Conference room, wedding venues, and on-site wedding concierge
Small sundries shop sells drinks, snacks, and vacation essentials
Free property-wide Wi-Fi
Boring decor throughout that could use some updating
Food quality varies, options are mediocre at best
Not all guest rooms have outdoor balconies
Doesn’t have as many amenities as larger resorts
Compared to its massive neighbors, the upper-middle-range Samba Vallarta — All Inclusive is pleasantly small scale. While it doesn’t offer the same over-the-top amenities as the Hard Rock or the Grand Velas, its atmosphere is quieter, its pool and beach are less crowded, and its pace is more relaxed. Plus, Samba still has plenty of family-friendly features, like a kiddie pool with water slides, a kids' club, and an outdoor theater with nightly performances. Its 183 rooms are clean and spacious, but decor seriously lacks style, which is true for most of the hotel. There are three on-site restaurants, but food quality gets mixed reviews at the a la carte and buffet options. Travelers looking for a small all-inclusive that’s a bit more upscale might prefer Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta, which is pricier but is a bit more stylish and has better food.
A small, family-friendly all-inclusive with bland interiors
Samba Vallarta’s humble exterior and bland lobby aren’t the most memorable, but there seems to be an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” theme across the property. Unexciting interior spaces are the norm here -- from the dated lobby, to the forgettable restaurants, to the uninspired rooms. But Samba’s lack of character doesn’t seem to deter guests from coming. There’s something about the hotel’s relaxed subtlety that attracts a different kind of all-inclusive traveler. Samba guests are drawn to what it lacks -- crowds, noise, and chaos. The property is especially alluring to families who want an all-inclusive experience on a small scale.
Beachfront in Nuevo Vallarta, about 20-minutes north of the airport
Samba Vallarta is a beachfront property in Nuevo Vallarta, a popular resort town about 30 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta. Nuevo Vallarta was developed in the 1980s as a resort community, and hasn’t stopped growing since. The beach is lined with mega resort after mega resort, and large shopping complexes house restaurants, supermarkets, and American fast food outlets like Starbucks and Subway. This area doesn’t have the same authentic Mexican feel as Puerto Vallarta, and is known more for family-friendliness than nightlife. Travelers who anticipate spending significant time in Puerto Vallarta should rent a car, considering taxi prices are pretty steep in this part of town. The property is a 23-minute drive north of the airport.
Samba Vallarta's rooms are clean and spacious, but like the hotel’s common spaces, they lack style. Pale yellow walls and blonde wood furniture create a monochrome palette that leaves a lot to be desired. Plus, popcorn ceilings and gold-flecked tile floors show signs of age. Beds are backed by faux leather headboards and are dressed in white sheets and aqua bed skirts and runners -- which add a little pep, but not enough. Amenities are pretty sparse as well. Rooms have flat-screen TVs, lightly stocked minibars with a few free soft drinks, electronic safes, and ironing equipment. Only suites have coffeemakers and microwaves. Bathrooms are dark and dated. The tile is in desperate need of new grout and fixtures, like chained drain plugs, give off a motel vibe. Samba provides soap, shampoo, and lotion, along with other thoughtful amenities like sewing kits, shower caps, and tiny first-aid sets. Some of Samba’s rooms, and all of its suites, have outdoor balconies that overlook the pool and beach.
There are two room types at Samba Vallarta -- standard rooms and suites. Standard rooms are typical studio-style rooms with one king or two double beds. The hotel has several interconnecting standard rooms, for families or groups traveling together. Suites are much larger than standard rooms, and are equipped with separate bedroom and living areas, along with large outdoor balconies. Suites also have tiny kitchenettes, with mini-fridges (also holding a handful of drinks), microwaves, and coffeemakers.
The pool at Samba Vallarta is the heart of the property. It’s where everyone gathers throughout the day to relax in the sun, splash around in the water, and enjoy tropical cocktails from the nearby bar. Though there’s only one pool, it’s quite large, especially considering the property's small size. The pool has three sections -- one for adults, one for kids, and one for toddlers and babies. The adult section is the largest, and the closest to the bar (a smart detail). It also has a central island with lounge chairs and umbrellas. The kids' section of the pool has a mini pirate ship, with a few slides and moving fountains. The adjacent toddler pool is a shallow wading area that even has its own toddler-sized slides. The entire pool complex is surrounded by plastic lounge chairs, umbrellas, and a few curtained cabanas. Guests don’t have to worry about rising at dawn to snag lounge chairs -- there’s enough for everyone here.
Gorgeous beach with free boogie board and kayak rentals
Samba’s beach is large and pristinely kept. Palapa style umbrellas line the sand in neat rows and staff members rake the beach to keep it looking clean. The hotel has kayaks and boogie boards available for guests to use, but there’s no lifeguard, so swimmers should be vigilant. Oftentimes the ocean water looks calm, but there’s a strong undertow. Guests should heed warnings about the water, and follow the beach’s green, yellow, and red flag system. Samba’s west-facing beach is also an excellent spot to watch the sunset. We suggest grabbing a cocktail and watching from the beachfront bar and restaurant, Mexicana.
Three restaurants, but the food is mediocre at best
Samba Vallarta’s all-inclusive dining is mediocre at best. There are only three restaurants on-site, so variety can feel stale after a few days. Hacienda is the hotel’s main buffet. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has both indoor and outdoor seating. This venue can sometimes feel like a busy cafeteria -- where everyone arrives at once and plows through the buffet with gusto. The buffet food isn’t the best, and there aren’t a ton of options, but the hotel tries to keep things interesting by serving themed menus each night for dinner. One night might be Italian, the next Mexican, and the following Brazilian or American.
Samba has two a la carte restaurants, Venezia and Mexicana, which serve (if you haven’t already guessed), Italian and Mexican cuisine. The food quality at the a la carte restaurants is slightly better than the buffet, but it certainly won’t knock your socks off. Venezia is located indoors, but Mexicana is a beautiful open-air space with ocean views. Both of the a la carte restaurants require reservations, which can sometimes be a hassle to obtain.
A family-friendly all-inclusive, with a few nice amenities for kids
Though Samba Vallarta doesn’t have the same over-the-top amenities as many of its larger neighbors, it still has a few nice features. The on-site kids' club is popular with families. Parents can drop their kids off at the club to play games, participate in arts and crafts, and socialize with other kids. The kids' club also has regularly scheduled activities, like treasure hunts and basketball games on the adjacent outdoor court. Additionally, Samba has a kid-sized soccer field, free bike rentals, and a playground to keep kids entertained. The hotel’s outdoor theater has live entertainment every night. The show usually corresponds with Hacienda’s themed buffet. So if the buffet is serving Mexican food, guests can expect Mariachi and Jarabe Tapatio (Mexico’s traditional music and dance).
Adults in search of pampering can head to Samba’s tiny spa -- though “spa” is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s really just a massage room. The spa offers massages, facials, and manicure/pedicures, but guests should keep in mind that spa treatments are not part of the all-inclusive rates. The hotel’s fitness center is small, but is has several modern cardio machines. The weight machines and free weights, however, look about 20 years old.
Meeting room, wedding concierge, and a few ceremony venues across the property
The hotel has an on-site conference room that can accommodate up to 120 people. The conference room is sound-proofed and has modern A/V equipment. For larger events, the hotel’s grand lawn can host up to 600 people. Samba’s on-site wedding concierge can arrange small and large weddings on hotel grounds. The property has a few different wedding venues, including the beach, the grand lawn, and the garden gazebo.
On-site sundries shop and free Wi-Fi across the property
Samba has a small sundries shop that sells snacks, drinks, and beach vacation essentials like sunscreen, bathing suits, and sunglasses. The shop has a communal computer, printer, and fax machine -- otherwise, Wi-Fi is free for all guests and works well across the property.
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