There are neighborhoods in Puerto Vallarta that feel like Palm Springs or Beverly Hills, and the all-inclusive Casa Velas inhabits one of them. Lush, manicured gardens and streets, high-priced, terra cotta tile-roofed houses and condos, and the green grass of a well-tended golf course define the locale. The 80-room adults-only hotel is perfectly situated amidst this quiet luxury. With a gated entry, a friendly, (mostly) bilingual staff, and gorgeous public spaces and rooms that more than meet the challenge posed by the posh ambience, Casa Velas is a great pick for those who like it luxe but informal.
A luxurious, adults-only all-inclusive on a golf course
Puerto Vallarta is a lively, touristy town, but you would not necessarily know it if you stayed at the Casa Velas. For better or worse, this quietly luxurious all-inclusive hotel feels not isolated but...removed...from the hustle and bustle of Vallarta, a few miles away.
The hotel's two- to four-story buildings feature a clean contemporary version of traditional Spanish style, tastefully executed, and the public spaces, especially the lobby, conjure the feel of a grand, well-furnished hacienda. The grounds are perfectly groomed, with every single flower -- and there are many -- in place. Tucked into an upscale neighborhood with quiet streets, luxurious homes, and gorgeous gardens, it's great for peace, quiet, serenity -- and golf, since the hotel is surrounded by the fairways of the Marina Vallarta Golf Club. For something livelier, go elsewhere, or take a cab into Puerto Vallarta -- it's around six bucks to go downtown.
Interestingly, the hotel has an extensive botanical garden, with herbs, flowers, medicinal plants, vegetables, and trees, all labeled and organized so that guests can stroll through and see what's what. Many of the plants grown here make their way into the restaurant's lighter "spa" menu, which has a focus on healing.
Located just south of the airport and a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta itself, Marina Vallarta is an upscale development that has grown up around the marina, with its cruise ship docks, yacht harbors, boat owners, and boat-related businesses. This is also a serious golf community, and the hotel is located right on the Marina Vallarta Golf Club course.
Parts of the neighborhood have not quite developed according to plan, and look a little shabby and unfinished, but for the most part Marina Vallarta has the feel of a well-heeled waterside development in Southern California.
One drawback is the proximity to Puerto Vallarta's international airport -- during high season, a number of very loud planes are landing and taking off nearby.
5-minute drive to the airport (about 180 pesos -$15-)
2-minute shuttle ride or 15-minute walk to the private Beach Club
Decorated in a tasteful, residential Mexican style, the rooms are all spacious and upscale, with excellent mattresses, pillow menus, and marble bathrooms. The more expensive rooms add more space, patios with seating, golf course instead of garden views, as well as Jacuzzis and/or plunge pools. The two-level villas add a second bedroom upstairs. This is an all-inclusive hotel, so unless you are one of the few guests on the European plan, minibar items are included.
The freeform pool is encircled by comfortable lounge chairs made of wood, not plastic, and features a swim-up bar. The two-story beach club is decidedly classy, with its sushi bar restaurant and infinity pool overlooking the beach. However, you do have to take a two-minute shuttle to get to the beach, which is a little rocky, with coarse sand, and the water is often murky ocean along this stretch of Bahia Banderas.
For active types, there is tennis and a well-equipped gym offering workouts with a personal trainer as well as classes in yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and aerobics. The concierge can organize all manner of tours and adventures, including whale watching mountain biking, horseback riding, surfing, sport fishing diving or snorkeling, beach trips, city tours, even bullfights.
Large freeform pool with swim-up bar, tiled, built-in water seating, plentiful wooden lounge chairs and shade umbrellas
Gourmet Mexican cuisine at Emiliano, and Asian fare at the Beach Club
Emiliano serves upscale Mexican and American cuisine three meals a day in an elegant (but still casual) space, with three levels of air-conditioned seating inside as well as al fresco seating. The menu is priced fairly high, but since it's an all-inclusive hotel, only guests on the European plan actually pay for their meals. The menu lists primarily Mexican and American dishes (with some "continental" influence), and also has separate "spa" dishes, which combine lighter fare with healing herbs and plant foods, many of them grown in the hotel's own garden. Considering that it is an all-inclusive property, the menu is fairly ambitious.
A second restaurant, a more casual Asian/sushi café, can be found at the Beach Club. Guests at Casa Velas are also free to eat any meals at either of the restaurants at a sister hotel, the Velas Vallarta, which is on the beach by the Beach Club, as part of the all-inclusive package.
The open-air lobby bar overlooks lily ponds and the pool.