Recently stayed at the Samba Vallarta March 9th to the 16th and wanted to post a review quickly while things are still fresh in my mind. I come to trip advisor whenever I travel and find this to be an extremely valuable resource in making my decision on where to stay when travelling. In fact my decision to stay at the Samba was in large part to prior reviews I have read here. So thanks to all of you who take the time to post there experiences. I hope my review is helpful in your decision as well! I've broken my review into segments so please feel free to skip to what you feel may be of pertinence to your concerns. I will also add that his was my first trip to the Pacific side of Mexico to help you keep my review in perhaps a better context.
Used selloff vacations for the second consecutive time and very happy with the Service. One thing I've found is its better to actually talk to an agent and have a contact person if issues arise down the road. In my case there were a couple but both were handled promptly and efficiently by Andreas. A new feature now offered is "flex" for an additional $50 per person. Much cheaper than Cancellation insurance and much easier to use if needed. No questions asked if you need to cancel your trip up to 3 hours before flight time. Depending on when you do so if needed you are either issued a full or partial refund of your package cost or full credit towards a future vacation to be used within a year of initial booking. Whatever your time frame you are covered in the event of having to cancel. A very good and affordable option. As an aside I am not payed for this endorsement nor am I in any way compensated by sell off for providing this information. It's likely offered on other sites as well I would imagine. I took it as a cheap insurance policy. You may want to consider it as well. Lastly I have learned that when your booking its best to do so minimum 4 to maximum 8 weeks before departure. This will save you money. The whole last minute booking and you'll save a bunch of money is nothing but a marketing gimmick I have found. At least in my part of the world which is the west coast of Canada.
Our carrier was Canjet and I felt they were quite good. My daughter travelled with my wife and myself on this trip and in order to save costs we went with the "cheap seats" so to speak but I still found them to be quite comfortable and roomy. I'm a pretty big guy and 5 hours sitting in anything can be a challenge to get comfortable. Having a little person in the middle probably helped but still there seemed to be a little more leg room than I have had on other carriers. In flight service was excellent. Meals were decent and hot. Bar service was prompt and there were several complimentary offerings of water, juice, pop, etc. Flight was on time with no delays both incoming and outgoing.
We landed at Puerto Vallarta mid afternoon and chose to take a cab to the Samba rather than the bus. After a long flight the last thing I want to do is have another ride on a cramped bus while it stops at 10 or so resorts on the way. 20 USD or 310 Pesos gets you to the Samba in about 25 minutes. Money well spent in my opinion as you get there before everyone else thus avoiding the rush for room assignments upon arrival. There is a gauntlet of time share guys once you clear customs at the airport and they were a bit more aggressive than what I am used to but just blow by them. Once your outside there's no more to deal with.
I requested upon booking ground side near the pool. We got 3rd floor. But as many of you know none of this is guaranteed via your agent. We were advised to come back the next day as many guests were leaving and they would try to accomodate our request. The next day they did get us ground side but no amount of arm twisting could get me a balcony for less than an extra 40usd a night. I was hoping I could get this for about half that. Much in the Mexican tradition I was told to come back and talk to whomever was the boss if I wanted to try and negotiate a better rate. Curiously the "boss" never seemed to be there when he was supposed to be. After a couple of tries I finally caught on. We saved the extra 280 USD and went with regular ground floor in the end. Why am I telling you this? Because if you want a balcony your not going to get a deal on one. But the Samba will try very hard to get you what you requested and payed for as they did with us in the end.
Basic, but clean. King or two double beds. Flat screen TV. Others here have mentioned that the beds are hard. I didn't find that to be the case but as others have indicated bed toppers are available upon request. The Samba was built in 1992 so it is an older hotel and there are some signs of the age of the facility in the room. The toilet tank had a wooden cover rather than a porcelain one and the tank itself was aged cracked in the bowl. The shower enclosure tiling was a bit chipped here and there as well. The furnishings are somewhat dated. In short the rooms are getting close to needing some renovations. For me this was not a big deal but if your fussy on the look and appearance of your room this may be an issue for you. Air conditioner worked just fine. Not noisy at all. As far as cleanliness? Not a problem. Very clean. I did not notice any mold or mildew smell whatsoever. My main complaint on the room was there are no bar fridges. First time I have ever encountered this in Mexico. I like to always have something cold handy at all times so I didn't like this much at all. Problem was resolved after a couple of days when we went to the La Mega 10 minutes away and bought a styrofoam cooler for 60 pesos. Ice machines are located behind the pool bar and on the 3rd floor. Also to be noted is if you want cold beer, water, whatever for the room you have to buy it yourself. Again the La Mega is nearby and for a little money your set with your flat of beer, water and whatever else you may like cold in your room. There is also a small store at the resort itself with these items at a very nominal cost.
Very well maintained and clean over-all. The Samba website indicates there are 3 pools at the resort and this is sort of correct. Its actually one very large pool segregated into 3 sections. One adult orientated, one a toddler pool, and the last one best described I suppose as a childrens' pool. But it is a very large pool. I never felt crowded at all even on the weekend we were there when the hotel was nearly full. No problems at anytime of the day obtaining lounge chairs in any area. I recommend the area just left of the stairs leading down to the beach. Nice little hedge there that breaks the wind nicely. Gets a little chilly with the wind off the ocean at times. The bathroom at poolside is a little stinky as some have indicated but only when you get near it. Bathroom itself is very clean and constantly maintained so I'm not sure whats with that. I didn't find it to be too much of an issue though some others I met during my stay found it to be a bit of a problem. I never detected any odour poolside and I sat all week right above it. Just seemed to catch a "whiff" when you walked down the stairs to use the facility itself. There is a ping pong table and shuffleboard near the pool bar as well as the towel exchange. Boogie boards are available for use in the ocean. All at no cost. I think Kayaks were available as well though I'm not sure. Someone else here mentioned bikes. You'll have to check on that yourself. There's a games area on the first floor just below the lobby with pool tables and foosball tables as well you might enjoy in the evenings.
I really wasn;t sure what to expect here as I have never been to the Pacific side of Mexico. My kid Brother made his first trip to Mexico this side several years ago and he made it sound like some type of stinky murky cesspool but I was pleasantly surprised upon seeing it and don;t agree with him at all. No its not the Carribean sea but it certainly has a beauty all its own. The Beach is huge. Almost as far as the eye can see in either direction. Beautiful sand, impeccably clean. It's very nice. Not really a beach you can swim in under the water and see anything as the waves do kick up the sand constantly making the water murky but you can certainly splash around and ride boogie boards on the constant surf. Lovely beach for walking. There are vendors there but they are polite and not pushy. If you want to be left alone they will not hassle you at all trying to make a sale. I spent more time at the pool as my wife prefers that but this is a beautiful beach that I would certainly enjoy if I could have dragged her away from the pool. There are plenty of loungers and palapas to go around and it never felt crowded at all when I was down there sometimes on my own. The Carribean may be prettier but it certainly is more crowded than the beach at the Samba.
There are 3 bars on site. By the pool, in the lobby and near the dining area. The pool bar closes around 6pm. The lobby bar is open until 1am and the dining bar closes around 11pm. All the bars are well staffed, I never waited long for a drink at any of them. As an added bonus they actually serve Pacifico bottled beer which isn't great but a lot better than beer on tap which is what I have usually encountered on my various trips to Mexico. Brand name spirits are available upon request and if you treat your bartender well you will only have to ask once if thats what you prefer. Several tequilas are available. I recommend the one with the picture of the deer on the label. Avoid the Goat label if at all possible. Again treat your bartender well and you'll only have to ask once and they all seem to know what you like to drink. Special guys to watch for in the Bars are Fermin, Bruno, and Martin. All wonderful guys. Great sense of humour all of them who'll more than oblige you with a good conversation if they have the time to spare during there busy working time.
What can I say? Excellente! From the front desk, the bartenders, the waiters, the food service people. All of them. The best I have ever encountered in my several trips to Mexico. And I've had some very good service throughout all of my stays in this wonderful country. Special thanks again to the individuals I've already mentioned plus also to Salvador and Ricardo who never let my drink stay empty long enough at poolside before asking me if I wanted another one. I spent most of my time poolside but met people on the beach itself who said the same thing. These guys were always hustling to make sure you were well attended to. I only got to know the bartenders on the first couple of days because I assumed I had to get up and walk to the bar for a drink. Special thanks also to Angel at the front desk. Bellhop extraordinaire! From getting our room changed over 'Ariba'! to getting us a van for 13 people to go to dinner on 10 minutes notice at 7pm one evening. If it needed doing this young man got it done.
Lot of Canadians at this resort. And a lot of locals as well. Particularly on the weekends when they travel in from Guadalahara, Mexico City and other parts of the country for a weekend retreat. Did not meet any folks from the States other than one very nice Gentleman from Chicago my last day there. I'm mentioning this as much of what I enjoy when I travel to Mexico is the people I have the pleasure of getting to know for my week away from it all. You may too. To my understanding this is typical of this resort year round. Canadians, Mexicans, a few Americans and I should mention a fair amount of young children and families over all. I like Canadians as I am one (excepting people from Calgary and Toronto as they are Flames and Leaves fans) Mexicans and Americans are alright too. But you may not like this mix so I thought I would mention it for your consideration so you can choose accordingly if this is an important aspect of your vacation. Or not.
The Samba was different in what I have experienced as far as entertainment in other resorts I have stayed at in Mexico. On previous visits to the country there has always been a large anamacion crew of young people who provided the daily activities as well as most of the night time entertainment. The Samba was different in that there was only one person who encouraged people to get involved with water aerobics or volleyball during the day. I somewhat missed not having a crew of young people at first as I have always enjoyed getting to know these young people at other resorts whom I have found to be very talented, witty, and interesting young people from all parts of Mexico, South & Central America or even Canada. Some of them my wife still is in contact with via social media. The Samba however had nightly entertainment brought in for evening shows. One one occasion an excellent traditional dance troupe and on 2 other occasions a band of musicians playing traditional Mexican Music. On another night there was Karaoke with the one entertainment fellow on staff. In the end it was different that what I'm used to but still enjoyable and entertaining over-all. Though I did still prefer the bonds and friendships I made with an entertainment crew prior moreso. Perhaps this is just the way they do things on the Pacific side of the Country? I don't know this just being my first time to this side of the country. Still over-all the entertainment was enjoyable.
I've left this bit to the last as it was the only real negative I found during my stay at the Samba. We ate daily at the Buffet and in all honesty I can only give it a passing grade. In the reviews I've read I've seen "excellent" right down to "horrible". I'm in the middle here. The food certainly wasn't inedible but it suffered from a lack of variety and quality over-all. I might add that I'm not a fussy eater by any means. Pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy. For breakfast I have eggs with something. So breakfast was just fine. Though cut up weiners can never pass for breakfast sausage. Lunch and particularly Dinner buffet went further downhill from there. On our last night there I felt the need to go into Bucerias for dinner. In my prior 5 trips to Mexico I've never felt that wherever I've stayed. The last time I felt that way was in Cuba. And if you've been to Cuba you'll know what I'm talking about here. Thought it wasn't quite as bad as that. Just not as good as anywhere else I've ever stayed in Mexico and I always stay at smaller 4 star resorts when there. The poolside snack bar was okay. Though if you do try a burger be sure and load it up with enough stuff so you can;t actually taste the meat itself. There's plenty of those great Nacho chips with Guacomole and that wonderful salsa that the Mexican people make. Also some good salads. So you'll definitley survive and won't starve to death. Just don;t expect to be wowed by the dinners in particular at the buffet. You won;t starve but bring a few extra pesos to eat off site during your stay. You may feel the "need" as I did. The ala cartes I can;t comment on as I skipped both of them. In talking to other guests I got reviews ranging from horrible to great. You'll have to see for yourself.
Wi-Fi service was excellent throught the Hotel. Very important to me as I need to be in touch back home on a continual basis for business purposes. No need to use the internet cafe. Bring whatever you have and it will work well for whatever you need it to. A big plus for me.
Bucerias is really close by. 20 to 40 minute walk along the beach depending upon whom you talk too or 10 minutes by cab for 65 pesos. I didn;t see any of the town itself other than the flea market due to my cranky 11 year old daughter whom wasn't feeling good that day. The flea market itself is quite an experience. If you don;t like aggressive merchants you may want to take a pass on this. And when I say aggressive I don;t mean in a threatening way. Just that its a very cramped place and someone is hawking something in one ear while someone is doing the same in your other ear. Little more than what I'm used too in Mexico but after 5 minutes I was into it pretty much. I'm in sales for a living so I get the spirit so to speak pretty quickly. Whatever they're asking if your interested offer half and go from there. I got some pretty good deals on gear for back home in the end. Both in Bucerias as well as the vendors on the Beach. Did an evening trip into Puerto Vallarta through Nolitours. Bit of a jaunt from this resort. I'd say about 40 minutes to the Malecon which is the Tourist district in the downtown area. Interesting area but a bit on the busy side for me. And as I say a fair ways to go to get there. I asked one of the bartenders how crazy things would be in a week with spring break. He told me not at all. The Samba would be busier he told me but not with College Kids. They stay closer to Puerto. So if you like to be closer to the "action" the Samba may not be the resort for you. You may want to stay in Puerto or at least closer to it.
The Samba is a nice Family orientated Resort. Over-All its a nice resort to stay at. It's rated as a 4 star but I would peg it more as a solid 3.5. Based on both the condition of the facility as well as the food service. Still it has an ambience about it and a "feel" that kind of grows on you. I found myself doing a lot of comparison evaluation based on other 4 star resorts I have stayed at in Mexico in the Mayan Riviera. Which is probably not fair. It fell short in some areas particulary food but it made up in other areas particularly in service and in atmosphere. After a few days there I started to evaluate it more on its own special qualities rather than on other experiences I have had elsewhere in Mexico. Would I stay at the Samba again? Yes I would. It was a very affordable vacation for myself, my wife and my daughter. And I have to take that into account here in my summary. No the food wasn't as good as other places I have stayed but it was also very child friendly with a great rate for adding my daughter on. The best I could find when I was looking for a family vacation in this area. The same vacation in the Mayan Riviera would have cost me likeley 500 to 700 more CAD. I will look at the Samba again next year. I'll just bring along a few more pesos in case I feel the "need" to go for dinner off site a couple of evenings during my stay. Still be further ahead and still will have a wonderful vacation. My last comment is if your priorites are bright and shiny with gourmet food service the Samba is likely not your resort. Also if you want to be close to the "action" probably best to get a little closer to Puerto itself unless your okay with long cab rides. So there's my review! I hope you find it helpful in choosing your vacation destination now and in the future.
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