We just got back from 2 weeks at the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta that started October 15, 2011. This was our 3rd trip there in the last 3 years, so you can tell we do like it enough to go back. When we got within a couple weeks of arriving we got a welcome letter from the Concierge at the Marriott and had several communications prior to arrival. We piad for the shuttle from the airport, which is higher than just taking a taxi, but it's nice not having to worry about negotiations for fare and just getting right through the hassle of getting through the lines on time-share sales people. If you take the taxi you can just ignore all the high pressure people and push on out of the airport and they have a sign with your name on it. As a return customer and also for their platinum customers, we didn't even have to check in to the front desk. We just pulled up in the Marriott-arranged taxi, the bellmen greeted us and gave us a packet with our room keys in it, and we headed right up to our room. The bags were up there in a few minutes.
While the hotel is a little aged, it is still very nice. They have marble floors throughout the rooms and bathrooms, with nice artwork on the walls. The artwork in the bathroom could definitely be replaced, since that picture looked like something from a cheap hotel. The beds are great, and the view from the rooms is beautiful. Platinum should get upgraded to on ocean view, which looks over the pool and out to the ocean. I wouldn't go with the optional upgrade to the junior suite ($70 more per day), unless you need the room for more people. The ocean view room we were in was on the 4th floor. The Junior Suites are on the 1st floor with a less impressive view because of the height.
The maid service was excellent, along with all the staff. Every time we made a request, it was handled very promptly and courteously. I did feel that we got even better service than in previous years, due to our Platinum level and being repeat customers. Some of the Platinum level perks are free internet access (coverage is still poor in many places in the hotel, but work fairly well in the room and by the pool), free coffee packets (yes other people usually have to pay for the coffee packets here), and free wine for the 2 of us for dinner (free to all elite levels, and the cost would have been about $20 US). Everything is charged in Pesos at the hotel, so be aware of that if you haven't traveled here before. You do a lot better to just go to the ATM about a block away, and get money (distributed in pesos) right from your bank which usually got about a 1.32 peso to dollar rate. At the hotel we got about a 1.28 to dollar exchange if you want to change dollars to pesos. There is an ATM in the hotel, but that only dispenses dollars, so then you need to exchange it at the lower hotel rate, or shop around.
We got the Sand Dollar package which included breakfast, and it is a very nice breakfast with a lot of Mexican and American type of food choices. Many fresh fruits and about a dozen different fresh squeezed juices every day. A couple of the Mexican breakfasts that were my favorites were Chicken Chiliquiles with the Roja (red) sauce, and then the squash-blossom and mushroom quesadillas with the white cheese that they use. There is so much to choose from that it is a difficult choice for the first few days.
One of the things that could use a little work around the facility are they could do a little more work on replacing a few of the little tiny pool tiles that seem to come loose. There aren't enough to bother you, but it would just improve the looks. I noticed over time some of the marble slabs have gotten little cracks in the room and some look like they have been replaced with a batch of stone that was just a shade different color. This didn't really bother us that much, but I wanted to point that out. The other thing that could be done, would be to re-paint the outside of the side wing. It just has some staining from rain, and it just looks a little worse because the other wing looks like it was recently painted, so I'm guessing the other wing is next.
Taxis cost you from 60 to 100 pesos (about 4.75 to 8.00 dollars) to go to the different sections downtown. When the bellmen call the taxis for you, they have a chart right there that tells you how much you should be paying so you don't get taken advantage of you. The prices from those same areas should be the same cost to return. If you want to adventure onto the bus, there is a bus stop just a little bit past the ATM on the street and around the corner at the arches at the entrance to the Marina that is close to the Marriott (about 2-3 blocks). All the buses that go past this stop will be blue and white and take you downtown. Sometimes they loop through the area where you get on, a couple of times because of the pattern of pickup but they will eventually get out of the area and head downtown. They will eventually go past the Big Marina where the cruise ships park, past the big mall, past the Sheraton, and when they pass the Sheraton, you are about 6 to 10 blocks from the Malecon where much of the commercial shopping is. If you stay on the bus, about 15 to 20 blocks more, you will go into a section called the Centro, which has lots of touristy places and you can also go just a few blocks and find all sorts of street taco stands that are great. The cost to go anywhere downtown, on the bus, is 6.5 pesos (about 50 cents).
If you have still stayed here at this point, you are probably really interested in checking out Puerto Vallarta, so here are a few pictures of the CasaMagna Marriott in Puerto Vallarta.
View from our balcony on the 4th floor.
View from the pool at evening.
Finally, I know I'm pushing over the couple picture limit but I had to show you the babe, my understanding wife let me bring home:
We have always gotten the Sand Dollar special with free breakfast and every 4th day free. We haven't really wanted to do the all-inclusive because while the hotel has several nice places to eat, we would feel like we needed to eat dinners and other meals there, because we had already paid for it. There are so many wonderful places to eat locally that we usually only eat a couple of dinners at the hotel. The breakfast is served till lunch, so it becomes a big brunch for us, then we go out exploring and usually have our evening meal out on the town somewhere. Some of the best eating is at the little out of the way places, and the little taco carts/stands. I know that if you are using points, they (and several other hotels in Mexico) have stopped offering the all-inclusive on points, and you would have to pay to get that. Let me know if you'd like to know anything more. We really love the Puerto Vallarta area.
I have an upcoming reservation that includes the breakfast for 2. How does that work at the restaurant? I may end up having to go alone - and was wondering if it is a meal chit - or do they just keep track on daily usage. Thinking I could invite my father for breakfast (who stays at his condo)!
When you show up for breakfast, they just ask your name and room number. When you are done, they bring you a bill that shows the cost of the breakfast that gets charged to your room, but that is all credited back to you when you check out. I think if you have 2 peoples names on the room, when you check in, it won't matter who the other person is. The breakfast is very popular there, any many people come to the hotel for just the breakfast. Let me know if we can help with any other questions.
We have a small restaurant we like to go to in the Marina, that has great Tortilla Soup, and it's really cheap, but I don't know the name of it. If you go around the marina, it is maybe 1/3 to 1/2 way and it is a 2-part restaurant (half is up in the main part of the marina, and the other half is to the right of the raised walkway and cover with a thatched looking roof. One of our favorite silver shops is also in the Marina, called La Brisa, and you will really like Rosy. she makes you fair deals, has nice quality jewelry and she grew up in the states and will yak your ear off. Very sweet. Here is a picture of her around Halloween when we were there.
Also, we spent more time this trip going to less of the exotic dinner choices and trying to find places, like little taco stands, to enjoy more of the local food instead of the tourist things. That is not for everybody, but we like that. We went up to Bucerias (rode the bus and had a hot bus ride, but a fun excursion) and had fun there for a day also.
We had the best luck using Pesos, but we would get them at the ATM that is just out the front of the Marriott and about a block down on the right. The bellmen out front can point the way for you, are really helpful, whether you want a Taxi or want to find where to catch the local bus (about 2 blocks). The ATM gave us a really good exchange rate. There are other ATMs, such as at the Mall and in Guadalupe Square, but just make sure they don't charge too much for the surcharge. We are converting from a US dollars account, but I would hope the Canadian system would work the same. You might want to check that first.
We are scheduled to go back for a couple of weeks at the end of October again, so I'm jealous if you're going soon.
I see it now. Thanks. I think I never paid attention, because depending on when you go (like we go around the end of October), the Escape Inclusive is $279 per night, and the Sand Dollar is $109 per night with every 4th night free, and that includes a $50 resort credit every day, which we use to cover our breakfast. So for 2 other meals included the rest of the day and free drinks, that would cost us $489 more ($70 more for 3 dayss, and $279 for the day that would be free under the Sand Dollar) every 4 days. We also usually eat downtown for at least 1/2 of those meals. Other times of the year might be a whole different formula, but we have an anniversary in the middle of October, so we make it our anniversary trip Thanks again for letting me know about the code, and hope you have a fun next visit!
Thank you for this detailed post tryt53 ... we are considering this location and I wonder if you can help with a few questions which I wasn't able to get satisfactory answers to from the booking team:
Sorry if some of these are fairly elementary, but I am quite new to all this.
1) I think the names mean the same place, but there is a CasaMagna Marriott at both Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so make sure of the location when you are looking or making a reservation.
2) They do have Jr Suites and Suites. We looked at the Jr Suite and I think they are on the 2n floor, and if I remember correctly, it has a sleeper couch in the living room that would work for 2 larger children.
3) You can find the Sand Dollars Special via their website under all specials at their location (among other ways to find it), and then you will see the Sand Dollars Special towards the bottom (the code is S29). If you find dates that the special code works on, then every 4th day is free and you get a $50 resort credit every day. This is great for their breakfast buffet or having dinner, etc. The room we booked in October was only $109 per day, every 4th day free, and then a $50 resort credit. Comes out for a really affordable trip that way.
4) You can use points, but I don't think you can use points for the special. I would definitely call Customer Service and check on that, though.
5) There is a port where big ships come into all the time, but I think it is just a stop over point for them. There are a lot of one day trips in the area, sport fishing, and I wouldn't be surprised if you can find short cruises if you look. We just haven't looked for that yet. Let us know if you find something interesting
Good luck with your planning. We are going back for the 4th year this year. Lots of wonderful shopping, restaurants, local little taco stands, sightseeing, etc, and the Marriott makes you feel really safe there (we have always felt really safe downtown also).
I don't know which Bldg B is, but the last couple of times we have stayed on the 4th floor, right above the Breakfast area, facing straight out to see, and not on the wing that faces toward Puerto Vallarta itself. Which of those wings is Bldg B? We are heading there again in just under 2 weeks and will be there for 16 days. We can hardly wait to get back!
Bldg B is basically the other bldg. The rooms on the South side face the pool. As I said, this is great for the late afternoon because you don't have the sun. I would suggest you e-mail Simon Coulson, the lead concierge and let him know that you would like room 5032, 34,36,38 if you want a King. Odd #'s if you want two Queens. He is a great guy and will take good care of you. I envy the fact that you get to go in two weeks, but we will be there for 12 days over Thanksgiving. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to converse directly. Say hi to Victor for me.