Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel, plus a faster connection for a fee
Spacious meeting rooms with elegant reception area
Rooms showing some wear and tear
Studios lack balconies and have limited views
Wi-Fi signal can be spotty, especially in rooms
Time-share salespeople present
Beach, while pretty, is not one of the region's best
The upscale, 345-room Velas Vallarta is one of the most popular all-inclusive resorts in not only Marina Vallarta, but the region, thanks in part to its huge (if slightly dated and worn) rooms with kitchenettes, many of which can accommodate large families and most of which have ocean views. The gardens and grounds are charming (there's even a roaming family of peacocks), the pools (with a lazy river) and recreational options are excellent, and the restaurants have good quality food, especially for an all-inclusive. Those who prefer a location closer to town might prefer the smaller Fiesta Americana, which also has a nicer beach -- but its rooms aren't as big and there aren't as many pools.
Elegant yet slightly aged condo-style all-inclusive with a great beachfront location
The well-established Marina Vallarta hotel strip, close to the airport and not far from downtown, is home to dozens of hotels, most of them fairly high-end. The Velas group owns several of these properties including, of course, this one. The property dates to 1990, and though it is a bit worn and perhaps in need of some updating -- especially in the suites -- it possesses a certain distinct elegance that is rarely evident in many of the newer hotels. Unique artistic details such as the murals flanking the entry passage, and the many streams and ponds with dozens of koi fish, enhance the atmosphere. The Spanish-style building features beautiful brick arches and domes in the lobby, as well as marble tile floors (these date to the resort's opening and feature some scuffing here and there). Original hand-woven tapestries lining the front of the marble-slab reception desk are a noteworthy touch, and the tapestry work shows up throughout the hotel.
Outside, the hacienda style continues, with pillars, archways, light yellow paint, clay tiles on the roofs, and hanging flowers everywhere. The feel is very clearly Mexican -- unlike at some competing resorts, which opt for a more generic chain-like style. The gardens themselves are elegantly maintained, and epic in scope; it’s easy to lose oneself in the myriad pathways and along the series of bridges over the lazy river. The piercing cries of peacocks can occasionally be heard, and every once in a while you’ll catch a glimpse of one (the resort maintains more than a dozen).
This is a time-share resort selling fractional ownerships, and time-share salespeople may be present. For beach- and pool-loving golfers or tennis enthusiasts, this is a dream come true: a fine, somewhat-luxurious beachfront hotel minutes from several fine courses, with tennis courts on-site.
In the heart of Marina Vallarta, on the beach, by the marina and the airport, just steps away from a golf course
On the beachfront side of a wide, well-groomed Marina Vallarta boulevard, between the beach and the Marina Vallarta golf course, the Velas possesses an ideal Marina Vallarta location. The proximity to the airport, a five-minute minutes away, may be a source of some noise distraction in the high season, but it sure is convenient. The restaurants along the marina are within a 20-minute walk, and the beach is right in front of the hotel. The waters of Bahia Banderas along this stretch can run a little murky, however, due to the nearby Ameca River, which pours its muddy waters into the bay.
Five-minute drive to the airport
Five-minute walk to Marina golf course
15-minute walk to the marina
25-minute drive to Old Town and the Malecon oceanfront promenade
Older suites with room for up to families, some with
ocean views and balconies
Velas Vallarta's rooms and suites stand out from the crowd because of their size. Even the entry-level, 386-square-foot Deluxe Rooms (also referred to as studios) can fit a family of four, as these units have a king-size bed or two twins, plus a sofa bed. Other room sizes include one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites, which can be joined together and/or locked off in various combinations. All rooms are condo-style, with kitchenettes featuring fridges (mini-fridges in the studio Deluxe Rooms, full-size in the suites), stovetops, microwaves, coffeemakers, and toasters -- but the overall impression is that the kitchens are not really set up for serious cooking, which may be because, under the newer time-share contracts, owners are required to sign up for the all-inclusive package. The fridges and kitchens are stocked daily with essentials such as milk, water, beer, refreshments, small boxes of cereal, instant oatmeal, cookies, and some fruit. In addition, 24/7 room service is available.
Rooms usually incorporate colorful fabric patterns with Mexican patterns, and in most cases, hand-woven tapestries. Renovations in recent years have included the addition to flat-screen TVs, upgraded kitchens (the cabinets and appliances were remodeled), and glass doors in the bathrooms, but not all rooms have been updated and even those that have still feel a little outdated and worn. Work is ongoing, however.
It is well worth upgrading from the studio Deluxe Rooms, which lack balconies and have limited views (sometimes of surrounding walls). The one-bedroom suites have 788 square feet of space, the two-bedroom suites over 1,000 square feet, and the three-bedroom suites have over 1,500 square feet. Suites face the interior of the property and even those overlooking the pool from the side still usually have pretty great ocean views (the higher the floor, the better the view).
Marble-tile bathrooms have walk-in showers with glass doors. Some of the rooms have bathtubs, and the marble runs up the walls. Note that the bathrooms feature some of the worst wear and tear, with visible grout missing, some discoloration, and loose woodwork in areas.
Wi-Fi is free, though some report that the signal can be weak from the rooms.
A pretty beach, three pools, tennis courts, and themed nights
There’s no shortage of things to do at the Velas. The beach has loungers and cabanas available, plus a volleyball net. There are three pools: a quiet pool, with no ocean views, an oceanfront activity pool with swim-up bar, connected to the quiet pool by a lazy river, and a shallow kids' pool. The extensive kids' club has activities, such as crafts, bingo, water aerobics, and video games; there's also a seasonal turtle-release program.
There’s a slew of entertainment options, and not just during the daytime. At nights the main lobby transforms into an event space that features Mexican themed evenings, casino nights, circus shows, mimes, mariachi bands, and drink tastings with tequila, mojitos, margaritas, and more. There’s also a DJ on some evenings.
There are also several salons and garden space available for events, with space for up to over 2,000 people in total across the various salons.
All-inclusive rates cover food at drink at three restaurants, the snack bar, and from 24-hour room service
Andrea offers all three meals, and has interior and exterior seating. There are buffet and a la carte options, and themed buffets every night (French, Asian, Italian, or Mexican). Reservations are required for dinner.
La Ribera Steakhouse, an open-air space overlooking the beach, offers a breakfast buffet, a la carte lunch, and themed dinners; steak is the specialty of the house. Reservations are required for dinner.
Alejandra, open in the high season, offers dinner only, with live music and a dance floor.
The snack and ice cream station, by the steakhouse, has snacks and light lunch daily.