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Puerto Vallarta – Is all-inclusive the right option for you?

Puerto Vallarta, on the west coast of Mexico, has long been a favourite destination of sun seekers. It offers the perfect mix of amenities for vacationers while retaining its cultural flavour.

puertovallarta fisher man


The choices are endless when it comes to the kind of vacation you want to have in Puerto Vallarta. Like most destinations, all-inclusive resorts abound. But is this the right option for you and your family? Let’s have a look.

The Good

tacos 2

If you’re a not-so-brave traveler or you have a larger family with small children or you really just want to fly and flop (my term for a no-fuss vacation), then an all-inclusive resort is your answer. Let’s face it, getting your family ready, leaving the hotel and going in search of breakfast (and all other meals) can get old rather fast. Nothing beats the convenience of having a sprawling breakfast buffet ready when you are. And here’s the good news. The food at Mexican all-inclusive resorts tends to be consistently very good, unlike some other sun destinations. All-inclusive also means unlimited alcohol, games around the pool, usually free non-motorized watersports and sometimes a kids’ club to keep the wee ones occupied.

The Not So Good

Monotony is the enemy here. Eating breakfast at the same place every morning might get a little dull. Dinners can offer a little more variety because most resorts offer a la carte restaurants and theme nights at their big buffets. But eating every meal at an all-inclusive robs you of the opportunity to see a little culture on your vacation, especially in Puerto Vallarta. The other risk of an all-inclusive is that you might hit upon a hotel where the food isn’t very good. You’ve paid for your meals but they aren’t what you expected. Or the lines are too long. Or they always run out of your favourite at the buffet. Or the room is overly noisy.

chicken lodemarco


The Solution

If you’re leery about booking a hotel without a food plan, then opt for an all-inclusive, but promise that you’ll venture out at least three times during your stay and sample local fare. It will likely mean taking a taxi off the resort property, but the cost of the ride far outweighs the experience you’ll have. Scour online resources and ask fellow travelers for their recommendations. And don’t worry about breaking the bank on your excursion. Here’s a list of some of Puerto Vallarta’s best eats that come in at surprisingly low prices.


Many resorts don’t offer an accommodations-only plan. If you’re staying in the Nuevo Vallarta area (north of the airport), it’s probably not a good idea anyway. You’re at least 20 kilometres away from any restaurants and that means a pricey cab ride. Example: Rui Jalisco. The Hotel Zone (immediately south of the airport) has resorts that let you choose all-inclusive or room only. It’s a short cab ride, or sometimes a 15-minute walk, to nearby restaurants. Example: Hacienda. Downtown hotels offer the most opportunities for sampling Puerto Vallarta’s cuisine as well as its nightlight. A walk on the Malecon is a must. Example (an upscale one): Hacienda San Angel.

Saying No to All-Inclusive

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Bucerias lies about 30 kilometres north of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a small town with a fabulous beach and all the Mexican flavour you could ask for. There’s only one all-inclusive resort in town (Royal Decameron Complex). All other accommodations are rooms only, and they range from sprawling complexes like Los Picos to quaint inns like La Posada de Bucerias. Spend your days on the beach ordering a bucket of beer and some snacks as the mood strikes. It’s our choice for family vacations. Check out my tips for a Bucerias stay here. If you want to get a taste of big city life, jump in a taxi ($30 one way) or the city bus (by far the cheaper option) and head to Puerto Vallarta proper.

Shel writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she’s not playing outside, on the road or eating. She’s the founder of a group called the Manitoba Food Bloggers as well as an avid angler and hunter. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband Ivan and their son Clark. [email protected]


Food Prices in the North

George M

Sunday 5th of January 2014

I prefer an all inclusive as no thought involved.

Tina F

Thursday 5th of December 2013

would love to go there my mom has been and she said it is just gorgeous

Chandra Christine O'Connor

Thursday 5th of December 2013

looks so nice I live through everyone elses pictures cause I know I just can never afford to go to any of them. plus I dont like flying


Wednesday 4th of December 2013

This gives me a lot to think about. I've been wanting to try all-inclusive for a few years now. I think it would be a great 'starter trip' for us giving us the chance to branch out as we start travelling more.


Wednesday 4th of December 2013

In general, we like to check out the local area and avoid places that tend to have all-inclusive resorts. We're also more old ruins and museum people rather than fun in the sun people (I burn too easily and am terrified of sharks). With four kids, now, however, all-inclusive and relaxing at the pool is looking more and more attractive!