To get to Nuevo Vallarta I took a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Dallas, Texas and then took a connecting flight from Dallas to Puerto Vallarta Airport (PVR). You can arrange a shuttle to pick you up from the airport through the resort you are staying at, which I did through Vidanta. I called ahead of time and it was nice to know that my transportation would be waiting for me at the airport. The drive to Nuevo Vallarta was about 30 minutes, and very direct. If you have not arranged transportation from Vidanta there were plenty of taxis to hire.
I found Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta to be a rather deceiving property, in a good way. You can see from the resort maps how sprawling the property is, but when you are walking around on the raised boardwalk pathways you get a sense that you are staying a boutique tropical retreat. The property is also dotted by several pools, including a “beach entry” pool with a water slide! Perhaps the best thing about the pools at the Grand Mayan was the lazy river that wrapped around the main pool area. With the lazy river you can float in tube around and around relaxing and soaking up the sun while staying nice and cool! The property is set right along a stretch of private beach where you can set up camp for the day or rent jet skis for an afternoon.
One of the most unique features of Vidanta properties is their dedication to sustainability and ecological preservation, as a result the beach here is home to very special property guests: baby sea turtles! In an effort to protect the native sea turtle population Vidanta has set up biologist run sanctuaries at several of their locations across Mexico. In the last 5 years alone, the Nuevo Vallarta sanctuary has ensured the release of 1.5 million baby turtles!
The room I stayed in at The Grand Mayan was a one bedroom suite which featured a spacious bathroom complete with a soaking tub! I also had a balcony which overlooked the pool and lazy river as well as the mountains across the Bahía de Banderas. The views during the sunrise were spectacular.
Getting around the property was a treat because you walk along these raised boardwalk pathways that meander through bamboo and jungle-like vegetation. It really immerses you into the natural environment and is unlike anything I have experienced at other properties. To ensure you don’t get lost there are directional arrows and maps at most junctions along the pathways!
I would definitely pack a few bathing suits. There are so many pools, and the beach access is so accessible, that you will be putting them to good use!
When I visited in August it was very humid, and despite being right on the water it was not particularly breezy. During my week stay it was sunny every day except for one afternoon where there was a big thunderstorm that lasted through the evening.
There are so many different things you can arrange through the property, and the concierge team is lovely to work with. One of the days I spent an afternoon in the city of Puerto Vallarta. I arranged a taxi through the property, and after about a 40 minute drive I arrived at the port city. Puerto Vallarta is home to the Malecón – a mile long stretch of oceanfront walkway with storefronts, restaurants and bars. Right along the pathway are several iconic statues, which many people have come to associate with the destination. My favorite was the dancing couple!
During this trip I was able to enjoy one of the best excursions I have ever experienced. If you get the opportunity to visit Islas Marietas, do not hesitate is saying, ‘yes!’ This was far and away the chance of a lifetime and you won’t regret it. After a little more than an hour boat ride west, off the coast of the Vallarta, you reach Islas Marietas. The island is very rocky and is home to what seems like thousands of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. As you approach the island these distinct birds can be spotted gracefully diving alongside the boat into the water at great speeds.
Once you reach the island your guides give everyone on board the choice between two excursions: a nature tour of the island or a trip to the secret beach. I chose the trip to the hidden beach, aka Playa Escondida. After getting into a smaller boat and a quick, but thrilling guided swim through a cavernous tunnel, you will emerge on the other side to a fantastic hidden beach! Playa Escondida is only accessible for a brief amount of time each day, as the tunnel you have swim through to reach it becomes inaccessible due to the tides. The beach is also a protected landmark, so the number of people allowed to visit each day is limited.
Pro tip: If your excursion to Islas Marietas will let you upgrade to visit Playa Escondida, or hidden beach, DO IT! Truly an unforgettable experience you will not want to miss.
What activities would you recommend to someone visiting for the first time?
If you are visiting this property for the first time I would recommend checking out the nightly entertainment at Santuario. The programming for this venue changes every day so each night you will get the chance to experience a new performance. I would also recommend the lazy river for those traveling with kids, or even for those who just want to relax in the current!
One Mexican dish I was introduced to on this trip was chilaquiles. It is made with corn tortillas which are lightly fried and then quartered, covered with a layer of salsa and then topped with cheese, shredded chicken and an egg. I had this dish at breakfast and each day the buffet had a different variation of the dish, sometimes with red salsa, sometime with green, once instead of chicken there was refried beans – but every time I had it, they were delicious.
Vidanta is not an All-Inclusive property, so meals and drinks are not included with your stay. There are many restaurants to choose from including a wide range of dining styles from the more casual buffet style or grab and go, to higher priced steakhouses and specialty restaurants. My favorite meal at the property was at Azul, which means blue in Spanish. This is the high end French inspired restaurant on property and is located on the top floor of the centrally located Plaza, which also houses shops, a gallery, and food market. Azul has, in my opinion, the best views on the property and my dinner there during sunset was spectacular. Nightly the restaurant hosts a pianist who will play classical, as well as familiar tunes, like the theme from La La Land. The highlight from my meal here was the dessert. Your waiter will let you choose your dessert from an actual dessert cart so you can see all the choices laid out before you make your decision. It was hard to pick just one!
Who is this resort/destination best suited for? (Family friendly, for couples, friends/group trip etc.)
Because this property has so much to offer, it is really a resort for everyone in your group. Whether you are traveling with kids, with your friends, or you are looking for a couple’s getaway, the property caters to all types of travelers.
Any fun facts about the area you can share, or something you learned?
One of the best on site activities you can do is taking the Heart of Vidanta Tour. You will learn a little about the operations that go on behind the scenes, meet with the master chocolatier, and sommelier (wine specialist) and learn about how the Vidanta properties are aiming to lead the way in sustainability.
Pro Tip: Vidanta has a fantastic app that will help you out in so many ways, do definitely download it before your trip! You can make reservations and even order room service through the app. The app also provides up to date programming schedules for activities and on site entertainment. My favorite feature was the map; you can type in the restaurant you are going to and it will give you the most direct walking route to that location.
Anything you must do or see?
Three things you must do when you go to Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta:
I loved that this property really catered to “choose your own adventure” approach to vacation. If you wanted to spend each day basking poolside (at a new pool every day!) you could. If you wanted to enjoy a round of golf on a premier course, you could. If you are the type of traveler who enjoys immersing yourself in the culture of an area, getting to the city of Puerto Vallarta could not have been easier. If you want to fill your time with excursions like whale watching, or snorkeling there are many options available. And if you wanted to relax your entire vacation and indulge with spa treatments, you could do that as well. No matter who you are traveling with or how you like to travel, Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta has got to be your destination of choice.