Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Last month we finally got to head to Nuevo Vallarta, in Riviera Nayarit Mexico for a little fun and relaxation in the sun! I was kind of concerned that I may have pulled the trigger too quickly when booking this one, because I hadn’t done much research prior. When I checked Trip Advisor after the fact, it seemed like there were quite a few, not glowing, reviews. Here’s my feedback of our winter getaway:

Nuevo Vallarta–LOVE THIS PLACE! IMG_1716I think this is my new favorite destination in Mexico. Nuevo Vallarta is a small town just up the road from Puerto Vallarta and down the road from Bucerias. One thing I love about the whole area around Banderas Bay, is that it’s a conglomerate of numerous other small towns.  Nearby is Sayulita, which is known for it’s restaurants and souvenir shopping, the town of Yelapa is a small fishing village at the foot of the mountains and can only reached by boat, and the town I was dying to see, but ran out of time for, San Sebastian, which is a small, UNESCO World Heritage town frozen in the days of silver mining. Most of the towns were so beautifully colorful.IMG_1932Nuevo Vallarta was a part of Mexico that felt very safe. In the early morning hours, while on our balcony watching the sun rise over the Sierra Madre mountains, I would see people getting their walks or runs in on the street and sidewalks below. IMG_1727Our resort, which shared some of it’s amenities with a condo complex, was within walking distance to a farmer’s market, casino, and numerous restaurants. A lot of the snowbirds staying in the condos said they were able to walk or take a taxi to most places they needed to go.IMG_1736The local people were so friendly and accommodating. It seemed like everywhere we went, we had no trouble finding English speaking locals, which only meant my Spanish practice was again put on hold! Service, whether it be at the resort or in town or on an excursion, was top notch every where we turned. Everyone was just so nice, even those who wanted to step into the political discussions of President Trump’s policies.

We also befriended a couple of Canadian expatriates who were very elated to now be living there. They said that all they had to do to for temporary residency was prove that they had access to income the equivalent of 300 days worth of living at minimum wage (US$1400). For permanent residency, you would need to have an income the equivalent of 500 days worth of living (US$2,325). They had established a temporary residency and were living very comfortably in a 2 bedroom bungalow with all their monthly bills covered, along with the “typical” Mexican home conveniences of a cook, housekeeper, and a gardener. They were also in the process of establishing their own business of a fleet of sailboats for whale watching tourist excursions. IMG_1933They estimated that within 3 years their business would be thriving in the Mexican economy, especially with the good exchange rate of $19MXN to the $US1.

The only drawbacks on this trip, is that I wouldn’t consider the restaurants to be the caliber of the “unlimited luxury” that the resort boasts. The buffet restaurant was comparable to any other all inclusive resort and accurate to the Trip Advisor reviews–lukewarm and redundant food choices. The a la carte restaurants were pretty good–but, for instance, the steakhouse did not serve prime grade steaks–which is what I would consider unlimited luxury.

It was the little details that the resort was missing the target on. In contrast, I loved the soups served at the restaurants and you can read that post here.

The other disappointment in our resort was how the staff–almost all of them–kept pushing the “Unlimited Vacation Club” meeting. You can read more about that here. If the staff had spent half their time paying attention to the little details of the resort, instead of the time they spent trying to convince us to attend the meeting (we had already attended an AMResorts meeting last year in Huatulco). I may have been able to consider this a top of the line vacation. Who wants to be cooped up in a 2 hour meeting while on vacation? I don’t. And once I said no thanks, I really didn’t need to be asked again.

Would I return to Nuevo Vallarta again? Most certainly! In the future, I would like to spend about a month in the area, so I would have the time to see what I didn’t get to on this trip and get more familiar with the area. Would I stay in the same resort again? Uhhh, probably not. But I would consider renting one of the condos on the other side.

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Riviera Nayarit It Is!

I’m cold. It’s winter and I’m cold. Yesterday, we saw the temperature hover between 2 (-16C) and 12 (-11C) degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill factors of -10F (-23C.) For those of you who live in warmer climes, you have no idea how cold that is. When you walk outside even for a brief moment, you lose your breath!winter-3088579_1920

Thinking warm thoughts and listening to the reggae station are not warding off the cold. There’s not enough hot cocoa. We’re just going to have to head to the beach for a brief respite and to rejuvenate enough to get through the rest of winter.

I found a really good deal to Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta in Mexico. I know it seems like we spend a lot of time going to Mexico, but we can be there non-stop from St. Louis in 4 hours. Nuevo Vallarta is in the Mexican state of Nayarit, which is on the Pacific side and is a part of the country we’ve not yet visited before. The closest we’ve been on that coast is Huatulco which is 547 miles away, so not even very close.

I don’t yet know much about Nuevo Vallarta but I plan to do some research before we get there. It seems to be an up and coming area located between Puerto Vallarta and Bucerias, that is attracting the crowd that’s not interested in the hustle and bustle of Puerto Vallarta, but would like all the luxuries of a resort area.

It looks like there’s a lot to do in the area on land or in the sea. There are numerous small villages to be explored and shopped all within a 30 minute drive, and there are a lot of beach areas in Banderas Bay. Whether we want to spend the day on a secluded beach, check out some of the “walking beaches”, or even try our hand at surfing, there’s a beach for it. I’m also hoping that we can see some of the humpback whales who winter there, frolicking with their babies. (I just loved seeing the whales in Alaska, check out Juneau, Alaska.)

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Whale in Alaska

While the resort touts itself as an unlimited luxury all inclusive, which to me usually means great food, some of their Trip Advisor reviews beg to differ. Even though I only take the reviews with a  grain of salt, there is usually a bit of truth to them. I’m trying to keep in mind that the people who did not have a great experience tend to write reviews more frequently, and I’m hopeful the resort has worked out whatever kinks were getting in the way.

Would we cancel the trip or change resorts because of negative reviews? Probably not. Maybe if this were an important wedding, anniversary, or group trip I would reconsider going there. But this is just a mid-winter vacay for hubby and I. We’re pretty laid back and will roll with whatever we find at the resort.

If you have ever stayed at this Dreams and have anything negative to say, please post a review on Trip Advisor, don’t comment on this post. I’d rather go in as uninfluenced as possible and form my own opinion based on what we experience. If you have anything positive to say, feel free to do so in the comments.

Regardless, I’m cold. All I am really worried about is getting out of this cold and taking a break on the beach and seeing some of that side of Mexico. After that, winter won’t seem quite as long and I’ll be able to get through it better upon our return.

Tragedy in Huatulco

Well, not really a tragedy, but definitely a small scare.  After our mountain excursion which included hiking to the Llano Grande waterfall, I got to experience Mexican Medico care. I remember on the ride back to the resort, having an achy feeling on my face right on my jawline. I didn’t really think much of it, I figured I was about to have a break-out from using so much sunblock on my face.IMG_3311I woke around 2 am to excruciating pain on my jawline. When I reached up to touch my face, I realized something was really wrong. In the dark of our room, I could feel a knot on my jaw that was burning hot and about the size of an egg. I quietly laid in bed until about 5 am, but when I realized it was getting bigger and probably wasn’t going to go away without some antibiotics, I woke hubby. I wouldn’t let him turn on the lights to look at the assumably freakish-looking growth on my face. Instead, I told him he was going to have to get me to a doctor–and soon!IMG_3326

We knew there was a Medico on resort, and called the front desk to find out where he was located and what were his hours. Apparently, the front office agent thought my 6 am call was serious enough and he patched me on through to the Medico, whom I obviously woke up. He said he would be on resort by 9 am and could see me then. I was in so much pain by then, we were waiting at his office an hour early.

The doctor was dressed in a pink shirt, white pants, and pink shoes and had two assistants who’s combined age probably wasn’t even 40. (Really, they looked like tweens.) He took a look at my face and said he believed I had been bitten by “something” and said he would need to give me a shot in the cheek (he clarified big cheek, not little cheek) and write me 2 prescriptions, which I could then fill conveniently right in his office. He said it would require $450 USD in order to get treatment.

I was in the habit of charging resort services to the room and presumed I could do that with the medico visit. Nope! No credit cards either.  He said $450, cash, US dinero. I was rooting through my small purse (it’s really only big enough to carry a little cash and a cell phone) trying to count up my cash on hand. The tweens, who were now on either side of me intently looking down into my purse as I was sorting the cash, now felt like thugs. I was sure if I balked at giving them every last dollar I had in my little purse, they would take it anyway. We had only brought about half of the requested amount up from the room with us (thinking certainly it wouldn’t cost THAT much), but the good doctor said he would be leaving the office soon and we could put the rest in an envelope and slip it under his door before noon that day.

After my shot, and 2 filled prescriptions for medicines I’ve never heard of, we left the Medico’s office. We returned before noon and slipped the rest of the money under his office door.  It really felt like we were committing some type of crime instead of paying the doctor’s bill.  Thankfully, within a couple of days, the swelling in my face had subsided and I was starting to feel better.IMG_3411This was one of the incidents that made me see the value in travel insurance (see my post on Why You MUST Buy Travel Insurance).  While this small claim probably wouldn’t have even met the deductible I likely would have chosen, and I still would have had to pay cash, what if it had been worse or cost even more? Or what if I didn’t have the cash on hand? I don’t even want to think about that.

Huatulco, Mexico

Until the 1980s, Huatulco, (Oaxaca) Mexico was little more than a small coffee-growing area. In 1984, the National Fund of Tourism decided to begin development of the area to develop a tourist development similar to Cancun, but on the Pacific coast of Mexico. So far, I would have to say they are succeeding.  Thankfully, Huatulco is a bit more spread out than Cancun giving the resorts a more secluded, laid back feel than in Cancun.

We found a bargain on FunJet–non-stop from St. Louis to Huatulco for an entire week. Having never heard of Huatulco, we did minimal research on the place and decided the price was right for a week. What a great decision!

We stayed at Secrets, which is considered an Unlimited Luxury All Inclusive Resort and was adult-only. At first I was a little bummed–we were planning to book a swim out suite–and I literally watched the last one sell out on FunJet. We ended up in a regular room that was beautifully decorated and overlooked the pool and beach, but my next trip to Secrets will be in a swim out. They looked incredibly fun and the pool waiters served drinks to the private pools which were connected to each room.IMG_0860This resort is more compact because it’s set into the hills, so it’s more up and down than sprawled out. We loved riding the glass elevator up to the sky bar each evening and hanging out there until we decided where to go for dinner.

Usually at an AI resort, hubby and I go to the spa at least once for a couples massage. Secrets had a Pevonia spa that had a hydrotherapy circuit–which we had never experienced before.  If you ever get the chance for a hydrotherapy massage, go for it. This was one of the best massages we had ever had and we now search out resort spas that have hydrotherapy.

There were lots of very reasonably priced excursions to take in Huatulco as well.  Because it’s a relatively “young” tourist area, the tour companies basically give the excursions away.  We took a mountain excursion that lasted all day, took us up in the mountains, hiking to the Llano Grande waterfall, providing a wonderful lunch, and stopping at local shops on our way back to the resort.

Another excursion we went on was a boat tour/snorkeling excursion of five local bays and coastline of Huatulco. The snorkeling was decent even though the currents were pretty strong and we got to see some neat rock formations and smaller towns along the coast.

Luckily we were there during the “dry” season. Apparently, during the rainy season, which is June through September, it rains non-stop for most of every day. The locals we talked with in the mountains were telling us about how during the last rainy season, which had just ended, they had been trapped in the mountains for days because most of the roads were too waterlogged or completely washed out and they couldn’t drive them.  It’s a little more rustic way of life than I’m accustomed to.

Back at the resort, we had some incredibly good restaurants. We found a seafood restaurant that was so good, we went to it twice. I enjoyed some delicious salmon one night, after some seafood soup. Thank goodness there was a little walk back to the resort from the seafood restaurant because I definitely ate too much.

We also enjoyed that we had a Japanese/Sushi restaurant at the resort. My favorite part of that dinner was that they served sake.  (I know most people don’t like the stuff, but for some reason, I love it.) I liked it so much, our waiter gave me a small carafe to take with me back to the lobby.

The best thing of all about this particular trip was that we met some really awesome people, Meg and Jason were a lot of fun, and Jacki and Josh were like our oldest besties straight out of the gate. We hung out with them for a lot of the trip, relaxing at the pool bar and going to dinner together a couple of evenings. I sure hope we get to see them soon on another fun vacation!