Our group of three (one adult and 2 children ages 13 and 16) just returned from a one-week February vacation at the Samba Vallarta. We had a great time in this small, friendly resort.
It is probably important for me to mention that the criteria I use when looking for a vacation destination are:
- small resort that is 4-star or above
- pool overlooking the ocean
- clean, comfortable rooms (ocean view is always desirable)
- activities for my kids
- some sort of shopping nearby
This hotel met all of my criteria except the 4-star or better rating but we had already visited this resort two other times so I was willing to take a chance on it again.
The room. We requested a room on any floor but the ground floor facing the pool. We were given a second floor room without a balcony facing the pool. I asked at the front desk if we could change to a room with a balcony or even a suite but she said we couldn’t. I was a little disappointed at how “matter of fact she was”….she wasn’t at all interested in trying to meet our request. We stayed in the assigned room the first night but the air conditioning could not be adjusted (even with maintenance help) and we were absolutely freezing in the room. We talked with our Nolitours Rep the next day and he helped us get a new room with a balcony on the 4th floor. Although it had a bit of a musty smell, we were much happier in the room because we could open the balcony door for fresh air and Alavar (not sure if I spelt that right) adjusted the air conditioning for us so that the temperature was much nicer. I would describe the room as “okay”. They do have a bit of a musty smell but not as bad as they used to be. The rooms are definitely clean and roomy but nothing special. I heard that they were recently renovated but they didn’t look a whole lot different than they did three years ago. They do have Wi-Fi at the resort. It was really “hit or miss” as far as getting it to work in the room especially. There was a safety deposit box in the closet. The view was beautiful and I loved sitting out on the balcony each morning.
Food. It was okay. It isn’t something I would rave about but I did have some good meals and always found something to eat. No smoothie bar but they do have two very friendly ladies who make fresh omelettes and quesadillas each morning. They do have bacon but you have to ask for it at the omelette station. Coffee isn’t bad but they only have milk (no cream!). They have lots of fruit out but mainly melons and pineapple. My kids loved the pastries that they brought to our table each morning at breakfast. You have two options for lunch. You can eat at the pool bar or you can eat at the buffet. We weren’t as impressed with the pool bar option this time so we ate at the buffet each day. I was disappointed that they didn’t have guacamole out at either place but they usually brought some out if I asked. They have two a-la-carte restaurants—the Italian and the Mexican. You have to make reservations each morning at breakfast for the a-la-cartes. Because the resort is so quiet right now they only open one restaurant each night. We ate in the Mexican restaurant twice….I had the steak the first night and it was not good at all but the second night I had their shrimp dish and it was quite good. My kids liked the chicken dish. The Spanish coffee is the highlight …. I highly recommend it. We were disappointed that we couldn’t book into the Italian Restaurant. It was only open one night when we were there and it was booked up already when we went for breakfast. We went to the BBQ night where they set up tables behind the pool bar. It looks lovely, the food was okay but we got eaten alive! I recommend booking into the Italian Restaurant that night. My kids loved the soft ice cream machines. They had one in the buffet and one in the pool bar area—both self-serve.
Service. The staff are very friendly and helpful. The bartenders were always friendly especially Martin at the pool bar and Fermin (?) at the Lobby Bar. The waiters in the restaurants are also very friendly and often brought us drinks before we even ordered them, remembering what we ordered the day before." Lore the "omlette lady" always has a smile on her face and makes great omlettes.
Photography. They have two photographers, Daniel and Diego, who come to the resort each day to photograph people in action and if you book ahead to take sunset pictures. They are great guys and took amazing family photos for us on the beach at sunset. I highly recommend that you book a time with them for sunset photos. Danielle probably spent 45 minutes with us taking all kinds of shots. He was great with the kids and the pictures were great. They are not at all pushy and truly just really nice guys. You might even see them playing volleyball as well….they are awesome volleyball players!
Activities. They have a small activities staff, much smaller than it used to be. That means that they have limited organized activities which can be a negative when you have two kids who need to keep busy. One lady offers activities for the younger children and three guys offer activities to everyone else. The activities staff were very nice. My kids especially liked Oscar. Emmanuel and Alex were also great. Alex took us out one morning kayaking which was lots of fun even though we didn’t see dolphins. We did see stingrays though and had a great swim out in the deeper water. They also had organized volleyball two times per day on the beach, water aerobics around noon and soccer on the beach around 4 when the tide is out. They have shuffleboard courts, small basketball court and ping pong tables out by the pool and two fuse ball and two pool tables inside below the main lobby.
Vincent, our Nolitours rep who was also a great guy, organized a bus trip to Buceraris one night. It was $5 per couple. He takes you into town on a bus to the main square. There is entertainment there and lots of vendors are set up—same flea market type stuff that you can find on the beach. You only go for two hours but it is a nice way to see Buceraris at night. We also went horseback riding one day. We walked down to the Decameron hotel (about a 20 minute walk down the beach towards Buceraris). Right beside the Decameron is a dirt path/road and if you look down it you will see a man with some horses. We went for an hour ride along the beach, through some of the cobble stone streets of Buceraris and through a very low income area of the town. It was a great experience and very reasonably priced.
If you like to shop you can go to Buceraris, Puerto Vallarta or you can just shop on the beach. There are some huts set up on the beach by the hotel with most of the typical flea market items—silver, t-shirts, hair braiding, etc. There are also vendors along the beach as you walk. They are not pushy and you certainly can barter with them.
Cons to the resort. The rooms really do need some updating but again…they are clean. The resort is REALLY quiet which is good and bad. There really isn’t much to do at night. They have short shows but they really aren’t great. They do have pool tables and fuse ball that we tried to play at night but they shut them down at 10 when their little store closes which seems crazy. I kind of get closing the pool tables although I am sure that the front desk could sign out the pool stuff. But the fuse ball machines? That doesn’t make any sense.
Overall, if you are looking for an extravagant resort with high end rooms, restaurants, and lots of excitement the Samba is not for you. If you are looking for a quiet, simple resort with great views and service then this is a great place to relax and rejuvenate. We would certainly consider going back to the Samba.
Room overlooking the pool have great views. I highly recommend adding a balcony.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.