We took a cab from Las Brisas to Azul Grand Ixtapa ($12US). The staff at the Azul Grand impressed us immediately with their welcoming smiles and willingness to help. Check-in was quick and easy, be prepared with your confirmation number (the woman asked us for ours). The woman who checked us in was the only employee at Azul Grand that we encountered who was not friendly at all and did not make us feel welcome. I had e-mailed the resort a few days prior to make a reservation at Bambu & Sakura for our first evening and a good thing I did because reservations were full at the specialty restaurants by the time we checked in that afternoon. Our room was ready about an hour early and we were pleased. They do use the wristband system at this all inclusive so we became official. The hotel is very grand, sparkly and maybe even a little sterile (lacking a little in decor and color). We booked a master suite (also referred to as a one-bedroom suite) and were on the 22nd floor. Elevators were large, efficient and modern (this was a great relief after the elevator struggle we experienced the week prior). Our suite was incredible. Again, it was lacking in color and decor but it was HUGE! There was a grand marble foyer with a 1/4 bath, a large living space and a separate bedroom complete with jacuzzi, sauna and separate walk-in shower and toilet area. The terrace stretched the length of the entire room and an incredible view expanding over Playa Linda, Playa Quieta and Isla Ixtapa was to be seen. We unpacked and toasted with the Modelo Especials that were stocked in our fridge (2 cans per day). I was pleased to see a coffee maker in the room too. The fridge was also stocked with four assorted sodas but they were not great restocking with the sodas we consumed but rather stocking with the same sodas that were already stocked and had not been consumed. There were also four bottles of water in the room and this, they were very good about re-stocking. Resort maps do not exist yet at this property so we unpacked and set off to tour the property. I did include a separate review but will sum it here. Gym was amazing, spa was amazing, 3 specialty restaurants and buffet are all located one the same floor. There was a large kids' club so this hotel is definitely not adults-only as some have been mislead to believe. There are three beautiful pools, all are very large and lovely. One activities pool, one infinity pool which is attached to the swim up bar in a grotto and an adults-only pool. We found the layout to be very functional and easy to navigate. There is hardly any "beach" to speak of but they try and make it as inviting as they can. There are a number of beach sports available and an activities director to help you. A small bar is also set up on the beach. Drinks were pretty weak and we had to be a little adamant to get a "double" but we made it work, they had a nice flavor though. Dinner at Bambu and Sakura was really good! We had four courses and all were delicious! We had a night cap at the lobby bar which was really nice. There are three sections, game section, lounge area and the balcony. We had turn down this evening but they were not consistent about doing this every night.
We had booked the Picante snorkel catamaran directly online for this day. We were picked up at 8:45am by the Picante team and made a number of stops at other hotels along the way to arrive at the Zihua pier around 9:45am. Snorkel gear is an additional $7US per person but a number of people brought their own. We departed the pier at 10:00am and had a 45 minute transfer to Manzanillo Bay where we snorkeled for about an hour. The bar was open during the entire duration of the cruise (I've never seen it served to people before they go into the water). Lunch was provided and included ham sandwiches, fruit and chips/salsa. The catamaran was large and clean and we thoroughly enjoyed it. After snorkeling, we drove by some caves and spotted one whale. We took a break in the afternoon to swim and cool off near Playa La Ropa and Las Gatas. We returned to the pier around 2:15pm and we opted to walk in Zihua a little and take a taxi back instead of the long transfer with the group with multiple stops (190 pesos for taxi). We stopped at the restaurant reservations table and booked for the following two nights. Our options were limited due to which restaurants were open when and which were already full. This night (Tuesday) was oriental night at the buffet. I didn't see what was quite so oriental about it but the food was tasty: sushi, soup, lasagna, salad, lamb, assorted cake for dessert. The buffet opens at 6:30pm but doesn't get busy until 7;30pm or so. We had a long day in the sun so retired to bed early.
We started our day at the infinity pool which I absolutely loved. The view was beautiful and we felt like we were right in the ocean. Chairs are really close together at this pool which is a little uncomfortable but it wasn't very busy when we arrived at 9:30am. The water in the infinity was cool, I don't believe it was heated. We swam into the grotto to the swim-up bar and to cool off, it was quite refreshing. There were quite a few loud families who arrived by 11am so we opted to move to the adults-only pool. Although we gave up the nice infinity view, we absolutely loved this pool! It wasn't busy at all, there were four jacuzzis around the pool, bar service was great and it just felt very laid back. This evening, we ate at Flor de Agave which we ended up by default do to no room left at Olivo and Vid (Italian, our first choice). However, this was our favorite restaurant of the week at the Grand! The service was fast and friendly and the food was fantastic. Tamales, soups, surf and turf and desserts. We went to the lobby bar afterwards to enjoy some music before bed.
Breakfast at the buffet was outstanding. It is the same every day but there are so many choices! There is a made-to-order omelette station, fruits, cheeses, yogurt, toast as well as a mix of breakfast and brunch foods:pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, beef stew, fried bananas, tamales, etc. There was always something tasty. After breakfast we walked down Playa Linda via the boardwalk and took the water taxi to Ixtapa Island (see separate review). Taxi was 40 pesos round trip. It was a 10 minute walk to the pier and a 5 minute water transfer to the island. We didn't love the island and only stayed about an hour to swim at the less busy beach. In retrospect, I would skip that visit. We returned to the serenity of the adults-only pool and spent the afternoon there. I was most looking forward to our dinner this evening at the Oyster Bar. I was looking forward to dining under the stars and listening to the crashing waves. I was surprisingly disappointed with our meal. The steak tasted like it had been soaking in a salt bath and the rest of the food courses were just bland. Service was mediocre, we were bummed.
It was a little cloudy this day, still warm and pleasant though. We were lucky all the other days with temps in the 90s and lots of sunshine. We dined at the breakfast buffet then went for a walk. We walked back to Playa Linda but on the street side. We saw the crocodiles and perused the market. We took a cab into Ixtapa to take a final walk in the city. We started at the marina and I was so disappointed that I didn't know about the wonderful restaurants prior this day! I would've loved to dine there at least one of the nights of our stay. The marina and Ixtapa were both a ghost town. We walked along the sidewalk back to the shopping center and shopped a little before going back to Azul Grand. We dined at the buffet (seafood night) and again, the food was great but there were only about three seafood dishes. I'm just not certain how they determine their "themed" nights. The evening show was outside at the Azul Ixtapa and began at 9pm. We stopped by just to watch the first few moments before retiring to our terrace with a bottle of wine. We ordered a bottle of wine from room service which cost $70US. We didn't order food from room service at all but I did look at the menu and it was small but had a few nice options. The charge is 70 pesos per order for the delivery charge.
Breakfast at buffet again. We walked over to Playa Quieta that morning before checking out. I was disappointed again because I wish we had discovered this beach days prior so we could've enjoyed it! To access Playa Quieta, you must walk street side from the Grand. The sand is so soft and fine and the waves so nice for swimming. We checked out at noon and took a taxi to the airport (400 pesos) to catch our flight home.