Old Reviews – Velas Vallarta Suite Resort

Velas Vallarta Suite Resort Mike ~ USA

March 2006

My wife and I finally joined two other couples for a week at the Velas Vallarta. One of the other couples has been going to the Velas for six years, finally took the other couple last year and all six of us went 02/18-25/06.

We flew on Northwest Airlines from Duluth, MN thru Mpls. and onto PV – needless to say there were delays on the trip down due in part I believe to the general condition of the airline (strike negotiations ongoing). I would not go out of my way to fly Northwest anytime soon, although I will say our flight home was fine.

My wife and I have been to the Barcelo resort in Punta Cana and The Reef @ Coco Beach in Playa del Carmen. both were AI and we had a wonderful time at both. In Punta Cana we were resort locked but were not bored as this was our first ever tropical vacation. In Playa del Carmen we were looking for a resort very close to a city or town. We loved it there walking around the city. Our friends begged us to come and see PV and the Velas; we were a little apprehensive as we had fallen in love with the white sands and turquoise waters of the carribean, although we were looking forward to a larger city.

We took about a 4 mile taxi ride from the airport to the Velas, noticing the close grocery store/strip mall and the beautiful neighborhoods intermixed with the golf course located directly across the street from the Velas. The entrance/lobby is beautiful and the staff greeted us immediately. We made our way to our 7th floor 3 bedroom suite. Clean, spacious, wonderful shower/bathrooms, stocked kitchen – our room was fantastic. Back down to the lobby for our complimentary drinks and the ‘time share’ hustle – the others with us knew the routine, so saying no was a little easier than maybe for a first timer.

We did not do the AI plan – by design as our friends know PV and did we ever see a lot in 6 days. without going into too much detail, we went to every part of this city for dinners and/or drinks including the Pietalla (PTL) district, a neighborhood where the locals live. We also spent a couple nights in the Romantica district where we found good times at Andala’s (where is Alice) and Mariochi Loco (local mariochi club).

One of our days we rented a vehicle and drove north to the small resort area Rincon Deguaybitos – what a beautiful small area nestled in a bay. We heard rumors that this area is expanding yearly; i can see why. Along our way we made stops at Los de Marco, San Franciso beach and stopped for drinks and sunset in Bucerias just north of PV – what a day! would be hard pressed to have bought a tour that could have showed us so much. a huge thanks that day to our friends who have been there before and taking the time to show us things they have seen before.

The staff around the pool is as good as it gets – wonderful service and well worth daily tips, that goes also for the maids. the pool area and surrounding gardens are beautiful – spent more time in pool than on other vacations. The view of downtown PV from the Velas is breathtaking – some days a little hazy, some clear, all great. Sand is a little hot to walk in but no big deal, just walk closer to water. Last night there we walked up the beach about a mile. There are only about two or three condo/timeshare bldgs. to the north of the Velas, then past the runway from the airport and about a 1/4 mile farther you come to a series of palapa restaurants right on the beach – plastic chairs, tables, toes in the sand with beers and authentic food – mexican and seafood are the choices – we ordered shrimp empanadas and the catch of the day (red snapper) – they take you back in their kitchen, open a chest freezer and have you select which fish you want (in freezer on ice) – he then takes your fish, fillets it and prepares it for cooking right in front of you – a few minutes later it comes to our table barbequed on a huge platter – throw in some fresh tortillas, some rice and a few more Pacificos and you have the makings for an unforgettable last night in Puerto Vallarta. Next year? same place, same time – and we are not the type that like to repeat.

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Velas Vallarta Suite Resort Darcy and Rochelle ~ Ontario, Canada

January 2005

Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, through World of Vacations
Background
My wife and I are in our late 20’s, and have been married for a few months. Most of our recent vacations have involved canoe or hiking trips in Canada, so we were looking to take a real break this time. We searched for an all inclusive resort almost anywhere warm, and we were hoping to find somewhere that covered most of our want list. Our priorities were to go somewhere guaranteed hot, and we wanted to do a little better than average as far as food and drinks go. We hoped the resort would either have some water activities (I was interested in sailing or windsurfing) along with the ocean conditions that allow the equipment to actually be used, OR, at least be close to adventurous day trips. We were willing to book last minute and were flexible as far as destination and departure date. The price range we started searching in was generally $1000 per person or less, before taxes. We found this range to be a little low for the resorts that ended up being most appealing to us. Throughout our search, we used the reviews on this and one other website extensively.

We narrowed our search to a few resorts in Mexico or Costa Rica based on the reliable warm climate, price, reviews from other travelers, available activities, and the appeal of the resorts themselves. We watched last minute prices, and a couple of the resorts including Velas did get close to our original range. We booked Velas Monday night for a Friday departure.

Flight
The plane was an Air Transat Airbus A330 which seats around 350 people. We did not drive to the Toronto airport particularly early, so we ended up being seated one behind the other on the plane. The flight was around 5 hours. The hot meal was a fairly thin fajita, so we were glad we brought some snacks.

Arrival
The Puerto Vallarta airport was small and reasonably efficient. The customs agents only had to deal with the crowd from our plane at the time, and I believe everyone was through in about 30 minutes. Only a few people are checked more thoroughly, based on a random green or red light when each person pushes a button. Baggage pickup was fine, and then most people were directed to busses just outside the airport building. The public area of the airport is a little chaotic with dozens of cab drivers looking for anyone who needs a ride (or for anyone who doesn’t know their transportation is included). Our particular flight only had a few people for Velas, so we were directed to a van. The drive to the resort was only a few minutes.

The Resort

Check In
The Velas made an immediate impression with its very large and open lobby, and the incredible gardens and full size palm trees just beyond. We checked in with only a few other people, so everything was quick and easy. We were offered a drink while completing the check in, so we chose a shot of tequila.

Room
Our room was a suite on the ground floor, and our understanding was that the ‘suite’ is the smallest and most basic room. We were quite amazed at the quality and size of the room, including a kitchenette and a couch. We had requested a single bed, and we got it – king size. The kitchenette was well stocked with dishes an even some small appliances, although we weren’t going to use any of these thanks to the all inclusive. A few snacks and drinks were on the counter or in the fridge, and these were all part of the package. The room was air conditioned under the control of an easy to use digital thermostat. A key for an in room safe was available free at the front desk. We weren’t concerned with the view from the room, since we really only went there to change, rest, or sleep. Our room faced out to the side or back of the resort, which was still nice with lots of plants. For those who care, the shape of the resort does provide many ocean view rooms.

The room had a TV and I am guessing satellite. There were about 40 channels, quite a few Spanish, but a few good English channels like HBO and ABC. When heading to bed, we did manage to catch a movie or two we hadn’t seen before.

The bathroom was equipped with a hair dryer, and a very large shower (not a bath tub – which was fine with us). The water pressure was great, and the hot water seemingly endless. The entire suite was very clean and in excellent condition.

Food
My previous all inclusive experience is limited, but I have experienced or read much about average food (or worse) at many resorts. The Velas is in an entirely different league, the food was exceptional! The buffets had good variety, and one of the two restaurants offered meals from a menu without having to make reservations. Menu meals were often served with a fancy presentation on the plate – like being at a fine restaurant. I found the steaks and chicken dishes very good, and my wife loved being able to choose fish every day. The main dishes were generally mild without any strong spices. Most people probably prefer this, but I like a little heat, so I often grabbed some jalapenos or mixed pickled jalapenos and veggies when at the buffet. One of the available salsas also had some kick.

Breakfast was available buffet style at both restaurants. A chef stood at the end of the buffet, making eggs any way you like, including omelets. Generally, the food available was cereal, muffins, bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, French toast, pancakes, and even nachos. Additional items were available depending on the day.

Lunch was also available at both restaurants. A few menu items like soups, sandwiches and hamburgers could be ordered, or there was always a good variety of salads and main courses at the buffet. Throughout the day, hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, and home made pizza were available by the pool.

After our first dinner experience, we arrived at the rest of the dinners with great anticipation! The staff really made dinner the highlight meal of the day. Again one restaurant had a buffet or menu option, and the other (requiring a reservation in the morning) had a menu that took on different themes each night. Each dinner we tried was very good to excellent. On a couple of nights, the buffet restaurant moved onto the beach. This virtual restaurant had a theme buffet, and entertainment.

The bars had an unexpected selection of international liquors, and my favorite – a variety of tropical crushed ice drinks. I didn’t drink much beer, but I think they had some selection. I was very surprised when at dinner I was asked if I wanted wine… I said “I’ll have red please”, and the waiter replied “Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon” (or some other type – I can’t remember)!

Resort and Beach
The resort grounds were surrounded on three sides by the accommodations, and open towards the ocean. The grounds were very spacious with two large pools connected by a long twisting channel. A smaller kid’s pool and activity area was also available. Brick paths and bridges crisscrossed through the gardens and around the pools. At ground level, you couldn’t see across the resort because of the gardens and trees. I thought this was really neat and made the grounds feel very natural. There must have been hundreds of chairs around the pools, with many available in the sun or shade. The resort had ping pong tables and boogie boards available. On most days there were pool aerobics, pool volleyball, and beach volleyball. The resort discontinued all individual and organized kayaking a couple of weeks ago because someone was apparently injured.

The beach directly in front of the resort was very nice. The sand ranged from fine to somewhat pebbly in areas as it stretched across many other resorts in both directions. The ocean was reasonably calm on most days. During a couple of days, larger waves steadily rolled in, with enough space between them to get ready for the next one! In either condition, I found the ocean enjoyable, but I did avoid going in during some really large waves. Any waves might be unsafe if you are not a good swimmer or uncomfortable with the in rush or out rush of the water. The forces are surprising!

The water was a nice colour, but not the kind you would get on a shallow white sand beach in the Caribbean. My experience is that even those Caribbean beaches are often rough, and lose their clearness and colour. The waves here tended to carry a lot of sand when close to shore, so the water is not clear. A travel magazine style white sand beach, clear water, and snorkeling can be experienced on a couple of the Vallarta Adventures Tours.

The staff at the resort were exceptional. I believe everyone spoke some English, and many have mastered the language. A few staff were even roaming the pool area to take drink or food orders. I never felt that tips were expected. We left tips after some of the meals, or after placing a big order at the bar. It is also a good idea to leave a tip for the maid on your pillow. I think even a dollar or two is appreciated since I heard that the average wage in the area (just in general – I don’t know about the resort staff) is $10 US per day. Canadian or US money is widely accepted and easily exchanged, but not coins.

I should mention the local people outside of the resort. We spent plenty of time walking a few kilometers from the resort. The local people were friendly, and we were only approached by people offering tours or time share (more about this later).

Activities
I’ve already mentioned most of what is available within the resort. Outside, there are many opportunities for diving, deep sea fishing, canopy tours, snorkeling, whale and dolphin watching, sea doo rentals, and parasailing. The main tour operator in the area is Vallarta Adventures. The tours aren’t cheap, but we tried two of them and had a good time.

The canopy tour was a lot of fun. In talking with others, the Vallarta Adventures canopy tour is apparently not the longest or highest, but it is probably the safest and most professionally run. The staff take care of all of the locking and unlocking of harnesses (you are always attached to either the zip wire or a platform safety rope), and all of the zip lines are made up of two cables. The trip involved about a 1 hour drive each way in the back of a large jeep like vehicle.

The whales/dolphins/snorkeling tour was also good, but it would be a long day if you tend to get sea sick. We saw quite a few whales and dolphins, although our larger boat could not get as close as the small dedicated whale watching tours. The snorkeling had reasonably clear water and many different fish. A surprising number of people, my wife included, came into contact with jelly fish. The sting is fairly painful for about an hour. We want to try snorkeling again, but I would try to find a light long sleeve shirt and pants meant for surfing or diving, or perhaps a light wetsuit (like the guide was wearing – hmmm). The tour spends the second half of the day on the white sand beach I mentioned earlier.

Check Out
Our flight home was delayed by almost 12 hours. The airline was not at all at fault, and handled the situation reasonably well. The travel agencies did attempt to contact people before they left their hotels. We were notified just in time, and were able to stay a few more hours. The Velas was very accommodating and allowed us to continue our all inclusive status. We had to give up our room much earlier in the day, but all departing guests were offered a half hour ‘shift’ in a room where they could relax and have a shower or watch TV. The airline did take awhile to fully realize or fully convey the circumstances, so we did still have to spend a grueling 5 – 6 hours at the airport starting at 1:00 am.

One reason the Velas could not offer us a room for a longer period was that they had a full week ahead. A staff member even told me that they were a few rooms overbooked! I never heard about this happening before at the Velas, so I’m inclined to think that it is rare. Being overbooked of course means transferring the people to another resort. From some other reviews I read (a different resort, different country) where people had been transferred, the experience was not a good one, so the word “transfer” set off alarm bells in my head. However, the staff member also mentioned that these people would be upgraded to the Grand Velas. Judging from the price and prestige of the Grand, I doubt these people will be disappointed.

Summary
Our experience at Velas Vallarta was beyond our expectations, and we wouldn’t have regretted paying a little more if we hadn’t landed such a great last minute deal. I’ve continued to watch prices and I get the impression that such a deal is rare since Velas is very popular. We did walk through some of the other area resorts and we believe that Velas is probably the best. In the near future, my wife and I will probably do a couple more Canadian vacations, and maybe see some other parts of the world. When we return to Mexico, we wouldn’t hesitate to stay at the Velas again. I would recommend it to any of my friends or family.

Other Tips
After recently planning and going on our trip, I’d like to add a couple of things to watch out for.

Be careful if you are considering the Golden Crown (formerly Crown), or the Crown Paradise (formerly Playa Del Oro). Don’t get these confused, many reviews are under the old names or just use ‘crown’ ambiguously. We walked through these resorts, and the Golden Crown is the nicer of the two. In my opinion, Velas was better than both. The same confusion might occur for Velas. This review is for the Velas Vallarta, but there is another Velas resort (apparently a very high end resort) called Grand Velas.

Time share… You will be asked, either at the resort, or while walking in the marina area. A travel agent representative will meet with you at some point after arriving, and they will tell you important things regarding your vacation and the surrounding area. There are other representatives at the resort and they want to talk to you about time shares. Most of these representatives will offer you incentives for listening, but you should be aware that the whole discussion and tour takes 2 – 3 hours.

We noticed a large construction project a fair distance down the beach towards the Marina. I think it is called Shangri La. The site is quite noisy at times and can be heard at the adjacent resort(s), but we didn’t hear anything at Velas. I think the closest resorts might have been the Melia or Marriott, but please check for yourself if this is a concern.

The Velas and other area resorts are close to the airport, so you can often hear and see planes climbing after taking off or approaching for landing. I think the airport only had a few large planes per day (maybe not even every day), and all during daytime hours it seemed. I liked watching the planes so it never bothered me.

Parasailing is available along the beach. I’m sure many people have done it and loved it. However, we did hear from a couple of people that there was serious accident about two weeks ago. A parasailer became hooked on the crane of the above mentioned construction site, probably 15 stories in the air. The fire department rescued them, which took many hours to complete. Two weeks later, while we were on the beach, the activity was still being promoted like nothing had happened. I can’t confirm the details, but I would recommend asking a staff member who might be familiar with the different parasailing operators.

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