Sometimes all you really want on vacation is to be by the ocean, on a lounge chair by the pool, with a nice waiter bringing you unlimited cocktails of your choice. For three days at Velas Vallarta All-inclusive Suites on the west coast of Mexico, that’s what we got.
Oh, and we ate quite well too. And slept in a comfortable bed.
It’s easy to make fun of all-inclusive resorts like Velas Vallarta, with their bracelets you can’t remove, the towels you have to sign out, and the predictable shows at night, but the playbook is so common for one reason: it works. On a low season weekend in October, this resort on the edge of Puerto Vallarta was hopping.
Our vacation started out in grand fashion, the nice man at the front desk letting us check in way early and our stay—the result of me winning first prize in the annual travel writing awards from NATJA—got us upgraded to a two-bedroom suite as well. A family vacation with the parents having their own bedroom is a real vacation.
Rooms here are set up nicely, with a kitchen (mostly used by those not on an all-inclusive plan), some lounging furniture, and a spacious furnished balcony or terrace looking out at the pool area and in some cases the bay. Baths are stocked with good toiletries and towels, the crisp air conditioning works well.
Fridges are stocked with bottled water, soda, and beer, plus you can order from room service anytime.
Most guests spend their time lounging at the pool complex, which has two large main pools, a kiddie pool by the kid’s club, and a sort of too-lazy river section: you have to provide your own propulsion. Various floating devices are available to borrow and there’s a swim-up bar stocked with good tequila and Bohemia beer, so I was a happy lounger. Hustling waiters are constantly making the rounds too.
At the beach there are covered lounge chairs and a beach volleyball set-up, but strangely no water sports items through the resort in the package—not even kayaks. A few activities run throughout the day, like water aerobics, volleyball, yoga, and ping-pong. The hosts are enthusiastic, but not annoying or aggressive. (And I won a Mexican plate through a blackjack tournament, so yea.)
The food for all three meals was surprisingly good, whether gazing out at the ocean at the seaside restaurant or at the fancier one close to the lobby. There are buffet options or a salad bar for each meal, but it’s also possible to order a la carte. Breakfast and lunch are a mix of Mexican favorites, seafood, and a few international items like ribs and pizza. Dinners rotate through themes and toss in more Italian choices. In a nice display of transparency, you can access all their menus on the website before booking.
The presentation was consistently impressive, especially the flaming desert I got the last night. After all that lounging and drinking, it’s encouraging to see plenty of healthy choices as well at all meals.
The one drawback here is this is one of those “all-inclusives with an asterisk.” If you want to tweet about this place or share photos of it with your friends, it’s going to cost you a hefty $16 a day per device to do so. You get hit with an additional $10 per day, per person fee on top of the room rate for tips, then the bartenders stick a tip jar on the bar anyway asking for more.
Apart from the gotcha charges though, this is a well-run and comfortable vacation beach resort with friendly staffers and good food. The facilities and grounds are well-maintained and the prices are reasonable considering the quality of the food and drinks. This resort is not as upscale as sister properties Casa Velas (by the marina golf course) or Grand Velas a couple miles north in Nuevo Vallarta, but it’s a big step up from the many low-end vacation factory resorts dotting the coast here.
See more on what to do outside the resorts on the official websites of Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit. Follow this link for the best luxury hotels in Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita.
Story and photos by Tim Leffel, who a stay at Velas Vallarta All-inclusive Suites Resort after snagging a Gold prize from the North American Travel Journalists Association in their annual travel writing awards.