I’ve always had a case of wanderlust and my husband, Tim, was a seasoned traveler long before I met him, so we’ll use any excuse to explore new environs or revisit favorite vacation destinations. We love traveling so much that we have over the years made a conscious effort to impart in our children a similar desire to trek across the country or traipse around the globe.
In the 15 years since our son was born, we’ve happily traveled far and wide whether for weekend stay-cations within easy driving distance or longer trips that involved a fair number of planes, trains and automobiles. We even embarked on an ambitious plan to visit all 50 states as a family by the time he graduates high school (we have 15 more to go). But what we haven’t done in all that time is leave the kids home for a few adults-only days away - mostly because they were either too little or because we were actively crossing states off the list together.
But as summer was winding down and our now-teenagers were gearing back up for school, my husband and I decided to head south for a sans-kids sojourn to Casa Velas in Puerta Vallarta.
Our idea of a refuge for relaxation involves gourmet food, fine wine, a good book, a sun-soaked beach, snorkeling, swimming, sumptuous spa treatments and ... nowhere particular to be at any specific time. Other guests we met on property said they prefer active daytime endeavors like playing tennis and golf (Casa Velas is nestled in an upscale residential neighborhood overlooking Marina Vallarta, one of the region’s best courses). Luckily for all of us, this gorgeous oceanside oasis offers all of the above and then some. Casa Velas’ specialty? An unforgettable, all-inclusive, adults-only resort experience crafted to your specific desires and tastes.
We already felt worlds away upon arrival - the entrance and lobby reminiscent of a sprawling Spanish hacienda opens out onto canopied gardens characterized by abundant, colorful flora and fauna, picturesque reflecting pools, koi ponds, towering palms, an array of gorgeous fountains and arched terraces.
A luxury spa and salon, world-class championship golf, access to the beautiful Táu Beach Club, and decadent suites furnished with traditional Mexican charm are just a few of the reasons Casa Velas is the top-rated all-inclusive and one of the most celebrated all-inclusives in Puerto Vallarta. Steps from the beach and minutes from downtown, this boutique hotel boasts an estate-like ambiance amidst lush tropical gardens where peacocks roam.
The tranquil coastal ambiance carries through to each of its villa-style accommodations (think private immersion pools, jacuzzi hot tubs, scenic golf course and garden views). Choose from 80 plush suites, each exquisitely furnished and adorned with textures and colors inspired by traditional Mexican design, many including pieces by acclaimed Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamente.
Swim, sip, splurge
Dining is a highlight of Casa Velas with a choice of Emiliano Restaurant, and Táu Beach Club (with complimentary transportation to and from Casa Velas) for enjoying the famous Mexican Pacific sunsets in all their glory, and the four specialty restaurants of the nearby Five Diamond-rated sister resort Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
Casually elegant, the property’s signature award-winning AAA Four-Diamond restaurant, Emiliano showcases gourmet Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in an intimate and relaxed setting of your choice indoors or on the romantic outdoor terrace surrounded by koi ponds.
I’m the seafood aficionado in our family while my husband leans more toward beef and chicken entrees so we were delighted to discover a plethora of gourmet options in which to partake. My pastor-style salmon accompanied with pineapple puree and avocado mousse was simply divine, as was his grilled-to-perfection ribeye with baked potato and sauteed asparagus. Other indulgent dishes range from a Diabla-style octopus, shrimp served with asparagus risotto and the Veracruz-style catch of the day to the flavorful, falling-off-the-bone tender barbecue pork ribs.
In addition to its regular menu, Emiliano rotates through customized five-course offerings - a different one each night - masterminded by the head chefs at Casa Velas’s sister property Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Drawing inspiration from each of the three on-site award-winning restaurants Frida (Mexican), Piaf (French) and Lucca (Italian), features a dynamic tasting menu paired with tequila, martini and fine wine, respectively. Prefer authentic street food? Emiliano’s also serves up tantalizing takes on favorites found in Mexico’s colorful markets in diverse regions of the country.
For my part, lounging by the stunning free-form, cobalt-blue pool for the better part of each afternoon translated to the copious consumption of a trio of delicious ceviche offerings - shrimp (with tomato, onion, cucumber, coriander and serrano chili), white fish or tuna tartare with avocado, sesame oil and ponzu sauce - on the Aqua Bar menu. Tim says he still daydreams about the chicken burrito that he claims is the best he’s ever tasted with gourmet flavor unlike any preparation he’s sampled before.
An exclusive retreat on the ocean’s edge, Tau Beach Club serves a refreshing menu of spirited cocktails. Enjoy beachfront dining on the charming covered terrace and take in beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. During the day, guests can settle into Bali beds or sun loungers and nosh on sushi to their heart’s content. In the evenings, Táu Beach Club transforms into the perfect place for a romantic sunset dinner at The Ocean Club defined by an innovative menu of Mexican-inspired and Asian cuisine - my personal culinary preferences. The elevated gourmet food and beverage program extends to its extensive list of refreshing craft cocktails, fine wine and premium liquors at the restaurant, 24/7 in suite or served poolside in your own personal cabana or at the swim-up palapa Aqua Bar. Also included are events like wine pairings, tequila, mescal and martini tastings - which gives guests an opportunity to get acquainted with one another.
Relax + Revitalize
Needless to say - given the days (and nights) of (over) indulgence, I was especially thankful for the professionally equipped fitness center - complete with an array of cardio and weight machines - and the opportunity to expend a few extra calories. But for the height of relaxation, the full-service ABJA Spa was a most desired destination.
Featuring spa treatments and therapies inspired by local Mexican tradition and international wellness trends, guests can choose from signature treatments, therapeutic massages, beauty services, and holistic rituals using herbs and ingredients harvested in Casa Velas’ own botanical garden and performed by experienced spa specialists who work with each guest to customize services to their specific needs whether the goal is to relieve stress or revitalize your soul.
All of the aforementioned luxurious accommodation, amenity-rich ambiance, epicurean exploits and stunning scenery aside, I would be seriously amiss if I neglected to mention the stellar personalized service extended by every member of the staff here. From check in to departure, each member of the Casa Velas team is clearly dedicated to ensuring a warm, wonderful experience for each of its guests. If you are searching for an immersive, relaxing retreat in the most tranquil of settings and distinguished by exemplary, over-the-top service, trust me ... you need look no further than Casa Velas, Puerta Vallarta.