16 MAR 2015:  There are many alluring choices around the sun kissed Banderas Bay along Mexico’s legendary Pacific Coast. For instance, should I take the Carolina Herrera glitzy gold or the fancy butterfly motif from Mexican designer Pineda Covalin as my evening purse at this ritzy resort? Guests staying at the Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta have these kinds of tough dilemmas that I discovered on a recent tri-resort visit of the Mexican all-inclusive brand, Velas Resorts.

The Casa Velas

http://www.hotelcasavelas.com/

For bling the ladies can use a designer purse rental service all-included. At the concierge desk have a look-see through a designer purse collection book and make your pick. “Our designer Melin Castro changes the collection regularly,” says concierge Luis describing the latest looks and trends.

Overlooking a golf course by the chi-chi Marina Vallarta district which feels more urban than touristy, the adults-only Casa Velas is flanked by US$2.5-million homes and the resort revels in pampering its guests.  

Upon my arrival, a chilled welcome drink infused with detoxifying hibiscus properties made a fine refresher but the topper was learning how guests are treated to a complimentary five-minute massage during check-in.

“You might have had a bad flight and want to relax with a massage in the lobby,” says Audrey Brizo, sales executive at Casa Velas of the optional check-in feature.

For the allergy sensitive or guests wishing to experience unique pillow options, a pillow menu can do the trick. There’s a floral theme to the pillow menu that specify firmness levels and all are fragrance-free.  I settled on orchids and magnolias and found both pillow types appealing.

While guests staying at the 80-room all-inclusive might not have direct access to the beach they are submerged in a rich garden paradise overlooking a golf course and have a free three-minute shuttle service to the resort’s Beach Club overlooking the soft sandy beach that Puerto Vallarta is famous for.

Guests also have unlimited free golf available (only charge is the US$55 golf cart rental). Try the on-site Joe Finger-designed 18-hole golf course or head to two 18-hole championship golf courses at Vista Vallarta designed by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf via complimentary shuttles.

Velas Resorts backgrounder

The Mexican hotel brand is the creation of two brothers, Juan and Eduardo Vela, who were involved in construction before they entered the hotel industry 25 years ago.

They first settled their sights on this swath of the Pacific Coast and have created three all-inclusive vacation spots. There are two properties in Puerto Vallarta (the refurbished Casa Velas and the company’s first property the Velas Vallarta) including the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit located 20 minutes away in the upscale Riviera Nayarit area.  

More on the Casa Velas experience

Back at my Casa Velas suite the experience only got better. I was awoken to songbirds and had a fabulous buffet breakfast at Emiliano with a fine selection of American-style items but I dove right into the salsa and spicy Huevos Revueltos (scrambled eggs). Emiliano’s is a four-diamond triple-A rated restaurant and the food quality, ambiance and service definitely shows.

At each all-inclusive resort there is a distinct look and feel. The Casa Velas is haute hacienda style and its nearby Beach Club emits a Miami vibe with its whitewashed interior and infinity pool. From this vantage point, you can also view a spectacular nightly fireworks show care of the local touristy pirate ship moored at the beach.

The Velas Touch

At Emiliano, a pianist performed classical music on a grand piano above the diners in this amphitheatre style eatery. Rows upon rows gave the dinner seating a theatrical look. I learned guests who stay at any of the Velas properties are entertained by local musicians during dinner which is a lovely touch.

The Vela brothers also accentuate their love of local artists in other ways. Take a visit to the gift shop or wander through the lobbies to see exquisite Mexican art.

Another discovery was the burgeoning culinary scene in Puerto Vallarta. Casa Velas guests can take a complimentary shuttle and dine at the other Velas properties including the three four-diamond triple-A restaurants at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit (reservations are needed). Your foodie clients will also appreciate an annual culinary festival staged in Puerto Vallarta in November http://www.festivalgourmet.com/.  Still you don’t have to wait for a foodie festival to enjoy the local culinary delights.

Velas Vallarta

http://www.velasvallarta.com/promotions.aspx

At the Velas Vallarta, the company’s first property, cooking demonstrations are all-included. “It’s not just a class. We have a show. I get everyone involved,” says Yolanda Yanar, a Mexican TV celebrity chef who conducts lunchtime cooking classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We could be in the garden or by the beach. I even taught a class at the presidential suite,” she beams about the cooking class locations and further explains even children get in on the action. “They love it. It could be cupcake decorations, decorating pizzas or making sushi. There is no heat involved and we give the children aprons and chef’s hats.”

Velas Vallarta is a quaint property brimming in lush gardens rife with resident peacocks and the occasional resort iguana sunning by the pool. Hacienda touches with terracotta tiles and warm facades give the resort a familiar familial feeling.

Don’t be surprised if you spot the general manager mingling with the guests either. “I love chatting with my guests to see how they are enjoying their stay,” says Luis Angarita on his daily guest encounters which he insists is an important part in maintaining a hotel’s fine quality.

Velas Vallarta includes city and countryside tours. Guests head to Puerto Vallarta for sightseeing, shopping and walks by the Malecon or travel to the Sierra Madres for a cultural and tequila tour.

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

http://vallarta.grandvelas.com/

But it was at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, where my trip came full circle.  It’s one of those places you usually only read about.

An all-inclusive luxury resort perched on the edge of the Pacific Coast with its sandy beach is the kind of place you want to dig your toes into and linger for hours until you finally blink and can’t believe what you saw.

In the distance, a massive geyser erupts from the sea as a black girth emerges from the shimmering blue waters at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Besides being a hub of elegance the 267-room property becomes centre stage for frolicking humpback whales during whale watching season.  

Expect only the finest in service and quality at what company insiders report as Mexico’s first luxury all-inclusive resort in the Pacific Coast.

There are several room categories but even the standard suites are spacious at 1,000 sq. ft. I stayed in a parlour suite overlooking the gardens facing the beach.

The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit has five pools including a children and adults-only pool but what makes them incredible is the design. At nearly every vantage point the pools cascade into each other and that’s thanks to the wonderful infinity pools. Did you forget your sunglasses or the SPF? Ask the pool concierge. The attentive pool staff continually circulates to aid guests in libations, eats and yes, certain amenities.

I went for a “serenity now” experience so I indulged in several activities there. One day I visited the spa (http://www.luxuryspamexico.com/) which incorporates traditional Mexican, pre-Hispanic remedies in its signature treatments. I tried the 50-minute Serenity massage. The ambiance was ideal. Between the dim lighting and oceanic soundtrack my massage therapist greeted me with a fabulous spa welcome infused with the four elements (fire, earth, water and air). Go early and get pampered by the spa butler and after your treatment relax at the private hydrotherapy pool.

On another day I stretched my loins in a yoga class at the fitness centre. We did meditative breathing, the downward dog, and got to challenge ourselves through moves that were totally new to me. I appreciated the instructor’s patient approach and totally recommend taking a yoga class there.

For the gourmet lover that I am, I heard about a cooking class and decided to take a French cooking lesson. Executive Chef Claudio Hotter who oversees the resort’s three triple A, four diamond restaurants helms this class. My class size was small and we took turns creating a three-course lunch.

Guests can also play tennis, golf at their choice of three golf courses in the area or head out on off-site excursions to explore the area. Daily resort activities are scheduled too.  

You never know what you’ll see or do when you stretch out your beach blanket at a Velas resort.

VELAS
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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