The visit was a welcomed opportunity to really get to know a place that I had previously only visited briefly. I always found the place to be intriguing and would reluctantly reboard the cruise ship without having sufficient time to investigate the palm-covered mountains, waterfalls, and inviting beaches washed by the Pacific Ocean’s warm blue waters.
Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta is a short 20-minute taxi ride from the airport and a half-hour ride from the shops and tourist destinations in downtown Puerto Vallarta. It is located on a narrow peninsula in the Nueva Vallarta area in between a row of luxurious resorts all facing pristine sandy beaches. On the back side of the resort is a large marina with countless pleasure boats and small watercraft along a stretch of water called the Nueva Vallarta Channel. The channel itself connects to a maze of picturesque lagoons and flows into the ocean a short walking distance from the hotel. A minor but welcome convenience of the hotel’s location is that across the street is a Starbucks (my daily must have coffee spot), shopping, and a casino!
The hotel was all-inclusive but offered additional VIP level service that we took advantage of, which made us feel special right from the beginning. As soon as we entered the lobby we were guided to a special glassed-in room where we were served appetizers, desserts, and cocktails while going through the registration process. They gave us a VIP wristband that unlocked the door to our room whenever we approached it. This was special for me because during hotel visits whenever I go out I’m always fretting if I have my room key with me or not. The VIP wristbands also gave us access to special seating and services in restaurants, bars, and on the beach as well as an upgraded wine list.
One of the small but nice things that I love about Hard Rock is that each representative’s nametag lists the name of his/her favorite artists. It was fun for music buffs like us to see the names staff members had chosen; they became natural discussion starters. Our check-in person Rod listed Amy Winehouse as his favorite, which really hit it off with us because we are both fans of her music. My husband’s favorite musician is Prince (which anyone who knows my husband, knows this fact about him) and the stars seemed to align in some magical way when we first stepped onto the balcony and heard “When Doves Cry” being played throughout the resort.
From our room we had a beautiful view of the resort, the pools, the ocean and sandy beach coastline. The hotel was totally renovated a few years ago to give it the hip, elegant, trendy, Hard Rock style complete with a distinctive musical backdrop and iconic rock and roll museum of evocative items from our musical history on display. Music has always been important to me and even more so for Dino, who is a professional DJ. The Hard Rock music is wonderfully customizable to anyone’s particular taste with classic rock, R & B, country and alternative— whatever style or genre appeals to the guest’s particular musical taste. The sound system in each room can be customized to play whatever kind of music the guest prefers. An extreme example of the hotel’s desire to please music lovers is the complimentary turntable together with LP records of the preferred genre that can be delivered to the room. As an ultimate expression of musical chic, guests can borrow a genuine Fender guitar and, if necessary, tune their televisions to a 24-hour channel, and begin taking lessons.
During our entire stay, somebody seemed always nearby to meet our needs and wishes as soon as we became conscious of them. Six distinctive dining options offered a variety of sumptuous international and American cuisine. We enjoyed dining in the two restaurants that offered ocean views the most, especially during sunset. The quality and variety of food at every venue was superior. I enjoyed the healthy options but my husband likes to try one of everything. At breakfast, for example, he would have a pancake, waffle, and French toast just for starters. We enjoyed every bite we ate and every drink we drank. I’m still day dreaming about the mango margaritas.
Mother Nature did her part; we never had to wear a sweater or long sleeves. Temperatures were in the 80s each day, with little humidity, perfect for lounging on the beach or playing around in one of the resort pools. At night the thermometer dropped to a comfortable sleeping range. The extravagant beauty of the climate offered a wonderful contrast to the miserable rainy weather going on back home.
The hotel offered a list of daily activities (you can view them from their website) including such things as yoga classes, beach and pool volleyball games, salsa dancing, and a special teen and kids club area with Ping-Pong tables and a ton of other activities and amenities. I had imagined that March might find the hotel filled with college kids on spring break. But we were pleasantly surprised at the number of families at the hotel; it was a happy family friendly environment. One of the highlights was a pool party with a live rock pop cover band and dancers to get the party going. The staff filled the pool with foaming bubbles and threw colorful beach volleyballs and balloons into the water. Vacationers of all ages were in the pool having a great time. Staff members were watching carefully to make sure everyone was safe.
Each night there was a different themed show performed in an outdoor amphitheater. One night a set of talented performers staged a Michael Jackson tribute show that had my husband and I in pure awe at the quality of the performance. They nailed Michael Jackson. The fire show was just as impressive. We were on the edge of our seats in total amazement of the choreography and tricks. Each night the quality of the entertainment was engaging and enjoyable for all ages.
Following each show there was a live cover band performing in the main bar. Dino and I are connoisseurs of live music and were amazed at the quality of each of the bands. After they finished a DJ took over and kept the party going all night. Our plan was to party and dance every night away, but we had such fun filled days that we usually made it to bed around midnight.
The hotel offered a lengthy list of activities and excursions including golf, a sunset cruise, tours of the city, an off-road ATV tour, a Dolphin Encounter, River Rafting, zip lining, and many others. Deciding how best to spend our vacation hours was a serious challenge. Dino and I never have disagreements about such things because I just book the excursions and then tell him what we’re doing. I’m wise enough not to spend all our time engaged in adventure if I want hubby to be happy, so I made sure that we had sufficient time for relaxing on the beach or by one of the pools. I booked us for the Marietas Eco Discovery that included a guided tour, snorkeling & kayaking adventure, plus a spa day.
The Marietas Eco Discovery adventure began with an hour journey on a large catamaran to the picturesque islands. We were served a continental breakfast as the sun rose. Once we arrived, we spent the day anchored next to the islands snorkeling, kayaking, and checking out the scenery. We enjoyed a deli style lunch, and an open bar, while music played in the back ground. My dessert was a piña colada. Dino and I spent a couple hours hanging out and kayaking around the islands where we saw beautiful birds and a large manta ray that swam right beside us.
An entertaining tour guide accompanied us on the trip and spoke to us about the sea life we saw in the waters around us, which turned out to be spectacular because on the return trip we were in the midst of a whale migration and saw whales all around us, near and some far. One leaped into the air and slapped the water with its enormous body. Our tour guide told us this is how the males show off to the females. We pulled up alongside a mother and baby, stopped the motors, and simply sat there bobbing in the water while watching the enormous beast as it lounged beside us. The whole episode was mind-blowing. This encounter made our trip even more memorable than we could have imagined.
We visited the famous Hidden Beach before heading back to the marina. On the return to the mainland, the crewmembers entertained us with a lip sync show where they changed outfits and danced on the front of the catamaran to a mix of popular songs. They got us engaged in singing along and dancing and laughing at the hilarious skits they performed. It was amazing how much production value they managed to include on the front of a boat that was speeding through the ocean.
The spa day provided a leisurely counterpoint to the island adventure. The spa was lavishly decorated with glass chandeliers, modern white cushion lounge sofas with furry pillows, and silver hammered finished wall, which gave us the impression that we were experiencing the levels of service normally reserved for celebrities. Separate areas for men and women included a hot tub, sauna, and a cold plunge. My masseuse was perfect and I felt like I was floating on a cloud after she was done. The serene ambiance, quiet but colorful elegance, and the impeccable quality of service made our spa day an ultimately relaxing experience for both of us.
Many of us have daydreams about what it would be like to live the life of the rich and famous. Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta provided us an opportunity to actually experience those levels of opulence and service.