Riviera Nayarit Hotels And Resorts

Author: Kyle McCarthy

Tags : All-Inclusive Resort, Baby, Beach, Couples, Family-Friendly Hotels, Golf, Kids, Kids Club, Mexico, Multigen, North America, Resort, Spa & Wellness, Teens, Tennis, Watersports

FTF looks at the top family resorts in Pacific Mexico's newest destination, the eco-friendly state of Nayarit.

The mountainous Riviera Nayarit region in the state of Nayarit extends north more than 150 kms from the purpose-built, gated resort of Nuevo Vallarta to the rustic surfers' paradise of San Blas. Unlike the sparkling Caribbean on Mexico's east coast, the more natural Pacific beaches have coarse gray sand and an active ocean fed by silt-laden mountain streams. Created by tourism marketers to distinguish it from the over-developed resort town of Puerto Vallarta, eco-conscious Riviera Nayarit has a scattering of oceanview hotels and hundreds of recently built and under-construction condominiums – in every price range. Here's a look at some of our favorites for families, organized by budget. Note that many more all-inclusive hotel projects are in the works for late 2009 and 2010. For more general information on the region, surf to www.visitnayarit.com.

Best for the Budget

Marival Resort & Suites
Blvd. Nuevo Vallarta y Paseo Cocoteros S/N
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 63735
52/322/226.8200; 773/685-3929 (USA)
All-inclusive room rates per adult: $
This French Canadian-owned resort is one of the most attractive all-inclusive properties along the Pacific Riviera. Built during Nuevo Vallarta's birth in the 1980s, it has recently been renovated and redecorated. Low-rise buildings within landscaped grounds comprise 495 rooms: 277 off-white guest rooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, all with marble floors, large TVs and a crisp international style. Double rooms are extra spacious with two double beds, a large balcony and -- in addition to complimentary room service -- a coffeemaker and free minibar stocked daily with sodas, bottled water and beer. (The Club and Gold wings housing timeshare units have other perks for owners.) Family-friendly one-bedroom suites designed for two adults and three kids have a living/dining area with a pullout queen-size sofabed, two bathrooms and a microwave and fridge. (Reunion planners will love that three-bedroom suites sleep up to six adults and three kids under age 12, or up to eight adults.) Don't plan on cooking. In addition to the well-stocked buffets, there are four a la carte restaurants. We dined at both the Italian Bella Vista and the Mexican Las Palomas, and had excellent meals and gracious service. Watersports take place at the large rambling pool (resort scuba course given), kiddie pool with slide, and at the broad sand beach. The Iguana Kids Club operates daily year-round, with trained counselors leading the 4- to 12-year-olds in crafts, games and other activities. Teens have an X-Box arcade, rock climbing and archery classes, and access to the disco until 10pm nightly. Children's rates apply to kids 17 and under; great style and service for this price, with more condos on the way.

Occidental Allegro Nuevo Vallarta
Paseo de los Cocoteros No. 18
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 63735
52/322/ 297.0400, 800/713-2032 (USA)
All-inclusive room rates per adult: $
Among the budget options, the chain all-inclusive Occidental Allegro provides more services than some of its competition. In this large pyramidal style complex are 294 rooms attended by 325 staff; one buffet and one Mexican/Italian specialty restaurant; a disco (kids' hours from 8pm-9pm); an activities staff that was organizing salsa lessons, ping pong, archery and pool games at our visit; and enough repeat business for the resort to stage a group photo each week to honor guests coming back for their second or greater visit. One fun touch is the colorful Flea Market of local crafts and jewelry vendors organized by the hotel. The plain Kids Club isn't air-conditioned but it does offer a VCR and movies during the mid-day heat, school desks and lots of toys, and will accommodate up to 25 kids from 4 to 12-years-old per shift. The Fun Club staff lends boogie boards as well as books and board games, cues for shuffleboard, and horseshoes for the lawn games. Colors are as vivid as Frida Kahlo paintings and though the six stories of rooms are on the small side, the standard rooms with two doubles, coffeemaker, hairdryer, ironing board setup, phone, TV and small seating area will accommodate a family of four. A few surprising luxuries – a small massage center, business center and room service at breakfast – add to the value here. Children ages 12 and under stay free.

Villas Varadero
Retorno Nayarit Lote 83 / 84
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 63732
800/238-9996 (USA)
All-inclusive room rates per adult: $
Located near the huge Mayaland complex of hotels and condos is an older white stucco hotel known for its Mexican residential feel and apartments with kitchenettes. With a choice of all-inclusive or European plan (breakfast only), we'd recommend Villas Varadero to those who don't plan to spend much time around their resort. Attracting Mexican families, foreigners on a tight budget, or big-hotel haters, there's nothing fancy about the small worn pool, lobby or ordinary buffet, and services are very limited. However, the gray sand beach is broad and kept clean, and rooms are spacious and well maintained. Renovated ones offer a dramatic floor-to-ceiling ocean view (blackout shades can be pulled down from above, or pulled up from the floor) and boast a bar counter with stools against the window wall that provides the ideal place to be at sunset. Standard rooms have two doubles or a king bed with double sofabed; better value are the apartments with stocked kitchens and dining areas. Note that the elevator doesn't stop at all levels so families with mobility issues should reserve their room accordingly.


Moderately Priced Resorts

Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa
Carretera Punta de Mita Km. 11.5
Bahia de Banderas, Nayarit,Mexico 63734
52/329/226.99.00, 800/716-3372 (USA)
All-inclusive room rates per adult: $-$$
This resort differs from others in Nuevo Vallarta because of its dramatic cliff-top site above the Pacific's pounding surf. Below, a trained lifeguard keeps a watchful eye on guests who are swimming, occupying the hundreds of chaises, or lounging around the rock grotto bar. Above, an infinity pool and pleasant sundeck provide different levels of activity, ideal for parents who want a little peace and quiet. Palladium does have style; there are reproduction Huichol tapestries hanging in public areas and a small zoo with a few monkeys, deer and ostriches for kids to admire. The Renova Spa and gym are small but families will enjoy the service at three a la restaurants – a nice break from the palapa-shaded dining room seating 800 where lines can grow long. A large sports bar off the lobby serves fresh pizza, billiards, lots of beer, and a big screen TV for convivial viewing till 2am. The Palladium's Mini Club meets in a towering, air-conditioned palapa with clothes racks of fun costumes for the nightly shows. Accepting kids ages 4-12 each day of the year takes a toll; it's worn inside but has an outdoor playground and climbing structure for little ones. Since it opened in February of 2007, the Royal building has had a separate check-in, heavy-duty concierge staff, somewhat larger rooms, and even more marble and glitz. That, plus the fact that an MTV crew bunked there for two months while filming a new reality series set in Nayarit, impressed our teen enough to justify the US$30/N premium. (Note: kids are not accepted in this exclusive wing during the busy winter season.) While public spaces are grand and studded with marble and mirror, the 400+ original rooms are simple doubles with attractive marble baths and sleeping room for four. Beyond modest adult rates, you'll only pay US$25/N for each child age 7-12 in the low season; kids under 7 years are free.

Paradise Village
Paseo de los Cocoteros No. 1
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 63732
52/322/ 226.67.70
1 BR Rates: $-$$
This is the largest complex within Nuevo Vallarta, a 350-hectare property that encompasses a golf course with country club and a separate recreation center, a marina, four hotel towers, countless condominiums, freestanding villas, an amphitheater for occasional performance or private events, convention center, mall with food court and supermarket. Of most interest to families are the hotel towers that comprise over 700 junior, one, two and three-bedroom suites. Tikal Tower houses the main six-story atrium lobby and reception area draped with silk flowers, as well as large murals depicting famous Mayan archeological sites. Most guests book the apartment units only, but this ultra-full-service resort does offer a moderately-priced meal plan for those who never want to leave. Décor ranges from neutral tones to recently renovated rooms in the new Coba Tower with rattan furnishings, nature prints and pale greens; we saw #3635 which was a very spacious three-bedroom penthouse sleeping eight with a large balcony overlooking the whole village and marina. The one-bedroom units come with a king bed or two doubles in the master bedroom, living room with queen sofabed, a large balcony, full kitchen and dining area for four; that's the suggested occupancy.

There are nine restaurants in the area, small palapas shading chaises along the spotless beach, and a few main pools with activity directors and fun crocodile-shaped slides for kids. Activities range from parasailing to bicycling (helmets available too) to the Mundo Loco arcade for teens, tennis lessons and poolside games, a kids' club for ages 4-12 that's open daily for crafts, magic shows and resort play; and a “no touch” zoo for 11 newborn tiger kittens, several monkeys, parrots, and a few cougar. Among the newest facilities are the golf course club a second branch of Paradise Village's Palenque Spa, and the El Tigre Sports & Racquet Club which boasts multiple squash courts, a full size gym with basketball and competition volleyball courts, eight outdoor tennis courts, large pool, restaurant and an enormous indoor playspace devoted to ages 4-10 and their guardians, who want to bounce around the two inflatable “moon rooms,” rumble on the padded rubber floors, or climb on the jungle gyms. Currently under construction are a church, hospital and soon, an assisted living complex with medical staff for retirees from the many countries who flock to Nuevo Vallarta each winter.

Playa del Sol Grand
Blvd. Costero 800 Sur. Frac. Flamingos
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit. Mexico
52/322/226.10.50, 888/486-9107 (USA)
1 BR Rates: $-$$
The tall palms, tidy lawns, dense foliage and infinity pool make this small and intimate resort appear much more established than its 2004 pedigree. The cozy lobby, dominated by a pyramid-shaped palapa supported by vine-crusted tree trunks similar to those seen in the nearby forests of Nayarit, is an introduction to the jungle prints and patterns used in the room décor. The 166 rooms are compact suites with kitchenettes or, even better, one bedroom suites with a double sofabed in the living room and a master bedroom with king size bed. Microwaves, minifridges and coffeemakers handle snacks and small meals; bathrooms are spacious enough to accommodate lingering teens. Note that cribs are permitted but otherwise the maximum occupancy of four is enforced in the one bedroom suites; no rollaway beds are available. Tan concrete buildings are spare and contemporary, with elevator access but no specific accessible facilities for the handicap. The small kids play palapa provides shade and arts n' crafts free to about 10 children at a time; ages 4-12 are welcomed daily here and in the spotless sandbox, year round. There's a buffet, and two bars and two restaurants; optional meal/beverage plans are available and kids under 6 stay and dine free. This small and intimate resort is unlike many of the area's all-inclusives because it's so quiet; facilities are limited but plenty for the small family who want to explore the area and dine around at some of the town's well known restaurants.

Villa del Palmar Flamingos
Paseo Cocoteros 750 Sur, Flamingos
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 3732
52/322/226.81.00, 877/845-5247 (USA)
1 BR Rates: $-$$
This Mexican-owned hotel is an elegant choice for families who avoid all-inclusives, because it has enough facilities to entertain kids but not too many to keep you from exploring the beautiful state of Nayarit. From the native Huichol Indian inspired tapestries and gurgling fountains of the lobby (a popular spot for its wireless internet access), to the Moorish style cupolas, earth-tone tiles, marble floors and stucco walls, there's a strong sense of place. The 275 large one-bedroom suites with full kitchens are really a home away from home, with all the needed cooking utensils plus a washer/dryer. The master bedroom hosts its own large Jacuzzi that leads directly into a bathing area with tiled walk-in shower, separate toilet room and dressing area; living rooms have tables seating four (the room's maximum occupancy), a balcony overlooking the sea or gardens, a comfortable sofa and a separate queen Murphy bed folded into one wall. Additionally the resort has an excellent Italian restaurant serving three meals including an international breakfast buffet; a poolside pizza parlor and trattoria; deli and a mini-market for groceries. Other facilities include a small, attractive spa with 14 treatment rooms, a basement fitness room and a kids club. The neighboring Villa Estancia will have three condo towers when it's completed by 2008, but our preview of tower one's three-bedroom apartment (we saw #1201) was stunning Рlarge and elegant, these units have a more Spanish Colonial d̩cor with wrought iron gates, contemporary art, carved woodwork, LCD TVs and a large living room and dining table seating 8. The three-bedrooms sleep up to 8 adults and 2 children; there are one and two-bedroom units as well that the hotel rents when the condo owners are not using them.


A Bit More & Worth It

Costa Azul Adventure Resort
Km. 118, Carretera 200 Amapas y Las Palmas
San Francisco, Mpio. De Bahia de Banderas, Nayarit, Mexico
52/311/258.41.20, 800/365-7613
Room rates: $$-$$$
It doesn't have the wide-ranging facilities of its larger neighbors in the planned community of Nuevo Vallarta, but that's what makes this small, somewhat isolated, oceanfront hotel so special. With only 27 simple but spacious rooms facing out to the sea, and a large lawn and pool that are the center for the active kids' club and organized recreation, Costa Azul offers an alternative for families looking for a more “Mexican” vacation. There's only a main thatched palapa that provides shelter to one restaurant, a small spa under its own palapa, and the broad brown sand beach that attracts surfers during the fall. The kids program for ages 4-9 meets at the main palapa daily to play; babysitting is available as are off-campus activities such as horseback riding, snorkeling, fishing and other “adventures.” Several California surf clubs call Costa Azul their home base and the resort can arrange for beginners ages 15 and up to get lessons. Room 118 is typically simple, with two double beds and two built-in seating areas that can become single beds to accommodate a larger family. For privacy, request the one set of connecting rooms, or one of the four small freestanding villas with kitchens across the street, where up to two bedrooms are available. The hotel is about a half-hour north of Nuevo Vallarta in the town of San Francisco (or San Pancho to the locals), a place with many small boutiques, good restaurants and a strong ex-pat community that guarantees a supply of internet cafes, coffee bars, and foreign newspaper stands.

Vallarta Palace
Paseo de los Cocoteros No. 19
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico 63732
52/322/ 226.8470, 800/635-1836 (USA)
All-inclusive room rates per adult: $$-$$$
Like many of the Palace chain's other Mexican resorts, this Palace is very contemporary in design: the Zen of stark white billowing canvas shades and glass walls contrasts with mahogany furnishings and bold colored vases, modern art and fruit bowls. Attractive and luxurious, this is a largely climate-controlled experience for families who want to ensure the maximum comfort level in this tropical region. The Club des Ninos for ages 4-12 is air-conditioned, carpeted and well-stocked with games, computers and staff who provide private babysitting for younger guests for a fee. From the elegant lobby bar with live music nightly, to each wicker and marble guestroom with its own Jacuzzi (in full view of the two double beds), fully stocked and replenished minibar with liquor, 24-hour room service, bathrobes and fine toiletries, the Palace spells class. Our favorite of the region's spas is oceanfront, with indoor and outdoor treatment rooms, plus state-of-the-art massage chairs with a floor-to-ceiling view of the waves – this is where pedicures are given. Along with the above-average, international buffet fare are kid-friendly snack bars and three a la carte places. Interestingly, the bars and clubs are shuttered here at 1am, ensuring the family atmosphere. Most rooms, however, are not configured to offer privacy, so many families will prefer one of the 16 one-bedroom suites with sofabed in the parlor, or connecting rooms that offer teens another bathroom. The Palace is also well set up for the mobility-impaired because all the interior and exterior tiled floors are treated with a slip-resistant surface, there are three handicap-accessible rooms, and large elevators connect all the towers.