Puerto Vallarta – Enhance the Experience

Puerto Vallarta has become a hugely popular international vacation destination.  Somehow, it magically combines all that is wonderful about Mexico; its people, its diverse cultures and architecture, its sheer beauty and its food and drink! From the bustling old village to the plush resorts of Riviera Nayarit, Puerto Vallarta has so much to offer. So when I visited last September, I knew I was going to have a lot of “MUST- DO” activities.  Without question I knew I was going to the Malecon. I wanted to take a walk on the cobblestone streets and visit the iconic Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe that is on nearly every post card from Puerto Vallarta.  I made a promise to myself that I would really embrace this destination and get out of the resort. I usually opt for the infinity pool or nice spot on the beach under a palapa. Not this time – I booked 3 excursions during my 4 day trip. (Plus a spa treatment at Pevonia while I was at Secrets Vallarta Bay).

Small Fishing town

Sayulita – Small Fishing & Surf town

My first excursion was to a fishing town on the coast of Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta. We drove alongside the Banderas Bay, the Sierra Madre Mountains and arrived in Sayulita. It’s a laidback seaside surfer town. While walking around I saw tortillas being made from scratch for fresh fish tacos, visited a shop with some majorly cool Day of the Dead gear and had a piña colada on the beach while I watched blue-green waves crash in front of me.  Excursion #1, success!

 

Turtle Release

Turtle Release in Puerto Vallarta

It’s not just tourists that like the beaches in Puerto Vallarta. Sea turtles love them, too. I couldn’t wait to check out the Turtle Release at Dreams Villamagna Resort & Spa – Here’s how it worked…. A staff member explained how to handle the turtles with care. Everyone lined up parallel to the ocean and was instructed to walk 3 feet toward the water. Everyone was to release their turtle and step back to watch. It was hard not to smile as everyone observed these tiny turtles make their landmark journey to the sea. Excursion #2, success!

 

For my last excursion, I really got out of my comfort zone! I swallowed my fears and tried to brace myself for what I just agreed to with the Canopy Tour – Ziplining!  I could handle riding a mule back up the hill, it was getting down the hill on a metal wire that was freaking me out! O.M.G. I was so nervous, excited and filled with adrenaline at the same time.

Puerto Vallarta Ziplining

Puerto Vallarta Ziplining

“fly through a thrilling series of zip-lines, rappel down waterfalls, traverse jungle bridges and finally splash through streams and natural river pools. With some of Mexico’s highest and longest zip-lines, at almost 1,000 ft long and 250 ft high, it’s no wonder we call it one the greatest adventures on earth.” -Amstardmc.com

I still can’t believe I actually went through with it! But I have proof. Excursion #3, success!

Needless to say – I LOVE PUERTO VALLARTA. I highly recommend going and I can’t wait to go back. But please take my advice; get out of the resort and experience all of what this destination has to offer!

SuperSale!!

Apple Vacations SuperSale starts today! It’s our (and should be your) favorite time of year if you are planning an Apple Vacation!  Excuse the sales pitch for a moment, but this is really one of our biggest sales of the year!

Book during Apple Vacations’ SuperSale and you can save up to 40% on your next Apple Vacation to Mexico & the Caribbean.

Apple Vacations has sharpened our rates and is featuring some great deals including … save up to 40% at Dreams Palm Beach in Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic . Or, look for an Apple Vacation to Cancun, Riviera Maya, Jamaica, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta… there are big savings in so many destinations. Click here to see all of Apple Vacations SuperSale deals.

White sandy beaches, blue turquoise waters, tropical beverages and palm trees as far as the eye can see… will all be calling your name this winter. So stop dreaming about it and start planning!  Log on to applevacations.com or call your travel agent today to pick out your next Apple Vacation! Hurry, the best dates and hotels will sell out quickly.

 

 

‘Dia de los Muertos’ is a grand celebration of life itself!

The Day of the Dead is otherwise known as ‘Dia de los Muertos’ or ‘All Soul’s Day’ and can be traced back for thousands of years. This day is held to honor and remember family members and relatives who have passed away. During the day on November 1st and 2nd, people gather together to pray for lost loved ones. Altars are created to honor the dead and gifts are taken to the graves of the departed. The essence of this beautiful ritual is to lovingly and happily remember the dead relatives, their life, and in this way, give meaning and continuity to human existence. Here are some great places in Mexico that really embrace the Day of the Dead tradition:

Mural from Secrets Hualtuco Photo Credit: Stephanie Diehl, Travel Designed

Mural from Secrets Hualtuco Photo Credit: Stephanie Diehl, Travel Designed

1. Huatulco

Huatulco is one of Mexico’s newest and very unique tourism development areas. The state of Oaxaca has a rich cultural history and guests of Huatulco can take full advantage of interesting opportunities to experience some of Mexico’s charm. Although the Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico, Oaxaca has become known for the ornately richness of its celebrations.  The festivities begin a week before November 1st with the commencement of the “Plaza de los Muertos”, an elaborate initiation held in each city market, and a contest is held to judge the best of the city’s ofrendas.

 

2. Cancun & Riviera Maya

Marketing department at Apple Vacations

Traditional Day of the Dead Face Painting – Photo Credit: Jeff Farinosi

Xcaret is normally a hybrid action-eco-archeological-adventure park about an hour south of Cancun. From October 31-November 2, it transforms into an all out Day of the Dead celebration a.k.a. the Xcaret, “Life and Death Traditions Festival”. For those that really want to embrace the culture, complimentary face painting stands are set up through the park.

 

3. Los Cabos

Encompassing the two towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Lose Cabo, The Day of the Dead Festival is a key festival in Los Cabos throughout the Mexico. Families and loved ones pay their respects by creating spectacular altars that are elaborately decorated with photos, candles and food offerings. The altars are then displayed in the towns main square of Plaza Amelia Wilkes, where the best decorated alter is granted a prize.

 

Dia de Los Muertos skulls - Photo Credit: Travel Designed, Stephanie Dieh

Dia de Los Muertos skulls – Photo Credit: Travel Designed, Stephanie Diehl

4. Puerto Vallarta

There’s plenty to do in Puerto Vallarta to feed your adventurous spirit. Often called the “crown jewel” of the Riviera Nayarit, Sayulita, a small fishing town located just 35 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, has become a popular destination. The roots of Mexican culture are deep and complex, as is evident even in a place seemingly as simple as Sayulita: once a fishing and farming pueblo, now a magical, compelling tourist destination. Sayulitans set up alters around town to honor the deceased and there are lovely masses held in the cemetery.

 

5. Ixtapa Zihuatanejo

A varierty of learning opportunities await you in and around Ixtapa for those who enjoy experiencing the real destination behind the resort.  Ixtapa Zihuatanejo hosts a complete festival with lectures about the tradition, photographic exhibitions, traditional dance and music.  Building “altars” with flowers and tokens of the deceased is part of the tradition.  Local vendors will compete for the “Best Altar.” Activities start at the Zihuatanejo Bay with lighting of the area.

Have you visited Mexico for Day of the Dead? Where did you stay?  Feel free to share your comments and stories about your experiences with Day of the Dead traditions in the comments. Or continue this conversation on our facebook page!

Special Thanks to Travel Designed by Stephanie for letting us use her great photographs!

Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta

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Secrets Vallarta Bay

Everyone wants to tell us about Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta. Both Resorts have so much to offer and are Apple employee favorites!  James Reese, our Philadelphia Regional Sales Manager just returned and here is his review for you!

Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta are both beautiful 6 Golden Apple Resorts.  They are “sister resorts” separated by a lush, landscaped knoll that runs from the main building to the ocean. 

The rooms at each resort are warm and inviting. All have a coffee maker, laptop size safe, in-room Jacuzzi tub, DVD player, iPod docking station, stocked mini fridge, Secrets Box and Incredible Views. Of course, the standard 24-hour room service, no restrictions or reservations for dining and no wrist bands. 

The beach is a little bit rocky but the pools more than make up for that! 

From The Secrets Resorts side, some may expect to hear families from the Now Resorts side – NOT SO!  Both sides are perfectly defined and each offers its own unique pool settings.

Secrets offers Bali Beds throughout the pool area. Both resorts have ample pool side lounge chairs.  Between the two, there are  9 Restaurants and 5 Bars.  Complimentary WiFi  available throughout the resorts.  One thing of note at Now is that there is COMPLETE PRIVACY available for the bathrooms in the suites for families.  Guests staying at Secrets have full exchange privileges at Now while adult guests at Now can use all facilities at Secrets.  Complimentary Greens Fees for Golfers.  Lovely Spa!

I was thoroughly impressed with these resorts!  Be sure to hit either lobby to enjoy the sunset!  Incredible!

In addition to our nationwide scheduled air service, Apple Vacations offers exclusive vacations flights to Puerto Vallarta from Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Lansing, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. And new for Winter 2014 we will add flights from JFK, Philadelphia, Rockford and St. Louis! Getting to Puerto Vallarta just got a lot easier!

 

 

A Return to Puerto Vallarta

Joyce Malkenson, our Cincinnati Regional Sales Manager, just returned with the team from Puerto Vallarta.   We were able to get her impressions of Puerto Vallarta.

I was so excited to be visiting Puerto Vallarta.  It had been years since I had been there, but I had strong memories of how much I loved this destination and how truly distinct it was.  I stepped off the plane and was immediately impressed as to how modern the airport was and how easy it was to navigate.

As soon as we began driving toward the resort, I was instantly reminded of the unique charm and beauty of this destination.  Charming is the operative word……..from the cobblestone streets of the waterfront area to the unique shops and restaurants you are enticed.  There is no lack of things to do if you want to spend time away from the resort and in fact, I recommend a day and an evening exploring all the town has to offer.

Pulling up to Secrets Vallarta Bay/Now Amber was breathtaking.  From the moment I walked in to the entry and felt the bay breezes and saw the inviting lobby bar, I was hooked!  Clean, light and airy is the feel throughout these properties.  The suites only add to the building enthusiasm.  You open the door and see immediately out to the lapping waves of the bay and the incredible pool areas.  The suite itself is all about comfort and openness and I wanted to jump onto the beautiful chaise lounge and immediately relax…so I did! The room has amazing views from all angles, a Jacuzzi tub and a huge, fluffy bed.  This was one of the nicest rooms I have ever experienced.

The highlights of the trip came at night when I sat on the balcony looking over the pool area— the many pools were lit up and the turquoise colors were amazing.  A special light near the water reflected on the backs of the perfectly aligned beach chairs and it all looked like a piece of artwork.  You could see the whitecaps and hear the waves lapping and it was always a perfect ending to each wonderful day.

Having the two resorts side by side, one for adults only and one for families provides a perfect venue for any wedding, reunion or family group.  I will be recommending them to everyone I can. What a great resort! 

Thanks Joyce! Stay tuned to this blog for a review of Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta & Now Amber Puerto Vallarta from our Philadelphia regional sales manager.

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Finding a Unique Resort in Puerto Vallarta

Marival Residences & World Spa is an All-Inclusive 6 Golden Apple Resort. After visiting, the first impression from our staff was – WOW! The luxurious resort is not directly on the beach, but it is close enough to offer ocean-view suites. The resort has a private beach club, and it is only a short walk or shuttle ride away.

The resort is perfect if you are looking for a very luxurious and unique resort, for a longer stay, and also is also perfect for a smaller Destination Wedding. Marival Residences & World Spa is so much more than a hotel, it has everything to be your “home-away-from-home”.

Marival Residences offers penthouse suites which have roof-top private pools.  They also have a 3-bedroom villa with a private gazebo, full kitchen and private pool.  All suites and villas have washer and dryer.

Any Destination Wedding Bride will love the idea of a very intimate and lovely wedding in the backyard of a villa. And, Weddings are free (including judge fee) with no minimum room requirement.

The resort also offers many additional unique value added features including:

Unlimited Golf Greens Fees, 1 complimentary hotel offered excursion per person per stay (with additional excursions at only $30 per person)

6 of the area’s most popular excursions, including dolphin encounters, canopy zip lining and sunset sails are all part of the all-inclusive package.

8 complimentary hours of Nanny service per 5 night stay!

The average tenure of the employees at this property and the sister Marival resort is around 10 years. That is pretty impressive. This is an Apple staff favorite from the recent hotel visits. They all love, love, love this resort!

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Puerto Vallarta – Speed Reviews!

Have you heard of speed dating? Well, here is some speed reviewing! After visiting many of the resorts in Puerto Vallarta, here are the top reasons to book these resorts right from our sales reps– what made them stand out from the rest!  The Apple rating of each resort is listed for your reference.

Golden Crown Paradise / 5 Apple.  Great location!  This is an Adults Only resort with a pretty cool Disco!  Nice beach with many, many palapas.  Hit the Breeze Bar for excellent Sushi every night!

Crown Paradise Club / 4+ Apple. Right next door to the Golden Crown Paradise.  This resort specializes in Family Fun and is Family of 5 Friendly!  Family room offers a king bed with a dividing wall that encloses bunk beds with a trundle pull out and a TV just for the kids!  Kids Club for 4-12 year olds.  And, an Infant Club for 18 months-4 years old!  Ultra – cool Pirate Ship themed water park.  Children have their own drink menu at all the watering holes!  Adults only access to the Giant Jacuzzi swim up bar.  This is a quality product especially on a family budget.

Barcelo Puerto Vallarta / 5+ Apple.  WOW! Some of the largest suites EVER SEEN!  The rooms are HUGE!  You walk into a living room area, and then pass the bathroom area going into the bedroom.  Then, there’s another living room area!  Families looking for space – this is the place.

Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta / 6 Golden Apple.  Single parents get a special discount.  Boutique Spa where you can grab a pedicure while enjoying the stunning ocean view.  Free WIFI throughout the property AND on the beach!  Unique open-air amphitheater offers nightly shows.  They offer $1500 in in-resort credits!  The majority of the hotel rooms have a French balcony with no seating.

Marival Resort & Suites / 5+ Apple.  This is a quaint and comfortable resort with a great children’s water park.   Room service is available from 7am – 11pm for a $5 fee.  Dining reservations required but you can make them online for up to 7 nights prior to arrival!  For the rate, this is a fantastic value!!!

Riu Vallarta / 5 Apple.  “Art–Deco” resort with a stunning lobby. You can make dining reservations 2 days in advance.  Family friendly with a kid’s pool with slides.  Huge beach with hundreds of shady palm trees.  Clients enjoy exchange privileges next door at the 4+ Apple Riu Jalisco.

Riu Palace Pacifico / 6 Golden Apple.  Bi-level junior suites. Guests can make dining reservations 4 days in advance.  Complimentary 24 hour Room Service.  Exchange privileges with Riu Vallarta and Riu Jalisco!  Everything you’ve come to expect from RIU Resorts – great food, great service and a great value!

Grand Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa / 5 Apple.   50 minutes from the airport in the Punta Mita area of Riviera Nayarit.  Lovely drive along the coast through the mountains.  This resort offers a Kids, Teen and Baby Club! Botanical walking paths and mini zoo.  This resort is very hilly and may not be the resort for vacationers with mobility issues.

Occidental Grand Nuevo Vallarta / 5+ Apple – Apple clients receive private check in and check out.  The room has a shower that looks into the bedroom area. Junior suites are actually a true one bedroom suite.  Resort has an adults- only pool.  Apple clients have no dining restrictions but are required to make reservations (up to 48 hours in advance). Everything connected with covered walk ways. Beach is HUGE, WIDE, CALM and very SHALLOW – great for families. Majority of rooms do NOT have balconies.  Upgrade clients to the Royal Club on the 6th and 7th floors for private restaurant, bar and beach with cabanas. Great shopping is a 5 minute walk away at Paradise Village. Nice property!

Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort / 6 Apple. This is the first all-inclusive Hilton in Mexico! About 5 minutes from the airport. Nice, bright and modern. Has a bit of a sleek Miami Beach feel. Rooftop adults only pool and bar area known as “O West”.

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts will be opening a new resort in Punta Mita area in December of 2013.  It will be located about an additional 15 minutes past the Grand Palladium (about an hour from the airport).

Stay tuned, we have our final Puerto Vallarta review coming in the next few days.

 

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