Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Completely Biased, Completely Personal Review of: Canto Del Sol, All-inclusive Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Reviews -- I've decided -- are just a socially-sanctioned way of being judgmental. I think reviewing may be my forte. Now I'm judging  reviewing Canto Del Sol, the all-inclusive resort we stayed at in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

When it comes to vacations, I generally rate them based on two factors:
-how much I like the place I lay my head every night, and
-how much I liked the things I put in my mouth.
Canto Del Sol was a winner on both fronts.

The food was excellent. There was lots of variety for all the meals, with dinner selections being guided by a rotation of theme nights (ie Japanese, Italian). The key to the buffet's success was the make up of the clientele which was about half Canadian and half Mexican. This meant that a lot of the items at the buffet were traditional Mexican fare, ie tacos al pastor, tamales, champurrado, churros, etc. And while I could never muster much enthusiasm for soup at breakfast I really did love the lunch and dinner options.

I'm not truly on vacation if I don't eat fish at least once a day. And between the cooked  fish options at dinner, and an always changing offering of ceviches at lunch time, I was happy.

There was also just enough "safe" things for the kids to eat (yogurt, melon, scrambled eggs, cucumber slices, roasted chicken, cubes of cheese) to sate their appetites, and also be adventurous and try some new food. Granted most experimentation revolved around pastries, but still. The restaurant had ice cream tubs in the cooler, and the kids could help themselves to this treat in the heat of the afternoon.

The rooms were pretty standard hotel fare. However they were kept spotlessly clean. The only bug I saw was a dragonfly that flew in through the open door of our balcony. Our room overlooked a public access walkway to the beach, and we could (if we leaned out far enough) see the water. The adjacent hotel's air conditioning unit was across the way from us, and I personally found the white noise to be kinda soothing. 

The resort is older, but they were doing constant work to upgrade and repair things. There is fresh paint throughout. The fixtures have all been updated. Our beds were new. The tv was very swanky. Some of the king-sized rooms had little mini-kitchens which I would have enjoyed.

Here's an aerial shot of the resort:

And here's a photo of me lying next to the pool:

As you can see, I really liked the pool. Almost as much as I like coordinating my bikini with my hair accessories. Mr Wrath also liked the pool. Here he is just stepping out of the pool so he can take an important phone call on his cellular phone:

Don't you love his chest hair?

Since we were there over Christmas, the resort had some special events planned. Many of these were variations on Mexican traditional activities and were held on during the day of Christmas Eve (when we were on the pirate ship), which is the more important holiday for Mexican citizens. We were back in time to watch the traditional Posada procession (complete with burro!) on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day the resort held a sand/snowman building contest. Here's the winning entry:

Later on Christmas Day, Santa came for a visit:

I think I'd rather travel by a magical sleigh than a parasail, but that's just me.

Six nights a week there is a dance revue on a stage near the beach. It's a lot of fun, and we were very impressed with the quality of the dancing and the costuming. My boys went every single night. Anytime there was a call for audience participation, the 8yo was up on stage.

We definitely enjoyed our time. If we did return to Puerto Vallarta, I would definitely stay at Canto Del Sol.

• • • • •

Hints and Suggestions:
-The hotel's water supply has been purified and is safe to drink.

-We ate at the two a la carte restaurants in the hotel. Neither was as good as the main buffet.

-It's customary to tip at the restaurant and at the bar. We usually left 10 or 20 pesos (1 or 2 Canadian dollars) at every meal.

-In the evenings, after the dance revue, people gather in the lobby and the bar area in the hotel. Lots of people had computers and were using the hotel's wifi (get the code at the front desk), while others played games or chatted. There is a bar there, but it didn't have a bar-vibe. It was very cozy and casual with lots of young kids around.

-During the day there was always stuff going on by the pool, ie water aerobics, water polo, yoga. Evidently this is quite common at all inclusive resorts, but I was surprised. It's loud and hectic, but people were having fun.

-Overall the hotel guests were very social and people were very friendly.

-Canto Del Sol is associated with the Villa Vallarta across the street, and guests can use the pool at either location. People told me the Villa Vallarta poolside was very quiet.

-People get up very early to reserve their sun chairs for the day. And people take it very, very seriously. Don't mess with someone's towel unless you can run fast.

-Here's an overview of the resort:
The lobby is located in the upper left hand corner of the diagram where the two wing meet. We stayed in the northern/left-hand wing, facing outward. If you want a quiet room, you really don't want to be overlooking the pool. The southern/right-hand wing wasn't very quiet when we were there, as there was a new building going on in the lot next door. Two women we met told us about the friendly and attentive the workers on that project. The ladies found a few…admirers peeping into their room.

-The two bars shut down at 11. Or was it 12? Either way, it gets quiet at night. I was pretty happy about this. Especially once I talked to people staying at the Riu Jalisco. All their facilities are open 24 hours, and there are drink dispensers IN THE ROOMS. One woman told me there were fights and vomiting in the hallways and another person told me there were scores of unsupervised teens staying at the hotel binge drinking.

-Employees arranged nightly excursions for younger/drunker guests who wanted to go out dancing at clubs in Puerto Vallarta. I'm not sure that I would want to go to a foam party, but it did seem to be pretty popular.

-There was not one single staff member I met who was surly. Not. One. They were all very nice and welcoming and helpful.

-Tip your maid.

-There was a chronic towel shortage because the laundry facilities couldn't keep up with the demand. It's not your maid's fault. Tip her anyway. 

-To get your towel card, you need to got to a desk that doubles as the timeshare sales office. It's not a big deal to listen for the 5 minute (or less pitch) and then say no. We did this and were not approached again.

-The resort's clientele was really mostly families (with teenagers or little kids) and old (leathery) people.

-The English language tv stations are around Channel 70. They stream from New York and Los Angeles.


  1. Ah, this is the post I meant to comment about the sexy Mr Wrath. Look at that mustache and chest hair. Not to mention his modern technology.

    PS Hair accessories that match the bikini - FTW.

  2. I love your judging er, reviewing. You must travel ahead to all places I want to go and do this for me. Thanks so much. Thinking of heading to the Jersey Shore this summer, for real! I think Mr. Wrath needs a bigger phone.

  3. And how on earth did they get that snowman white?