GO FOR IT
Written by Caylee Matthews
It took less than an hour for me to go from planeside to poolside at Casa Velas, an 80-suite boutique hotel and spa located just five minutes from Puerto Vallarta's international airport and discreetly integrated within an upscale residential neighborhood alongside the greens of Marina Vallarta's 18-hole golf course. The ease with which you can slip into this adults-only, all-inclusive paradise, where colorful peacocks meander through lush tropical landscaping, makes it ideal for a quick battery-charging getaway.
Part of the Velas Resorts group, whose tagline is "Beyond All Inclusive, Beyond Compare," guests at Casa Velas have access to big resort amenities in a boutique setting. All-inclusive rates include luxury suite accommodations; a la carte gourmet meals at a variety of specialty restaurants, including dining privileges at sister resorts, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and Velas Vallarta; unlimited golf at Marina Vallarta and Vista Vallarta golf clubs (excluding cart fee); shuttle service and access to the private Ocean Club; premium branded beverages; 24-hour in-suite service; a well-equipped fitness center; a comprehensive lineup of weekly events; and, taxes and gratuity.
Traditional Mexican colors and furnishings define the décor in the spacious guest accommodations. Whimsical in-room artwork by sculptor Sergio Bustamante is one of many ways that Mexican culinary, artistic, and cultural traditions are woven into the guest experience. A recently unveiled pair of 1,350-squarefoot Wellness Suites reflect a property-wide commitment to wellness. Each suite is complemented by a dedicated Wellness Concierge; in-suite fitness amenities; a private plunge pool and rooftop Jacuzzi; bespoke soaps created from local botanicals; a Nikken Kenko sleep system; and an Alchimia Apothecary essential oil aromatherapy kit.
The lineup of complimentary weekly activities is always evolving. Those interested in local culture can partake of a micro-adventure to a local Huichol village that begins with an ancient energy cleansing ritual performed by a shaman. Of note to art enthusiasts is a guided tour of the weekly art and crafts market in nearby Marina Vallarta, as well as a two-hour art gallery tour of downtown Puerto Vallarta, and an hourlong themed art workshop with artist León de la Vega. Founder of Estudio-café, a cultural center that promotes local artists, authors, and environmental activities, de la Vega's program is accompanied by tastings of Mexican wines to help get your creative juices flowing.
Every evening at 6pm, guests assemble on the large terrace, which is bordered by a serpentine-shaped koi pond, to participate in an interactive activity that can range from margarita samplings to a casino night, where "winnings" can be redeemed in the boutique, which has a thoughtful selection of locally made jewelry. The boutique is also where guests can partake of the designer Handbag Bar, a program that allows guests to borrow from a revolving selection of 13 different designer handbags.
The roots of the culinary program are found in the kitchen garden, tucked away in a quiet corner of the property. Each of the 49 varieties of herbs, vegetables, and fruits are clearly marked, and in season, guests have the opportunity to select their favorite fruits and vegetables to create their own fresh-squeezed juice blend or personalized craft cocktail.
Casa Velas recently launched six new five-course gourmet tasting menus at its Emiliano restaurant. Built around the cuisines of France, Italy, the Mediterranean, and Mexico, each is overseen by head chefs from its sister resort, the AAA Five Diamond Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
Distinctive food and beverage offerings also extend to the pools at both Casa Velas and the Ocean Club. Quench your thirst by choosing from a selection of nine infused teas from Casa Velas' iced tea bar. Twice a day, poolside palette carts at Casa Velas dole out the Latin American ice pop made from fresh fruit. The Coco Cart at the Ocean Club serves food and cocktails from a fresh halved coconut collected on the property. Other posh poolside pleasures include foot rubs, butler service, and manicures and pedicures. At night, the Ocean Club becomes the ideal destination for a romantic sunset dinner.
Taking advantage of dining privileges at nearby Velas resorts permits you to take a journey for all of the senses at Sen Lin, the newest restaurant to open at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. The warm and exotic environs are a perfect backdrop for an Asian inspired menu that plays on modern textures and original presentations with traditional ingredients.
For a fun night in, you can opt for a gourmet DIY taco bar from room service, complete with creative meat and vegetable fillings, and sublime sauces such as Xni-Pec, made with purple onion and habanero chili peppers. Guacaholics should plan to check into Casa Velas in September for Guacamania, their property-wide celebration of the green fruit, which runs the gamut from ceviche to the spa.
To up the ante on relaxation, opt for a treatment at the 6,500 square-foot SPA Casa Velas, which incorporates botanicals from the garden into many of the 60 available holistic spa treatments for face and body. Before my Harmony massage, which included hot stone therapy and lots of TLC for my tootsies, I partook of a guided hydrotherapy journey that included prescribed time in a sauna, pressure shower, steam room with eucalyptus inhalation, and Jacuzzi. I will admit to not being a big fan of saunas, but having an attendant come in and place cucumbers over my eyes and a cooling aloe vera compress on my forehead halfway through made the experience much more soothing.
While I was perfectly content whiling away my short stay ensconced in a lounge chair by the pool or the ocean, the concierge at Casa Velas can help organize unique adrenaline packed off-property experiences for those seeking more uplifting experiences for their downtime. These include a surf and turf package that combines a six-hour fishing trip and a cook-your-catch dinner; bungee jumping at Banderas Bay; skydiving; a babymoon package with specialty spa treatments, a photoshoot and personalized healthy dining options; and a cultural tour package with a visit to the historic town of San Sebastian del Oeste, located in the Sierra Madre Mountains.
All-inclusive rates start at $268 per person per night based on double occupancy.
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