Friday, March 25, 2011

Sunset Plaza Beach Resort and Spa: a small oasis in Puerto Vallarta we just happened to find on the Internet

In December of 2010, we had decided that the cold of winter was just about enough, so we started surfing the web for ideas of where to go at the end of February.

We started looking at properties being offered at discounted rates at Jetsetter.com, and then decided to look at some all-inclusive packages.

Days after research and talking to friends for recommendations, I stumbled upon a travel site called BookIt.com, promoting a brand new resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, called the Sunset Plaza Beach Resort and Spa, which opened December 15, 2010 -- so it was REALLY new.

Being opened just a few days, the Sunset Plaza Beach Resort and Spa was discounting all-inclusive packages, priced as low as $99 per person, per day (airfare not included). We chose to upgrade to $119 per person, per day, for a one bedroom suite, overlooking the ocean.

As I write this on our plane ride home, I can tell you the Sunset Plaza Beach Resort and Spa was an incredible bargain.

Our Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa suite was just off the open 10th floor corridor, and had an impressive depth of interior. As you entered the fully-stocked new kitchen (which we never used) with granite countertops and stainless appliances, it led to a dining area to comfortably seat four people. Beyond that was an overstuffed contemporary sofa bed sleeper, which completed the right side of the living quarters. At the far end was the terrace accessible by sliding glass doors, measuring 20 feet wide by 10 feet deep, with beautiful beige stone floors, as was the case inside the entire suite. (As you entered the suite, there also was a full bath, complete with walk-in shower to the right.)

Turning left from the living area into the master suite there was an extremely comfortable king size bed, with a louvered door hideaway where a jacuzzi large enough for two people was located. Across from the jacuzzi was a large double sink countertop, with a private toilet area at left, and a private second shower at right.

The clean modern lines of the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa interiors reminded me of some of the Ian Schrager hotels we have enjoyed in the past -- just not so over the top in kitschy interior design.

The master bedroom also had an entrance to the vast exterior terrace, the doors of which we left open at night to have the ocean's surf lulling us to sleep.

As for technology, the sitting room where the sofa sleeper was located and the master bedroom both had a brand new wall-mounted flat panel LG TV, with a broad range of both American and Mexican stations, plus some cable audio-only music streams.

On the left end night table next to the master bed was an iPod-docking clock radio. And much to my pleasant surprise, the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa free WiFi Internet at the resort worked very well on both my iPad and iPhone. A note of caution here, be sure to go to your Settings menu, General menu, Network menu and turn off both "Enable 3G" and "Cellular Data" to avoid unnecessary iPhone roaming charges. In fact, it's a good practice to keep your iPhone on Airplane Mode when not checking email -- using the iPhone just for enjoying music at the beach or poolside, and for taking videos and photos.

Now for the outside, with three beautiful pools overlooking the ocean and a vast infinity pool with a wet bar. During our stay at the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa, the outside temperatures where from 59 to 80 degrees fahrenheit each day, and the pool water was always comfortably warm, much to pleasant surprise. There were also three large hot tubs, on a second level terrace, that seemed to be in use from early morning until very late at night.

My favorite spot at the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa was adjacent to the adults-only pool where the massage hut was located. This area featured about 10 private cabanas with thick memory foam actresses covered in a white leather-like material that were amazingly comfortable. White fabric panels on wooden rods allowed you to close off the open back area and two side panels, leaving the front panel open to allow ocean breezes in and to enjoy incredible views of the ocean.

As this was an all-inclusive package, you could eat and drink to your heart's content -- all ala carat off the menu, with no limits.

Mornings typically started with dark roasted coffee and fresh cream, breakfast pastries (I didn't enjoy any, but heard they were delicious), and a wide variety of freshly squeezed juices. There were more than 20 selections of both American and Mexican breakfast entrees, my favorites including eggs benedict and a canoe of fresh fruits with passion fruit ice cream.

For lunch, there was a good selection of freshly made-to-order salads and cold soups (the poblano creme was terrific), burgers and multiple entrees, including tournedos of beef, that were exceptional. I also recommend the Tomato Napoleon -- layers of freshly cut red and yellow tomatoes, avocado slices and goat cheese, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar with chili essence. It was so wonderful that we had it every day for lunch.

For dinner, again, a wide variety of choices, from multiple starter courses to beef, pork, chicken, seared tuna and seafood entrees.

For dessert, their ice cream dishes were very good (dense and rich), usually topped with fresh mint, berries and sculpted chocolate domes.

As you could well imagine, frozen margaritas and ice cold beer were very plentiful, and the wine selections (remember, all inclusive) were very good. There was a Pinot Noir from Chile we enjoyed yesterday that was well balanced and very drinkable.

As as for the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa staff, they truly aimed to please. Every resort guest gets assigned a butler for their room, who will tend to special requests like multiple bed pillow choices for sleeping and nighttime aromatherapy scents for your suite. Antonia, the hostess of the exterior dining room was always delightful, as were many of the servers. Of special note is Sergio, who prides himself on exemplary service, and David, who was the comedian of the crew. They all made us feel very welcome and comfortable.

Although tips are included, I recommend carrying from $10 to $20 a day in American one-dollar bills, for special thank you's for good service and housekeeping. And don't forget about the servers at poolside. A one dollar thank you goes a long way for two frosty frozen margaritas.

Depending on how they hold the line on pricing, we will definitely consider going back at our next opportunity.

We had a great time and wish to thank everyone at the Sunset Plaza Resort and Spa their hospitality.

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