Grand Mayan & The Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort— May Be My Favorite Family Vacation EVER!


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Grand Mayan & the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort

May Be My Favorite Family Vacation EVER!

By the time we hit spring break I am ready to be someplace sunny,! We have hit many sunny destinations over the years, but recently we wanted to do something special. So we decided to check out one of the Vidanta resorts I had been hearing about. We chose to head to the Vidanta in Nuevo Vallarta (close to Puerto Vallarta), and check out the Vidanta resort there. It is their biggest, and I love this part of the Mexican coast line. As we started researching our trip, I learned about the Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta, which is part of the Vidanta resort, and knew that this was the spot I wanted to take my family. We loved our stay so much, I had to share about it for those who have not heard of these resorts before.

Let me just say – this resort was pure magic. We all LOVED it!

There are multiple pools, easy ocean and beach access, more restaurants on site than we could eat in during our 8 days there, and so much more. It rank as an all time favorite spot for my family. We were traveling with teens to seniors, so multiple ages in our group.

I have heard the Vidanta in Nuevo Vallarta referred to as the Disneyland of Puerto Vallarta. I can see how people got there (I mean they are building a theme park at the front of it, and the grounds are huge), so if you are looking for a more traditional spot to explore this part of Mexico, this may not be the resort for you. However, if you like access to amenities, gorgeous grounds, beautiful beach front access, multiple pools and restaurants, plus the ability to explore the local areas from there – this is your spot!

We also love Cabo San Lucas for easy family travel from the Northwest. We have put together a list of Things to Do in Cabo San Lucas for Families, if you are thinking about that location too.

The Grand Mayan at Vidanta looked like an amazing resort online, but I started to wonder if it was too good to be true? I am happy to report that after spending a week there, I can tell you it was EVERYTHING we hoped it would be. It ranks right up there as one of our favorite family vacations of all times. We had some friends who had coincidentally planned a trip that overlapped ours by two days, and they said they loved it equally as much. Both of our families travel often, so for this place to impress us that much was no easy feat. I knew I needed to share it with you all, in case you had never heard of the Vidanta resorts before.

Just writing this review is giving me all the feels again… I cannot wait to go back. It really was a week of pure magic! I had spent two weeks in Puerto Vallarta years ago, and loved that area. It has changed quite a bit since then, and I still enjoyed our time there, but if you are looking for a luxurious resort as a base camp, then you will definitely want to consider the Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta. It was literally one of our favorite getaways.

We were traveling with multi-generations in our party – teens to seniors and ages in between. I do think this resort is great for all ages. There is something for everyone to do. I will start by sharing about the resort, and then some recommendations of where to eat and things to do in the area. It was our very favorite combo of a beautiful resort, access to great restaurants, gorgeous beaches and so many other fun activities. I cannot wait to go back,

Let’s start by talking about the resort itself. Honestly, if you wanted to, you could visit the Grand Mayan in Nuevo Vallarta and never leave if you wanted to. There are more restaurants than we could fit into a one week stay, and so many things to do right on site. We did love exploring the area a bit, but that is how massive the resort it. You decide what you want do to, and when you want to do it. If you are traveling with kids, they do have a kids club for ages 5 to 12 too (fee based service).

Note that it looks like they have recently started calling it the Vidanta Nuevo Nayarit-Vallarta, so wanted to make sure you know they are one in the same.

Resorts within the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort

The Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta is a massive resort, that is made up of different tiers of resorts. The reason that this is important is that you will only have access to the pools in your resort/building and below. For that reason, I would recommend staying at the Grand Mayan or above. We chose the Grand Mayan as it was the best option for us in terms of price + amenities, and we loved it. It also is centrally located on the resort grounds. All options have access to all of the restaurants on the grounds.

Here are all of the options, in order of the tier they are in (lowest to highest). You can find out more details on all of these options here.

  • The Mayan Palace
    • provides access to the main pool
  • The Grand Mayan at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta (where we stayed and what I felt was the best overall value)
    • In addition to the main pool you also get access to the Grand Mayan pools, lazy river, water slides, wave pool and the kids aqua park
  • The Grand Bliss at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta
    • In addition to all the other pools already listed, you also get access to the Grand Bliss pool.
  • The Grand Luxxe at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta 
    • In addition to all the other pools already listed, you also get access to quite a few more pool options, including the tower pools, an infinity pool, adults only pool and the Kids Club park. You will find lots of the The Grand Luxxe at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta rooms available in the timeshare forums too, so it is a good option if you are looking for something more upscale.
  • The Estates at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta
    • In addition to all the other pools already listed, you also get access to a couple of additional pools as well as special lounging area on the beach at Beachland.

Note – if you are doing research you may see the Mayan Sea Garden come up as a Vidanta resort option. It is no longer part of the resort. It used to be in the past, which is why you will find that info, but it is now completely separate. We extended our trip by one day and stayed there, and we had to take a taxi to access it (or you can walk down the beach to reach it, but it is not a walk you can realistically make with luggage). 

Personally, I would be more than happy staying at any of the options from Grand Mayan up. The further up you go the nicer the location, but also a little further away from the main part of the resort. For families, the Grand Mayan offers the most in terms of pool access for the most reasonable price, is why we chose it.

We had our own private plunge pool on our deck!

The Grand Mayan in Nuevo Vallarta

We stayed in a one bedroom unit in the Grand Mayan. I had friends who got a two bedroom unit. We all loved our rooms. To start off with, we had a plunge pool right on our deck. I have never experienced this before, so just loved it. Ocean views are harder to get, but gorgeous. We got a room on the other side and still loved our view. We overlooked a lake on the property, and lots of gorgeous tropical foliage. At first I thought I would be disappointed for not having an ocean view, but I was not. Loved our view and enjoyed the lights at night. Our friends did get an ocean view, and that was gorgeous too. With an ocean view you can enjoy magnificent sunsets from your balcony.

In the Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta you will find the following room types –

  • Master Room (sleeps 4)
  • 1 Bedroom Suites (sleeps 6)
  • 2 Bedroom Suites (sleeps 8)

As noted above, the Grand Mayan offers access to a ton of the pools and water park features in the resort. The rooms that are grades above it will provide access to some additional specialty pools, and they are nicer accomodations, but the price is significantly more as well.

The Grand Mayan is situated in the same building as the reception area, and we found it to be an easy walk to most spots on the resort from here, as well as to the beach. Personally I felt it was worth the upgrade from the Mayan Palace to have access to most the resorts pools and water fun. They provide you colored bracelets that designate which areas you have access to. We never ran into any issues, but I read many reviews that stated people were asked to leave pool areas that were not a part of their resort.

Things to Do On the Vdanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort Property

You will want to download their app to get easy access to all of these things. This is where you will find the schedule of daily activiites available during your stay. You can also make reservations for meals, and it provides maps to find your way around too.

The resort itself was spectacular, and filled with lots to do. It is massive…so the biggest complaint would be walking. Although I loved all of the walking (they had nice boardwalks and paved ways) I was with my mom who is in her 70s, and it was a lot of walking for her. There are trams you can use, but they are not super convenient.

My teens did not think the walking was an issue, so the convenience of getting around will really come down to who you are traveling with. If there are people in your party with mobility issues, you will want to consider how massive this property is to navigate. If you are someone who likes to walk and have lots of space to explore, you will likely enjoy this resort. It is full of pool and water park options, as well as lots of beach access.

The one thing about getting around that I did love was that they were beautifully appointed walk ways. There were either boardwalks with lighting and signage, or paved paths. I actually really enjoyed the walking aspect of this property, but again if you have anyone with mobility issues in your party, this could be an issue.

And watch out for the racoons at night. Seriously – my kids came screaming in the room more than one night, yelling that they were chased home by racoons. While they may have been a bit dramatic about it all, they did run across racoons after dark more than once (but they never came too close to them). Things were beautifully lit up at the resort at night though. It was a magical time to be out.

The pools and water fun were fantastic at this resort! Your access to pools will depend on what level of resort you are staying at onsite, but there are plenty to enjoy. If you are at the Grand Mayan, here are some that you can expect to have full access too. 

You will find access to all of these things for free with your resort stay:

  • A lazy river (and there is a waves section in this lazy river…the first time I have experienced that!)
  • Wave Pool
  • Waterslides
  • Multiple swimming pools, including an activity pool, adult pool, kids pool area with spray waterpark, sandy beach access, cabanas and more.
  • Beach Front Cabanas with service & Easy Access to the Ocean.
    • We loved these areas, as they were generally less crowded and easy to get chairs under a palapala at. The water was warm, and so wonderful to enjoy. Plus, there is service out here to get food and drinks.

They offered daily activities at the resort too. Find a schedule of things like Volleyball on the beach, aerobics in the water, cooking class, language classes, live music events and so much more.

On the beach you will find huts for shade and chairs to enjoy, as well as food and drink service. It does sit on a long stretch of swimmable beach. There are water activities (like the parachutes on the back of boats, and jet skis), but not so many that you cannot enjoy the swimming aspect of this beach. We used both the beach and pools daily, and enjoyed them both.

The sunsets on property where beautiful. There were trails to walk for 20 minutes where you could find new areas to enjoy the sunset. The golden hour at this resort was truly magical!

If you want to add some luxury to your trip, you can book things like spa treatments, and massages on the beach!

In the evenings there was always live entertainment at Santuario. This is a huge indoor / outdoor space that is on property to enjoy a drink and some entertainment. My teens went a couple of nights, and we never ran into anything inappropriate for them – we all had fun. They do different themed nights, so check the schedule in their app to find out what is happening on what nights during your visit.

Eventually they will have a immersive theme park and waterpark on site. They were in the process of buidling it during our visit. The gondola is already running, but it is not open for general rides at this time. There is no opening date announced that I could find, but you can learn more about what to expect from VidantaWorld once it is open.

I will say there were way more things to do than we could fit into a one week trip. We had the most amazing trip with excursions and more, but there was still so much left we would have liked to explore. If you are looking for the perfect mix of relaxation as well as things to do in the area, this is the one for you!

Things to Beyond the Vidanta Resort Property

There is a ton to do in this area of Mexico, both in Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, as well as many other nearby towns. You can book a driver to take you around the area to explore for a day, or you can also book many activities through tour companies.

To get off property you grab a tram for a short ride to the front of the resort where you can grab a taxi. If you are wanting to go into Nuevo Vallarta, you can also walk down the beach to the Marina area (but it is a bit of a walk).

Experience a Dolphin Swim in Puerto Vallarta

Our favorite tour company in the area was Vallarta Adventures, but you can find lots of tour options in the Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta area.

I found them based on the reviews, and we booked multiple attractions through them….and each one lived up to the hype of the reviews I read. I talked with our friends who were there for the week after, and they loved this company too (and they have traveled extensively). I highly recommend them for activitites in the area. They can pick you up from either Nuevo Vallarta or Puerto Vallarta, so they are a great option ifr you are staying anywhere in this area.

Out of all of the excursions, I think the Zipline Adventure Tour was our very favorite. I talked with my friends who have ziplined in many locations over the years, and they said this was by far their very favorite. It is so fun, as they pack so much into one tour. You will experience a speed boat ride to the very quaint town of Boca

Once there, you are loaded into an all terrain vehicle to head up the mountain. There you will meet your team that will escort you through the rest of the excursion. Our team was so friendly and so funny…and I have heard others say the same thing. You feel like you are with family all day, and I felt so safe the entire time. I had one serious adrenaline junkie with us, and then me and my other daugher were really concerned about what we might do on this tour. As crazy as it sounds, we all loved it! And that is definitely because of the expert teams that guide you through it.

In addition to ziplines through canyons, as well as the roller coaster zipline (my very favorite) and surfing zipline and more, you will also repell down a rock wall next to a waterfall, and manuerver your way through the jungle for the day. It is an action packed adventure that never leaves you bored.

Day Trip into Puerto Vallarta or other Nearby Towns:

We spent a day in Puerto Vallarta for a day excursion, and it was great. Your cost for this will be the taxi ride in as well as food and shopping. So it can be a pretty affordable day.

Other nearby towns that were recommended to us for day trips include:

  • Sayulita (about 30 miles north of Nuevo Vallarta), and is an small artsy town with lots to explore and do for a day. Just a short ways from Sayulita is San Pancho which is a slower paced surf town with beautiful beaches. You can easily combine both areas in one visit if you want to.
  • The Marieta Islands (and Hidden Beach) – this is a National Park full of natural beauty (but some important visiting rules) and the easiest way to visit it is to book a tour that will take you there.
  • Bucerias is a great option if you are looking for a beach day.
  • Yelapa – a beautiful fishing village is a great way to spend a day. This tour covering the Yelapa Waterfall & Majahuitas Snorkel Adventure is a great way to do that.

We did talk to one taxi driver who is often contracted for the day by a family. The way that works is that you pay a negotiated rate, and that driver actcs as your tour guide for the day. They will take you to one village/city for a certain amount of time, then on to the next and so on. If we had more time we would have totally done this….but we simply ran out of time!

Nuevo Vallarta Restaurants

Oh my goodness, the restaurant options on the Vindanta Nuevo Vallarta resort itself where amazing. There are 44 restaurtants, eateries and bars and lounges on this property itself. While we hit many of them (and share our favorites), there were just too many to fit into a one week stay.

I will say that eating out on the resort will add up. There are some affordable options (and we share those) as well as some fine dining options, but if you want to save the most you will want to plan to cook some meals in your unit (one and two bedroom units have a kitchen to cook on site).

If you decide to eat some meals in your unit you will need to either shop on-site, or grab a taxi to the nearby Walmart. The Walmart is about 15 minutes away and you can do one of two things. If you have a shuttle from the airport, you can often pay a little extra to stop by and do some shopping on your way to the resort. This is my preferred method, so you do not have to take a vacation day to shop. Otherwise they do have a market right on site. This should offer you much of what you need, and it is so convenient, but it will cost you more. So you will need to decide what is more important for you on this vacation – time or money?

But, even with supplies for your room, you are going to want to try some of the restaurants on property. Here are some of our favorites.

I do suggest you download their app once you have booked the resort, and make reservations for your favorite restaurants. We made one for the night we were getting in, and then made the rest later on in the app. It is much more convenient to do that in my opinion.

We made our first nights reservation at the Italian spot, Tremanto. This spot is in the Grand Mayan, so it was easy to find once we arrived and were hungry. I do sugget considering a reservation for the restaurant that is in the building you are staying in. We ate outdoors, and enjoyed our meal for our first night at the resort.

The resort is massive, and can take some time to learn to navigate, so this makes things easier after a long travel day, and while you are still learning your way around.

If you want something affordable, here are a few good options:

The Salum (shown above). This is an are just off the beach that offers food truck style food options. It lights up at night, and their is often live entertainment too. While the food is affordable here, the lines can get long and finding a spot to eat during the main dinner hours can get tough. This is one you will want to have a plan for if you are trying to feed a family, rather then just grab a snack or a drink. You would have one person hit a different food truck with everyones order, then find a different spot on property or your room to go back and eat at.

Tacos Break – they are open for lunch on the top of the La Plaza offers street tacos and other affordable options. It is like street food (tacos, quesadillas and elote) and options start at under $5

The Mercado at La Plaza. We loved heeding here and grabbing a loaf of freshly baked french bread from Croquant, some specialty cheese from Creme de la Creme and sliced meat from Le Filet and eating it all back on our deck. It was very tasty, and while it was not cheap, it was more affordable than a meal out.

This resort offers 7 find dining restaurants on property, and many more casual dining and cafe style options (order at the counter). We tried many of them, and here are some of our thoughts.

We enjoyed 3 of their fine dining restaurants (wanted to fit more in, but ran out of time), and then more of the casual dining options. If you are looking for a good casual sit down restaurant, La Cantina was a favorite for us all. They offer both indoor and outdoor dining, and are open for lunch and dinner. We ate here twice. If you want to do dinner here, request a table by the water after dark, and enjoy a festive ambiance with lights over the water. Our favorite was the Fajitas here, and we often shared them amongst two of us. At around $15 for the chicken option, that made things more affordable. Expecially when you get to eat around the water like that.

Other spots we tried included –

Gong – the kids enjoyed it, but the adults did not love the food. The ambiance was gorgeous though, and so we were split on this restaurant. The Teppanyaki looked fun, but it was more than we wanted to spend, so we did not try it. If you are intersted in that, make those reservations early. It looked like it filled up nightly.

The Burger Custom Made – this was down at the end of the resort, in a beautiful setting along the water. I do recommend requesting a table by the water, and heading down around sunset. That way you can take in the beautiful sunsets while you walk, or while you dine. The burgers were good, and we all enjoyed this meal.

Balache – this one is a great lunch option for families. We shared a couple of pizzas at this spot for lunch one day (and a side of fries), and enjoyed it. It was one of the more affordable meals we had, and everyone enjoyed it.

Samba – we had the breakfast buffet here one morning, and we all loved it. This is where we got hooked on the green juice – so good! We are not big breakfast eaters, so we only did this our first morning, but we were very happy we did not skip this buffet!

Puerto Manjar – we had a reservation for this spot, and ended up cancelling as we were tired (it was at the end of the trip). I do regret not trying this spot – it is the one restaurant that looked the most exciting to me (that is it pictured above). If I were to do it all over again, I probably would do this one instead of Gong personally (although my kids would probably disagree as they did enjoy Gong).

Mexican Fiesta Night!

If you are planning on a splurge night, this was our favorite! We saw them setting up for it all week, and it was mid week when they held it (it only happens one night a week). It is not cheap, but it includes all you can eat food and drinks, and it was delicious (and so much to choose from). There is entertainment all night long, and you are sitting right on the beach as the sun sets, and then things liven up for the evening. My kids still bring up things they loved about this night (like all you can eat coconut ice cream).

All of us agreed (grandma, myself and teens) that this was one of our favorite nights and favorite meals. We felt it was worth the splurge and would do it again if we get the chance to go back.

These are just the spots that were able to fit in. There are many more. You will also find quite a few options in nearby Nuevo Vallarta, or if you make a day trip into any of the nearby towns they are all packed with great restaurants too. There is no shortage of good food here.

How To Save Money at the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort

Surprisingly, we were able to stay at the Grand Mayan Nuevo Vallarta resort for about what we would have had to pay to stay at many other hotels in the area (and less than other nearby resorts) by using timeshare points. We share more on how you can save on travel with Timeshare Rentals here. By the time we paid all of our transfer fees, and resort fees, we still ended up paying less for our stay than we would have renting rooms through a travel site like Expedia for example.

More Ideas on How to save on rooms at the Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta Resort – 

The Grand Mayan rooms start at $650 a night on the Vidanta site, but there are ways you can find it for much less. The best way is to do it through a timeshare booking (and those are generally for a week at a time). For example we found offers for around $2000 a week (some even less) which works out to around $285 a night. This resort does have a resort fee, so be sure you are clear on what that will be if you are renting timeshare points, and factor that into your overall cost. The resort fee can vary, depending the on the terms of the timeshare (we have seen it to be anywhere from around $300 to $1500 for the week – so it is an important cost to know up front before booking). Here are some of the ways to rent it as a timeshare:

  • If you are a timeshare owner, check your program to see if they are included. We stayed through RCI, but I have talked to many others who stayed through other timeshare programs too. The benefits will vary based on what program you go through (for example our friends got a free shuttle from the airport with their program and we did not).
  • If you are not a timeshare owner, but know someone who is, perhaps you could buy their points off of them directly if they have some they will not be using.
  • Otherwise you can buy them from others at online sites like we share about here. My family has done this in the past, so I can confirm it is completely legit (only there are a lot more steps to it then just booking off of a hotel site.
  • You will also find owners renting out their units on sites like VRBO.
  • We found rooms for sale for certain dates on travel sites like Expedia too. This is your best bet if you are not wanting to travel for a full week.

More tips to save on your stay at the Vidanta Vallarta – 

Cook in your room – you can save quite a bit of money by cooking some of your own meals in the kitchen of your unit, vs. eating all of your meals out.

To get groceries, the most cost effective way is to stop at Walmart or a local Mega Super store. Some shuttles let you book a stop in at the store on your way to the resort, which I find to be the most convenient way to do this. You can also take an taxi or Uber there and back one you are settled, or use a taxi or Uber from the airport and ask them to stop on the way in.

There is a La Plaza marketplace onsite at the Vidanta, and we did our shopping there. It was more expensive than the Walmart, but also more convenient, and they had some fun fresh bakery items and deli products to choose from. So you are really choosing between convenience and cost here (plus the grocery stores will have a much wider assortment of options – but we did find La Plaza had everything we needed for simple meals if you choose convenience).

Even if you do not want to cook dinner, you can save quite a bit by having things like coffee, water bottles, snacks, simple breakfast and lunch items on hand in your room. Then you can eat one meal out each day verses all of them. Plus, if you drink wine or beer, you will save ALOT of money by buying it at someplace like Walmart vs the resort. If this is the case, you may want to take the time out for a Walmart stop vs the resort marketplace (I think the cheapest bottle of wine we saw there was $25 and up).

General Money Saving Tips –

Do not put a credit card down for room charges. A couple of things to note here – they do not take debit cards or some credit cards for this (ie they do not take Discover). So be prepared for that if you do want to charge to your room. But you can more easily manage your bill if you do not do this. You can always pay with card or cash onsite (most places accept USD or Pesos), which just lets you regularly know what you have spent. You will still get a bracelet that will work for everything else (like room entry and pool entry), but you just won’t be able to charge to your room. They make it seem like you have to set up the charge when you are checking in, unless you specifically ask not to.

Check out is at 10 am, but you can store you luggage and use the facilities all day long. So if you want to book a later flight out you can get more vacation for your money! They have a room you can change in prior to your flight or use if you need to freshen up.

Bring cash for tipping or off property trips. Tipping is part of the vacation process, and you will do it often. You can easily be cash free on the resort, but if you venture off property you will need cash likely. We always bring lots of $1s and $5s when we visit Mexico for easy tipping. If you want to be even more cost conscious, convert that to Pesos before you are on property (the cash machines have high usage fees onsite).

If you want to know what it costs to take a taxi to any destination in the area – just ask! When we were about to take an excursion we would take a shuttle to the taxi station, then they have a preset list of prices on their computers about how much it will cost to go where. They provide you with a slip in that amount before calling you your taxi. It was very nice as we were never surprised with the cost of any trip!

This article originally appeared on ThriftyNWMom and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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