David Alfaro Siqueiros No. 164, Col. Zona Hotelera Las Glorias, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
With two resorts on one property—the Secrets Vallarta Bay one adults-only and Now Amber Puerto Vallarta for families—the latest luxury all-inclusive on the Bay of Banderas is a slick, professionally run resort that will give travelers a reason to stay closer to the center.
Hard as it may be to believe, it's been more than two decades since a new large resort has opened in Puerto Vallarta proper. Most of the new construction has taken place in nearby Nuevo Vallarta or further north in the Riviera Nayarit. This new two-brand ambitious project is in the city limits though and is from the expanding Mexican chain running Secrets, Zoetry, and Now Resorts (plus Dreams and Sunscape further down the price range). It follows the expected all-inclusive formula of unlimited drinking, dining, and non-motorized activities, but in a far more upscale manner than most of the vacation factories along the coast. Liquor is top-shelf and brought to where you're sitting by attentive waiters and the a la carte restaurants far outnumber the buffet ones.
Only a few of these dining options were open when I visited as the resort had just opened that week: I was the first person to sleep in the room I checked into and the next day Mexico's president dropped by to inaugarate it and pose for photos. What I did try was consistently good though: a few breakfasts at buffet restaurant Carnival, dinner at the oceanfront seafood grill at sunset, and a selection of Thai dishes at the adults-only Pan-Asian restaurant with a sushi bar and tepanyaki grill. Also open on a rotating meals basis are a Mexican restaurant, an Italian one, a steak house, and another poolside casual place with kid-friendly items on the Secrets side. A nice coffee shop with strong java to go is a nice alternative for those who just want a shot of caffeine and maybe a pastry to start the day. Room service also runs 24 hours and this is included as part of the all-inclusive price.
Bars here are sedate affairs, either in the two lobbies with lots of sitting areas for socializing, or with small swim-up bars and lounge chair service. The one exception is the dance club, which is buried in a lower floor under a lobby so the revelers will not keep the early birds up all night. The bars are as well-stocked as any I've seen at an all-inclusive, with a selection several brands deep on most of what you'd want to drink.
The two towers of rooms are separated for the sake of giving adults some poolside peace, but adults on the Now Amber side can also dine on the Secrets side and vice-versa. You just have to walk through the lobbies or along the beach as the two are separated at the pool level. Complicating things further though, there's also a "Preferred Club" wing of rooms for both buildings. These are for upgraded guests who get dedicated concierges on the ground floor and fancy snacks laid out all day into the evening, with a private lounge.
Rooms are relatively similar throughout the property and depart from most seaside designs with a rather serious blend of rusts, bronzes, and tans on the Now Amber side, purples and golds on the Secrets side, against billowy white curtains and travertine marble floors. Most are junior suites with lots of floor space, a balcony with a view, and some well-designed bathrooms that open up to the room when desired but close off with a sliding door when not. (When open, you can soak in the tub while watching the sunset or looking at the sea.) In another welcome departure from the recent voyeuristic bathroom trend, the glass shower is frosted in right places so you're not on display while getting cleaned up. And the WC is in its own room with a door.
In a move sure to make most couples and families happy, every room has a double vanity, two bowls atop and ample glass counter holding a make-up mirror, hair dryer and quality Gilcrist and Soames toiletries. Too bad about the scent though: they all smell like eucalyptus, a scent most people associate with Finnish spas and cough drops, not a beach vacation.
Some of the junior suites come with their own whirlpool tub on the balcony. Master suites have double the space, with one section being a living and dining room with its own TV. These are on the corners, with furnished wraparound balconies that contain a plunge pool. Master suites also have walk-in closets, a larger shower, and a bathroom whirlpool built for two. This being a new property, you can expect iPod docks, DVD players with flat-screen TVs, and key cards that you touch to the lock to open the door.
The parent company AMR Resorts, is one that obviously doesn't believe in nickel and diming its guests at every turn. Fluffy robes are standard, towels are laid out at the pool without a silly card or sign-in system, minibars are stocked with soda and beer, and Wi-Fi that works well is gratis in public areas (an in rooms too for Preferred guests). They take it one step further though with an app you can download to your mobile device. With this you can divert room calls to what you're carrying and here's the real kicker: it allows you to make free VoIP phone calls not just domestically, but to your jealous friends and relatives back home as well. If you've got business to conduct, you can do it all while sipping a cocktail poolside. (That might be a better place to work anyway as desk chairs in the room are far from ergonomic.)
The pool complex isn't all that huge compared to some area resorts, but it has several pools of different depths and shapes on several layers spanning both sides of the resort. Some have a terrific view out to the beach. The beach here isn't as white and the sea isn't as clear as when you head further north to the Riviera Nayarit, but there is an ample one here for swimming, sunning, or walking.
Activities here are the standard all-inclusive fare if you're looking for that. A kids' club has scheduled activities and they'll even give you a beeper. You can use boogie boards, play tennis, work out in a fitness center, take yoga classes, and watch theater shows. Off-site activities available for an extra fee include nearby golf, fishing, and boat excursion possibilities. A scheduled shuttle runs to downtown Puerto Vallarta. There's a spa on site for relaxation treatments and babysitting is reasonable.
This is the first proper Puerto Vallarta resort to give the Nuevo Vallarta and Punta Mita ones any competition and apart from Garza Blanca on the southern end heading out of town, is the only one worth considering in the Jalisco part of the region.
Web Address: nowresorts.com/amber and secretsresorts.com/vallartabay
Total Number of Rooms: 500
Published rates: $304 to $1,234 double all-inclusive
Review and photos by Timothy Scott
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