Posted by Cynthia Andrade, 15 December 2014, Vallarta Tribune & Riviera Nayarit
For a number of years now, I’ve gazed across the Rio Cuale and always wondered about the mysterious building with a life-size statue peering over the balcony. After some asking around I was told it is the boutique hotel Rivera del Rio. Curious for more details, I went online to check out the website, and was even more intrigued. Crazy rooms with names like: Carlotta, Candelaria and Cortez. Eight guest accommodations in total, each decorated in a unique and utterly whimsical style.
It turns out that my friend, Kandace Andriadis, a longtime resident of Vallarta, is the mother of the owner and operator Alexander Andriadis. She handed me a flier and told me that I absolutely had to see her son’s wonderful hotel! After a flurry of emails and phone calls I was finally able to catch up with Alexander the Rivera del Rio’s proprietor.
This was no easy feat, as this man is BUSY!
He’s dashing, young and incredibly energetic. We met in the main salon, which hosts (amongst other curiosities) an indoor duck pond (stocked with wooden decoys), trompe-l’œil wall paintings, moose antlers, and wall sconces held up by sculpted arms, very reminiscent of one of my favorite classics, Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Alexander is a dynamo and seamlessly answered two Smartphones, checked-in two parties of guests, made margaritas, served guacamole, and made vacation recommendations to new arrivals, all the while keeping everything totally engaging and together. I was shocked to learn that this was his first time as a hotelier as he seems to have been born to the vocation.
The house itself was built in the late 1970’s by Alexander’s grandmother Silver. She was one of the first expats to build on the opposite side of the Rio Cuale.
The construction was accomplished over the course of many years, in a piecemeal and idiosyncratic way.
“Strange rooms with bathrooms in the middle. Stairways and doors that made no sense. My grandmother was getting older towards the end of construction, and I don’t think she had the time or energy to continue with the project.”
Alexander was born here in Mexico, and spent much of his life traveling back and forth here from his home in Arizona, where he studied and worked, specializing in working with persons with disabilities.
“My Grandmother passed away a few years ago, and the house was in ruins. I was continuing to spend time here and my mother Kandace, an avid animal lover had set up a veritable zoo. She had cats, birds, rabbits and a resident opossum.”
“This type of lifestyle, at the time, seemed completely normal. You know how it is when you’ve been living in the same place for so long—you stop looking at the big picture and just accept everything the way it is.”
“When my grandmother passed away I had a big dilemma regarding the property. We had a few realtors take a look, and they were pretty horrified with the disrepair, and scoffed at its marketability. That’s when I decided to just refurbish it and turn it into a boutique B&B!”
“Everyone thought I was totally insane. They were skeptical that anyone would want to stay in this area, which is very much a local scene. To top it all off, the neighbors were very much against the project.”
But Alexander forged ahead, and redesigned the house from the ground up. Combining new hand crafted elements, along with some of his grandmother’s touches.
“Since then there has been an amazing transformation. Now all of the neighbors have become our biggest supporters, and see the area surrounding the Rivera as an excellent location to open their own businesses and revitalize the neighborhood.”
And as we are going to print construction has just started to refurbish the street and build a linear park. This is great news as it is on the heels of two years of neighborhood association meetings. This is a pivotal turning point, showing that the neighborhood and Rivera de Rio can work together to get the city’s attention.
“Just two doors down Martha Alicia Ramirez Pena own’s the restaurant Girasoles. She’s just unveiled a set of charming picnic tables right above the Rio Cuale. The other neighbors see the potential and have become active collaborators in working with the city to the repair the main road and make it more visitor friendly.”
During our interview a couple had just returned from the Vallarta Eats food tour. Alexander likes to promote the tour, which features street food from all around the neighborhood.
The visitors loved the tour, and were heading up to their room for a siesta and to recover from the generous quantities of tacos.
A huge portrait of Silver graces the salon. She’s adorned in a glamorous evening gown. Too, the salon has photos of Alexander’s mother Kandace looking stunning and vivacious, and a sweet photo of Alexander as a little boy with their maid Chayo, who still works at the hotel.
The staff here is clearly part of his family. Lean and elegant Diego Bedini, Alexander’s partner, works constantly to keep the atmosphere fun and engaging.
“Our clientele of River del Rio is varied and adventurous. They are people who want to experience Mexico, and not be ensconced in an all-inclusive resort. We really develop a relationship with them, and have many, many repeat customers. Our service is very personal and people book far in advance now.”
Diego is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, studied and worked in the theater, and clearly loves the aesthetics and beauty of both the hotel and Vallarta. He’s widely traveled and fun to talk with.
“We really like to spend time with our guests, and they become more like friends. Running a hotel is very personal, but I love to meet all of the new people. We have guests from all over the world, so it is never boring.”
Too, they’ve hired Rocio Martinez Quintal a marketing expert and local concierge, who’s working with them to promote the hotel within the Mexican National market.
To find out more, visit their amazing website at: http://www.riveradelrio.com/. Truly a gem of Vallarta!