Paseo de la Marina Sur 205 Marina Vallarta
With a meandering shady pool complex, a roomy main building, and well–equipped renovated rooms, this original chain beach resort in the Marina area is still one of the best and most convenient in Puerto Vallarta proper.
A distinctive architectural design and stunning pool complex set the Westin Resort & Spa apart from other offerings in Puerto Vallarta's Marina area. This massive hotel with a timeshare compound on the side has great views along Banderas Bay and is one of the best-run large resorts south of Nuevo Vallarta on the other side of the airport.
The unique minimalist style of renowned architect Javier Sordo Madaleno evokes an atmosphere of surprises and grand spaces that stretches over several floors, with quality art pieces adding more visual interest. Vertical open beams and box–dotted curving that keep the sea breezes flowing welcome you upon check–in. Some of the original bright Mexican colors have been toned down in recent years and overall this property is looking more elegant than it did in its earlier days.
Beyond the airy lobby, the 14 acres of grounds and three towering pyramid buildings can feel overwhelming and challenging to navigate at first, but Westin's friendly staff will steer you in the right direction. The timeshare guests and hotel guests really only cross paths at the beach, so the hotel part is not as sprawling as it seems at first.
The biggest draw is the magnificent series of pools, complete with excellent palm tree shade coverage, comfortable (and plentiful) lounge chairs, and several clever tile pool lounges built so you can catch rays while staying cool. Waiters swing by to take food and drink orders and there's one pool for families that's right by the kids' club. Another pool is more adult-oriented, with a swim-up bar.
Out by the beach, there are more lounge chairs, some daybeds, and other beds on the grass that are beloved by the Instagram snappers seemingly posing more than they're swimming. It's a pretty scene for the pictures, but Westin's 300–yard stretch of coastline does not impress overall. This beach area right by the marina entrance is not as wide or as pristine as some other areas around the bay.
The hotel used to make up for that at sunset when there was a Nikki Beach Club that rocked the night away like the company does in St. Tropez, Ibiza, and Miami. That's no longer here though so most of the drinking action is during the daytime from the bar near the beach. At night you'll have to venture out to other more hopping parts of the Marina zone for nightlife or head into the old city.
There are some great Puerto Vallarta restaurants nearby, but three good ones here that you can enjoy as well. The signature steak and seafood dinner restaurant Arrecifes felt a bit cavernous when I visited, the live music from a local duo reverberating around a large space seemingly ready for wedding receptions and group events to fill it. That was summer though, when the resort wasn't full and the weather was quite hot and humid. In the winter months the dinners move outside, closer to the water, with the twinkling Puerto Vallarta downtown lights in the distance.
We also had a good lunch at the main restaurant El Palmar upon arrival, then had to restrain ourselves during the lavish breakfast buffet in the morning. There are fresh-squeezed juices in individual Mason jars, an omelet and eggs station, local ladies serving up fresh tortillas and stews, and heaping tables of yogurt, fruit, and pastries. It's an inviting space between the main building and the pool area, with seating outside or in the air conditioning inside.
The last option for eating and drinking, besides poolside, is La Cascada near the lobby. It serves dinner in the evenings, with a bit more casual and international menu than Arrecifes, then becomes the main bar in the evenings. Located a couple levels up from the ground floor, it looks out on the forest of palm trees.
The well-equipped rooms are looking better than ever after a series of renovations. Marble tiled foyers give way to contemporary rooms furnished with plush Heavenly Beds, deluxe marble baths, and sleek furniture. Accommodations are spacious and comfortable, softened in a warm array of muted yellows and creams. Generous, furnished ocean view balconies with nice hardwood chairs are a perfect finishing touch, especially those offering up views of the Pacific Ocean or Sierra Madre mountains. Rooms on the lower five floors have partial ocean views, while those higher up showcase grander scenes, and often boast dual vanities, larger balconies and hot tubs.
All are ample in size, starting at nearly 600 square feet, with a king bed or two queens. Amenities include a safe, coffee maker, robes, big soaking tubs, desks, and TVs with channels in English. There's nightly turndown service, a complimentary shoeshine service, and room service is available 24 hours. This is one of the few Puerto Vallarta resorts that tacks on an annoying "resort fee" for things that should be included in the rates, but at least the nightly rates are reasonable most of the year and parking is included.
The top choice is the Presidential Suite, which offers a luxury villa rental feel with a hotel attached. It has nearly 3,000 square feet, with the best panoramic views from its extensive furnished terrace with a plunge pool, the deck running the entire length of the suite. Down a notch are the duplex Grand Suites (with a Jacuzzi on the balcony) and Junior Suites, all of these being on high floors with great views and extra lounge perks.
The resort's health club facilities are excellent, and include a "WestinWorkout" branded gym with lots of cardio machines with TVs, weight machines, free weights, and a spacious area for yoga classes, Pilates, spinning, and alternative workouts with balls and kettle bells. You can also pick up a running map supplied by New Balance and, for a small fee, rent workout shoes and clothing. There are also three lighted tennis courts on site at this resort with plenty of space. An 18–hole golf course is just a short walk or taxi ride away.
The full spa here makes the most of its clean lines and ample space, with seven treatment rooms, sauna, steam bath, and whirlpools. Massages run roughly $70 to $150, with several 3-in-one packages available that include a facial or body treatment. The spa also features a beauty parlor, nail salon, and waxing services.
This Westin is the best non all-inclusive for kid–friendly getaways. A well–developed children's program keeps little ones occupied with daytime activities and a spacious playground is conveniently located next to one of the pools. During hatch season, youngsters can participate in the hotel's turtle release program, and may be lucky enough to witness baby critters as they crawl out to sea.
The Puerto Vallarta Westin still offers single-use plastic water bottles in the rooms, but it does use pitchers of purified water in the restaurants and strongly discourages the use of straws. If a guest insists on having one, staffers give out eco-friendly straws made from avocado seeds. The parking area has four charging stations for electric vehicles.
While not as luxurious as the Velas properties, the Four Seasons further north, or Mousai to the far south, the Westin is a good solid bet in a convenient location, especially for those looking to earn or cash in Marriott loyalty points. The interconnected pools, which seem to flow almost as one among the exquisite landscaping and towering palm inlets, give this one the edge over other chain rivals and routine all–inclusives.
With a series of renovations in recent years and an experienced, well-trained staff, Westin's Marina Vallarta property is one of the brand's best in Mexico.
Web Address: Marriott Westin PV
Total Number of Rooms: 263
Published rates: $125 to $1,250 plus 20% taxes and daily mandatory resort fee
Review and photos by Tim Leffel