Recently, on a press trip for the grand opening of the Iberostar Playa Mita, the company’s newest hotel in Mexico and its first property on the Pacific at Riviera Nayarit, I enjoyed watching toddlers, kids, and their parents splashing in the infinity pool and building sand castles. It’s been a long time since I had a baby or child to travel with, but I remember it with great joy, and I thought how wonderful a family vacation here would be.
The family-owned, Spanish Iberostar Hotels & Resorts has been in the hospitality business for over 50 years and has garnered experience in what vacationers, specifically family vacationers, want and need. Comprised of about 100 hotels in 13 countries, their goal is to provide unique vacation experiences with superior customer service and quality. At the Iberostar Playa Mita opening event, Mr. Miguel Fluxa, Executive Chairman of Grupo Iberostar, noted that the company’s commitment to quality is what makes its successful -– with “42% of their guests returning to an Iberostar resort an average of five times.”
Iberostar Playa Mita – Fun in the Sun
Situated on a gorgeous stretch of Pacific beach north of Puerto Vallarta, and surrounded by the stunning Western Sierra Madre Mountains, the large but not crowded resort provides everything you need for a relaxing getaway. There are lots of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, to exercise, to relax, to eat and drink well, to enjoy nature, to be pampered, to learn about the local culture and to spend time as a family, as well as a couple.
This brand new resort is located in the region once inhabited by the Huichol Indians, and it pays tribute to their culture in the architecture, design and decoration of the property. Built in harmony with its surroundings, you can soak in views of the Pacific Ocean from almost everywhere on property. The Spa Sensations adult-only rooms are directly on the beach, but all the spacious rooms (many with two queens and many connecting) overlook the enormous pool area, landscaped grounds, or have angled views of the sea.
Activities & Entertainment for All Ages at Iberostar
With 320 days of sunshine per year, families can plan for lots of outdoor activities including splashing in the calm, protected bay, sliding in the poolside mini-waterpark, or swimming in one of three swimming pools. Pool hours were limited which our early risers found annoying, but there are many other options. Guests enjoy playing tennis or golfing at the waterview Litibu Golf Club, a Greg Norman-designed, 18-hole course that our golfer friends found challenging and scenic. There are three nearby golf courses for variety, as well.
At the resort, the Star Friends program of activities and games including yoga, beach volleyball, bike tours, dance lessons, aquarobics, and water polo is available throughout the days and the Litibu Theater offers live professional shows from 9:30pm to 11pm followed by disco dancing from 11pm to 3am.
Spa Sensations (not included in the price) is extensive. Unwind in the indoor plunge pool with hydrothermal features that pulse on your neck and back, and don’t miss the corner feature that envelops you in pulsing water –- it made me feel like I was in a washing machine -– but it was great! Additionally there is a sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi and private relaxation garden. Massages, including treatments with lavender oil, vanilla and cinnamon, or chamomile, are given in the spa and outside, overlooking the surf. Holistic techniques include Thai, Shiatsu, Tuina and Ayurveda.
Kids from age 11 can share a massage with tuty fruty oil and sugar, ice cream and mud, or a chocolate wrap with a parent.
The Welcome Mat is Out for Kids
When you want some time for the two of you, kids ages 4 to 12 can play in the Kids Club (from 10am to 5pm) and have a ball in their own Aquatic Playground and pool. The kindly and enthusiastic counselors all speak English, are trained in CPR and emergency situation protocols, and most have had previous experience working with young children. They engage the kids in games, crafts, fishing, tennis, Spanish lessons and more. Private babysitting can be arranged for US$15/HR.
Additionally, there is a Teen Club for ages 13 to 17 , open from 10am to 5pm and 8pm to 10:30pm, a Game Room and a Library, with internet access (also available in rooms).
Hungry or Thirsty?
The Nopal Buffet restaurant serves breakfast (its best offering), lunch and dinner. There are snack bars at the beach and Nopal re-opens for late night munchers.
Several bars (as well as the Cigar Bar) are located throughout the property. Room service is available 24/7, and, as with all other food and drinks, snacks from the in-room minibars are free of charge.
Four specialty restaurants including La Bahia Steak House, Pacific Express Gourmet, a good Mexican place and Tsuba (Japanese teppanaki) are open for dinner. Reservations are required (try to book as soon as you check in, because they get busy), but there is no additional charge for these meals.
Volunteering Opportunities at Entre Amigos
With 307 kilometers of coastline, Riviera Nayarit is a playground for sports lovers who enjoy surfing, diving, snorkeling, zip-lining, bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, whale watching, swimming with dolphins and more. Those interested in eco-tourism can visit an ecological coral reef sanctuary in Punta Mita declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, or sanctuaries for endangered birds.
We were treated to a few cultural excursions that the resort can arrange; I highly recommend that you ask them to.
Our first stop was in nearby San Francisco, known locally as San Pancho, an authentic Mexican town situated between beach and jungle. On a main street we visited Entre Amigos and met with Nicole Swerdlow, its Director and mother. As an expat who has a strong connection with the area, Nicole began this labor of love to give back to the people in the community. Referred to as a “community center,” it is really much more. Beyond the free public library, there are play areas, classes for children and adults in art, crafts, English, Spanish, sports, circus arts and more, as well as computers and internet access.
The facility, an abandoned warehouse, is a model of sustainable design. Their massive re-cycling effort has evolved into an eco-design workshop, and items such as jewelry, glassware, toys, art and lots of other cool stuff are available for purchase in their giftshop, and all proceeds support their projects. You can tour, volunteer, or donate gently used clothes and housewares to their re-cycle shop where local residents can purchase necessities for a small amount of money while supporting the projects as well.
Saving Indigenous Animals and the Native Indian Peoples of the Region
Adjacent to Entre Amigos, you will find the Alianza Jaguar where you can learn about the local jaguar population, and the organization’s goal to conserve and restore the health and habitat of the jaguar population in Nayarit. As America’s largest and strongest cat, the jaguar is associated with ancient Mexican civilizations and indigenous groups. In fact, the first thing you may notice when you check into the Iberostar Playa Mita is the huge jaguar head hanging over the reception desk, decorated in traditional Huichol Indian design, using 3,000,000 beads. No kidding.
Nearby, in the charming fishing village and surfing mecca of Sayulita, you can stroll in and out of interesting shops and galleries, dine at beachside restaurants, and watch or try surfing the amazing waves. One fascinating stop is the Galeria Tanana, named after the Huichol goddess of life. Here you can learn about the pre-Columbian Huichol people and purchase high quality hand-made native art such as yarn paintings, sculpture, masks, and jewelry. Having survived colonization by the Spanish, this group, now numbering 15,000, live in the remote mountains of Jalisco and Nayarit. In fact, it was their isolated mountain home that allowed them to endure, along with their cultural, spiritual and artistic traditions.
The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts, located in Jalisco, was founded by anthropologist Susana Valadez who is working to prevent extinction of this culture through education (both Spanish and native language, computers, nutrition, organic gardening and economic self-sufficiency) through the sale of their artwork at the Galeria Tanana. All proceeds from sales at this non-profit fair trade store support the work of the cultural center. The intricately beaded earrings, bracelets and necklaces are works of beauty, and available in all price ranges.
Trip Planning Details for an Iberostar Playa Mita Vacation
The 5-star, all-inclusive resort offers 308 rooms (most with sea views), 120 oceanfront junior suites, 18 adult-only spa rooms, two presidential suites and four handicap-accessible rooms all with WiFi, concierge service and 24-hour room service.
For those planning a multi-generation vacation or a family reunion, the resort offers 56 adjoining rooms to accommodate larger families and groups. Rates for a family of four during 2015 range from $$-$$$ per adult per night; $-$ per child including all meals, beverages, activities and entertainment. The winter, spring break and Easter holidays are high season here.
To arrange for your vacation here, visit the Iberostar website to look for seasonal family and kids-stay-free specials, or work with your travel agent.
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