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If you wake up early enough at Velas Vallarta, you just might get a greeting from the all-inclusive’s unofficial “hosts”: the peacocks roaming the grounds (and also the suite terraces). And if you go swimming at the right time of day, you might find yourself doing a few laps next to an iguana.
The wildlife roaming around Velas Vallarta, a stunning 25-year old resort located in Puerto Vallarta, is just one example of the hotel’s willingness to push for eco-friendly (and lizard-friendly) standards. In addition to peacocks and iguanas, the resort also houses injured birds in a special sanctuary and collects any turtle eggs laid on the beach to make sure they hatch properly. In fact, if you’re a guest on a day when an egg hatches, you can watch the turtle be released back into the water later that night.
All of this was relayed to me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel given by Donald Willis, assistant manager of operations, who also informed our group that the hotel has managed to cut its gas consumption in half thanks to solar panels. The resort is also able to compost so much of its leftovers that it can give local farmers 400 kilos of compost per year. It’s easy to see why Velas Vallarta is a Gold Level member of GreenLeaders, TripAdvisor’s stringent program dedicated to highlighting properties that are committed to being eco-friendly.
But it wasn’t just the hotel’s eco-friendliness that impressed me. The setup of its suites, which used to be part of a condominium, was perfect. I stayed in a Two Bedroom Family Suite, which had its own huge terrace, a kitchen and three beds altogether, as well as two bathrooms (one with a tub, the other with a standing shower). It made the hotel feel more like home than, well, a hotel.
Despite not traveling with family, I was struck by just how family-friendly the property is. Children could roam around freely, grabbing ice-cream sundaes at the swim-up bar (which almost inspired me to get one for myself) or hanging out at the indoor-outdoor kids’ club. The outdoor section features a small pool and water activities, in addition to a mini-playground, while the indoor club has televisions, toys and a section for fun activities. The club is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The all-inclusive Velas Vallarta started out as a series of condominiums, and it shows in the hotel’s spacious suites. // © 2015 Garrett Kuwahara
The hotel’s kids’ club has both an indoor and an outdoor section. // © 2015 Garrett Kuwahara
The property houses several unhatched turtle eggs to protect them from predators and other dangers. // © 2015 Garrett Kuwahara
Guests can host an oceanfront wedding on the resort’s jetty. // © 2015 Garrett Kuwahara
The on-property dining was excellent. Andrea Restaurant, the hotel’s main eatery, offers buffet-style breakfasts featuring French, Asian and Mexican cuisine, as well as a la carte menus. Monday is French night at Andrea, while on Tuesdays, it offers an Asian menu; on Thursday it serve up traditional Mexican food; and on Wednesday and Friday through Sunday it features Italian-style entrees. For guests who wish to dine oceanfront, there’s La Ribera Restaurant, and for poolside drinks, visitors can swim up to Aqua Bar. And, of course, there’s room service, available 24/7 for any style of food.
The hotel also hosts taco tastings every Saturday. If the hibiscus flower taco is available, make sure to grab as many as possible. While eating, don’t be surprised if you’re approached by a mariachi band playing both Mexican and American classics. Velas Vallarta is the only property in Puerto Vallarta to have a mariachi band that plays 365 days per year, a fact that everyone who works at the hotel seemed inordinately proud to repeat.
And why not? At a property as lovely as Velas Vallarta, there’s a lot to be proud of — including the mariachi band.