The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit: Good for Nothing

by David  Perry
Thursday Dec 20, 2012

You know those vacation spots where everything beckons: places to go, people to meet, things to keep you busy morning, noon and night?

Yeah, I hate those places.

I admit it. I’m a vacation vegetable. I want to do nothing. No lists to check off, no schedules to follow, no deadlines to meet, no timetables to reference, no guilt about it. Me, I like it where there’s a drink on this side of me, the pool on that side of me, and the sun, preferably a tropical one, overhead.

So when I found myself poolside at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, whose most pressing demand was that I kick back on a lounge chair and tip back the margaritas, Nirvana was achieved.

Considered a crowning jewel of the Riviera Nayarit, a sparkly stretch of Mexican coastline stretching 200 miles from San Blas south to the town of Nuevo Vallarta, the Grand Velas sits prettily on Banderas Bay, with the emerald-mountain majesty of the Sierra Madre rising up into the deep, tropical skies for a backdrop.

You know you chose the right resort when the lobby alone gobsmacks you. The Grand Velas constructed theirs like a Mayan hut ... if Mayan huts were the size of imperial concert halls, soared four stories and had inset fountains for centerpieces.

I stood there gaping like a landed fish for about five minutes. Because the open lobby shoots straight through to the equally open shorefront courtyard and its manicured gardens, whispers of flowers and the Pacific waft on every breeze. This is a hotel whose interior vastness gives the mind-bending impression of being bigger on the inside than on the outside.

I always considered hotels something of a bland necessity. I spend far more time outside one than in. A hotel room is a holding cell for my luggage and sometimes a place to hide the occasional hangover from daylight.

At the Grand Velas, I could hide not only my hangover but those of several of my friends. My room was bigger than my apartment. (OK, as I live in New York, this isn’t hard to pull off, but you get the idea.)

Palatial rooms? Check.

As I inhaled the Pacific breezes and gentle scents of bougainvillea and lilies, I got as close as one does to a lung orgasm. This was my first "all-inclusive" hotel experience, but it wasn’t until I was up to my ears in it that I realized what that meant. There is actually no compelling reason to leave the property. Everything you need is there, available at your discretion.

Like the whopping 12 kinds of margaritas some creative bartenders in the Lobby Bar can whip up. It was a virtual rainbow of unlikely ingredients -- who knew an avocado makes for a great margarita?

I’ve always been a tequila man, and if there was one challenge I was to meet, it was getting through all 12 libations, from the pungent chili pepper concoction to a tart tamarind entry. The hibiscus is tops in my book, but my hat was off to the hotel’s signature Huitlacoche Margarita, made with Mexican corn truffles that imbue a rich, earthy flavor.

The same spirit runs through the hotel’s other restaurants, Piaf and Lucca, whose respective and authoritative (French and Italian, AAA four-diamond) cuisines bring to the palate all the savory sensations of Europe.

The chefs are exactingly faithful to their trades; there was no watering-down or sugaring-up of foods I find in some restaurants to make this or that dish more acceptable to American palates. At Piaf, I was in France. In Lucca, I was in Italy. The presentation was astounding. Dishes are so beautifully prepared they reach the level of aesthetics where you don’t want to eat them because you’ll spoil the tableau. Tableaus taste great, by the way.

Of course, I did not fly all the way to Mexico to end up in Europe (no offense). For a taste of our next-door neighbor, Azul -- a poolside paradise rife with birdsong and open architecture that lets natural light and ocean zephyrs wash over you in equal measure -- faithfully serves up Mexico’s rich culinary culture. The ceviche de Colima had me coming back for seconds. And thirds. And fourths.


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