A million shimmering diamonds in the azure waters lie before you. Settle into one of the dozens of lounge chairs as you take in that view and a warm wind wraps around you.
Close your eyes and rest washes over you. Cares and worries are a million miles away at the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa.
I spent a recent weekend at this Marriott resort and have wished ever since to return. I will be back!
I stay in a number of hotels each year and have the privilege to compare and without a doubt, this is one of the best vacation spots I've been to. With a plane ride from Houston of less than two hours, you can be sipping a cold cerveza with your toes in the sand in less time than it takes to drive across town.
It had been a while since I had been to Mexico and within just an hour at the hotel, I remembered why I love it so. Nowhere else can you find such warm hospitality. Every employee is smiling and gracious. They don't want guests to long for a single thing. Take a sip of water and it is quickly refilled. Want a fresh towel? A newspaper? A margarita? A burger on the beach? Hot breakfast in the room? It is done! With the exchange rate so pleasing, the prices of food, beverages and accommodations are amazingly affordable.
Getting through customs was quick and the hotel is just a five-minute trip from the airport (yet I never heard airplanes overhead during my stay.) The lush, colorful vegetation so omnipresent in Mexico fills the resort. Guests arrive to a magnificent open air lobby with an expansive view of the swimming pools and the ocean beyond. Split into two buildings, there are plenty of elevators so guests are not waiting to go up or down.
My room on the seventh floor was lovely, but when I drew the drapes open to the small balcony, framed with deep pink bougainvillea, the view was thrilling. Below me was the hotel complex, filled with palms and meticulous plantings of colorful flowers. Set in a curve on a private beach, the white sugar sand rings the pool area. But the water! Sparkling blue water fills the horizon. The low, lush, palm-covered mountains of the Western Sierra Madre frame the city of Puerto Vallarta and around the bay. Sailboats both fast and slow went by. A parasail drifted above. A flyboard excursion was taking place in the water in front of the resort. Just drinking in the view from the room was beyond satisfying. But the pool, with its swim up bar, was heavenly.
The hotel offers several outstanding restaurants with a wide variety of cuisine, from Japanese sushi at Mikado to traditional Mexican dishes. The casual Las Casitas is open air and on the water's edge. Table-side guacamole, fajitas, delightful vegetables – they have it all, served by handsome, gracious waiters. Many online packages offer the delicious and impressive breakfast buffet at La Estancia (open for dinner, too.) Your coffee cup will never be empty! Dine outside on the patio or indoors. Champions sports bar has a friendly menu and atmosphere. The Lobby Bar serves tapas and cocktails and has panoramic ocean views. Most food and all breads are made daily in the hotel's huge kitchen (and they make at least 40 different kinds, including hamburger buns) and I was delighted to have a private group baking lesson with the Marriott's Master Chef Mauricio Romero. Conveniently, Deli Los Mangos has fresh sandwiches, salads, baked goods and snacks to take back to the room. The staff at this resort is completely open to your suggestions, whether you want a cooking lesson for two, a tequila tasting for 20 or a week's worth of activities for hundreds. I enjoyed a private dinner under the stars in the hotel herb garden one night. Highly recommended. Some guests ask for private dining on a small manicured jetty that juts into the water. Bridal couples love this spot, too! CasaMagna makes their own impressive tequila and you must, of course, taste it!
Let me also rave about the Ohtli Spa where I had several treatments. The massage provided by Paola was 90-minutes long and I would still be there if they had allowed it. Various rooms with many small pools and hot tubs of various temperatures are surrounded with candles, flowers and smiling, patient staff. The fitness room is nearby – it's only a few moments on the treadmill per margarita (wink, wink), although I am happy to report the bartenders all readily will make the “skinny” version!
Puerto Vallarta has long been a tourist mecca, mainly thanks to movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who filmed “The Night of the Iguana” in then-unknown Puerto Vallarta in 1962. They loved it so much during the filming of the movie that Burton purchased Casa Kimberley, a nine-bedroom villa, for Elizabeth's 32nd birthday's present, a few months before they married.
Puerto Vallarta is a paradise for bird lovers, with more than 400 species. Humpback whales fill the bay from December to March as they come here to give birth in the warm waters. Five species of sea turtles can be found on Puerto Vallarta's coast, all of them under threat of extinction. Local efforts have been applied to help the turtle's survival and are now part of the local culture and attractions. The CasaMagna resort participates in the sea turtle conservation and release program and guests can participate during the nesting season. This year the hotel helped release more than 1,100 baby turtles onto the beach. Various dolphin species are also welcome inhabitants of the Bay of Banderas and among the ones that can be seen frolicking in the water are bottlenose, spotted and spinner dolphins. Among the most impressive of the local mammals are four important felines: jaguars, ocelots, jaguarondis and margays.
A cab ride is a mere $5 (U.S. dollars are readily accepted everywhere and I did not meet anyone who could not speak English) to the fantastic downtown which is filled with shops, bars and restaurants. Artists spread their wares on the sidewalks and entertainers amuse passersby. Without doubt the most popular, fun and typical place to visit in town is the Malecon, the unique boardwalk in the downtown area. It's a seaside promenade by the edge of the ocean, a pedestrian walkway completely remodeled some years ago and a sight you must not miss. Stroll along and enjoy the views of the ocean, the beautiful statues along the way and admire the bay. In the afternoon, the sunsets color everything in tones of orange and red. Viejo Vallarta (Old Vallarta) is the busiest part of town. The streets are smaller and there are more shops, cafes, bars and restaurants per square foot than anywhere else in town. Here you'll enjoy the famous cobblestone streets that are so common in all typical Mexican towns.
In 1984, Los Arcos, the five small natural granite islets south of downtown Vallarta, located in the bay, between Las Gemelas Beach and Mismaloya Beach, were classified as a national marine park. The ocean around them is very deep, up to 1,600 feet, which makes the waters among the deepest in Banderas Bay.
Fishing, snorkeling, cruises, skin-diving, parasailing, water-skiing – the list goes on and on for the water activities. Tourist- friendly businesses are ready to please and ready to serve, no matter what time of day you wish to go. Whether you want meals included, cocktails, sunsets or sunrises – the prices are amazing, too.
A recent search on the hotel site found rooms for as low as $96.75 per night. My ocean view room with a balcony and breakfast for two was $209 per night. A current package begins at $279 per night and includes all meals, house wine and domestic beer, 20 percent discount at the spa, meals for kids and tips. Incredible! Go to marriott.com/hotels/travel/pvrmx-casamagna-marriott-puerto-vallarta-resort-and-spa to start dreaming today!