The last trip I took to Mexico was so bad, I vowed never to return. However, when the opportunity to visit the Five Diamond, Leading Hotels of the World member, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit presented itself, I decided it was time to give our neighbors to the south another chance. And boy, I’m glad I did. For discerning travelers looking for more than a spring break type atmosphere for their Mexican vacation, Grand Velas delivers.
The resort, one of four owned by two Mexican brothers, brings the all-suite, all-inclusive experience to the luxury market. The resorts difference and its commitment to service start immediately when you arrive. Instead of going to a desk to check-in, you’re ushered into the expansive, open-air lobby and given a hibiscus water and cool towel and a representative brings the paperwork to you. With the logistics finished a team from the spa comes over to ask if I’d like a welcome neck massage. (Does anyone turn this down??) Talk about feeling as if you’ve arrived at your vacation destination.
With the relaxation scene set I’m taken to my suite which features 1,000 square feet of space, a sitting area, balcony overlooking the ocean, a king-size bed outfitted in billowy linens (there is a pillow menu!) and my favorite aspect of the room-the Jacuzzi tub. While the room certainly invites me to stay, the stunning infinity edge pool and beach is calling my name.
The pulse of the resort revolves around the water. For active travelers there is a daily kayak tour and water aerobics class, but the majority of guests seem content to lounge in the pools, relax at the swim-up bar or splash in the ocean enjoying the 80+ degree sea water. I also take pleasure walking along the beach and catching up on some reading and journaling sitting poolside. I didn’t ask, but I was told that if requested the pool butlers would go so far as to clean my sunglasses! I decided merely getting my drink was enough!
As an all-inclusive resort, drinks, snacks, meals, room service and all gratuities are included in the room rate. A point of pride for Grand Velas is that its three ocean-view specialty restaurants (open only for dinner) all hold four diamond awards and sampling each during a stay is a must.
On my first evening my group feasted at Frida, a fine-dining Mexican outlet. A highlight of Frida is the extensive specialty margarita menu. Try two of my favorites, the tamarind mint or cilantro coriander. Adventurous drinkers should sample the Huitalocoche Corn Truffle, a drink made from the fungus that grows on corn. The result is a completely unique flavor profile. From the menu don’t miss the Augachile Trilogy featuring tuna salmon and sea scallops to start followed by the Chilean Sea Bass or the Roasted Rock Cornish with Black mixteco Mole and an amazing vanilla plantain mash. Those with a sweet tooth will love the many Mexican chocolate offerings to choose from. The meal is complemented by the strumming of live guitar music.
We may be in Mexico, but Lucca brings the flavors of the Mediterranean to this coast. Choose from appetizers like Octopus Carpaccio, pastas featuring a trio of raviolis, risottos paired with shrimp and pancetta in a lobster sauce and mains like parmesan salmon or rack of lamb. At Piaf, French cuisine is celebrated in dishes like escargots, leek Vichyssoise, Grilled beef tenderloin and a variety of made-to-order soufflés for dessert.
During the day choose in-suite service from an extensive menu, including spa cuisine favorites or peruse the buffet selections at Azul, an open-air restaurant on the water. Snacks are available until dinner time at Selva Del Mar near the pool.
With all the amenities at Grand Velas it’s easy to never leave the resort, but if you get stir crazy and want to see some of the area opt for Vallarta Adventure’s Marietas Islands Eco-Discovery Tour. This day-long excursion brings you to Banderas Bay and to a small group of volcanic islands made famous by Jacques Cousteau. The area was made into a national park in 2005 and over 90 species of birds make their home here during the year. The boat trip wasn’t the typical booze cruise (although there was booze and we were cruising). Instead, during the trip to and from the islands we were entertained by a staff that loved to dance and sing as much as they loved to show off the natural beauty of the area. My favorite part of the tour was snorkeling through a cave to a hidden beach. There were also opportunities for kayaking, paddle boarding, bird watching and lying on a beach. Our group also saw many dolphins as we cruised, as well as an amorous turtle couple!
If you’re looking for a grown-up Mexican vacation, Grand Velas can’t be beat.