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Puerto Vallarta/Las Cabos

By “7-Continent” Camille Pepe Sperrazza

Yes, we New Yorkers are fortunate that Cancun and the Riviera Maya are a short, nonstop flight away, but every once in a while we need to leave our comfort zones to see "the other side of Mexico."  This usually means taking two flights each way, connecting through Houston or Mexico City.

Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta - The Hard Rock brand always offers a wonderful experience. One thing that stands out for me at all of their resorts is that the food is very good, and it is well-handled. That means you won't find it sitting outdoors in the heat, requiring you to compete with the birds for a bite. The breakfast buffet has everything one could imagine and more - including made-to-order crepes, every conceivable filling, and it can all be topped with whipped cream, if you want it. The lunch buffet is equally extravagant, and then there's that chocolate fountain for dessert, surrounded with fresh fruit, cookies, and candies galore. It's all at the Market Place, an indoor, air-conditioned restaurant that provides a welcome escape from the heat.

Sit-down dinner options include Italian and Mexican, located on the beach, allowing a bird's eye view of the most dazzling sunsets. What makes the Italian especially inviting is that the restaurant is enclosed with clear glass and netting, so you can be surrounded by those unobstructed waterfront views in comfort. The salmon served there was fresh and tender, and the pasta with pesto sauce was so good, I returned another night and ordered it again. 

Other dining options include an Asian restaurant for sushi and teppanyaki; and the Brazilian where an endless array of meat arrives until you turn over your cardboard disc that tells the waiter you can't possibly eat another thing. The indoor snack bar offers sandwiches, cookies, cakes, frozen and hot coffees, and cappuccinos. In the evening, the barista will create flaming coffee drinks with alcohol that gets every person in the area excited. The outdoor pizza station is always busy. Service is impeccable, and workers roam pool side asking if the stay meets your expectations.

Rock and roll memorabilia is displayed throughout the resort - Prince's guitar and the Beatles' royalty records, among them. The lobby area is beautiful, with its high ceilings, and magnificent musical instrument sculpture that extends across a large wall, and remains visible from the see-through glass wall,  leading to guests' rooms, seven stories high.  Edible surprises arrive in your room while you are out soaking up the sun - chocolate guitars, and a very memorable tiny cupcake, halved and decorated to look like a miniature hamburger, with a chocolate disk representing the beef, and colored icing for lettuce, ketchup, and mustard. Adorable and delicious.

There is always a subtle soundtrack of great music playing throughout the resort, as this is the Hard Rock where a small guitar adorns the side of your pillow case.

Alcohol is top-shelf. The hot spot is the Sun Bar, located indoors, where there's live music some evenings. Bands occasionally perform outdoors during the day, too, galvanizing guests who are soaking in pools, to join them in chants of, "I want to rock and roll all night." But don't get the wrong idea. Despite the name, it is a pretty quiet place where families are welcome, and night life ends early.

Americana Fiesta Puerto Vallarta All inclusive - The convenient location means you will be walking distance to shopping, and a short taxi ride from the airport, the famous Malecon downtown area, and the cruise pier. The latter is located across from the giant Walmart, which shouldn't be underestimated for affordable souvenirs.

Noteworthy about my stay at this resort was the poolside food - the fish tacos, served with shredded cabbage and spicy mayo are outstanding, as are the barbecued wings and ribs. The poolside wait staff introduces themselves by name, and is readily available to bring an icy drink, always with a smile.

Indoors, the Mexican restaurant serves a tasty shrimp dish, dressed with tequila that arrives flaming. At the Asian restaurant, it's the fried ice cream that's set aflame. An Italian open-air venue is yet another dining option.

The entertainment director gives his own twist to Bingo and trivia games that make for lots of fun. The prizes are a cut above - Mexican baskets; pocketbooks; and one time,  a full day at one of the cushioned poolside cabanas was given away.

The open-air lobby bar offers a variety, but not all top-shelf names. Still, this is a fun affordable option when visiting this part of Mexico.

 

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico -

Yes, you will most likely still have to make a connection to get to this western part of Mexico, too.

Paradisus - This beautifully-designed  minimalistic resort offers Royal Service where your very own butler will hand you a flip phone and a charger, so that you can call any time, for anything you might want. Royal Service also means having access to a special lounge where you can dine quietly and intimately, away from the masses, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The area and service is exclusive to adults only.

Nightly entertainment is at the Gabi Beach Bar, which requires climbing a number of pyramid-like steps. The view is well worth it, but in heat and humidity, you may break a sweat. The bartender there offers an educational and interactive sampling of special drinks early evening, getting guests to mix colorful blends and shake those shakers. Later in the evening, there are musical performances. A Jersey Boys' tribute band stands out.

Indoors dining venues include Mexican and Asian restaurants. The latter has hibachi chefs who cook and entertain, turning fried rice into beating hearts and stacking onions to create smoking volcanoes.

The resort is about a 25-minute, $2 bus ride away from the downtown Cabo shopping and marina area. We always like to have a Margarita at the beachfront bar, The Office, so-named because when you tell your significant other that you are stuck at "the office," you aren't lying.

This article was accurate when it was written, but everything in life changes. Enjoy the journey!

Copyright: Camille Pepe Sperrazza

 

Hard Rock, Puerto Vallarta