I wanted to write a review as we relied on TripAdvisor quite extensively when selecting a place to go in Mexico for spring break. The reviews were mixed (with some polar opposites) coming in, but some friends gave us some useful advice who had been here before: "If your kids have fun and enjoy themselves, you will too."
We have 2 young boys: ages 5.5 and almost 4. The word "almost" is important in this sentence as I will touch on later. The hotel can be best summarized by the following statement (and for those of you who have kids the same age, this may mean something) ... the family suites have a small turtle step stool in the bathrooms that allowed the kids to wash their hands.
This is a young family-friendly resort, and I almost felt bad for the occasional travelers that were their sans kids, and even for those who had kids that were older, or at least older that they were off doing their own thing while the adults relished the kid-free time.
We had a family suite,and found that it well suited our needs. We were on the 2nd floor and didn't find the street noise to be that much of a problem unlike other reviewers. The noise more came from the echoing hallways of young kids being "shushed" by their parents as they went to and from their rooms later at night. For our boys, they declared that the bunk beds were one of the trip's highlights.
The bunk beds are isolated enough that the kids can sleep while you keep a light or two on to read... though other activities (watching TV) might disturb sleeping kids. The rooms are in OK shape. They are starting to show some wear-and-tear, with little things: like our toilet seat broke while we were there and the cover for our thermostat kept falling off the wall. It wasn't a big deal as other than sleeping, showering, and lathering with sunscreen, we didn't spend much time in the room.
The beds are hard as people have noted. I did get more sleep than I have in years and was well rested in the mornings, so it couldn't have been that bad. Though I would really recommend fitted sheets, but that might be a persona pet peeve more than anything.
The rooms were well cleaned every day. We tipped the first day, and not the second, and there was no difference in cleanliness (we didn't tip again until the last day... more as a thank you).
The food: great was the Japanese restaurant, good was the Italian restaurant, and OK was everything else. Basically it is food similar to any other all inclusive. Not as good as a cruise ship, but passable. Our boys are picky eaters, but ate well at every meal, even if it was simply rotating between hot dogs, pasta, pizza, chicken fingers, Fruit Loops, and of course, lots of ice cream. The service in all the restaurants was very good and courteous.
For families, this is an important point. You won't feel out of place if your kids are somewhat disruptive while eating. Even in some of the nicer restaurants, between dropping things on the floor, and playing with chopsticks, you don't stress too much. After all, kids are at almost every other table. Reservations were easy to come by, but we only made them for between 6:00 and 6:45. You could book 2 days out.
The drinks: tasty. Classic drinks with pineapple garnish, umbrellas, and the like "dos pina colada por favor". They have a bunch of themed drinks for the kids named after characters: (Batman, Spongebob, Shrek, Barbie, etc.) These always were enjoyed and was another example of catering to families. We didn't tip as we never carried cash around with us and that is why I went to an all-inclusive. This didn't make a difference in the service that we got. We did tip on the last day as a thank you for the great service.
The Beach: much better than I expected. The sand was perfect for sand castles and this was part of our daily routine. The surf was bigger than I expected and had a fair bit of undertow, so little kids aren't out by themselves, but playing at around their ankles is fine.
Yes, there are a lot of vendors, but they weren't annoying and rather added to the charm a little bit. If you said no, they didn't bother you. I actually found it much more pleasant than getting a "Spare some Change" panhandling that you get when walking around Vancouver. My wife got her hair braided, and I bought hats ($10 if you negotiate), and some new sunglasses after I lost my first pair in a too big of wave ("ray bans" for $15, the guy next to me paid $21).
The Kids Pool area: this is why you go to this place with your family. Not too deep and the kids practically lived in here. They loved it. It did get quite crowded on the weekend when quite a few locals arrived. It is not life guarded, so we sat on the side and read some books, but mostly the kids were simply doing laps up and down slides. It would have been great if there were chairs, but sitting on some "rocks" with your toes in the water was OK too.
Kids Club: we only tried this once. Our 3-year old who is just a few days shy of his 4th birthday was told that he couldn't come back as he wasn't 4 and that he would have to go the infant club. We had checked him in with no problems, but we were told this when we returned. While this is technically the rules, he is more physically and emotionally than most 4 year olds. If you are going and are in the same situation, fake the name on the registration card at the front desk as they called to check (same price regardless). It was handled poorly by the kids club manager
Resort Activities: Didn't do much of the planned events at the resort, opting to play with the kids and do our own adventures. We did the bowling, checkers, etc, and that was a hit with the kids.
Other Activities: We did two excursions on our trip: the pirate ship adventure and a Vallarta Adventures dolphin encounter. Both were great. The pirate ship made for a long day, but they took great care of you on board and at the beach they take you to. If you get nauseated, it is a sailing ship and the swells can get pretty big, be prepared. It was a $21 taxi ride to the dolphin adventure up in Nuevo Vallarta, but well worth it. The prices being quoted us by various beach vendors for these activities was more than what we saw online (by a fair bit), so we actually used their in-house internet center and spent $5 for 30 minutes and booked directly. This probably saved us $100 between the 2 activities. Another tip we were given after, there is a web cafe 1 block away that has 1 hour for $1. Oh well.
Service: We noted that we wish we could take some of the staff home with us. Everything is always being cleaned and kept in great condition. Thinking ahead to writing this review I was going to comment that the bowling lane needed to be cleaned/painted, but a fresh coat of paint was applied half-way through our stay. All the "tour/information" desks in the lobby are time shares, even the one that is with the hotel (they are just selling the hotel's own version). The front desk, while helpful, weren't that knowledgeable about activities; however, if you want to know what is happening or what to do, how long things take/cost... ask the bell desk. They were great and helpful.
Overall: I've been back for a week, and I still feel rested. If you are going expecting a 5-star property, gourmet food at every turn, boutique hotel-like bedding, or simply traveling as a couple, well you will be disappointed and probably should look elsewhere. If you are going with a young family, bring your camera and lots of sunscreen. You will need both every day to capture the smiles in the sunshine.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A MODERN FAMILY-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT The ambiance here at the Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta, All Inclusive Resort is one of casual family fun. Our oceanfront resort was designed with myriad places to have fun and relax with an aquapark with 9 slides a pirate ship and a castle, big jacuzzi with swim up bar for adults, 3 a la carte restaurants and more... All the fun for big and small! ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta Hotel Puerto Vallarta
- Crown Paradise Hotel Puerto Vallarta
- Playa De Oro