During winter breaks, our family has historically tended toward ski and snow activities, traveling with our kids (now ages 10 and 11) to meet up with our close family friends and their children of similar ages to our offspring. So time off typically meant a multi-family trip to the mountains. But after our amazing experience at the all-inclusive, family-friendly Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort last summer - which we raved about incessantly in the ensuing months - it didn’t take much coaxing for my husband and I to convince our friends to book a warm-weather winter vacation this year instead. This time around, we were excited to escape to one of the resort’s four sister properties - the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
Location, Location, Location
Nestled at the base of the Sierra Madre Mountain range, the Riviera Nayarit offers nearly 200 miles of sun soaked beaches, bucolic fishing villages, nature preserves and colorful culture. Adored by both locals and visitors alike, the region offers much in the way of world-class cuisine, golfing, ocean activities and luxury resorts - the crown jewel of which we believe to be the incomparable Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
Tucked into the northern edge of Banderas Bay in Nuevo Vallarta with spectacular views of the Pacific, this premier luxury all-suite beach resort is ensconced in peaceful waterways, white sand beaches and infinity pools a short 25 mile drive from the popular travel destination of Puerto Vallarta. Each of the property’s 267 well-appointed accommodations (think goose down comforters and Balinese furnishings) are amenity rich, extremely spacious and characterized by the colorful Mexican art of the Huichol people. Many of its suites connect - ideal for families with kids or even multi-generational family members vacationing together.
In fact, as all-inclusive resorts go, the Grand Velas is hands-down among the best for families traveling with children 12 and under. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather not vacation where the only menu item is chicken nuggets and fries: but we knew from firsthand experience that the Grand Velas is a resort where there is something for family members of all ages - from its dining options, leisure activities and water sports to recreation and relaxation at its world-class spa. It’s worth a special mention here that Grand Velas’ culinary artists and renowned chefs work their magic on authentic gourmet dishes and casual fare at seven distinct and equally remarkable (including three AAA Four Diamond rated) restaurants (more on this later).
Grand Velas offers kiddos almost as many activities as are on the parent’s menu: sand castles to kite flying, kayaking, surfing, sailing, jet skiing, snorkeling, and their very own eco-shows. Open from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Kids Club and Teens Club truly offers playtime in paradise. Reserved especially for its young guests, the resort serves up an impressive, all-inclusive platter of activities for the kids to choose from in their very own 1,000-square-foot retreat (for kids ages 4 to 12) replete with storytelling, board games, arts and crafts, bingo, movies and more. Teens (ages 13+) enjoy their own space in a state-of-the-art 2,700-square-foot facility to partake in everything from healthy cooking classes, movies and foosball to Xbox and Wii. Each day’s worth of activities are tailored to the child’s age and interests, so there isn’t any chance of that dreaded phrase: “I’m bored.” Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Club is complimentary with the resort’s standard package, including dinner every evening and group activities that stretch well into the night hours.
We plunged into the sparkling waters of the Nuevo Vallarta beaches while the kids played soccer and went on treasure hunts. What freedom; the feeling of everything and everyone all being taken care of at once! We couldn’t have imagined the smiles when we all met up for lunch and poolside snacks at the Grand Velas’ Selva Del Mar, bursting with stories after a morning full of activity. Later, when they’d gone back for more (cooking classes! Live interactive shows with local wildlife!) and we had a round of kayaking in the Bay, we ate dinner at one of the resorts many world class restaurants. Be it French, Mediterranean, or the perfect taste of local artisan cuisine inspired by the deep roots of Mexican heritage at Frida, everyone can eat their fill of chef-inspired, innovative flavors at every meal.
The second-to-last day of our trip, we and our friends finally felt guilt-free enough to leave the littles behind for the afternoon to venture out to the Islas Marietas, an island chain most know by the fame of Jacques Cousteau. The sapphire waters met us with more calm than we’d had in years; snorkeling, freediving, and breathing in all the beauty we could possibly handle in one day. Knowing the kids were safely looked after and in the midst of creating kites and pinatas in the native tradition made our time that much more gorgeous.
With all that the Grand Velas has to offer in activities, amenities, services and dining, the delight of being there is ultimately of the atmosphere, and that comes down to two things: beauty and people.
While hospitality professionals are by definition friendly folk, the staff at the Grand Velas are authentically warm and welcoming. So much so that either the resort has found hundreds of matchless thespians dedicated to guest satisfaction (from the seamless check-in process upon arrival to 24-hour in-suite room service) - or the Grand Velas’ team truly enjoy being there. I believe it is the latter. At the risk of overusing the adjective in this article, guest service here is incomparable and the Grand Velas’ personal concierge service sets a new standard in hospitality excellence.
As to beauty, the Grand Velas Riviera Narayit is defined by a simply exquisite design with lovely spaces; starting with its majestic, tiered architecture opening out to panoramic views of the Pacific where the golden sand embraces turquoise waters, from the grand, fifth-floor open-air lobby to the well-appointed suites, you cannot escape a floor-to-ceiling sense of unrivaled beauty. And so at every turn you are inspired to tranquility and delight. Ultimately, that is how our family spent a few days away and what we’ll remember most – enjoying time together against what is arguably among the most resplendent of vacation destinations worldwide.
As the trip came to a close, and each of us sighed with regret, knowing we had to go home, we and our friends were already comparing calendars for a return trip to this inimitable resort on the sparkling emerald Bay. Or perhaps it’s time to think about coordinating our next vacation to one of the other (I’m sure equally incredible) Grand Velas properties.