vallarta, and drive north about 65 miles, following our driving instructions. We are near the tiny beach fishing village of Platanitos, about 50 minutes north of Sayulita and San Pancho. For detailed driving instructions click here. The drive is very beautiful through a variety of ocean views, Sierra Madre mountains, through the jungles, the mango and banana plantations. You will see pineapple fields, bean fields, corn and sugar cane. You will transit villages and towns, you can see true village life, farm workers on horseback.
Villa Estrella is a Private Home
Villa Estrella is part of the small exquisite gated community of Punta el Custodio. We are a unique community of neighbours who have created and jointly manage this beautiful place for true enjoyment of all its wonders. We are a community of homes. We are not a resort. The foundation of our community is mutual respect for one another other. We reside in close proximity. Our community operates under some rules to ensure that houses are never over-crowded, and that the behavior and noise of occupants does not disrespect the right of others to quiet and peaceful enjoyment. Our rules in this regard are simple:
How many beds? how many can be accommodated?
The Villa has 3 bedrooms. The master bedroom has a king size bed, en-suite and a great ocean view. The second bedroom has a queen size bed and en-suite bathroom. The third bedroom has two single beds, which can be combined into a king size bed, and an adjacent bathroom.
If necessary, we can also use the huge living room curved couch, otherwise known as the “banco” to easily sleep an additional 2 persons. This is usually where teenagers like to be accommodated. So when we express the capacity of the villa, we say that it sleeps 6-8. For infants we also have two pac and play cribs that can be setup in a parents’ bedroom. Out of respect for the capacity of the villa, our staff, our neighbours, we do not rent to groups larger than 8
Do I need to rent a car?
About 25% of our guests rent a car at the Puerto Vallarta airport. Typically the rental car suntans for most of the week in the driveway. However some guests are adventurous and want a vehicle to visit all the local attractions. The rest of our guests take advantage of our airport pickup and drop off services. You are greeted by a driver, who is holding a sign bearing your name, at the exit from the customs area. He helps you with your luggage and takes away all the uncertainty of driving in Mexico. You don’t have to worry about finding your way, getting lost, driving in the dark etc. He will even offer to stop at a major supermarket along the way in case you want to stock up on some favorite goodies or beverages. Some guests, hot and dry from the long day of travelling stop by the roadside for some icy cold ones to get them in the mood. The cost is in the $135-$185 range depending on the size of vehicle required.
If you wish to sightsee, go to the village market, hike to the waterfall. We can provide the car and driver at very reasonable cost. Additionally the driver is a great guide who points out the sights, shows you the best places to go, and helps you negotiate the best deal in the market.
Where can I park my car?
Villa Estrella has its own private driveway, shaded with a trellis of vines to keep your vehicle cool.
How do I get there?
Is it safe?
We have all heard the horror stories of violence in Mexico. The press trumpets the stories and potential travellers are frightened away. The reality is quite different. Drug violence is regional, limited to regions far away and limited largely to drug trade insiders. Actual crime against tourists is microscopic, but heavily magnified by the press. If you look at the statistics, there is way more crime in the big cities of Canada and the USA, but nobody dwells on that.
Villa Estrella is in one of the safest parts of Mexico, we are in a sweet beautiful rural area of farms and small villages and beaches. Our community has absolutely no history of crime or violence. I leave my valuables in my night table without a second thought.
In addition we are a small gated community of 15 villas with our own 24 hour staffed gate keeping. Our staff are all long term loyal employees from the local communities. We have deep roots in the region and are a respected part of the local community providing significant employment and economic contribution.
Is the water safe to drink?
We have great well and spring water, we have it tested, we treat it. We shower with it, I have been brushing my teeth with it for 20 years. Nonetheless, the Villa is always supplied with those large 5 gallon purified water jugs that we use for cooking. We also provide large quantities of small purified drinking water bottles for you to carry around wherever you go.
What if I want Beer Wine or Liquor?
Whereas you can always have your driver stop off at Walmart on the way from the airport to stock up on your favorite liquor requirements, the easiest is to purchase as you need from the stockroom of liquor that Ismael manages up at the gatehouse.
Your meal plan also does include a fair amount of beer, including a refrigerator full of cold ones, waiting for you when you arrive. but if you are a heavy beer drinking crowd you may exeed the allowance, just nod to Rosa that the beer supply is low, and before you know it, someone is trundling a wheelbarrow with a fresh case down the cobbled path for you. The freezer is always stocked with ice as well.
Ismael has a stock of pretty good low cost wines, usually Chilean, such as Concha y Toro, for purchase. He also has the usual basic hard liquors for making margaritas and other mixed drinks. It works for most people. At the end of your stay, just settle up your account with Ismael.
I’m a Vegetarian, or I’m Allergic to Shellfish etc.
Let us know in advance, Ismael and Rosa can deal with any dietary requirements and will arrange your menus accordingly. Rosa will become part of your family, she is there to please you and will respond on the spot to your dietary preferences.
Are the electric outlets the same as in the USA/Canada?
Mexican power outlets and voltages are identical to what we have back home, 110v standard plugs.
What if I get sick?
Our meal plans provide first class fresh food, our cooks are trained in hygienic food preparation. No one gets ill from the meals prepared here. For other contingencies, we have on site first aid kits, for minor injuries. Ismael your manager has all the knowledge and connections in the community to help you to a doctor, a clinic or a hospital. His phone number is indicated below. He can also be reached through the gate keepers telephone during the night hours.
Is there Wifi?
Wifi has been a big problem in our community since its inception. Guests expect connectivity. Unlike the big resorts in town, there are no internet feeds available around here with the usual high speed landline cables into every house that we are all so accustomed to. Rural mexico is not served with internet to every corner of the country. For years we have struggled with slow, expensive, unreliable satellite based internet, and we have finally given up. Fortunately in the last year they have constructed a very tall cellular tower in San Blas 20 miles across the bay. We are elated to now receive a good 3G cellular signal. As you may know, a 3G cellular signal can also deliver email and internet. We are very excited about this.
There is a wifi signal available for guests at the managers office porch, just a 2 minute stroll up the cobbled path. The signal is not super fast, not suitable for streaming videos, but it is adequate, there may be a small weekly charge.
If you would like internet in the villa itself, you must use the 3G cellular signal in the villa. We recommend to our guests, to pre-purchase a low cost cellular data roaming plan, available from your US / Canadian cellular service provider. Buy these before coming to Mexico. A one week plan for about 3G of data should suffice. With such a plan, you can use your smartphone at the villa for phone calls and internet downloads, and emails, just as you do at home for internet connectivity.
An additional trick is to activate your smartphone’s “hot-spot” setting so that you and everyone else in your group can share your phone’s Wifi output signal on their own laptops and i pads.
Is there telephone?
You can send and receive telephone calls at the villa on your cell phone. We strongly recommend to pre-purchase a cellular roaming plan from your cell service provider in the US before coming. If you don’t, you can still use your cell phone, but the roaming charges can be nasty.
In case someone needs to reach you in an emergency, here is Ismael’s cellphone number: In Mexico dial 327-103-0258 from the US or Canada, dial 011-521 -327-103-0258
Is there a TV?
On principle, there is no TV. In our opinion television is incompatible with the magic of life here. Villa Estrella is all about the wonder of living in nature, in particular, to get away from all the trappings and habits of our world back home that enslave us. Villa Estrella offers an opportunity to rediscover. Villa Estrella is about bonding with friends and family, the art of conversation, love and reconnecting relationships. We have loads of games for family fun. We have music, we have candles, and of course the margarita blender.
Is there music?
We have a great sounding high fidelity stereo system that fills the space so beautifully with sound. Speakers are mounted high on the concrete ring beam that circles the space. Great music richly enhances the enjoyment of Villa Estrella. Bring your mp3 player and plug in the music that moves your soul, and manage the atmosphere to lift and move your moods.
Are there restaurants and shops?
As for restaurants we are at the rustic beach village of Platanitos, which has half a dozen beachfront palapa style seafood restaurants. You can walk there in 10 minutes. (read about it here) http://www.dreamvillamexico.com/2010/11/sunday-platanitos/ There are also other restaurants going north toward San Blas that our manager Ismael can tell you about. We like Saturday pizza night at the Casa Manana, and the more upscale restaurant el Delfin in San Blas at the hotel Garza Canela.
Shopping is a little different here. Don’t expect any malls. Try the small town Tianguis markets. Take in the Thursday craft market in La Penita. We are in a simpler place and we love it. Click here. http://www.dreamvillamexico.com/2010/11/bucerias/
What about night life?
If you are looking for the bright lights of town, night clubs and dance bars, Villa Estrella may not be for you. Here the night life is the cathedral of brilliant stars, the constellations and polaris. It is about the shimmering of the full moon over the Pacific, the flicker of fireflies, the chirp of the insects, caress of warm breezes and the endless surging of the waves. If you are lucky you might experience the drama of a thunderstorm. An unequalled light show from one horizon to the other.
We love the romantic lighting in Villa Estrella. Use our candles, pour some wine with your friends, pull some games out from under the counter and make your own night life.
Of course you can always crank the tunes, start the margarita blender and create your own dance party. It happens all the time. Villa Estrella flourishes with people, the more the better.
Who looks after any problems?
Ismael is your main man. He is the manager of your stay. He is your host and ensures that everything is running smoothly, that your needs and concerns are addressed. He will setup excursions for you, will set you up with car and driver, organize fishing guides for you. Get you a boat for whale watching? He is full of good advice, and has access to all the resources of the local communities. Need a fancy cake for a birthday? How about a couple of guitarists for an intimate evening? Want a massage? If you want a real party, he will get you a whole Mariachi Band.
How do I book excursions?
Talk to Ismael, he can set you up for most activities on 24 hours notice.
What if I want to explore the area?
Talk to Ismael, he can set you up with ideas car and driver in no time.
What is the beach like?
Beautiful clean golden sand goes on for miles and miles with barely a person or house in sight. Rolling surf break right by our point is great for body surfing, boogie boarding. Walk or jog the beach in the early morning, do remember your sunscreen. Ismael has some surfboards available. The long beach receives thousands of Ridley turtles that lay their eggs there in the summer. There is a turtle research and protection camp right there, where they collect the eggs, protect them, incubate them and eventually release the hatchlings into the sea. You can participate in turtle hatchling release, talk to Ismael
There are two sets of stairs with railings leading down from our community to the beach. At the bottom of the stairs is a beautiful beach with amazing views in all directions. You can look to the east into our beautiful estuary and see the Sierra Madre mountains beyond. Sometimes at high tide, the water comes right up to the base of the stairs, making entry onto the beach difficult for novices.
Separating the beach at the base of our stairs, from the long North South beach is a narrow tidal in and outflow for the beautiful estuary that lies behind the beach. Ismael has kayaks for you to paddle into the estuary where you can see a great variety of turtles and beautiful birds.
It is an easy short wade across the tidal outflow to the long beach. It’s often fun to walk upstream into the estuary, and then just float back out on the current, however, do read the safety warning below!
Safety in the Ocean
The ocean is a beautiful powerful seductive place. It varies from calm smooth and gentle to wild and rough. We have tides and strong outflow tidal currents at times.
The sea can be very dangerous. Swimmers always need to be aware of the sea and tidal conditions. Sometimes it is best not to go into the ocean at all. Please err on the side of caution. Enjoy our beautiful pools instead.
Ismael provides tide charts for your information. When the tide is low, and the water from the estuary is racing out to sea, is the time to be particularly careful. Watch your children, never leave them unattended.
Is it safe for Children?
Children of all ages love it here. The immediate villa area can be generally closed off so the kids can’t wander. Some parents worry about toddlers wandering into our small pool. We have been known to span a safety net fence across the pool when requested. Parents do need to be vigilant. There are rocky drop offs and prickly cactus. Small children can’t just be left to wander free.
We can make available great young Mexican child minders to watch and entertain your kids while you truly unwind, this is available at very modest cost.
I don’t speak any Spanish
No worries, Mexicans are beautiful people, are extremely helpful, kind and can read your body language. Much of our staff understands English. Ismael is fluently bilingual. The driver who picks you up at the airport speaks English and will take care of you safely and securely from door to door. You are in great hands. Use the opportunity to chat it up with Rosa, she can teach you many words. Learning Spanish is a lot of fun.
What about money, cash and Pesos and credit cards and ATMs?
You can pay for many expenses before you arrive. The villa rental, the airport pickup and drop off, the meal plans, etc., can all be paid in advance electronically by PayPal or credit card.
Credit Cards are not widely accepted in our small village environment, so don’t count on them. Bring some dollars and pesos. You can access ATMS in the air terminal building when you land, pull out a few hundred dollars’ worth of pesos, for tipping, restaurants and small purchases. For settling final accounts with Ismael you can use US dollars. If you need cash during your stay, Ismael can get you to an ATM in a nearby town.
What about tipping?
We usually tip the drivers about 150-250 pesos for the longer trips, especially for all the help they give with loading and unloading luggage.
Rosa your maid is a treasure. She works hard for you, cleaning, laundry, cooking, and smiling all the time. We recommend a 200-300 pesos tip per guest per week.
Can the pool be heated?
In winter the pools get a little fresh. For that reason we have installed a pool heater for the small pool above the surf at the edge of the Villa Estrella terrace. The joys of a late night dip in a warm pool under the stars are beyond words stellar moments. Unfortunately, the trucked in propane is hugely expensive, so we do not heat the pool unless requested, and then we charge $35 a day for the joy you will get from it. You can prepay this before your arrival should you choose.
Are there Laundry Facilities?
Villa Estrella has its own Laundry, lay out your washing for Rosa, and she will take care of it for you.
What Should I Bring?
Bring less, not more. everyone brings too much. 99% of the time you will be in bathing suit, shorts or simple tops. Long pants are almost never worn. Neither are long sleeves. Sandals and flip flops are all you need. For walks to Platanitos a pair of sneakers so you don’t stub your toes on the lumpy road. Some very light gauzy cotton long dress or pants might be nice on cooler evenings in January, or around sunset if some no-see-ums show up.
Bring a few of those little LED flashlights. Kids love them. Our cobbled paths are pretty dark at night. Sun blocks are a must. Some insect spray cant hurt, sometimes at sunset a few no-seeums might make an appearance. I often bring my binoculars, so I can better watch the whales.
We have a fair number of books to read. Reading is always a great pastime when on holiday, take a book, leave a book, help us rejuvenate our bookshelf. (or load up your kindle) Don’t forget the IPod or mp3 player, and stream by blue-tooth or cable into our stereo