Local arts and cultural traditions make for unique, vibrant destinations
Galleria Dante, Puerto Vallarta
The Mexican Pacific coast is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, near-perfect weather and a host of meeting amenities that will knock any meeting out of the park. Its proximity to the United States and the increasing number of airline routes to the region make it even more enticing for international meetings.The warmth and hospitality of the people are also a draw. But perhaps most attractive to planners is the depth of local arts traditions and cultural experiences that lend character to the individual destinations and make them truly unique and vibrant. Each city along the coast has a distinct world of art and culture waiting to be savored. Puerto Vallarta’s flourishing art scene, for example, welcomes visitors.
Malecon, Puerto Vallarta
“Many new and well-known international artists and artisans from across the country are coming to exhibit in the galleries of the city,” says Luis Villasenor, promotions and public relations director for the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board. “We are also seeing an increasing amount of art on display in hotels, restaurants, cafes and beach clubs.” Villasenor also points to the recent overhaul of the lighting system along the Malecon (the city’s 12-block seaside boardwalk), which brightens evening walks and improves viewing of sculptures and artworks on display.The arts that infuse the towns and destinations along Mexico’s Pacific coast will enrich the experience for meetings large and small. Add it to the list of reasons to host your next meeting there.
Puerto VallartaLocated on the Bay of Banderas at the same latitude as Hawaii, Puerto Vallarta enjoys sunshine and warm temperatures year-round, making it an ideal destination for meetings. The town has 30-plus art galleries and more than 15 open-air sculptures along the Malecon—including some by well-known Mexican artists Ramiz Barquet, Sergio Bustamante and Alejandro Colunga. Puerto Vallarta has worked hard to sustain its artistic traditions, and make the city easily accessible and welcoming to all. “The Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board’s work with the Human Rights Commission and other key partners [such as] the LGBT market, family tourism market and meetings and conventions segment is a reflection of the welcoming and professional atmosphere found in Puerto Vallarta,” Villasenor says. “People from all walks of life come to our city, and it shows in the creative process found across the city,” he adds. “From professional workshops in our schools and galleries to community programs in the Rio Cuale Community Center, locals and visitors alike find that Puerto Vallarta fosters a creative environment.” Among notable local artists is Manuel Lepe (1936–1984), famed for his contributions to the naif style. His work captures the light and beauty of Puerto Vallarta and can be seen in many galleries and in a mural in city hall. Galleries in the Romantic Zone, Puerto Vallarta’s historical town center, feature visual arts in different media, including works by Mexican masters and emerging local artists as well as the colorful and mystical artwork of the native Huichol people. Galleria Dante, a favorite, features paintings and sculptures from more than 100 contemporary artists. While several resorts have meeting space, Puerto Vallarta’s International Convention Center is a logical choice for big groups. Its nine convention rooms combine for 96,336 sq. ft.; the biggest event space, Salon Vallarta, hosts up to 5,000.
Riviera NayaritRiviera Nayarit features 192 miles of gorgeous coastline, expansive golf courses and wildlife including birds, sea turtles and crocodiles. Its towns include Nuevo Vallarta, a planned residential-resort area just north of Puerto Vallarta with plenty of lodging choices and meeting spaces as well as a growing arts scene. On weekends, Nuevo Vallarta Marina is a showcase for paintings, performance and other art forms, including a new bronze sailboat sculpture that doubles as a 10-foot-tall sundial. The nearby village of San Francisco (called San Pancho by locals) is the cultural capital of Riviera Nayarit, thanks to its abundance of artistic activities. Opened in December 2014, La Casita Magica is San Pancho’s hottest new gallery, featuring works by local artists and a sculpture garden with pieces by Cesar Licona. Entreamigos Cultural Center is a 16,000-square-foot community center built by locals out of recycled materials that includes an art gallery and an 860-square-foot Fridge Room that is ideal for meetings.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Riviera NayaritThe exclusive village of Punta de Mita boasts luxury accommodations and its own arts hub. Four Seasons Cultural Center and Punta Mita Cultural Center at St. Regis Resort feature rotating exhibitions of Mexican fine art, as well as cultural lectures and workshops.
Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Riviera NayaritMeeting groups can take advantage of the facilities available at the many resorts, including the 348-room Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta in Nuevo Vallarta, which has 6,300 sq. ft. of meeting space. The 173-room Four Seasons Punta Mita has 9,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 4,310-square-foot ballroom.
MazatlanMazatlan, known as the Pearl of the Pacific, is a Colonial city on the beach with a long multicultural history. Centro Historico, about a 15-minute drive south of the resort district, is the heart of Mazatlan’s art scene. Central to the scene is Plaza Machado, which is open for special events, free public performances and al fresco diners. Nearby Angela Peralta Theater, built for the city’s colonial elite in the late 19th century, has more than 800 seats and includes galleries for art exhibits. Local artist and art expert Glen Rogers suggests a visit to Mazatlan’s Museo de Arte, with its large courtyard and rotating art exhibitions. “Visit the Cultura Mazatlan website to see what’s happening [culturamazatlan.com], from modern dance to folklorico, opera, symphony, music concerts,” Rogers advises.
Mazatlan International CenterBig groups should consider Mazatlan International Center, with 126,438 sq. ft. of event space across 17 meeting rooms and outdoor areas. Its largest room can seat up to 4,520 and hold banquets for 3,500.
Los CabosThe gem of southern Baja, Los Cabos is a perfect destination for meetings, especially due to recovery efforts after Hurricane Odile in 2014. “With a state-of-the-art convention center, world-class hotels and one-of-a-kind luxury service, Los Cabos continues to position itself as a leader in corporate meetings and incentive travel,” says Visit Los Cabos Marketing Manager Sylviane Magana.
Hyatt Ziva Los CabosResorts including Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos in Cabo San Lucas, with 249 guest rooms and indoor meeting space for up to 1,110, and Sheraton Hacienda del Mar Golf & Spa Resort in Cabo del Sol, with 270 guest rooms and nearly 18,000 sq. ft., are excellent choices. In addition, 350-guest-room Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos, with 26,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, with 619 guest rooms and 35,000 sq. ft., are great gathering spots. This month, The Cape, A Thompson Hotel opens in Cabo San Lucas. The boutique property features 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, and 161 guest rooms. Montage Los Cabos, from Montage Hotel & Resorts, will open in 2017. The local art scene has helped define the two major towns in this region, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Folk art by the native Huichol people is arguably the most impressive artistic contribution; Huichol artists such as Cresencio Perez Robles have been recognized for “yarn painting,” a colorful art form that involves yarn pressed onto a waxed board and decorated with beads. Contemporary art in Los Cabos has found a home in the Gallery District in San Jose, where several galleries featuring Mexican and international artists have cropped up. Frank Arnold Gallery, for example, is a 5,000-square-foot space that features work from one of the world’s most prominent abstract expressionist painters.
Chelsea Iversen is a writer specializing in travel, food, culture and economics. She has been published in national and regional magazines.
Adventurous Team BuildingThe Pacific coast offers a great environment for team-building activities on the water, in the towns, and in the mountains and outlying areas. Vallarta Adventures presents a variety of highly regarded tours from various locations, including Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Its Ocean Adventure Challenge, for example, includes kayaking, navigation, archery pea shooting and whale or dolphin watching (depending on the season). Groups connect with each other, as well as with the natural environment.
Mazatlan’s CarnavalEach February, Mazatlan stages a five-day Carnaval celebration that is comparable to Carnaval celebrations in Rio de Janeiro and Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The streets along the Malecon fill with lively crowds and traditional banda music (a blend of Mexican mariachi and German oom-pah), and the festivities continue into the early morning hours. Though Carnaval begins 40 days before Easter, mid-January is when crews erect monigotes—huge paper mache sculptures reaching 25 feet or higher—along the Malecon in preparation. These sculptures have been designed by Mexican artist Jorge Gonzalez Neri for 10 years and are based on the Carnaval theme, which is determined the previous fall.
Art WalksVisitors can go on these popular, free art walks which feature local artists and galleries: Bucerias (Riviera Nayarit): Thursdays from November to April (7–9 p.m.) Mazatlan: First Friday of the month, from November to May (4–8 p.m.) Nuevo Vallarta (Marina): Saturdays from October through May (9 a.m.–noon) Puerto Vallarta: Wednesdays from October through May (6–10 p.m.) San Jose del Cabo: Thursdays from October to June (5–9 p.m.)
AirportsLos Cabos Los Cabos International Airport (SJD) Mazatlan General Rafael Buelna International Airport (MZT) Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit Licenciado Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport (PVR)
Meeting SpotlightWho: United Stationers, wholesale distributors of business products What: Incentive trip for customers and staff of Lagasse business unit; just under 400 attendees When: March 2013 Where: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Quote: “We had a really amazing experience at the hotel, from options for entertainment to the quality of the food, and we really immersed our attendees in the local culture. We even engaged a local artist to create a painting for our group and raised almost $2,000 that bought computers for children at a local school. People are still talking about that trip, and I’d love to go back.” –Monique Collins, senior manager of meetings and events
Major Meeting Venues
Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos 350 guest rooms; more than 26,000 sq. ft. of event space; five restaurants; four swimming pools; shopping center.
Fiesta Americana Grand Los Cabos Rated one of the top 50 golf hotels in the world; 249 guest rooms; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of event space; signature wine treatments available at Somma Wine Spa.
Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort AAA Four Diamond property; 375 guest rooms; 11,349 sq. ft. of meeting space; 25-minute drive from San Jose Del Cabo International Airport.
Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos All-inclusive property; 619 guest rooms; 35,000-plus sq. ft. of meeting space; myriad recreational activities; live entertainment.
ME by Melia Cabo AAA Four Diamond property; 151 guest rooms; hosts up to 2,500 for special events; largest meeting room accommodates 100.
Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort Adults-only resort featuring mission-style architecture; eight restaurants; two pools; 500 guest rooms; 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar Golf & Spa Resort Hacienda-flavored beachside resort; five pools; eight restaurants; 270 guest rooms; 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 20 miles from airport.
The Resort at Pedregal AAA Five Diamond property set dramatically against cliffs; full-service spa; 84 guest rooms; 3,448 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita Casita-style luxury hotel; 143 guest rooms; 9,400 sq. ft. of event space; cultural center; 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport.
Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit All-inclusive property; undergoing a $20 million renovation to be completed in 2016; 267 guest rooms; 32,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta Close to beach; 348 guest rooms; more than 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; all-inclusive meetings include F&B, receptions and Wi-Fi.
Iberostar Playa Mita All-inclusive hotel located near Punta de Mita; 452 guest rooms; 7,000 sq. ft. of convention space.
Paradise Village Nuevo Vallarta 608 guest rooms and more than 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; specially designed catering menu on request.
St. Regis Punta Mita Resort 120 guest rooms; 3,700 sq. ft. of meeting space; personalized butler service; two Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses; Remede Spa. q
Villa La Estancia Riviera Nayarit AAA Four Diamond property overlooking Banderas Bay; 245 suites; 17,000 sq. ft. Flamingos Convention Center; two free-form swimming pools.
Barcelo Puerto Vallarta Located on exclusive Playa de Mismaloya; 316 guest rooms; 37,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa 433-room beachfront hotel; just finished $10.7 million renovation; 9,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta All Inclusive Spa Contemporary property; 291 guest rooms; 11 dining options; 10 meeting rooms with a capacity for up to 500 people.
Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta Refurbished property on private beach; 335 guest rooms; meeting space for up to 700.
Krystal Puerto Vallarta Newly renovated; 266 guest rooms; more than 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; cobblestone streets; seven bars and restaurants.
Melia Vallarta Forbes Four Star property overlooking Banderas Bay; 316 guest rooms;10 restaurants and bars; 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. q
Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center Five minutes from Puerto Vallarta International Airport; 58,000-plus sq. ft. of indoor space; plaza accommodates 21,000.
Secrets Vallarta Bay Traditional beachfront high-rise; 271 guest rooms; more than 6,900 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Sheraton Buganvilias Resort & Convention Center 600 guest rooms; more than 17,000 sq. ft. for events; two free-form pools with swim-up bars.
The Westin Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta 280 guest rooms; 16,000 sq. ft. of convention space; across from marina district, which has upscale shops and dining.