I have a confession: Even as an avid traveler, I’d never stayed at an all-inclusive resort prior to a recent trip to Mexico. The thought never appealed to me because my travel is usually centered around exploration of the city I’m visiting and nearby locations. However, when the opportunity to take a press trip to Velas Vallarta, an all-inclusive family resort in Puerto Vallarta arose, I jumped at the chance to experience this kind of vacationing.
Velas Vallarta is located in Marina Vallarta, which is known for its variety of options for dining, shopping and water activities. I especially loved that after a short, no-fuss flight under three hours, the resort was just five minutes away from the airport. The logistical ease of getting there from Los Angeles was already a plus in my book.
While all-inclusive resorts for family travel weren’t on my radar, here are four ways Velas Vallarta changed the way I look at family travel.
A haven of spaciousness and choices
For our family vacations, we usually choose Airbnbs or hotels that offer amenities such as a pool, gym, restaurant(s) and maybe a daily breakfast option. For everything else, we busy ourselves with a lot of research to plan all of the other experiences we want to have. My stay at Velas Vallarta was the polar opposite.
I walked around the sprawling grounds of this beautiful resort in awe of everything that was available to make life easier for the entire family. The main draw of an all-inclusive for families is the unlimited access to food and drinks. Here, two restaurants Andrea (upscale dining) and La Ribera (casual dining) provide all the options you need to find choices that everyone will love. I also appreciated having a fully stocked kitchen with all the beverages and snacks I could possibly need during my stay, as well as around-the-clock room service, #winning! Normally when I travel with my family, one of our first stops is the grocery store to pick up snacks and drinks. Velas Vallarta takes away that step. If you can’t find what you want in your room, you will surely find it at the mini market on the property.
In addition to the dining options, three pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, basketball courts, a spa, salon, boutique, art gallery and access to a nearby golf club are other amenities that offer endless opportunities to keep everyone busy.
The spacious suites also provide the perfect opportunity for everyone to have their own space and privacy that you certainly wouldn’t find in an ordinary hotel room.
Entertainment for kids of all ages
Traveling with our daughters, ages 14 and 6, can present a variety of challenges when it comes to finding entertainment that appeals to both of them. I loved that Velas Vallarta has a kids club for ages 4-12. The kids club is a large, bright and friendly space filled with activities such as arts and crafts, puzzles and bingo, as well as areas with comfy seating for movies or video games. The activities change daily, so there’s always something new to enjoy. The outdoor grassy area is perfect for sports or playing on the playground equipment or just running around with new friends. There is also a nearby pool designated for kids. I can totally see my 6-year-old racing to the club every day and begging us not to pick her up until it closes.
Our teenager is a bit harder to please, but she wouldn’t be able to resist the pools or the option to walk right beyond the pool to the beach. Throw in the availability of ordering food and drinks poolside — and she’d be in heaven. The daily activities at the pool, such as the fitness classes, yoga, beach volleyball and ping pong (with a live DJ in the background), are sure to please teens as well.
Fun for adults, too
As parents, so much of our family vacations are spent accommodating our kids and making sure we create great memories for them. My husband and I rarely get to spend time with just the two of us on family vacations.
During my stay at Velas Vallarta, I got to experience several activities offered for adults that I could easily see my husband and I partaking in while the kids are busy with their own activities on the resort.
I visited in October and, with Dia De Los Muertos around the corner, it was fitting that we painted calaveras (skulls) and participated in an ancestral drink tasting. I must say, a little tequila with your painting makes for a verygood time! Other activities included karaoke, casino night and tacos and tamale tasting. Similar to the kid activities, the resort maintains a weekly list of adult events.
Ample adventure off the resort
While Velas Vallarta offers something for everyone right on the property, there are also plenty of adventures off the resort.
One of the main attractions in Puerto Vallarta is Zona Romantica, the Old Town. There are endless shops, cafes, restaurants and bars in this area. I took a 20-minute Uber ride and spent a little time here one morning after breakfast. I stopped for a coffee at a local cafe looking out onto a busy street and walked along the Malecón, a 12-block, mile-long esplanade. The hustle and bustle of this area is a nice contrast to the serene vibes at the resort. I also enjoy the opportunity to shop locally and support small businesses, and this was a great opportunity to pick up a few souvenirs.
Another morning, I decided a day trip to nearby beach town Sayulita would be the perfect way to spend a few hours. I jumped in an Uber and about an hour later arrived in this sleepy beach town known for surfing and colorful streets lined with shops and cafes. I wandered up and down the hilly streets for a couple hours, stopping frequently in shops selling mostly beachwear and souvenirs. Sayulita is a must visit if you’re in Puerto Vallarta.
In addition to the two excursions I took, there are many other off-the-resort activities that can be easily organized either with your own planning or help from the concierge at Velas Vallarta.
I now see that “all-inclusive” is far more flexible than I once thought. It offers vacationers the best of both worlds while doing some of the heavy lifting for you.
Jill Carter is an attorney, writer and mother of two in L.A.