Roam+Board :: Grand Velas Riviera Maya


[trip style = luxury + beach + food + wine + spa]

Me gusta la Riviera Maya, Mexico's Caribbean coastline stretching from Cancun to Tulum. While I've stayed in a few hotels dotting this sugary shoreline, there has always been one stark-white and palm-topped resort that intrigued me: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Then the Trip Styling stars aligned. In partnership with Air Transat {Canada's leading holiday travel airline}, I arrived at the AAA Five-Diamond all-inclusive last Saturday to drink in everything from handcrafted margaritas to the green-tiled jungle pool—so gorgeous it's used as a backdrop for photoshoots and videos—to the 90,000-square-foot spa stocked with enough hydrotherapy gizmos and treatment rooms to be its own boutique hotel.

Divided into three distinct enclaves: Grand Class {adults-only + beachfront}, Ambassador {beachfront} and Zen {jungle-chic}, the 205-acre resort manages the almost-impossible task of feeling like an edited and exclusive escape, except with the bells and whistles you'd expect from a property built with a $250-million price tag and a three-to-one staff-to-guest ratio. 

Couple this with a round-up of restaurants—one helmed by the winner of Iron Chef Canada (2014)—24-hour room service; dedicated butler service; rooms bigger than most NYC flats touting travertine tile, jet tubs, private balconies, no-holds-barred minibars {a Snickers a day is good for you, right?}; and your view of an all-in vacation will be forever redefined. 

Trip Styler approved.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a 35-minute ride from the Cancun Airport, and a seven-minute ride from Playa Del Carmen. Ole. 

The weather is sun-soaked year-round. Note: Summertime is humid, and there's a slight possibility of tormentas due to the Caribbean's hurricane season {June - October}. But really, I'd go any time. Because, Mexico. 

You only stay where glossy mags do photoshoots.

What to Wear
Pull out your beachy best; here, what you wear to the pool is as important as what you don at night.
Jetset Style :: Comfort Class //  Jetset Style :: Linen Love // Jetset Style :: Top 10 Travel Essentials

The all-in cost hovers around $930 CAD / $700 USD per night and covers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, including your own bottle of private-label reposado tequila. 

Trip Styler Tip: I used the resort's babysitting service {$18 usd/hr for a min of three hours} which calls upon certified caregivers who also work at the resort in other roles. I was REALLY impressed. Baby Styler was smitten by his sitters.


Tropical Escapades

puerto vallarta air transat + cooking class + escapade[trip style = all-inclusive + beach + foodie + adventure]

This time last year I sampled several Air Transat, itineraries in Puerto Vallarta, a destination I'm drawn to for its swaths of sand, cobblestone streets and authentic Mexican flavors {like the guacamole I handmade at a cooking class in the photo above}. The trip was not my first Transat voyage with the Canada-based and operated airline; in the past I've traveled under their wing via packages and direct flights to Europe and the Caribbean.

sunset riviera nayarit transat

Given my Transat experience and travel expertise, they've asked me to be a Canadian spokesperson for the all-important winter season {read: jetting to the South!}. While this opportunity does not afford me weekly jaunts to Jamaica to savor jerk chicken or float down the Rio Grande river in a bamboo raft, it does mean I will lend my know-how as a traveler who is particularly passionate about experiencing a destination through a number of vacation lenses, which I term trip styles {all-inclusive, adventure, sightseeing, foodie, etc.}.

air transat spokesperson + trip styler

Starting in mid fall, Canada's leading holiday travel airline begins a wave of direct flights from Vancouver and other Canadian departure points to beachy locales like Mexico and Jamaica, in addition to their staple European outposts like London. While Europe calls my name d-a-i-l-y, and I would like to do all my Christmas shopping at Harrods {as well as get a peek at petite Prince George}, the vacation collections I'm most drawn to are trip styled with beach lovers and culture vultures in mind.

cooking class puerto vallarta

Enter Transat Holidays' DUO and Escapade vacations. In the DUO scenario, a two-in-one vacay combines opposite corners of a country. For example, sample Veradero's oh-so-sultry sand and Havana's historic rhythm in one vacation. Escapades are for those who want to infuse some added flavor into their all-inclusive getaway. For two days and one night you leave the resort---without even checking out!---and dive into the destination's sense of place. For example, in Jamaica spend 80% of your trip lounging under a palm and 20% taking a cooking class, dipping into a waterfall and sojourning at an eco-spa. Culture and coastal life, accomplished.

puerto vallarta

If you're involved in the travel biz and want to learn more about Transat trips to the South, join me at an upcoming event I'm co-organizing with a group of travel professionals and Air Transat in Vancouver on November, 20th, 2013. Details here.

[photos by @tripstyler brought to you in collab with transat holidays]

Spotlight :: Puerto Vallarta

[trip style = all-inclusive + beach + urban + sightseeing]

{Editor's Note: Nolitours recently sent me down the coast to Puerto Vallarta to test drive noliZONE, their new all-inclusive program which promotes the resort as a base camp for around-town exploration, meals out, cooking classes, fiestas, etc... I wrote about the deets on Friday and wanted to round-out the coverage with my top PV picks and pics!}

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton put Puerto Vallarta on the jetset's map when they descended upon the remote fishing town in the early 1960s for the film The Night of the Iguana, the screen version of a Tennessee Williams Broadway play. Surprisingly, Mrs. Taylor wasn't even in the film. Much to celeb gossip columnists' delight, she came down as Mr. Burton's famed mistress/+1. Puerto Vallarta was her quiet, romantic hideaway where she could roam unrecognized and free, for a time...

Now their separate, time-worn residences---connected by a Venice-like pink bridge towering above a cobblestone street---hint at a local fishing village transformed by the earliest and flashiest flash mob around. The Hollywood heyday couple may have ignited Puerto Vallarta's early fame, but the town's history, warmth, vibrancy and safety have maintained its A-List status with a steady influx of international visitors, as well as the largest community of foreigners in the country.

Eat The Cool Spot - La Leche When I walked into La Leche I wanted to break out in song because the whitewashed interior was more than a "blanc" palette. Look close enough and every detail from life-sized chalkboard menu to the shiny marble floors were high design. The cuisine matched the interior's ingenuity and taste. Every colorful dish---intended to be the art in the stark space---surprised and delighted my palate. Leaving 'no course unturned', even the starter salad came with a syringe of balsamic reduction dressing. PS - the chef studied cuisine in Vancouver, Canada! *La Leche offers a $30 prix fixe menu to all noliZONE guests.

The Splurge - Cafe des Artistes En vogue and whimsical, Cafe Des Artistes oozes posh. The restaurant itself is a lavish work of art and the food takes it up a notch with artful renditions of coastal Mexican fare. *Cafe Des Artists does not have a noliZONE prix fixe menu, but it's 100% worth a visit.

Do Take A Stroll

Puerto Vallarta rises from 40 miles of coastline toward the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Don your walking shoes because it's worth the uphill stroll on Liz and Richard's former cobblestone side streets on which you'll find their crumbling abodes. Back at the sea, a 6000-foot pedestrian Malecón stretches between the ocean and the town's shops and restaurants.

Take A Cooking Class - Cookin' Vallarta

Set in an open-air kitchen beside a rectangular pool {it's Mexico after all}, I learned to make proper: guac, salsa, hand-pressed tortillas, tortilla soup and mole chicken. As the sous chef I might be slightly biased, but it was the best-in-class Mexican I'd ever tasted, and I left with recipes for each dish! Don't even ask me how many times I've sliced, diced and devoured guac since I've returned home. *This cooking class is offered as part of the noliZONE. At the time of my travel the cost had not yet been determined, but I got the idea it would be between $20 - 40 cdn.

[photos by @tripstyler---except cafe des artistes & la leche---shot while a guest of Air Transat in PV]

Mexico: Get In The Zone

[trip style = all-inclusive]

One of the benefits of piloting Trip Styler is I get to be the first to hear about---and sometimes experience first-hand---new developments in the travel industry. Last month's five-hour jaunt to Puerto Vallarta was one such opportunity which I've been dying to dish out.

I went down with Nolitours, a Canada-based online packaged vacation company (part of the Air Transat group), to experience the first-ever noliZONE, a travel philosophy-come-product encouraging people to go beyond the gates and guises of the easy-breezy all-inclusive and inject a destination's soul into their week-long, cocktail-soaked beach-fest. To book a noliZONE-designated property {and optional program} is to use the all-inclusive as a base camp for local endeavours.

WAY beyond the butler service and buffets common in packaged trips, using the all-inclusive as a base camp is a concept I am behind 110%, especially having been bored to tears on day four of multiple all-inclusive getaways---no joke, once I tried to convince my husband to fly home early {being the wise man he is, he convinced me otherwise}---wondering what life lurked outside my coastal castle's drawbridge and fortified walls.

In Puerto Vallarta's noliZONE properties you get quickly acquainted with the outside world because they aren't a far-flung three-hour transfer from the airport, nor are they in the middle of nowhere flanked between banana palms and farmers' fields. Rather in Puerto Vallarta and neighbouring Nuevo Vallarta {interchangeable with Riviera Nayarit}, the all-inclusives are within 5-30 minutes of local restaurants, vibrant and historic towns and culture galore.

Not about cheesy excursions like a two-hour bus tour to feed stingrays a bucket of fish {been there, done that}, noliZONE takes you from a trip style = beach vacation to travel on your own terms, meaning you can go 'off-base' as much or as little as you want on your own, or via the noliZONE suggestions.

STAY TUNED: On Monday I'm going to show and tell some of my favorite restaurants and experiences in Puerto Vallarta. In the meantime, here's a PV taster I published while I was in Mexico.

The Details
  • Six noliZONE properties can be booked in Puerto and Nuevo Vallarta.
  • noliZONE offers a weekly, locally-organized fiesta to all noliZONE guests, as well as a bevvy of prix fixe restaurant options, the opportunity to visit or bring a list of needed supplies to local orphanage, cooking classes and spa discounts.
  • From Vancouver there are twice-weekly Air Transat flights to Puerto Vallarta from November 3rd until April 26th.
  • The newly-minted noliZONE vacation concept is currently in select areas of Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

{Per my editorial policy, I'm not getting paid to write this, it's just a travel concept I believe in and want to share with my flock of culture-vulture, aspiring jetsetters.}

[photo via riviera nayarit]

The $2 Beach Bag

[trip style = sun + beach + all-inclusive + cruise]

Bagging the right beach bag is key to traveling light and in style. It took me over a year to find the perfect one: my fold-flat navy and white striped Baggu, but recently I found a close second that rung up as $2 at the till.

I didn't mean to be disloyal to my tried-and-tested Baggu, but in a moment of last-minute packing desperation {at 11pm before a 3.45am wake-up for a recent flight to Maui}, the cute, already-in-my-purse and virtually weightless $2 bag shown above and below won. It helps that it matches my favoured beach cover-up. After highly successful debut in Maui, the $2 bag came with me to Puerto Vallarta last weekend as well.

Will I give up my trusty Baggu for the cheap and weightless thrill that is my newest travel obsession? Not a chance, but when space is limited and cutting down on even the slightest bulk is helpful, the cheapie bag will be my travel BFF.

Buying A $2 Beach Bag I purchased my bag{s} at Daiso, the two-storey Japanese you-didn't-know-you-even-needed-that store that sells everything from water dumbbells to fako iPhone cords to collapsible dog bowls. Located in Richmond, BC {near the Vancouver Airport}, plan to spend an afternoon because 10 minutes won't cut it. You have to uncover its weird and wonderful wares in hefty time chunks, and while you're at it, grab a bubble tea. {I wish this pic showed more of the bags, but there were some cool prints. I got the upper and mid left red and blue bags. No Daiso or like stores in your area? A) you'll have to visit Vancouver, or B) bag a bag online.

Mah-jor Disclaimer Though the bags are lightweight and have the general-ish shape {NOT PATTERN} of a grocery tote, I'm not suggesting you interpret my advice as "I'm just going to bring my President's Choice or Trader Joe's grocery sack on vacation." No grocery bags allowed for travel!!! Finding the right beach/plane-to-pool bag takes time, so I'm just giving you a variety of options and ideas along the way.

Related How To Bag A Beach Bag Fashion Friday :: Life's A Beach

[photos by @tripstyler]