Barceló Puerto Vallarta: Lush, Luxurious Escapism

The litmus test for me at any all-inclusive resort is whether or not I feel the need/desire/overwhelming urge to escape after a few hours. That certainly wasn’t the case at the opulent Barceló Puerto Vallarta.

Before visiting this week, I wasn’t even the slightest bit familiar with the upscale hotel chain. The resort was a strong recommendation from my travel agent who found herself agog at everything from the amenities to the ritzy culinary offerings. After staying for four sun-filled (and belly-filled days), I have to report this might be the best all-inclusive resort I’ve ever visited. (And, trust me, I went in with zero expectations.)

Here’s what I deduced in my decadent 96 hours:

*The place was pristine—to a fault. Clearly, the higher-ups at Barceló must have done some market research on what their clients demanded in this ongoing Covid culture—and cleanliness was obvi at the top of the list. I never saw less than a half dozen attendants furiously deep-cleaning high-traffic areas 24/7. For that matter, I never spied a leftover glass on any flat surface or an errant leaf on the ground. Everything shined like the top of the Chrysler building.

*This posh resort must be vetted within an inch of its life—because every major travel player uses their accommodations. United Vacations, Southwest Vacations, Apple Vacations—check, check, check. Hell, even Costco Vacations has a Barceló PV getaway. It speaks volumes to the resort’s attention to detail and customer service. (And, before you ask, guests and staff wear their masks religiously around the resort.)

*I can’t be sure, but I’ll bet I gained 9 pounds on this trip. The food isn’t just stellar, it’s a gastronomic experience. And it’s also available 24/7. (Yes, even the sparse, but tasty room service menu has a certain foodie appeal.) I don’t think I was at the resort more than thirty seconds before the bellman pointed out where to get authentic Mexican street tacos. I furiously wolfed one down before I even checked in. Want to really be pampered? Sign up for the premier option and take advantage of the nearby VIP lounge/eatery where a smorgasbord (and top-shelf liquor) awaits. There’s an Italian bistro, a Spanish eatery, and a Japanese restaurant on the premises. My only beef? The chef has an overt fondness for salt. I found myself guzzling water at meals.

*I arrived with $50 one-dollar bills for tipping and other sundry items. I burned through ‘em midway through the second day. The staff is so overly eager and helpful, you’ll want to reward their hospitality. Plan accordingly. How insane is the service? The room attendant discovered an arbitrary light out in our room and had maintenance up there to fix it within minutes. When I asked for a few extra pillows, they were brought in with both pomp and circumstance.

*Adjacent to the resort—a literal stone’s throw away—is a ramshackle fishing village that has plenty of charm and character. There’s a tiny stream separating the resort from the small assortment of restaurants and shops. If you’re looking for a change of scenery or even an inexpensive surfside massage, bop over. Vendors will try and entice you, but none of them were pushy or over-the-top. How close is it? My resort Wi-Fi still worked intermittently.

*If you plan on heading into the city—or really anywhere, for that matter—allot yourself 30 minutes. It took us over an hour to get there from the airport. Bonus, it’s off-the-beaten-path and secluded, but it’s still a haul. And be sure to spring for private transportation with Amstar to and from the airport. It’s worth every peso.

*I’d be hard-pressed to say this resort hasn’t thought of everything to keep you contentedly on the property. There are jewelry shops, gift shops, various bars, and plenty of nightly entertainment. (Plan on paying for said conveniences. My bottle of sunscreen cost $24.) But the best part? The adults-only pool—which offered the perfect respite from the maelstrom of kids playing “Marco! Polo!” on the opposite side of the mammoth patio.