Puerto Vallarta's upscale all-inclusive gem
The sophisticated Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit shows what an all-inclusive resort can be. Grand Velas stands seaside on the northern edge of Mexico's Banderas Bay, about 25 minutes north of downtown Puerto Vallarta. It is home to spacious suites, five chef-driven restaurants, a grand full-service spa, and daily adventures for guests ranging from snorkeling to golf.
This well-styled resort — with its contemporary Mexican design and lush, colorful gardens — is everything you'd never expect from an all-inclusive.
Stay in one of the 267 one-, two-, or three-bedroom suites, which start at a minimum of 1,000 square feet and feature private balconies complete with Balinese teak furniture and sweeping views of the pool, beach and the bay. Living spaces include lounge areas, spa-like baths with sufficient space to accommodate in-room spa services and, in some suites, Jacuzzis and dining rooms.
The resort's 10 suite categories include 12 Wellness Suites, which debuted in October 2015. Check in to these two-story, 1,750-square-foot specialty suites to receive an alfresco in-room welcome massage, counsel from a personal spa concierge about treatments tailored to your needs, and an in-suite fitness kit including a yoga mat, dumbbells, resistance bands, and an exercise bike. More Wellness Suite bonuses include specialty Manos que Curan soaps and a nighttime Alchimia Apothecary aromatherapy kit to help ensure peaceful sleep.
Plenty of resorts claim to serve up world-class cuisine, but Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit puts its money where its mejilones (mussels) are. The luxury resort is home to three acclaimed restaurants: Frida, Lucca and Piaf. The trio of eateries offers an elevated, around-the-world culinary experience.
Fine Mexican-style fare is the star at Frida, where those mejilones come from the Sea of Cortez and are served with a delicate black bean salsa. Feel like having something light? Frida's tortilla soup is quite possibly among the best you'll ever taste. Lucca dishes out Italian and Mediterranean food with an updated twist, such as pillowy ravioli filled with seafood and goat cheese and served with truffle oil.
And at Piaf, you'll cry, "C'est si bon!" over French-inspired fare ranging from duck confit puff pastry tartlets to hazelnut-butter-marinated sea bass. Good food doesn't end there: Selva del Mar serves substantial pool snacks (citrusy ceviche, crispy calamari, grilled dishes and hearty sandwiches, to name a few), and Azul's vast breakfast buffet is loaded with international options that warrant several trips to the buffet tables.
If the resort's warm, powdery shore and steadily pounding surf aren't enough to chase away your worries, a visit to its sprawling spa should do the trick. Services begin with the Grand Velas Water Ritual, a hydrotherapy circuit that treats the whole body with water at varying temperatures and states, from steam to ice.
Choose from more than 30 holistic massages, facials and body treatments, or try something unexpected, like the Fire & Ice Treatment. It employs carnivorous plant enzymes and hot and cold elements to detox the body, burn fat, improve circulation and firm and nourish the skin.
Teens are also welcome, with three new 50-minute spa treatments that cater to the unique needs of the younger set: the Be Yourself Facial cleanses and hydrates, the Boot Camp Facial combats oily skin, and the Awesome Skin treatment is a combination wrap, mask and massage.
The spa is also home to a fitness center and salon, so you can hit the day's next destination looking and feeling totally refreshed.
And you might need a little help in that area, especially if you exhaust yourself trying to squeeze in all the adventurous activities the resort has to offer, including: fitness classes, bike tours, kayak touring, Spanish lessons, bocce ball, beach volleyball, scuba diving clinics, cooking classes and various theme nights (like salsa dancing) to keep you busy well into the evening.