We stayed at this property for three nights, as part of a longer vacation to Puerto Vallarta. We stayed at another property for the other nights in an effort to explore our options for future trips. We have been to PVR many times, and have stayed previously on the Secrets side of this resort. We had a Preferred Garden View Room with a king bed for this stay. A bit about us...we are in our mid-30’s, and have been to Mexico many times including trips to Cancun/Cozumel/Mayan Riviera, Cabo, Mazatlan, and PVR (all multiple times). We always stay at 4.5 star or better resorts.
Quick and painless. Our room was not ready because we arrived early, so we went and had lunch and relaxed by the pool until our room was ready. Bags were delayed a bit, but were delivered to the room after a quick phone call down to the Preferred concierge.
The rooms at this property are amazing. They are beautifully decorated, clean, and have everything you need for a wonderful holiday. Rooms are large and new. They have large flat-screen tv’s, stocked mini-bars, desks, and chaise lounge. Our room had a king bed that was extremely comfortable, and a nice selection of pillows. The bathroom had double sinks, a soaker tub, huge separate walk-in shower with a bench, and separate room for the toilet. There was lots of closet and storage space, and an in-room electronic safe.
There appeared to be quite a few different channels on the tv, although we didn’t really watch tv. Apparently you can borrow movies and from a selection in the Preferred lounge, although we didn’t use this feature, so I can’t comment on selection.
Restaurants and Bars
We dined at Himitsu (Now side), Bordeaux (Secrets side), Oceana (Secrets side), and Castaways (Now side, buffet). All of the restaurants we dined at were adults only because we did not bring our children on this trip. Every meal we ate at these restaurants was excellent, as was the service. Himitus was the best Asian restaurant we’ve ever eaten at in Mexico, and they offer our favourite types of food. We ate a lot of sushi at this restaurant. None of the restaurants require reservations (except for the teppanyaki table at Himitsu), so we usually went for supper early to avoid the lines. We didn’t have a single complaint about the food or the service at any of the restaurants. I think the only issue I can see us having in the future if we return with our children (ages 10 and 13), is that they enjoy the same food we do, and the fact that despite being extremely well behaved, they wouldn’t be allowed to join us in a restaurant like Himitsu.
All the bars offer top-shelf spirits, and a nice selection of decent wine. Their bartenders can mix a variety of drinks accurately, and there was only one time the lobby bartender (on the Secrets side) was making a drink off the little menu on each table completely different from how it was described (which was actually quite funny). The lobby bars were our favorite, and their inviting setting encourages socializing. They are also a great place to watch the sunset, but get there early if you’d like a chair because a lot of people have figured this out!
The night-club is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in a resort. It has a Moroccan style to it, and they have a dance-floor, and lots of seating, including some in private rooms with curtains. They also have a hookah bar there, and quite a few people were partaking. We don’t smoke, so it’s not our thing, but the part that we did like is that there was no smell to it (other than a bit fruity). They make smokers leave the bar area and go outside to a designated area. As non-smokers who come from a city that heavily regulates where you can smoke, we REALLY appreciated this! We went to this club every night, and the only issue is how few people come down and use the club. It’s a great lounge style dance club, and the best nights were when groups of people came down and stayed. Unfortunately, many couples would arrive, see only a few people, and leave. If a few more people would stay, you’d get that critical mass, but sadly that didn’t happen very often.
We prefer the beach to a pool at most resorts, but because the pools at this resort are essentially right at the beach, we spent time at both. There were plenty of lounge chairs around. We love the fact that you don't have to deal with towel cards, you just take a towel as you enter the pool area, and deposit it in the bins when you are finished with it. We did see quite a bit of chair saving (always annoying), although it didn’t really impact us too much on this vacation because it was just the two of us, and we could choose either the Secrets side or the Now side, so we had a lot of options. Normally when we're with family and friends on vacation and see that someone has "reserved" seats and there's nothing else available, we just remove their towels and use the space ourselves. I've never had anyone say a word when they arrive hours later and wonder what happened.
There are bar and food options around the pool. We bring water bottles with us to the beach and don’t drink alcohol during the day (typically), so I can’t comment on how often the servers came around to take drink orders. There are a number of pools on each side, and they have a kids pool on the Now side. When we asked how many kids they had registered while we were there they said less than 60 children. This meant there were not kids running around screaming on the pool deck, which was in sharp contrast to the other resort we stayed at that was absolutely overflowing with loud, screaming, hyper children. Most kids stayed in the kid’s pool area, and parents seemed to keep a handle on them very well. Don’t get me wrong, we love children, but when you’re on holidays, its nice when everyone is considerate of each other.
In the evening, they set up a movie on the pool-deck, and I can see our children really enjoying this.
Beautiful sandy beach with lots of chairs and palapas and/or covered areas. There are some rocky areas, but this didn’t bother us, some people really didn’t prefer it. Some people wore beach shoes over the rocks. The beach drops off fairly quickly so it gets deep pretty fast, and the waves can get pretty rough at times. So it’s not ideal for younger children. But you can walk down the beach a short distance (1 minute) towards the huge unfinished hotel, and it’s a lot better for kids.
Beach Vendors are absolutely non-stop along with the beach in PVR regardless of which hotel you stay at. How that plays out though is dependent on which resort you stay at. The resort we stayed at prior to Now Amber earlier that week, didn’t stop the vendors from entering the roped off area where the loungers were, so you’d be hassled at least once per minute (not kidding). At Now Amber, security keeps the vendors outside the roped off area. This was great, because if you wanted to go look at their merchandise, you simply walk out to them and see what they’ve got, otherwise, you can relax on the beach and not be hassled. I can’t over-emphasize what a huge difference this was! Now Amber does a great job on this front!
Sports & Activities
We didn’t partake in the activities offered at this resort other than to take a kayak out for a spin. We are extremely active people, and our days in PVR leading up to our stay at Now Amber were a little too busy, so we just went for walks around the surrounding areas and along the beach. They leave an itinerary of daily activities in your room each day, and there was a lot to choose from...so maybe next time for us!
We didn’t have our kids with us, but we did go check out the Kids Club area for both the older and younger kids. Very cool! The staff at the younger kid’s area was very friendly. There were not any kids in either club when we visited. The younger kids club offered a very cook outdoor area, and the older kids area had game tables, video games, and even snacks at various times of the day. I think both would provide a great place for kids to just relax, and give adults a chance to get some alone time.
Outside the Resort
We’ve walked and jogged into downtown quite a bit from both Now/Secrets, and from other surrounding resorts. It is not a long walk provided you are in reasonable condition, and it’s interesting to see a bit of life in PVR. You can take a taxi to the Malecon, and I think it was about $5 each way. You’re better to walk out the main gate to catch a taxi, otherwise they’ll put you in the resort car, and you’ll be charged more (having said that, the car is new and clean). If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can jump on a bus into town, it’s easy and very inexpensive. Just past the arches towards the end of the Malecon, if you turn left and go up a block, you enter the flea-market area. There is a rope bridge to cross the river, or use one of the regular street bridges (rope on is more fun), you enter another "flea-market" area and we found the prices on the other side (south side) of the dry river better. This isn't a flea-market like we expected, it's just a ton of little booth type stores selling t-shirts, dresses, jewelery, carved items, to name just a very few items. Prices in this area are higher than they used to be because vendors know that tourists are going to try and beat them down on price, so they've increased their prices so that we can "get a deal."
There are two great massage places right outside the main gate (just walk down the hill, out the gate, and turn left). We did an hour long couples massage for $45 plus tip (for two people). My only recommendation about the massages is to go with the relaxation massage. I get deep-tissue massages with a registered massage therapist at home, and I made the mistake of choosing the “deep-tissue massage” they offer there. They are not qualified to do such massages, and I ended up with a very sore neck and back. But they are perfectly well qualified for a nice relaxation massage which my wife chose.
We have always felt very comfortable walking around PVR, but as with any other large city, make smart choices. Even when we go dancing downtown at night, we always ensure at least one member of our group doesn’t drink (the same as we do at home), so they can keep an eye out for the rest of the group. Common sense and a game plan go a long way to keeping you safe.
Preferred VS Non-Preferred
I’ve had the pleasure of staying in both Preferred and Non-Preferred rooms. You pay a little more for Preferred, but they do offer a few nice perks like upgraded amenities (shaving cream, suntan lotion, etc), and I think the mini-bar came with a few more things like Pringles and full bags of M&M’s. We only used the Jacuzzi on the deck once; there isn’t any privacy anyway. The Preferred lounge with all-day food (varied and excellent), along with a private bar upstairs, is made that much better by Benny who works there. He always had a smile and would offer you anything you might need (coffee, tea, alcoholic beverage, a light snack). He is a huge asset. This area offered a nice cool, quiet, place to eat before we left for our flight home. They also have a private area for flight check-in and boarding pass printing. The fact that the Preferred section is smaller with less guests, meant that we didn’t have to wait around for elevators all the time which was nice. Would I spend the extra money for Preferred again? Maybe. If you are on a tight budget, don’t spend the extra because the resort offers so much without the upgrade. But if it’s not too expensive next time we book, I’d consider it again.
Resort Coupon Book
After having stayed at both Now and Secrets, we have never used any of the coupons they give you. If you prefer higher end wine than what is included, then the $10 off a bottle coupon would help. You can’t combine the coupons, and they are generally for services that I consider over-priced anyway. So for us there has never been any value in their coupon book. They offered to put it towards an upgraded room, but the price of the upgrade was more than what we had paid for the nights we were staying, so we laughed that off fairly quickly.
At check-in something may have been mentioned about this, but I’m not entirely sure, and if it had been, we never heard a single word about it. We did see people doing tours with Vacation Club guides, and sitting with them for breakfast. But this is not our thing, and I couldn’t care less what they are offering, anytime I spend listening to them is time I’m not relaxing on my holiday. Besides, we don’t want to be locked into visiting a specific resort, or set of resort. We know people who always go to these presentations, and we know people who have bought into various clubs. You’ll have to decide when you arrive, but at least go there knowing that if you make it clear you aren’t interested, they likely won’t pursue you.
Style of Resort & Demographics
Most guests were mid-20’s to middle-aged at this resort (plus the children of course), but there were quite a few retired people too. The guests at this resort were primarily Canadian and Americans, with a sprinkling of European, Asian, and some domestic travelers. This completely changes the feel of a resort. Now Amber could just as easily have been anywhere in the world; it is not a particularly Mexican style resort. The resort we stayed at for the four nights prior to staying at Now Amber, had a much more authentic Mexican style, and catered more to domestic travelers (60% Mexican, 20% Canadian/American, and 20% European/Asian/Other). Canadian and American’s typically have smaller families, while Mexican families tend to be a lot larger, so resorts that cater more to the domestic traveler typically have a lot more kids around. Other things we noticed included Now Amber and Secrets both having music we recognized, and showed movies we were familiar with. In contrast, the other resort we stayed at generally communicated in Spanish first (and then sometimes English), and played music we did not recognize and movies we were not familiar with. I think the sharpest contrast in this regard was in the night-clubs. Now Amber played mostly top-40 dance music that everyone in the club new and they did a great job of trying different music to bring all age-groups up on the dance floor. But at the other resort they didn’t play any music we knew at all and only communicated in Spanish, which I think was likely why my wife and I were the only non-Mexican people in the night-club (and we went almost every night). You’d see other Canadian/American travelers come in for a very short time, but the environment was not particularly welcoming for foreigners. The staff at Now Amber also had better English skills than what we experienced at the other large resort.
Their staff is amazing, the food is some of the best we’ve experienced in Mexico, you can’t beat the rooms, and it’s a great proximity to the airport and downtown. We love this resort, and will stay here again...actually; we’re already checking rates, so hopefully something good comes along.
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