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Well, it has been approximately 23 years since my last visit to Puerto Vallarta - SHAME ON ME! I find it interesting because I don't get a lot of client requests for Puerto Vallarta and I wonder if perhaps all these years I have just not been promoting the destination as much as I could have been. I can definitely say that I will be suggesting PVR to clients going forward.
My history with Puerto Vallarta has been the one long weekend stay in the early 1990's with my boyfriend at the time, it was my first visit to Mexico, so I think I might have been intimidated. We stayed at the Westin Camino Real which was located about midway between Mismaloya Bay and Downtown Puerto Vallarta. We did some shopping downtown & I was not really prepared for the bartering & the peddling of the locals with their goods. Since this first visit to Mexico, I have visited numerous times to other destinations and now just know that this is how it is. It's how it's supposed to be, I've also traveled to Mexico with my best friends who are part Mexican and seen the country through their eyes and now I LOVE Mexico! I have visited PVR a few times on cruise ports of call and have done a variety of excursions: swimming with Dolphins, Tequila tasting tour & a tour to the Mountains for a BBQ & poolside afternoon with other optional activities available. I had great times on all of these tours.
So here we are 2016 and I just returned from Puerto Vallarta from a 4 night stay. We flew non-stop on Alaska Airlines from SFO, arrived on time and walked through customs & immigration pretty quickly. Our prepaid transfer was waiting for us outside of the airport and even though we had a "shared transfers" booked with Pleasant Holidays & their local supplier Tukari, it ended up being a private taxi for the two of us. Super nice & friendly taxi driver giving us a little tour on our way to the hotel with plenty of suggestions of places to eat and shop.
We stayed at Secrets Vallarta Bay. I am a big fan of AM Resorts and the Couples Only brand of Secrets. This property sits right next door to it's family brand "Now Amber" and the two resorts share some of the facilities. Rather, I should say that the Secrets guests have full access to the Now property and adults staying at Now can access the Secrets property. So in essence, I can speak to both properties- they are carbon copies of each other and rooms furnished with the same high quality decorations. Plenty of restaurants from which to choose and since this is an all-inclusive resort, all of your food and drinks are included. We dined at the Mexican restaurant (Tamarindo), Teppanyaki at Himitsu, Italian Night at the Buffet (Market Cafe) & room service one night when we didn't feel up to going out (too much sun exposure during the day). Everything was excellent! Breakfast was usually the buffet if we got up early enough (which was twice) & lunch was by the pool every day (standard pool options: burgers, hot dogs, nachos, pizza).
They offer nightly shows- we ended up missing the shows because we'd wait for sunset and then go to late dinner, finish in time to be at the disco by 1030pm when the DJ would normally start (sometime between 10-11pm). We did catch the tail end of one show & then another night the "show" was a live band playing in the disco before the DJ but they were so good, we got the dancing started. I'm not sure if we were supposed to, but they were playing dance music, so we danced.
Each resort has 3 pools of varying depth levels, some with swim up bar and some with lounge chairs made of concrete where you can lounge in knee deep water. They sit on a beautiful beach and of course it's the Pacific Ocean so it's not that pretty crystal clear ocean you find in the Caribbean, but the ocean is still a beautiful place to be, regardless!
We had excellent service wherever we went throughout the resort. I had just began a new nutritional program a week before leaving and I wanted to try to at least have one of my shakes each day and they are best blended, so I went to the cafe and they had no problems mixing my shake with ice and coffee in their blender- it was perfect. Our first day, we made friends with our waiter Alberto by the pool and he was wonderful. We always tip our servers a little even though tips are included already in the all-inclusive price, we have found that though it's not expected it is definitely appreciated. We never had to hunt down a pool chair our entire stay, Alberto made sure we had two chairs in his section and on our last day he brought us a farewell dessert. We were really quite touched that he took the time to do that!
Now I wanted to visit one more property while I was in Puerto Vallarta and since I have recently visited the new Hyatt Ziva properties in two other locations, I wanted to see this one- the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta! We took a taxi to the resort and the on site travel industry representative gave us a thorough tour of the property. Interestingly, the Hyatt Ziva used to be Dreams Puerto Vallarta (an AM Resort) & prior to that it was the Westin Camino Real- so once again I return to visit a property that I've stayed at previously to see how it has been reinvented! I just find it funny that out of all the hotel resorts in PVR, the one I want to see is the one that I stayed at 23 years ago! In any case, as much as I do remember (or little) from my stay in the 1990's- the property is completely transformed.
This Ziva is smaller scale vs. the others and the beach is very secluded, so though the beaches are not private, this one is very hard to get to if you're not a hotel guest- so it really ends up being a private beach. They have 4 different pools, 3 that are infinity edge pools. They have an adult only pool since this is a family resort, they still respect that adults might want some space where kids are not allowed. There are two towers of rooms and we were able to see them both. The original tower has smaller bathrooms, but still much bigger from what they were 20 years ago and the room overall is huge, not all of the rooms have full balconies but they all have sliding doors that open- even if only out to a ledge the room is so large that it's almost like having a balcony when you use part of your room. The newer tower does have full balconies. All of the rooms face the ocean, lower floors have garden/ocean views and higher floors full on ocean views.
Several restaurants at the Ziva and their buffet is huge. I remember that from the other two Ziva properties in Cabo & Cancun, this buffet did not disappoint either. They have one night time venue it's a sports bar/disco/karaoke venue and actually a decent size in comparison to the resort overall. The spa at the Ziva is gorgeous and rated one of the top ten in Mexico.
I have no problem recommending this hotel to the right clients. A great family resort on a nice stretch of swimmable beach & a quiet adult getaway location for adults seeking a little hideaway place but don't mind running into the occassional kid here or there. I would have no problem returning to Puerto Vallarta and staying at the Hyatt Ziva, it's a beautiful resort. I think for our need for nightly dancing, we might be disappointed that we would not have a place to dance each night...but other than that, would love to stay here!
You can view my pictures of Secrets Vallarta Bay here.
You can view my pictures of Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta here.