An unusual combination of five-star luxury and flat rate pricing makes the flagship Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort on Mexico's Pacific coast a real find for discerning families. As an all-inclusive, it has the unusual distinction of membership in Leading Hotels of the World and a AAA five-diamond rating – both attributes that caught our eye since even the best all-inclusive resorts tend to do things in a "mass market" way.
The Velas Resort Brand Guarantees Luxury
Mass market? Nothing could be farther from the truth at the suavely austere Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, the third from owner Eduardo Vela, whose fanciful larger-than-life bronze clown at the entry invites guests in to enjoy the "magic" of his brand. That it welcomes families is another huge plus.
Mr. Vela's other resorts are tucked strategically along Mexico's classic resort of Puerto Vallarta in the neighboring state of Jalisco (about 20 minutes' drive south of this property). His Casa Velas Hotel is a smaller, adult-oriented boutique property, perfect for golfers and spa-goers who enjoy tranquility combined with service. Many of the 80 suites have their own Jacuzzi tubs and the location at Marina Vallarta is great for couples who enjoy walking to fine dining and nightlife.
The larger Velas Vallarta Suite Resort & Convention Center in the town of Puerto Vallarta markets to conventions and families, with a kids club and special offers. It has more modest rates and a very good beachfront location on busy Banderas Bay.
There is, as well, a fourth resort, an all-inclusive beauty: Grand Velas Riviera Maya near Cancun, on the Atlantic coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The 491 suites, all 1,000 square-feet in size, come in three styles and price points. Ocean view suites with butler service, large terraces and plunge pools, are designed for families with kids 12 and older. There are also oceanview and garden-view family suites available in different configurations. Keep in mind that this luxury resort, an all-inclusive with great family faciliites, was rated #2 in Mexico by Travel + Leisure readers for 2011.
How the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Pleases Parents
Grand Velas didn't attract many families with younger children at our summer visit, but its sophistication would certainly delight older kids and adult children.
Truly deluxe décor and facilities blend Asian accents with natural woods, Caucasian rugs with Balinese rattan seating, and soaring stucco walls and skylights with towering public spaces for an overall austere effect. Each of the vertical resort's 267 suites is 1,000-square-feet, whether it's a Master or Parlor suite and, in a nod to families, many can be connected. All have an ocean view. Masters have a loft-like configuration, with two king beds and a seating area opening onto enormous balconies. The double bed-sized, mattress-topped chaises are a wonderful touch.
The better-suited-to-families Parlor suites have one king bed in a private elegant chamber, plus a living room with double sofabed (and rollaway if needed) for children who can be trusted with their own enormous LCD TV, MP3 docking station, DVD player, electric curtain remote, and liquor-stocked minibar. Bathrooms spare no expense in terms of toiletries, towels, marble and pampering.
The impressive Grand Velas Spa has been voted one of Mexico's best by Conde Nast Traveler, and its 20 beautiful treatment rooms and hydrotherapy areas contribute to that accolade. The 60 wellness treatments on offer are delivered by a highly trained staff, and the signature Huichol and Diamond treatments using indigenous ingredients have garnered their own awards.
How the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Pleases Kids
There are family spa packages that provide 25-minute massages for little princes and princesses ages 4-16. Younger guests are always welcome in the full-service beauty salon for a mani-pedi and other beach vacation essentials. All adult guests may use the spa's extensive wet areas (hot and cold plunge pools, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam and hydrotherapy) once during each stay without charge; fitness room, exercise classes and tennis are included in the all-inclusive rates.
Meals are served outdoors by the three infinity pools (one heated for winter season) in a grand palapa, at the international buffet or at one of three gourmet restaurants: Frida for Mexican, Lucca for Italian, and Piaf for gourmet French. The food is great — at Frida, we had a superb Mexican supper made up of dishes inspired by the journals of artist Frida Kahlo.
And Grand Velas really does try to make kids feel welcome. There's a lifeguard on duty at the narrow sand beach where, as along much of the Pacific Ocean, the surf can be rough. There's a staff-supervised MiniClub open daily for ages 4 to 12-years. A hotel representative told us it accommodates up to 40 young guests though, she added, "There are rarely so many children here." The resort's new Family Package prices include airport transfers, use of the expanded kids club, spa credits and other perks to lure families with younger children.
Teens will enjoy being left to roam the grounds (note that this is an all-inclusive resort and Mexico's drinking age is 18). We recommend periodic excursions into hip, happening Puerto Vallarta and a day with Vallarta Adventures, a local tour operator that arranges expeditions into local culture, eco-hiking, rappelling, canopy tours, boating, fishing and more. Flightseeing by helicopter and pirate boat parties are among the other nearby distractions.
Tips for Planning a Very Grand Velas Family Vacation
The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit (866/495-9902; +52/322-226-8000) is located at Paseo Cocoteros Lote 28, Villa 8 No, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit C.P. 63735.
Nightly all-inclusve rates run $$$ – $$$$$ for a double room sleeping up to two young children (ages 2-12 pay a modest premium), and include all meals and most activities, a top notch value for this wonderful location and level of service.
By the way, we recently learned that all the Grand Velas resorts are among the 4,000 resorts that belong to the RCI vacation exchange which makes them an ideal way to travel for families who own an RCI timeshare or can trade for one. Check out their availability through the RCI service and you may find even better deals on your Pacific Mexico family vacation.
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