Family-friendly paradise: a stay at Velas Vallarta

Guests arriving at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico’s Velas Vallarta resort should expect to be greeted in the spacious, breezy lobby by a friendly staff offering a cool, freshly scented towel and an ice-cold bottle of water. My husband and I were also greeted by a resident peacock.

Throughout our four-day stay, we also made the acquaintance of a trio of iguanas, a turtle, a school of koi fish, and the rumor of crocodiles residing in a nearby river. The adjacent Pacific teamed with schools of fish, after which majestic pelicans dove. Suffice it to say, our kids would have been in heaven.

Of course, much more than a menagerie makes Velas Vallarta ideal for families. The following amenities make for a stress-free, kid-friendly family vacation, all in a stunning beachfront location.

All-suite room configurations. Velas Vallarta began as a condo development. As such, every room, from studios to three-bedroom units, include kitchenettes with stove-top, mini-fridge, sink, microwave, dishes, cups, and silverware. Studios sleep up to two adults and two children (making use of a pull-out couch), and one to three bedroom units provide separate space for families up to eight.

All-inclusive food. Any parent who’s vacationed with kids knows the truth: not worrying about meals and their costs is worth its weight in gold. Velas Vallarta provides all-inclusive guests with three meals a day in up to three on-site restaurants (our favorite by far was La Ribera, located directly on the beach). In addition to meals, additional snacks, beverages, and desserts are available virtually 24 hours per day, through their swim-up Aqua Bar, poolside service, and room service. Each room’s fridge is stocked with bottled water, soda, beer, and snacks daily, all at no extra cost. We loved that by showing their resort wristbands, parents could keep their kids properly hydrated all day, and that families could eat casual meals wherever they choose: the beach, the pool, the restaurants, or the balcony of their rooms.

Family-friendly activities. On the resort grounds, families have the run of three connected, free-form swimming pools, tennis and basketball courts, ping-pong tables, beach volleyball courts, scheduled activities, a full kids’ club, and beach access (complete with cabanas to help reduce sun exposure). Velas Vallarta’s pool-side kids’ club is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily for kids ages 4-12, is professionally staffed, and is included in the all-inclusive nightly rate. Kids’ Club staff take kids to the pools, organize games and sport tourneys, teach arts and crafts, and provide meals. Each evening, themed entertainment is on stage in the lobby bar. Tip: for beach rentals such as snorkeling gear, kayaks, and boat rentals, Velas Vallarta recommends neighboring resort Malia Vallarta, located a 5-10 minute walk down the beach. We rented a kayak from their beach rental tent for $15/hour.

Attentive activities desk. Organized tours such as whale watching, snorkeling, hiking, or horseback riding in the nearby Sierra Madre mountains can be easily arranged by Velas Vallarta’s activities desk, located in the main lobby. Activities can be arranged once you arrive, or before your reservation date.

Proximity to town and airport. Velas Vallarta is only five minutes from the airport, and only a 10 minute (or 80 peso) cab ride from downtown Puerto Vallarta’s famed Malecon boardwalk (definitely worth touring). Though most organized tour operations do not pick up guests directly at the resort, it’s 2-3 minutes by cab or car to all Marina Vallarta pick-up points.

Relaxed atmosphere. When we travel with our kids, above all, we want to feel comfortable. Kids are welcomed with both arms at Velas Vallarta; in every pool (though one is designated ‘quiet’), every restaurant, and every activity. The Velas staff is friendly and attentive, from the poolside waiters who ensure you’re never wanting to the groundskeepers and service staff. Wherever you and your family go in the resort, you’ll hear ‘hola’ or ‘buenos dias’ or ‘hello’.

Options. Most guests at Velas Vallarta don’t realize the hotel actually has a sister resort, on the coastline in nearby Nayarit. The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit defines five-star (and four diamond) luxury while still managing to be very family-friendly. I spent a good deal of time there, and can vouch for its elegance, attention to detail, and delicious fine dining. If you prefer a luxury stay, be assured that kids will be welcomed!

Tip:Velas Vallarta always has a lot going on, and guests need to know where to find information. Be sure to check the day’s poolside activities at the dry-erase board near the Aqua Bar; the evening entertainment is listed by the elevators. For any other activities or information, stop by the activities desk. Information is also listed on the Velas Vallarta website, but guests do pay for internet service (currently $16 per day).

As I always disclose whenever applicable, my stay, transportation, and meals were hosted at Velas Vallarta by Velas Resorts, for the purpose of review. And as always, all opinions are my own.