|Buenaventura Grand Hotel and Spa||Dave ~ Alberta, Canada|
Arrival: Nov. 9 to Nov. 22 2008
We flew Skyservice to Puerto Vallarta and arrived about 0130 at the Hotel. There was approx. 10 people checking in and it was quick and easy, the staff spoke fluent English and were very professional and our bags were quickly taken to our room. 9 out of 10. A cold drink upon arrival would have scored a 10. We stayed All Inclusive plan.
Rooms: Our room had a king size bed, bathroom with shower, TV, safe included but key had to be requested at the front desk,oceanview balcony and small table with 2 chairs. Beds are so subjective that we do not include them in our rating but we found our bed and pillows very hard. Our balcony view was very romantic and we watched some incredible sunsets. Maid service was the same as room service throughout the hotel and that was hit and miss. We travelled as a group of 3 couples so had a chance to compare and there was little or no consistency in maid or room service. It went from nothing to excellent and back again with no apparent reason why. Tipping had no influence as we experimented from $5 US to zero and service was still eratic. One thing we did discover was the Do Not Disturb card for the door had flipside Please Service Room and if you did not put that out, your room was not serviced at all. The in room coffee was either a huge mistake or an outright money grab. The first use is free and after that it is $5 US per use. However room service, if you can get it, is free. So that is $5 for 2 cups of hotel room coffee or Free carafe of coffee, toast, eggs and bacon or whatever from room service. Figure that one out? For the most part our room was clean and the air conditioning worked very well. There must be some kind of cultural difference between Latin American culture and North American culture in regards to face clothes in the bathroom as we found the same problems in Mexico trying to keep face clothes as we did in the Dominican Republic. Either that or it is a great source of humour at the coffee table for the staff. Went from 4 to 0 and everywhere in between at random. We rated the room 9 out of 10 while maid and room service gets a 5.
Restaurants and Bars:
We enjoyed the restaurants and the buffet very much and the views while eating added to our enjoyment. Never had an issue with quality or quantity of food. We were allowed 3 a la carte meals per week that you had to book in advance, pretty standard All Inclusive package. One meal per week is allowed at the next door sister resort Villa Premiere which is upscale and excellent food but be prepared to dress for dinner as they will not bend the evening dress code and neither should they. The Buenaventura had evening restaurant dress code as well which was basically no beach wear but it was not enforced while we were there. Pet peeve we admit. The bars were basic all inclusive style bars, happy to pour whatever you wanted in whatever quantity you could consume. Small note for Canadians, do not bother asking for rye whiskey or Canadian whiskey as you will get Jack Daniels or some other equally vile excuse for whiskey. Off the resort you can get Canadian rye whiskey almost anywhere!
. The bars seemed to close early but we are not night owls. The Beach bar and the Pool bar both have a healthy population of wasps and some effort should be made to control them. We enjoyed the Lobby bar the most, best drinks and best service although it closed early at 2200 hours. We rate the Restaurants 8 out of 10 and the Bars 7 out of 10.
Beach was good by Canadian standards, only fair by Caribbean standards. Our only comparison are the beaches at Punta Cana, which we have been told are among the best in the world, and Waikiki Hawaii. There is rock in places on the beaches and the waves are strong at times. The red flag was out the entire time we stayed and we were told it is not changed. We were a bit surprised that after all the effort to create the Malecon and the tourism value of it that zero effort appears to have been made to care for the beach along the Malecon. Efforts should be made to keep it clean and introduce some sand. The beach in front of the resort was maintained and watched by the local Fire Dept. who did lifeguard duty. There are vendors on the beach that varied from no problem to annoying depending on your state of mind. We rate the beaches 6 out of 10.
The Pools were clean, clear and well maintained. They are all 4 foot 6 inches deep and we felt one deeper pool would be nice, especially for the Scuba diving instruction which takes place on the resort. One thing we REALLY liked is that cursed practice of reserving your chair with your towel is NOT allowed. If you are there, use the chair. If you leave it can be used by someone else. Beach towel service is standard All Inclusive fare and we heard no complaints. There is one shallow portion of one pool cordoned off for children and we saw lots of parents with children using it. One small problem is the Beach bar is approx. 12 feet away from the childrens section of the pool, not a great combination. Overall we would rate the Pools 8 out of 10.
The Grounds were very well kept with no garbage or sand accumulation and the entire resort was kept very clean and rates a 10 out of 10.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Sierra Madre tour.
A drive through rural Mexico in the back of a UniMog, similar to an army truck, with seat belts,a canvas roof and very knowledgable guides. Up close and personal with small town Mexico, farms and farm homes, a jungle tour and a pristine beach with an excellent meal. If you do not mind wind in your hair, bugs in your teeth, rock and roll rides then you will love this tour. If you have a bad back, are picky about your hair or dislike being up close and personal with strangers then find another way to see rural Mexico.
Rhythms of the Night. Taxi to the Marina, basically go through customs again for $15 pesos, out to sea across the bay on a large catamarran. Staff does their best to entertain you over the one hour boat ride across the bay to Los Caletas, once the home to film director John Houston, where they entertain you with a spectatcular show and a candlelight dinner. In our opinion the boat ride conflicts with the romantic evening. The staff on board the boat do their best to get you pumped up and dancing to the music serving snacks and booze then when you arrive on the beach it is all candlelight and romance in the dark. The show is spectacular without a doubt and the candlelight meal is nice but with 3 boat loads of 100 people each there is a definite feel from the staff of round em up and move em out. If you have any motion sickness issues at all give this one a pass as you have one hour on a boat each way. No idea of rain out status of this tour.
We rented a Suburban and toured on our own instead of a tour company. This allowed a little more freedom but we had a person who was comfortable and competent to drive in Mexico. Definitely not a tour to be missed no matter how you go. Canopy tour and Zip lines
We did not go on this tour but heard rave reviews from people who had gone.
There are multitudes of other tours such as dolphin tours, Pirate ship night dining and sunset boat cruises.
Scuba Diving We took diving lessons in the resort pool with Gustavo. We cannot say enough positives about Gus when it comes to scuba training. He is professional, safe, patient and very pleasant. One of our party was terrified of water due to a near drowning as a child and before their trip was over Gus had her diving in the ocean. If you have ever even contemplated trying scuba diving Gus is the man to have teach you.
One of favorite activities was walking the Malecon downtown and shopping. Check out Poos Barbara silver shop and sip on a free cold beer while you shop or Alfonso Romero Art with Leather or eat at La Dolce Vita which has the best pizza and the finest looking restaurant on the Malecon.
Puerto Vallarta offers lots of things to do and friendly people. We felt perfectly safe walking the town day or night and the buses are frequent and cheap. Taxis are plentiful and not too expensive. Taxi drivers have a very strong union in PV and so control things like tour companies cannot pick you up at your resort. The other side of the coin is prices are fixed and governed for rides. Ask the fare to your destination and if you doubt his price ask to see his papers which they are supposed to have with them at all times showing the fares to and from various destinations. If you ask the doormen at the Buenaventura they will contact a taxi for you and tell you the set rate.
We would like to thank all the staff at the Buenaventura as everyone there was polite and pleasant. As always a few people stand out on any vacation and we would like to commend Martha at the Buffet restaurant and Carlos and Lucas at the Lobby bar for service above and beyond the call of duty. The Buenaventura would do well to recognize and reward these very good employees.
The Buenaventura Grand Hotel and Spa is right downtown in PV and when you step out the front doors you are on the main street. This can be a plus or a minus to any resort but seems to work for the Buenaventura. If you absolutely do not want any sight or sound of a city on your vacation then you may not want to book in to the Buenaventura. If you like the idea of actually walking without bus or taxi rides to shop or browse or evening dine then the Buenaventura will suit you well. I will admit to having some doubts when we first arrived but when you are at the pool or on the beach there is little to no sound coming from the city.
Overall we would rate the Buenaventura Resort and Spa a 4 star hotel and give it 8 out of 10. If we were to return to PV we would consider staying at the Buenaventura again.
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