“Lovely Resort. Not "5-Stars"...”
We just returned from a week at the Sunset Plaza Beach Resort and Spa. This will be our third trip to PV and first time staying at a resort. We have historically rented a villa as well as a car but wanted less stress on this trip so chose the Sunset Plaza Resort based on the rating and reviews on TA.
To put this review in perspective:
We travelled as a family of three (this trip) my wife, myself and our 12-year old daughter. We live in Brooklyn, NY and work in Manhattan.
We are not snobs nor do we ever look down the wrong end of a slice of pizza, but we definitely have a sense of finer things, great restaurants/food, great hotels, and luxury amenities. We live relatively modestly to NYC standards but want, and feel we work hard to deserve a 5-star resort vacation and expected it from The Sunset, based on the touts.
I wanted to give this resort 3 ½ out of 5 but TA only offers full stars so I gave it 4. I think 5-star ratings should be left for distinguished hotel properties. The finer hotels like the Four Seasons or St Regis that go the extra mile for their guests and of course at a price commensurate with that level of service. Here goes…
The Sunset is a very handsome and safe property with a very friendly and extremely accommodating staff.
You're greeted by the Manager Javier upon arrival. Well done Javier.
While we were waiting to check in, we were provided cold towels with a hint of star anise as well as a glass of champagne. After traveling for a day through Denver with an overnight, this was just what the doctor ordered.
We checked in for our 7-night stay and we paid the amazingly affordable $1,150 for our 1-BR oceanfront suite. For the #4 Trip Advisor rated hotel in PV we felt this was a great bargain.
We opted out of the all-inclusive, which turned out to be the right decision. More about this later.
After you've checked in you are introduced to your "butler", a nice touch. The butler is really just another name for a private concierge/bellman but they are not really assigned to you, I guess. After our initial interaction, we only saw our butler in the lobby, in passing. You can ask any of his “partners” to help you for any needs, on or off property such as reservations or bookings. This being our third trip to PV we didn't really need their help and as you’ll learn about Puerto Vallarta, it seems like everyone is a soldier in the Vallarta Adventures army, including SPBR&S. He escorted us to our room and gave us an overview.
That was the end of the butler. No pillow menu or anything else ever showed up as I’d read in other reviews.
I’m going to start quickly with activities then go to rooms, then speak to the food. Hang in there, this is kind of a long review but will provide you with some detailed insight.
*Only a few per day and only one agenda. Very limited.
*The Kids Club staff was not engaging. If you want your kids to have fun you’ll need to entertain them yourselves. This was the consensus from the parents we spoke with and observed.
*There is a Ping-Pong table in the main thoroughfare that gets a lot of use even though it’s in the wrong spot, IMHO.
*Biggest activity is drinking and sunning but that is enough for most, including my wife and me. Our 12-year old was less than thrilled when she found out the day’s agenda. Bartending and Blackjack are not kids activities. Volleyball on the beach was much later in the afternoon and she wanted something to do “NOW”!
*We feel an experienced entertainment director could really help out the hotel in this regard. Offer simultaneous agendas.
The rooms are very nice and since the hotel is only two-years old, everything is like new. We stayed in room 416, a 1-BR Suite that has a fully equipped kitchen, living area with pullout sofa and flat screen TV. There is a dining table and chairs for four and has it's own balcony access with an outdoor dining table for four as well. There is a large closet by the entrance and a full marble bathroom, sans tub.
The bedroom area was very large with the bathroom en suite. A separate Jacuzzi tub, shower and private commode as well as a huge walk in closet with a safe large enough for a laptop, iPad, jewelry and documents. There is a flat screen TV in the BR as well. There is access to the balcony through the master and there are two lounge chairs and a small table. The outdoor furniture was beautiful.
The bed was very comfy, as was my daughter's sofa bed. The furniture and its espresso wood tone has a casual elegance to it. As a family of three, we were very comfortable and didn’t feel cramped at all. We travel very heavy and bring a small wardrobe with us- we had tons of space. I cannot see how more than three people could sleep in this room unless there were three in the master bed and one on the pullout. Families with older kids will need the attached bedroom with 2 queens.
There were a few flaws to room 416.
I'm about to get a bit picky but to be considered as a 5-star hotel, in our opinion the devil is in the details:
1. On a basic level, the bathroom commode smelled of methane likely because the plumbing trap and venting were not installed properly. We kept the door closed and the exhaust fan on. Problem solved.
2. Since we were on the 4th floor, the HVAC on the Gym and building directly below us was so loud at times; you couldn't hear the surf (even though you're on a bay, the surf was very active the entire week). Whoever designed the property, didn't consider the noise from this unit and the occupants of the lower floors. It was very annoying especially in the early morning when I get up to write. I wanted surf, I got Frigidaire. Had we known this when we checked in, we DEF would have asked for a higher floor. Ask for a higher floor when you check in.
3. The overall finishing details of the bathrooms and kitchen looked like they were rushed. Now this is not a functional complaint as much as an aesthetic one. Sometimes you want to look down and not see paint on the marble molding and baseboards, around the sink, etc. It looked like I painted it, rather than a pro. Just saying...
4. This was awkward: We were told that if we used dishes in the kitchen, we'd have to wash them ourselves or we'd be charged extra for cleaning them. Really?
These are the little things that a true 5-star resort would never charge for let alone say.
FYI: We tip the housekeeping staff and everyone else VERY WELL. Not cool.
5. Most fine hotels provide luxury bathroom amenities. Fine hotels have cotton swabs, cotton balls, vanity set, mouthwash. The Sunset’s were basic shampoo, conditioner and lotion. They were okay, not luxury.
6. So our theory about the very low price is based on the hotel’s slight focus on "soft-sell" vacation property ownership through Shell Vacations. It should be pointed out that they are not pushy at all. The only slight push came from the concierge that asked us if we knew about the "presentation". They offered us the following if we met with them for 90-minutes:
*50% off the all-inclusive, any day we wanted it from12PM-12PM
*20% off of the spa services
*20% off of any adventure trips.
*They gave us 2 free drinks and told us they'd give us breakfast before the presentation.
Turns out the free drinks could not be used for top-shelf liquor but…. Turns out the hotel doesn't really have ANY top shelf liquor anyway. Nor do they have a wine list. REALLY? NO WINE LIST?
I won’t get into the details of the presentation but yes, we went.
Heck, we like to save a buck too. All I can say is that they took us next door to their sister property that was a disaster. The breakfast sucked and the hotel was run down and nasty. We passed on Shell’s offer even though they have their “Elite” program that has many “Five-Diamond” properties.
Most people know that timeshares are pretty bad investments anyway, at least for most people. The hotel honored their offer to us and we used the all-inclusive for 2-days. My wife had a massage and facial but the regular offer was a better deal than the 20% off so we never used the coupon. BTW she said the massage was really amazing. We did all of our drinking and ate at the better restaurant for dinner both days we opted in for the all-inclusive.
There are just two restaurants on the property and something called the “deli” that we thought would be someplace we could get aspirin, lip balm, a pack of smokes. No sir. If you need any of these things it’s a trip down the hill to the pharmacia. It is only a 5 min walk but a little inconvenient. Put a little shop in the hotel guys. The deli sold sandwiches and salads and we think ice cream. We went in once and saw there was so little offered, we left and never returned.
Mirador is where you will eat most of your meals and get most of your drinks including the swim up bar. Luciano’s is the “Italian” restaurant. Breakfast and lunch is actually pretty good at Mirador. The staff is always very nice and the service is very prompt. There is a limited assortment of Mexican and American dishes on the menu. The biggest problem is that the menu NEVER changes. This is a huge problem if you are staying for 7-days. We were bored after 2-days and then began venturing into town for our meals, which was our plan anyway based on other reviews of the restaurants. The Butler’s (bellman) desk calls down to the taxi stand at the resort entrance and for 60 pesos (about 5 bucks) you can be right in the middle of downtown PV.
Dinner at Mirador our first night was awful. Maybe it was what we ordered and that we are all foodies (including our 12-year old) but we were all disappointed. Did I mention there was no wine list? We were offered a choice of two very low-end red or white wines by the glass. After one sip, I convinced them to call Luciano’s and get me a decent bottle of cab, at whatever the cost. They did return with a Chilean that was pretty decent but turned out to be the LAST bottle on the property. Subsequent dinners’ cabernet’s were served out of a screw-off top bottle, ai, yi, yi.
Luciano’s is a celebration of butter. Every dish smothered in it. The only thing we found “Italian” was the endless loop of Andre Bocelli. The same music played over and over for 90-minutes.
So at Luciano’s they offer, for an upsell, “Prime Angus Beef.” This is NOT the same quality as in the states or Canada. My T-bone ordered as medium rare, was less that 1-inch thick, and was so over cooked, I couldn’t even chew it. The potatoes and veggies were smothered in butter and salt. There was absolutely no creativity to the menu. My wife ordered the special shrimp that is prepared at the table. They delivered my and my daughters meals, then started to prepare the shrimp. By the time we all started to eat, our dinners were cold. Very disappointing. The problem was that for the entire restaurant of maybe a dozen tables, there were only two staffers serving and bussing.
We did eat there for dinner a second time to give them a second shot. The filet mignon was a much better choice. The only other bright spot was the veal dish that is fall-off-the-bone delish. Again, veggies and potatoes smothered in butter.
A note to the Food and Beverage Manager- I would have 8-10 bottles of wine on a small list to offer some variety for those discriminating guests that are willing to pay for it.
POOLS and BARS
You have to get up early and save your chairs. This sucks if the resort is crowded. Lucky for us it was quiet so we didn’t have a problem but you could see how it could be. When I went down for coffee at 8:30, 50% of the chairs were already taken
Morning coffee and tea are available in the courtyard and you can pick up your towels there as well. Coffee is excellent but the resort uses cheap Styrofoam cups. The coffee server machine requires you to press the cup into the trigger but the cups just bend so you have to use your finger with the cup and you always burn yourself on the hot coffee. A 5-star resort should use paper cups (more eco friendly and sturdy) or ceramic cups and saucers or mugs.
There are adult, family and kids pools with waiter service most of the day. There are also some great duvets on the beach and around the pool. There are three hot tubs on the upper deck. Al the pools and pool areas are spotless.
The beach is clean but very tiny. Minimal venders compared to other beaches in PV but get use to saying “Hoy, no gracias.” which translates to “Not today, thank you.”.
The swim up Aqua Bar gets a ton of use from the guests. Bartenders are on point, friendly and fast. After our first night there was no top shelf vodka available so we had to drink Absolute. Not the end of the world but if you are particular about your liquor, the selection is very limited. Same goes for the Lobby bar.
The lobby bar was a kind of sad spectacle. It was almost always empty and occasionally had a 2-piece band that was very mediocre. Here’s another opportunity for the Entertainment Director to get some action going. Overall nightlife is a 1 out of 5. Plan on going out or making friends to liven things up. We commandeered sofas and tables from around the bar and made our own party one night in the courtyard outside the lobby bar. We closed the place at 1AM. Good times.
Overall this is a very lovely hotel. The staff is really nice and the accommodations are comfortable. They need to work on the restaurants, menus and beverage choices and some of the finer details. It is for this reason that I can’t in good faith, give this property the 5-star rating, yet.
We plan to return to PV every year. It has become a family tradition and it’s a very magical place. Feel free to email me for some hidden gems. We will consider the Sunset in the future. I’m certain that they will evolve into a great resort. So, I recommend the Sunset to those who are searching for a very nice, very clean, very comfy and safe resort, for a very reasonable price. 3.5 stars…
High floor, south end of resort. Plan on eating out some nights.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.