Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The Proposition: All-inclusive properties have their detractors, sure, but Grand Velas—a AAA Five-Diamond Award-winning, 267-suite property overlooking the Pacific Ocean—silences them all. Fifteen minutes north of Puerta Vallarta on Banderas Bay, you’ll find world-class dining, a luxurious all-suite setup, one of the region’s best spas, and a host of activities and amenities.
You haven’t seen an infinity pool until you’ve seen the sun set over the one at Grand Velas, which looks like its melting into the Pacific Ocean. Its western-facing vantage point affords guests at the property’s suites—which are all equipped with ocean-view balconies—sensational views.
Once the sun sets, it’s time for dinner. Unlike some all-inclusive resorts, which offer an endless buffet of boring, uncreative options, Grand Velas serves truly gourmet, award-winning cuisine. The five restaurants scattered throughout the property (three of which earned a combined 13 AAA Diamonds for fine dining) run the gamut from refined takes on traditional Mexican flavors to Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
The daylight hours call for more activity, or less—depending on your preference. Relax at the 16,000-square-foot spa, which offers more than 30 European- and Oriental-style treatments in 20 treatment rooms. Try hot stone massage with local obsidian or pamper your skin with a coffee scrub and chocolate body mask. For adventure seekers, the hotel offers exciting reasons to get in the water, like windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming with dolphins. The lazy-but-you’re-not-crazy alternative: sunbathing on the beach. (www.vallarta.grandvelas.com)
One of the best parts about Grand Velas’ location on Banderas Bay is its unique position at the intersection of jungle and beach. The resort can organize excursions through the nearby jungle or immersive tours of nearby towns. Whale watching is popular in the winter months, when it’s common to catch glimpses of humpback whales and dolphins that flock to the bay to mate.
Named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, this AAA Four-Diamond restaurant is an exercise in fine, traditional Mexican cuisine. Choose from indoor and outdoor (ocean-view) seating, where you can indulge in grilled beef tenderloin and chickpea tamal in guava sauce or sea bass served with avocado, ancho and jalapeno chilies, and green tomato.