by Stephen Jermanok
A mere five-minute taxi ride from the Puerto Vallarta International Airport, the Marina section of town is home to one of the city’s most venerable retreats, Velas Vallarta. Since opening in 1990 as the first Velas property, the upscale Mexican hotelier hasn’t missed a beat refurbishing the rooms with contemporary Mexican flair in 2005. One step inside those rooms, by far the most spacious in the city, and you’ll immediately understand why Velas Vallarta is always high on the list of family-friendly resorts in Puerto Vallarta. Ranging from basic to three-bedroom suites, the largest room can easily sleep a family of eight.
Step outside onto the balcony and you can’t help but be awed by the majestic vista of Banderas Bay and the backdrop of the Sierra Madre peaks. The tropical splendor on the grounds of the resort is also abundant. Bougainvillea falls from the terraces while the swaying palms shade the koi pond. A lazy river connects the three large pools, including one designed for young children. Beyond the pools is Velas Vallarta’s stretch of beach and the exquisite bay.
Families will not be bored at this all-inclusive property. A Kids Club is offered daily for children ages 4 to 12. Or simply head to the lazy river and make your way over to the swim-up bar at the main pool for a virgin colada. Three lighted tennis courts are on property, along with a basketball court. If you prefer water sports, the hotel is happy to set up kayaking, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling and whale-watching excursions. Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk by the sea, the Malecon, is only a 15-minute drive away, if you feel the urge to do some souvenir shopping. But it will be hard to tear yourself away from this slice of paradise.
Our Editor Loves
- All-inclusive beachfront resort with views of the Sierra Madre mountains
- Spacious rooms with balconies
- Three large pools with a swim-up bar and lazy river
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
All 345 suites are housed in the three U-shaped buildings. A family of four will have more than enough room in a one-bedroom suite. There's a master bedroom with king-size bed, flat-screen TV and full bathroom with shower and tub, featuring Gilchrest and Soames products. The large living room includes a sofa that converts into a bed for kids and their own flat-screen TV to play with. Just outside the living room is a spacious balcony. There's a full kitchen with an oven, stocked refrigerator, coffee maker and dining room table and chairs. Other amenities include a safe, hair dryer and air conditioning.
All one-, two- and three-bedroom suites have balconies overlooking the grounds and bay. Realize that suites in the higher floors offer better views of beach and ocean. The more affordable rooms are the studios, which can sleep four, but have less space than a one-bedroom and offer no balcony. The two-bedroom and three-bedroom suites are a great find for families with three or more kids. It's rare to find a room in Mexico that sleeps more than four people. In fact, like Europe, most families with three or more children have to purchase adjoining rooms. Not with these big boys. The largest suite can sleep up to eight.
The resort is very nice and the waitstaff and activities staff are extremely friendly. Be very, very cautious when you purchase a package as what they "sell" you is definitely NOT what you get. I had ongoing back/forth email communications directly with the resort. I authorized them to charge my card for a specific package where I had restated in writing what I would be receiving. When we arrived we learned that they would not be providing us the additional amenities as we had agreed upon and paid for. The resort is nice - but you pay a huge premium in order to stay there & the management absolutely did not even attempt to resolve the issue. Proceed with caution!
Loved this place...with a few caveats..clean rooms, amazingly friendly people, great pools, La Ribera was excellent to eat at and far superior to Andreas, their higher end restaurant....the chef even made Paella especially for us and we had so much food, we ate it again the next night...our dinner at Andreas was remarkably unexceptional except for the price...we both had tuna steak (?) Which was a 1/4 " thin of overcooked fish..a slice of tuna rather than a steak...our friends had the ribeye which seemed to have been cut wih the same slicer at 1/4" thin...THE BILL was $100+ for 2 people and IMHO, the salad bar and overall experience at La Ribera was so far superior! With a view of the bay.
Again, the rooms are very clean with housekeeping every day..we had a persistent mold smell that eventually went away and a great view of the water..the bed was comfortable but the sheets and furnishings including the chairs, cushions, towels had that "maximum use" commercial feel to them that made them functional but not overly comfortable. Not enough electrical outlets so bring a charging bock with multiple USB ports.
The beach was great but a warning...two guests were stung by stingrays while swimming...one was allergic to the venom and went to the hospital(he was on the beach the next day) ,
The other was not allergic and just took some antibiotics..very painful though
There are also many vendors selling the same stuff but after a while, they know you and and just say hi. Get an hour massage on the beach for $30 US ...my wife had two and loved it.
This is a smaller complex so we never felt overwhelmed by the crowds. Hats off to Carlos, Jacinto, Gonzalo, Herberto and all the staff who made this a great vacation.
The Velas Vallarta Kids Club keeps the little ones busy from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with juggling, arts and crafts, sand sculpting, face painting, water balloon combat, treasure hunts and much more. There's also a small playground with a slide and swing near the kids' pool. While the children keep busy, you can opt for one of the classes offered daily, like yoga on the beach, water aerobics, beach volleyball, beach walks and daily Bingo. An added bonus is that there's waiter service around the pools, so you don't have to leave that thick novel to keep hydrated.
A tennis pro is on property if you want to improve your swing. Across the street from the resort is the Marina Golf Course and the resort runs complimentary shuttle service to and from it daily. Set up a tee time and the hotel is happy to shuttle you 25 minutes into the hills to sample the Jack Nicklaus-designed Vista Golf Course. Also ask about the three-hour city and cultural tours. Free to all families, the city tour will take you to the Malecon and other sites around town. The cultural tour is great for families, showing kids a sombrero factory and a place where they make homemade tortillas.
If you're here from November through March, you'd be wise to get on the water and go whale watching. Humpback whales are often spotted breaching the waves and Pacific-nosed dolphins can be found frolicking in the surf. Also inquire about horseback riding at nearby ranches up in the hillside. Not merely a stroll around a corral, the ranches will bring you into the countryside to a hidden waterfall or river, giving you an authentic Gaucho feeling.
Other onsite activities include nightly entertainment, such as music, dancing and karaoke, and spa services and book exchanges.
Start each morning at Andrea Restaurant, just off the lobby. The large breakfast buffet features a vast assortment of fresh fruit, cereals, yogurt, smoothies, eggs, omelets, bacon, and sausage. For lunch, there's a poolside snack bar serving sandwiches, burgers, chicken and salads. Or stroll over to the seaside restaurant, La Ribera for their selection of steaks, seafood, pizzas and salad. All restaurants offer a la carte menus along with the buffets.
For dinner, Andrea serves Italian fare most evenings, along with a weekly French night and weekly Asian night. A sprinkling of the choices on the Italian menu includes fresh grilled fish, pastas, osso bucco, and caprese salad. La Ribera is a steakhouse at night, offering a sampling of Spanish fare. Expect rib eye, New York strip, grilled mahi mahi, veal, and scallops in a garlic sauce. They also serve pizza for that finicky child.
Don't miss the Mexican fiesta in the ballroom off the lobby every Sunday. Mariachis serenade diners as you choose from such authentic food as fajitas, quesadillas, burritos, chile relleno, and addictive homemade guacamole with chips.
If you're heading off-property, we really enjoyed Margarita Grill in Old Town. Dine al fresco while listening to the sounds of Flamenco guitarists. Then dig into the homemade guacamole and salsa, made tableside, fajitas served with warm tortillas, pork and pineapple tacos, even a selection of Italian choices like fettucine alfredo for the child who won't eat Mexican.
For adults, enjoy cocktails and beverages at the poolside Aqua Bar or the Alhambra Lobby Bar. Kids can snack on hot dogs and hamburgers at Aqua Bar, too.
Room service is also available 24 hours a day.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
As soon as you arrive in the oversized lobby of the Velas Vallarta and a glass of cold guava juice is planted in your hand along with a cool face towel, you realize the service is excellent. This stems to the restaurants and wait staff around the pools. The employees are gracious and seem happy to be here, curious to know where you're from and what are some of your favorite Mexican foods. They were especially ebullient with the kids, easily engaging them in conversation. Don't miss the three-hour Cultural Tour, which gives you an authentic feel of Mexican life.
The Art of Smart Timing
Come to Puerto Vallarta when you need a dose of sunshine and warmth. In winter, the temperature averages 82 degrees, while in summer the mercury can reach close to 90 degrees. Summer is also the wet season, when torrential downpours usually happen at night. It's also the time of year when rates are reduced dramatically, though don't expect the resort to be empty. This is a popular time of year for Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans to visit Puerto Vallarta. Whale lovers will want to come here in winter to see the humpbacks.
Velas Vallarta is less than a five-minute drive from the international airport, with a reasonable set taxi rate.
For Mom and Dad
Many of the counselors at the Kids Club double as babysitters at night. That frees you up to grab a taxi and walk the Malecon hand-in-hand. Then sneak into La Chata for tasty Mexican food, washed down with strong Margaritas. You'll be dancing the meringue by the end of the night.