The HI is a real nice option, maybe a good 3.5–4 star place, real pleasant, with a large pool and on a good beach for the hotel zone. Instead of reserving a room at the resort itself, we rented from a person who owns a small condo (large studio) on an upper floor of the Sea Rivers building at the resort – FANTASTIC. We paid $800 for a week rent (+ security deposit), which gave us a real nice condo, ocean front on the 14th floor – much better than a regular hotel room. The condo was very nice with incredible views and was well furnished (see the room description below). To find options there, google the Sea Rivers at the Holiday Inn condos for rent (there are a few advertised on VBRO & TA); we rented ours through the VeryVallarta website and all went smoothly. The resort is well located too – real easy access via bus or taxi to the downtown (or the marina…), and a supermarket and a few stores nearby.
Block Sea Rivers Building
Arrival: At the airport – ignore the timeshare people and head for the taxi stands (or for your tour bus). At the Holiday Inn: Pleasant hardworking staff, but they are clearly better at checking people into the regular Holiday Inn resort rooms (those on AI packages for the most part) than at dealing with people going to private condos in the Sea Rivers building. It took them maybe 40 minutes to locate our key and give us all the documents…
Ours was not a room, but a well-sized studio apartment. We were on the 14th floor, with a large balcony looking right over the ocean – views to the left over Puerto Vallarta and the mountains, views to the right for sunsets, and below the pool. Fantastic. The condo was fairly large – we had a king-sized bed, a sunken area with two sofas, a basic kitchen with all the necessary utensils, a good bathroom and toilet area, etc. Other private condos often have a closed-off BR with 2 queen beds – we liked the open space of ours. One of the sofa beds converted into a larger-than-single bed for our daughter. It was well furnished, with a small fridge, toaster oven, microwave and electric heaters for pots and pans, a coffee maker, and a TV with cable. Real nice – sitting up high overlooking the pool and beach, watching the boats go by and the sun go down, sipping on our margaritas.
Restaurants and Bars: With a private condo, you can either pay upon arrival at the hotel for an all-inclusive food package ($43 after discount per day per person – a good deal) or pay each time you eat or drink (charging it to your room with a 15% discount). As Puerto Vallarta has great restaurants, we preferred to eat out a lot and charged occasional food to our room. At the hotel, they have a nice outdoors terrace restaurant (buffet & a la carte), and indoors Mexican (no vegetarian options) and Italian restaurants – the last one had the best reputation; we ate there once, liked the style and service, but thought the pasta was fairly ordinary. Drinks were alright; you can request better quality liquor at a cost. OUTSIDE THE HOTEL: If you walk down the beach towards town, after about 5 minutes you’ll reach the Los Tules resort – near the other end of the resort they have a pleasant small restaurant with good breakfasts beside a pool and near the beach. In front of the Fiesta Americana, there is a chi-chi French restaurant, and across the street a Pizza Hut. The Peninsula Plaza about 150m up the street away from town has several decent restaurants, a Starbucks and the Canadian consulate. A better option is to head downtown to the Malecon (by taxi about 50 pesos) or the Southside (60-80 pesos) where there are a lot of good restaurants. On the Southside, try Coco’s Kitchen (at 122 Pulpito: real good food in a garden courtyard), Archie’s Wok (excellent Asian food near the pier), and Casa Isabel (up high: great ambiance and views). On the Malecon, the Cheeky Monkey has cheap decent drinks and food and is loads of fun; as is the Café Roma pizzeria. And for upscale Mexican food in a courtyard, try El Arrayan about an 8 minute walk up the hill from the Malecon.
The Holiday Inn has a large round pool with an island in the middle, heated in the winter, with sunken seats and a bar. There is a deep section, and kiddies section, and a larger maybe 4 foot deep section. The grounds are nice but not real spread out, with the usual annoying people who “reserve” chairs early in the morning with their towels. The beach is decent – typical Hotel zone – and during dry season you can walk maybe a mile (1.5 km) to the north (in rainy season, a small stream becomes a river that you can’t easily get by, so you can only walk maybe 5 minutes north before getting blocked).
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The HI has the usual activities – a kiddies area, pool aerobics, beach volleyball, and the typical evening entertainment (karaoke…) . In the resort there are a few stores, a tours desk, the timeshares desk in front of the Sea Rivers elevators (for those who like to suffer), and a hairdressers/pedicure… place. The resort is well located – with real easy access via bus (7 pesos) or taxi to the downtown (or the marina… about 50-80 pesos). We bought breakfast foods, chips and a few drinks at the Soriana supermarket located in a small mall across the street and maybe 250 yards (meters) walk towards town. (Another Soriana is found about 400m walking away from town, and the Walmart with good wine and drink prices is about another 300m past that – it had considerably better prices than in the airport duty free shops.) Around the same area is the start of the marina, from where alot of tours start.
We’d definitely return, but again to a condo at the Sea Rivers and not to a regular hotel room (we’re even toying with the ideal of buying a condo there for ourselves…). Yeah, the beaches are not as nice as in Nuevo Vallarta, but you aren’t trapped in a golden all-inclusive prison far from everything either – I’d generally take the old hotel zone or downtown far over the marina or Nuevo any day, and the HI is a real nice, not-too-expensive option.