Many luxury travelers recoil at the thought of staying at an all-inclusive hotel, thinking of it as a vacation factory with routine buffet food, indifferent service, and ho-hum rooms. There is such a thing as a luxury all-inclusive, however, and in Mexico the best examples are three notable Velas properties: two in the Puerto Vallarta region and one in the Riviera Maya region.
I had the pleasure of revisiting Grand Velas Nuevo Vallarta last week and was just as impressed as I was a few years ago. If anything, the operation has improved, despite the challenging tourism environment the past year and a half in Mexico. The staff is polished and bilingual and the rooms are some of the most impressive of any resort in the region. At all the upscale Velas resorts the food is a big draw. I wasn’t able to eat at Frida, Piaf, or Lucca—all AAA 4-diamond a la carte dinner restaurants—but in this resort even what I sampled at the lunch buffet was amazing, especially the fresh seafood, ceviche, and quality wine from Chile. And no need to rush down to snag a poolside lounge chair in the morning: just reserve what you need through the pool concierge. When you arrive he’ll get your reserved chairs ready, bring water or whatever else you need, and even furnish a loaded loaner iPod if you want.
Casa Velas, situated next to a golf course (but with its own private beach club), is a more intimate affair. With only 80 rooms and no buffet meals at the restaurants, this feels like one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World that it is, but everything is wrapped up in one price, including excellent meals, bottles of wine, and top-shelf liquor. The Presidential Suite pictured here may be the best bargain in the whole region: $1,200 for two plus $300 for each additional guest. It sleeps up to eight in its four spacious bedrooms with private bath and there’s a huge terrace with a plunge pool. The rate includes not only meals and drinks, but a stocked bar, a round of golf, a private dinner, and a spa treatment.
Meanwhile, for the other coast, I snagged this dessert photo from this OMG! Yummy blog post on a stay at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. I can confirm from experience that the food is spectacular there—easily on par with any a la carte restaurants in the region.
With tourism in Mexico still way off from the level it was before the cable news networks started acting like the whole country is one big Ciudad Juarez, the Grand Velas hotels are frequently running deals that make them an undeniable value. All all-inclusives are not created equal and these are a in a different league altogether.