All Day, All Night, All Inclusive

Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta delivers everything expected of an all-inclusive, plus a little something more By: Kelly Rosenfeld
Property features include two pools, a swim-up bar and a kids’ pool. // © 2013 Hard Rock Hotels
Property features include two pools, a swim-up bar and a kids’ pool. // © 2013 Hard Rock Hotels

The Details

Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta

Adorning a huge expanse of wall above the front desk of the Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta is a collage made up of 2,800 album covers, carefully constructed to create an image of the musician Santana playing his guitar alongside Mexico’s flag. The impressive piece embodies everything that the property strives for — attention to detail, dedication to its location, the spirit of music and an overall wow factor.

The 348-room Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta (previously the Vallarta Palace) was rebranded last August as part of the Hard Rock All Inclusive Collection, which also includes properties in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Cancun and, later this year, Riviera Maya.

The brand’s all-inclusive line aims to provide a combination of iconic architecture, unique experiences and an upscale environment. At the Vallarta resort, this is accomplished in part by an impressive music memorabilia collection that makes the lobby area feel more like a rock ‘n’ roll museum than a hotel. Pieces include a display case of gowns worn by Katy Perry, Shakira and Latin singer Jenni Rivera; clothing items from the likes of John Lennon, Elvis and Madonna; signature instruments such as a custom-made Santana guitar (the most valuable piece on the property); and other unique items from music history’s superstars.

Throughout the resort, the brand’s philosophy is carried out with tastefully delivered fun and flair. Music plays during the day but provides background ambience without becoming obtrusive. Entertainment and activities take place poolside by the swim-up bar, but there is a second pool for quieter lounging as well as a kids’ pool. In addition, an idyllic stretch of beach is only a few steps away, including shaded lounges with beach and poolside food and drink service.

Five restaurants are spread across the property, including buffet-style The Market; Zen, offering Asian cuisine; Italian fine dining at Ciao; Frida for contemporary Mexican; the Brazilian Churrascaria grill, Ipanema; and Pizzeto, serving brick oven-style pizza. There are also four bars and lounges, of which be sure to recommend Sun Bar, where entertainment includes live music, a pool table, karaoke, casino nights and more.

Other entertainment includes the on-property outdoor amphitheater, where rotating concerts, cultural shows and parties take place — I saw a Michael Jackson show, complete with an impersonator and backup dancers. Staff members even come through the audience to pass out individual bags of popcorn to attendees.

Rooms at the Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta range from upscale to unreal. Deluxe rooms come with a king bed or two double beds, a liquor dispenser and minibar, 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi access and a huge Jacuzzi bathtub that I never wanted to leave. At the top of the line is the luxurious Rock Star Suite, which measures 2,511 square feet, features its own music memorabilia and offers other special perks for its guests.

Hard Rock is pushing the limits of the all-inclusive concept with extra touches that go beyond what is already expected. For example, travelers are met at their car with cool towels and are relieved of their bags, which are then delivered straight to the room. At check-in, guests also receive a code to download a music playlist, as a special souvenir to remind them of their vacation. Extras in the room include a welcome bottle of wine, television channels streaming music videos 24 hours a day and unlimited free phone calls back to the U.S.

Other property features include the Rock Spa, which uses all-natural Amala products; the Body Rock Fitness Center; a kids’ club; the Rock Shop for brand merchandise; and 6,317 square feet of meeting and event space.

Deluxe rooms begin at $200 per night, based on double occupancy, depending on the date of stay.

If the Hard Rock All Inclusive Collection is aiming to embody the motto, “all day, all night, all included,” then the Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta certainly lives up to that standard.

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