It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been to Mexico and about 25 years since I’ve basked on the beaches of an all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta. This time, I arrived with some Spanish under my belt to share a week with our wonderful friends, Bill, Karin, Don and Lindy, at SECRETS Vallarta.
Secrets has a sister property NOW AMBER right next door and you are permitted to use all of the facilities and restaurants at both locations. They are, literally, steps apart. The main difference is that Secrets is “adults only” and Now Amber is “family friendly”.
The food was the highlight of this resort – the Italian and the French restaurants were our personal favs. We never did look at a wine list as the house reds and whites were pretty good. I am always reticent to pay more money for beverages at an all-inclusive.
Our junior suite was lovely and kept clean and tidy by the daily maid service. It had a granite rain-forest shower and a soaker tub inside as well as another whirlpool tub on the outdoor balcony.
The pools were well maintained. The action could get pretty noisy during the day with various celebrations. One downside to this resort is there is no escape from noise. Other resorts I have been to have had lots of different areas that were more secluded from the main pool.
The other big disappointment was the entertainment. Backing tracks galore! Musicians would be accompanied by tracks – sometimes they would have a bass player who was definitely not playing the bass part you were hearing. A couple of the acts were okay, but the quality of the music was just not what is expected of a 5 Star resort.
It was a quick 20-minute walk into the town (pop. 300,000) of Puerto Vallarta. Here you will find the Malecon.
The Malecon is a seaside promenade that runs for 1.5 km. Along the way you will find all sorts of shops, bars and restaurants. Intermittently, there are grand statues made of bronze or stone that showcase the talents of both local and national Mexican artists. (Read more: Malecon Sculpture Vallarta)
Sculpture Galore on the Malecon!
On Saturdays, at the end of the Malecon, you should find the weekly market. We were pleased to hear a great band featuring 2 flamenco guitarist, 2 percussionists, drums and bass. Best music we heard all week! (Listen to a clip at the end of the article.)
A few tips:
- The spa at the resort is expensive. Just at the foot of the property (the gate with security) make a left turn and you will stumble upon a great massage place. 350 pesos (about $26) gets you an hour.
- For an extra charge, you can sit at the chef’s table and have a specially prepared 5-course meal with a flight of wines to accompany it. We did this with good friends and it was certainly one of the highlights of our trip.
- Cabs are everywhere and relatively cheap. Negotiate the price before you leave – and make sure they have working seatbelts!
- 45 minutes north of the resort you will fine the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. This trip is well worth the effort to get there. It opens at 9 am and is a lovely way to spend a morning. There are lots of birds, butterflies and plants of every variety. The gardens feature hiking trails both through the native forest and the manicured garden grounds. Visitors are welcome to swim in the Rio Horcones, the tropical river that borders the property. (Read more: Vallarta Botanical Gardens)You will need bug repellant (which can be purchased on site.)
- The Japanese restaurant on site requires reservations. We elected not to go as, being from Vancouver, we are spoiled by the best sushi outside Japan!
- Puerto Vallarta has some fabulous places for live music. The wonderful music that we heard at the Saturday market featured guitarist Zoe Wood who regularly plays at INCANTO. (Read more: Incanto website)Incanto has two venues – upstairs is the piano bar; downstairs is a club featuring several live shows each evening. Tickets can be purchased on line and food and drink is available. Zoe describes herself as a “Nuevo flamenco” guitarist. She is amazing! If you are in PV be sure to check her out!(Zoe Wood Facebook)
- Westjet flies direct to PV from Vancouver. It’s about a 5 hour flight.
- Finally, take $200 worth of pesos. Get lots of fifty-peso notes (worth about $3). They make perfect tips at the resort and will get you extra smiles and stellar service.
We were charmed by Puerto Vallarta. We also felt very safe at all times. Unlike other parts of Mexico, there were no armed guards and AK-47s!
We are planning to return – if for no other reason than to check out the live music in town!
Plan your trip: SECRETS VALLARTA