We rolled our own and stayed in Sayulita, north of PV a short distance. If you look at VRBO and other services you will see a huge range of prices and amenities. We had a few unexpected things but had an awesome weeklong stay in a private casita on a gated 5 acre property and wandered far and wide in the rental car. They even gave us the run of the big house and pool when those guests left for the last four days of our stay.
Before you go check out the Dept of State website and warnings about specific areas of Mexico. The Nayarit is pretty safe and the Mexican Government protects tourism as a major income source. But you could get far enough out of town to get in trouble. Jalisco to the south as an example.
We use the ATM machine in Mexico to get Pesos for a minimal charge and avoid any credit card use if possible.
A few things we will not do next time.
The Malecon in PV. Like anywhere that traffics in cruise ships and other day tourists you will find pickpockets, ripoffs, con artists and other folks you don't want to waste any time on. The area immediately surrounding any 'resort' or timeshare place will be the same.
Rental car insurance. The rate looks good but when you go to pick up the car you learn that your car insurance policy that covers you overseas is not accepted and you are told to buy the agencies no fault insurance for more than daily rate on the car. I spent two hours in the rental car agency refusing to pay for the local insurance. My agent actually faxed a copy of our policy to the rental car place and they relented after I pointed out the parts of the insurance policy that stated coverage for Mexico, rental cars and the coverage limits much higher than what the car rental place wanted. BTW this was a franchise of a major US brand.
Go on any arranged tours or events. Think least common denominator and an event designed for the average tourist. If you are adventurous at all many of these deals wlll bore you to tears.
Always avoid the time share or tour people that will swarm you anywhere they can. Airport, shopping malls, and tourist location. I don't even talk to them or make eye contact.
Don't make elaborate plans in advance. We did not do that last time we went and just picked up on anything we could get info on from locals. We found an incredible little cafe and ate there almost everyday, a deserted beach, a jungle hike that led from our casita to the beach, Sayulita's attempt to beak the Guinness book record for displaying God's eyes in town, The Al Pastor vendor, turtles on the nighttime beach, the mercado in the basement of a highrise downtown, a pickup panga charter off the beach, street vendors with big, fresh shrimp, and many other things. We had numbers for our house made from tile and watched them do it. The local fish market in two different little towns gave us awesome dinner fare. Most places I have visited in Mexico, the locals and expatriot anglos have made the trip interesting and fun.
We stayed at the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta some years back on a recommendation from our friends and thought it was very nice. They've been back since then as well as some of their grown kids. It's gone through a complete renovation since we were there and our friends say it's even nicer........
Sayulita is a cool small town, with plenty of low/no income places. We stayed at the Conrad just a bit south of there, although our trip wasn't all inclusive. They might have have those packages available. But their food there was phenomenal.
I went into Sayulita twice. Got a $30 massage on the beach, had 4 beers and fresh shrimp ceviche for $12. Lots of cool hole in the wall places to eat.
The food and beach at the Conrad:
We might be going back in February or early March.
Wife and I have been there a bunch of times, never rented a car and never felt the need. We rent an ample apartment right on the south end of the beach and just chill on the beach day after day with chair service. There are local fishermen to go out for day trips, surf instructors, great food and drinks within a short walk and never an issue with crime or even the threat of it. We usually spend less for a week there (including airfare) than for a long weekend at the Oregon coast with rental rates through the roof.
Like Han Solo said, Tacos Tal Ivan will ruin tacos for you. Order car service from the PV airport to Sayulita and they'll stop at the local big box grocery to stock up on essentials.
Leave everything home that indicates wealth, No jewelry, Rolex, Gucci, attempt to look poor or like you live there. The vendors and hawkers won't hassle you nearly as much as folks who are all decked out with the tourist aura.
Secrets properties are good. Wife and I stayed at one in Nuevo Vallarta. Look at the restaurant selection and carefully read the reviews and sample menus, if you don’t like the options and dine elsewhere you defeat purpose of all inclusive. If you are not drinkers, same applies even more so. If traveling without kids I would suggest an adult only or with dedicated adult only pools; it is just way more relaxing. I would not recommend driving in Mexico, read the laws very carefully as to your responsibilities if you are in an accident and a Mexican citizen or property damaged… you aren’t in Kansas anymore. We have also stayed in small property in Sayaulita, and in old non resort hotel in Romantic district of PV; it is just all about what type of vibe you are seeking.
Pink boots will love it. We rented a car because we wanted to see the agave farms north of there and the several little towns on the beach north of Sayulita. Old Mexico. Very few tourists and locals are friendly and fun.
A word of caution. There is a bench on the park across from the al pastor taco stand in Sayulita. Even when that area is busy with people that bench will be empty. Not knowing any better we sat down and did some people watching. Heard some bird chatter (parrots) in the tree above and then it started to rain ... Don't ask me why that bench is always empty. It's good idea to look up once in a while.
One other caution. They party like 1999 in Sayulita til the wee hours. We could hear it all the way out at our casita in the jungle. Glad we weren't right in town. Loud music is not for sleeping.
If you don’t want to do a large all-inclusive check out Casita Mia de Mita. Small boutique hotel but great food, pool, beach. They’ll also drive you or even just loan a vehicle to use if you want go into town. They’ll pick you up and drop you off at the airport too.
Short answer- Villa de Palmar in Nuevo Vallarta. The food is a level or two better than most of the all-inclusive places I have been and the service is excellent.
Long answer- if you want the all inclusive experience where you just hang out, sip some drinks and eat at your leisure, there’s better and cheaper places to do it. Cabo comes to mind. I get it, all-inclusive is easy. You just show up. However, to do an all inclusive in Puerto is kind of a waste in my experience.
Book a condo (VRBO) or other place to your liking in Sayulita and walk the town for great food and drinks. And if you want to fish it’s cheaper b/c you aren’t burning fuel to just get out of the bay. I can recommend some Captains if you need. I’m not sure what the bite is like in April.
Have fun! PM if you have more questions. I’m actually on my way to Sayulita next week for some sun and fins.
Buddy of mine owns Costa Azul in San Pancho (just down the beach from Sayulita). It’s an all inclusive resort and very nice right on the beach.
I brought a few lures and jigs, he has fishing poles at the resort that I walked up and down the beach catching sierra and other toothy fish. Was a lot of fun and relaxing. Gotta love all you can eat and drink sitting in the pool.
We stayed at a Punta de Mita at Pacific Nomads VRBO about a hr North of PV. (Not a fan of big cities. Def not all inclusive but was awsome right on the beach. We drove around the country all over the place sight seeing the country. Never had a problem and every where we went the people were very nice. I did not want to stay at a all inclusuve and just see the tourist sights.