Desert Hot Springs

About four months into the midst of Covid we were itching to isolate somewhere warm and with a pool. Obviously hotels weren’t allowing guests and even AirBnB’s were scarce. I found a place in Desert Hot Springs called The Getaway, it was a seven unit apartment complex turned vacation rental. The owner was kind enough to let us stay for a few nights so we could have a change of scenery. Luckily, out of all the units, only a few were occupied because uh, isolation right?

The place was mid-century, had everything we needed, a pool and a hot tub, and it was just what the doctor ordered. However, driving into the town of Desert Hot Springs was not what we imagined.

This is the property.

Nice and quaint with lots of available sun.

This you guys, is what it looks like on the outside of that building.

Desert Hot Springs is like Palm Springs’ seedy cousin. Neglected, poor and you probably shouldn’t leave your cash lying around. But, we had a great time and became fast friends with a lady that was also staying long term there while her man, an essential worker, was working in Santa Monica.

Fast forward two years, we wanted another sun soaked few days but Coachella and Stagecoach had all of the desert hotels bumped up to ridiculous prices. So we decided to try another place in Desert Hot Springs but this time chose an actual hotel that had some security and indoor room entrances. Miracle Springs Resort and Spa’s website said they had the above, but also had seven natural hot mineral pools, an outdoor pool and a restaurant. That checked all of our boxes so off we went.

We drove through a sand storm on the way in. Not smog or haze just sand.

When the map told us we had “arrived at our destination” this is what we pulled up to.

Uh nope, nope, not staying here.

We knew or I should say we really really hoped that this wasn’t the place, so we drove around the lot and into another parking lot and then things looked a bit better. Not great but better.

We checked in around seven in the evening as their restaurant Capri was closing. We asked the receptionist if there was a place to eat nearby that she would recommend. On her advice we drove a few blocks to a Mexican place called Casa Blanca. What do you know, the parking lot was packed, phew! We had a margarita and some really, really good food. Surprised and satisfied, we headed back to the hotel stopping off at a 7/11 for some pool snacks and a Snickers to stick in the freezer (for late night snacking).

We woke up and headed to Capri for breakfast.

We both ordered the eggs Benedict, and it was exactly as you’d expect from this place. Basic, no frills, egg bennies but totally satisfying. Let’s be honest, this place was not Italian, something tells me that their sauces come from jars.

The waiter/bartender Adam, was super attentive (maybe with the help of a substance or two) and very nice. He was our server both days.

This place claims that their hot pools are mineral hot springs, I mean, maybe they are, however….

They looked like condo hot tubs.

The grounds were nice, loads of greenery, beautiful flowers, and palm trees that were play houses for all types of birds. The pool water was perfect for the 90 degree weather. Enjoying some adult beverages in the sun was all we needed.

We spent the day reading in and out of the sun. With snow capped mountains in the distance.

The deco is straight out of the 90’s and it could use a facelift or two. But if you want a no frills place to lay in the sun with really no rules to abide by, then Miracle Springs resort is just fine.

Puerto Vallarta, This is the End

We woke up in Puerto Vallarta, and after some coffee we hit the ground running. Familiar enough with the city, we hopped in a cab and headed to Playa Los Muertos. The plan was to walk along the beach until we found a place to lay out, swim without dying, and have some adult beverages.

We didn’t have a hard time.

It wasn’t the prettiest beach, and to safely swim we had to walk south a bit, otherwise the undertow would’ve taken us to the Bermuda Triangle. Nonetheless, it was exactly what we were looking for.

We had fish taco’s and coconut shrimp, both were delish.

Oh, can we talk about the beach vendors for a second? If you’ve been down to the Mexican Riviera beach towns then you’re familiar that the beaches have vendors that sell everything from sunglasses and jewelry to basically junk. However, this time we were offered cocaine, you guys is this a new thing? It wasn’t just at this beach either, it also happened a couple of times in Cabo. So anyways, if you’re looking, I know a guy.

After a couple of hours of floating in the ocean and soaking up the Mexican sun, we gathered our stuff (no, not cocaine, I bought sunnies) and walked up the beach to the Malecón. I really, really, really wanted to get another passion fruit margarita at the Devil’s Bar. I guess the secret got out because every seat was taken and it was only a Thursday, ugh. Having seen all the shops and bars already, we dragged our feet back to the ship.

Look who greeted us.

For dinner we went to Tamarind, Asian cuisine. The shrimp dumplings were incredible. We also shared a pork belly char siu, along with crispy duck and panang curry. The waitress talked us into a ginger wasabi martini that didn’t taste at all like wasabi but Shawna enjoyed it.

That night we requested a couple of songs from Colin and Clara, the pianists. They were so great, they both sang our requests, songs they have never performed before.

After the piano bar, I’m pretty sure we danced for 2 straight hours. Sweaty and barefoot is how the night ended.

You know it’s a good night when the shoes come off.

Friday and Saturday we were at sea, and it seems like they went by in a flash.

Friday we were still far enough south that the weather was quite warm, meaning a pool day. Hopping from hot tub to pool is how the afternoon went, stopping for pizza and a ping pong break. While sitting in the pool we met this couple from Arizona. Interesting folks, a little TMI but friendly. Sitting on the steps of the pool, we talked to them for a good 45 minutes. As we talked the wife steadily became more and more intoxicated. Gradually getting more inebriated with each minute that passed, but she wasn’t intaking anything. Anyhow, that was a topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

It was our second gala night but before we hit the dining room for dinner, we popped by the pool bar for a martini happy hour.

It wasn’t a ‘choose your own martini’ type of situation, we got a trio of martini’s, that we shared and they tasted like, well, exactly as they look…fruity.

Sure enough, the Arizona couple from the pool was there. He was eager to talk and she was still upright. However, rumor has it, she passed out later at the dinner table.

Our dinner wasn’t terribly exciting, I think this was the one evening that I was actually disappointed in everything that I ordered. Luckily, we had stashed Parisian sandwiches in our fridge for late night dining.

We met two brothers early on the trip who were traveling together, and they were from La Mesa (East San Diego). Turned out that they grew up just a street away from where Shawna did, small world. Nice men, we called them our guard dog pit bulls. However, one of them fell asleep on the job.

This wasn’t like a nod of the head. You guys, he was OUT. Nowhere-ville, it was amazing…and then a little scary, but he was fine, just completely knocked the f*ck out. He slept through the bands set, he slept through cowbell, he slept through more cowbell and he slept through slaps on the cheek.

That’s the doing of tequila shots, or so they said.

SO GOOD!

We dusted off our Macarena dance moves on the dance floor ending another great day.

Is there anything sadder than waking up on the last day of a vacation? No, the answer is no.

We reached Saturday, the last day of our cruise. Somewhere near Baja California, because when we stepped outside, ready to soak up the sun, we were slapped with November San Diego weather. Meaning it was not quite warm enough to get wet.

So we played some ping pong and wandered along the outside of the ship.

I wanted to play the music trivia at the pool later in the afternoon, so we went to the Lido Market for lunch. It was delicious, I piled my plate with poke sushi rolls and crispy pork belly. Oh, so so good. After we ate, we went back to the room to change into warmer clothes and then headed to sit out for a bit at the stern of the ship.

Somehow we ended up scoring poolside lounge chairs right before trivia started. The sun came out, of course, and then it was time for a quick wardrobe change back into swimwear.

I love trivia, and I felt confident with music trivia. But you would think that I have learned my lesson by now. These ships are full of people that have lived decades longer than me. The first five questions were about classical music so there went that win. Then it was songs from the 1950’s, so unfair. I guess I don’t need to tell you that we didn’t win.

Even though it wasn’t hot outside, we knew we had gotten some sun. We took the next hour to pack our luggage, leaving out only what we needed to disembark. Then we made our way to the casino. That was a bust for me, although Shawna won some money on a slot machine. We ran into our besties, Cliff and Gail and we sat at the casino bar for a drink. Why does time fly when you’re having fun? Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for dinner. That was the one thing that I got tired of doing, getting ready. Having to do it every night is just so much to ask of me.

After a dinner of braised lamb, pasta and pavlova, we went straight to the rock room, no time to spare.

Clara was performing in the theater, before she hit the ivory keys.

Once the music was over, we all stayed in the Billboard Onboard lounge and hung out with the crew. Talking and laughing.

Laughing and talking, we stayed up past last call, which means quite late, or quite early.

Since we had packed earlier in the day, once we got to back our room, all we needed to do was set the alarm and hit the sack. Welp, the alarm didn’t go off, so we woke to the sound of the hall intercom calling disembarkation numbers. That put a pep in our step, and in minutes we were dressed and heading down to the gangway. The only good thing about running behind was that our car was already at the port waiting for us, so we were home in no time.

That’s it, that is the end of our fantastic trip. It reminded me of why I have always loved cruising and we are looking forward to another one soon, someplace new and warm.

Cabo no Wabo

We anchored in Cabo San Lucas just before 11:00am on Tuesday.

Desperate for lunch on the beach, we made our way downstairs to get the tender tickets. I’m not going to sugar coat it, this cruise ship had a lot of older folks, so getting into that Tender from the Ship, was bit of a slow process. Luckily, we sat next to the best group of Texans (you won’t hear me say that very often). They told us that a friend of their’s, who is a singer, was singing at Karlito’s Cantina on the marina, and we had to stop by to see her.

We told them that we had a date with Playa El Médano for lunch, but we would absolutely stop by later.

We strolled through the marina, stopping to browse and for photo ops along the way.

Once we hit the beach, we walked in the water until we spotted a spot that we could sit, eat, drink and swim. The weather was perfect and the water was pretty warm, warm enough to swim in.

We stopped at Omega’s where we soaked it all in for a couple of hours. This is also where I had the most delicious shrimp tacos with a fresh habanero salsa. I’ve thought about those tacos every day since.

Fully satisfied, we made our way back to the marina to see what was happening at Karlito’s. Our tender Texan friends, Pattie and her husband John, were already there, “but the fun don’t start til I walk in“. Kesha, get it?

Everybody there was so nice, the lady singing (I am horrible at names, luckily Shawna has an elephant’s memory, is that even a real fact, like how do we know that?)

Anyhow, Leslie Blasing used to be a back up singer for Reba, she lives in South Padre Island but just happened to be in Cabo visiting friends. She was singing on this sunny Tuesday at Karlito’s as a favor, ya, she is that nice of a person.

We decided to eat dinner in the dining room on the ship, so we said our goodbyes, and tootled back to the tender.

I’m guessing you know what we did after dinner, but you are going to have to hear it again.

As our group of friends grew larger with each trip to the bar, we all took turns saving seats in our favorite corner booth. That way we were always together listening to the music.


I can’t forget to mention that the Holland America bartenders make a first-class espresso martini! Pretty sure that’s one of our martini’s being shaken in the background of the video, ha.

When the clock strikes (who knows, I never knew what time it was) I should say, when the pianos stopped, the dancing began.


And when the lights went out, it was time for bed.

Just to wake up and do it all over again.

But this time, we woke up in Mazatlán.

Once we stepped off the ship we hopped in a cab with another couple and headed, well we didn’t know where we were headed. We asked to be taken to where the action was at.

We landed at Joe’s Oyster Bar.

Not bad, not bad at all. After wetting our palate, we strolled along some shops and…shit, I just remembered that I bought vanilla there, I wonder where that is, hm.

It was time for lunch and as we do, we asked a local where we should go. The next thing we knew we were dropped off between two beach restaurants. We rock paper scissored to see which one we would eat at, and it was a good choice.

I mean come on, grilled pulpo on the beach…. with a margarita, can it get any better? (insert Chandler Bings voice)

After lunch we wandered along the streets but nothing was really calling out to us. Mazatlán is pretty in some sorts and not so pretty in others, just like anywhere, but there wasn’t anything that we really had to do there. So we made our way back to the ship and hit the pool, well I’m pretty sure that’s what we did, I mean it’s been a week you guys.

Fun fact, Mazatlán’s malecón is the largest in the world. I don’t remember how long it is, but I am sure Google does, or Alexa, I’ll ask…Nope, she doesn’t know either. Oh well, here is a glimpse of the longest malecón in the world.

Once we were sun soaked, it was that time again.

That’s Johnny Tocco on the guitar, isn’t he good?

You know how the first part of a vacay moves at a perfect pace, and then all of the sudden BAAAAM, it’s over? Ya, well that started in Puerto Vallarta….stay tuned.

Let’s Cruise

If you like to cruise, let me tell you, now is the time to do it. We had the best time EVER. First of all, Costco had a mind blowing deal, not only that but the ship was only at half capacity and vaccinated cruisers only! There was also an incentive drink package that is included with your total price up front, meaning you won’t have that huge bill statement slid under your door on the last night of the trip.

So, obviously we booked through Costco. Holland America had a 7 night Mexican Riviera cruise leaving San Diego. Added bonus, no airports and no wasted travel time. After packing and repacking, making sure we had everything we needed from bathing suits to Gala attire and about 1,450 other things we maybe didn’t need and a few we wished we had, we hit the road. An entire 15 minutes later ,we were dropped off at the cruise ship terminal. Having already downloaded the ships app, we just waited for our time to be called and we were making our way up the gangway. Couldn’t have been easier.

Once we boarded this beauty, we headed to our room to drop off our carry-ons. It was a nice surprise to see our luggage already in our room. So we dropped our carry on crap and went straight to the pool deck. They had music going, small bites were being passed around along with their drink of the day. However we opted for wine instead, hey, what can I say? Before we knew it, we were making our way out of port and heading towards an amazing week.

We wandered around the ship trying to get acclimated but there were just soooo many places to see. So we stopped at the end of the ships lounge, and plopped down on a couch to check out the evenings itinerary.

Where should we eat? What should we do? There were just so many options. We decided to skip the main dining room and eat at the Market Cafe, which used to be called the buffet but now they have separate stations. You can order whatever is displayed on the menu and they make and/or serve it to you. {both ends of the cafe had hand washing stations and hand sanitizer, also masks were required in all public areas}. There were so many options that it was overwhelming. They had an Asian station, sandwich, salad, pasta, carving and dessert station. You guys, the bread, can we talk about how good the bread was? And the sandwiches were like the ones you get in Paris, fresh thin baguette with a protein, maybe some butter or brie…those became a daily or nightly and sometimes an early morning ritual.

We did not want to miss the band playing in the Rolling Stone Rock Room, so we went up for a wardrobe change and then hit the music walk. The music walk was half of one of the ships deck and it had all the different lounge/bar areas just for the entertainment.

We sat down and loved every minute that the band gave us. They alternated with the dueling pianists whom were playing just across the way in the Billboard Onboard room, they were also amazing and we instantly wanted to be best friends with all of them. We went back and forth and back and forth until all of their sets were over. Then we headed to the B.B King’s Blues club just next door, and danced and danced and danced. This in turn, would end up being our routine every night of the week.

Rolling Stone Rock Band Night 1

The next day was our day at sea. We leisurely woke up and had coffee sent up to the room. Our plans included sunning at the main pool, grabbing burgers for lunch, playing trivia and we were signed up for a wine making class in the late afternoon. There just isn’t enough time in the day. Trivia was a sad tale, we met a really nice couple who we teamed up with but we were no help. The wine making course was a good time. We started with five wines all from Washington state, all the same year and there were 3 different varietals of red. Two Cab Sauvignons, two Merlots and a Cab Franc. We went through each one, learning about where and how the vines grew and at the end, we made our own blend. Once we were done and happy with our newly made wine, Ramon, our sommelier bottled it and sent it to our room.

Monday was our Gala dinner night. I’m not sure how we don’t have any food pictures, who are we? I had the absolute best mushroom risotto and the chocolate soufflé, let’s not forget the bread and butter. The service was spectacular and the food was pretty darn good, we also had a really good chardonnay from Napa that accompanied us back to the room. Then we changed into more bar worthy attire.

This was the night we met two other couples who became people we will never forget. Each of them were older than us and they lived on opposite sides of the U.S. but we ended up sitting with them every night, laughing, drinking and sharing stories. We will most definitely see them again.

We ended the night once again on the dance floor, closing the place down.

*Side note about packing. Packing for a cruise is easier said than done. You need a couple of fancy outfits if you plan on eating in the dining room. You need a sweater to go with said fancy outfit because it can get cold inside certain areas. You need semi fancy outfits for other nights in the dining room. You need shorts and bathing suits for the day, or the Market Cafe and swimsuit covers if you plan to swim and wander around. Let’s not mention the shoes, accessories and all the other things we put on our bodies everyday. I think we did a good job packing however, we ended up changing a few nights out of our fancy clothes and into dancing clothes. I wished I had packed more jeans and tanks. I would also suggest packing a water bottle like the Yeti or whatever you use at home. Cold water is hard to come by in your stateroom, we would fill ours up at the cafe before we went out for the evening so when we got back we had water for the night. I also suggest a mini speaker if you like to get ready to music, electrolytes if you like to drink and a nightlight for the bathroom if you get an interior room. That was a lifesaver, I must have saved at least 50 bruises from happening on a middle of the night bathroom walk.

Next up… Cabo.

Too Much Fun, Too Little Time

In lieu of a party with friends Averi chose to go to Great Wolf Lodge for her birthday. The two older girls have gone before but Averi whom just recently learned to swim was finally brave enough and tall enough to join in on the fun.

But first…more cake and wishes.

The girls were so excited to pack for our getaway! They wanted to bring toys, stuffies, pillows and their own blankets. Basically everything in their room. And then we witnessed pigs flying when Averi asked to go to bed early so departure time would come sooner. Ah, we never grow out of that excitement do we?

Listen, we are not a fan of car rides. Three girls in the backseat for longer than a quick jaunt is torture for most anyone. Until we are ready to hunker down on a long drive or a flight, we will commit to a quick drive up Interstate 5. One hour in the car and we were there by noon. Luckily we were able to get into the water park long before our room was ready. Not being our first rodeo, we took in just what we needed (aka swimsuits, money and whatever the kids must have) and left the rest of our shit in the car.

Equipped with their Paw Passes and wolf ears, we dove in to what would be a great two days of fun!

Once we found a spot to call “home base”, we dropped our towels and shoes and went over the rules. Then the older girls went off and we took Averi on her first real waterslide.

Nope, not fun at all. SO FUN!

Canyon River Run was the one ride ALL five of us could go on together and we did, many times.

This was the first time in my life as a mom that I felt comfortable giving the girls their freedom without worrying every other second. They were so independent and it made it that much more fun.

We did it all and they didn’t complain and they didn’t tire.

The ten year olds even went on Wolf’s Tail, on their own. This ride is where the the bottom drops out from under you sending you straight down the slide.

Of course I had to follow them back up to record the bravery.

We almost closed the park down and by 7:30 pm we had to tell the girls if they wanted to do anything else, we had to move on.

After a quick change up in the room, we went on a hunt for magic and pizza.
While we waited for our food, the girls hopped around the hotel doing whatever magic game is so popular amongst the kids.

The magic quest wand even moved objects in the girl’s kid cabin.

Around 10:30, it was quiet and then I heard a small voice that said “I have a night light for you”. I thought to myself what? Who said that? And then Kaili came out and asked the same thing. F sakes. I climbed up and unplugged whatever I could see in the dark not to wake the others. It turned out that one of the wands must have summoned the critters of the lodge, sigh.

I prefer my rooms not to talk thank you. And I am pretty sure, nope I am positive that I would have NOT liked that as a child.

It was a late night but luckily they let us sleep until 7:00 in the morning (big deal you guys!). Then we were up and ready to go do it again.

{One tip I can give you; if you have a trip to GWL on your radar It’s this, bring food, there is a fridge in the room. And, pre-order on their app or walk out of the hotel and find something to your liking. Because the lines are ridiculous and it’s terribly overpriced.}

The next morning we were at the waterpark as it opened and we knocked out all of the best rides as many times as we could before the crowd grew bigger.

Shawna and I went out into the sun for a bit and then before we knew it, lunch came and went.

The girls Paw Pass came with: a magic quest wand, a glitter tattoo, goggles, candy from the candy shop and a build a bear stuffy. So we had to get them out of the water if they wanted to claim the rest of their goodies. We did, they did.

Two hours later and full of candy, we headed home.

Nothing like the comedown from a high, am I right or am I right?

It affects everyone differently!

Plenty of Fun

The hours seem to go by slow but the years, they fly by.

Now we found ourselves at the end of the school year.

So long first and fourth grade.

We jumped right into summer break by visiting the trampoline park.

And then….no and then.

We went to the beach.

Which, let me tell you is so disappointing after Mexico, sigh. The water here is cold, I couldn’t find one person offering adult beverages, you guys, we are doing it wrong!

At least the pool water temp was better.

My baby K bear.

She may catch up to my tan soon.

We also went to the movie theaters for the first time in ages. We saw Spirit Untamed. It was good, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Popcorn, candy and some tears!

Last but not least, we put out a slippin’ slide.

Jess and I used to spend the majority of our summers making up dance routines on these things. However we never took it to the next level and used soap. (why Jess, why?)

Probably because we were too busy using tanning oil and Sun-In and working on our dance moves, ha ha.

If someone can provide video of us, I dare you!

It’s nice to gather with friends and family that we have missed so much. Almost as good as getting my hands on some great local wine. If you haven’t been to Edwards Vineyards in Ramona, you need to make it a priority.

It’s officially summer.

The mornings are overcast but the days are warm and sunny. Plenty of fun to come!

Puerto Vallarta: Secrets vs. Grand Fiesta

Once we decided that we would just go back to Puerto Vallarta instead of somewhere farther, I hit the ground running on our options. There was a checklist with our wants…All-inclusive, adults only, swim up bar with a swimmable beach. I went on all the travel sites comparing the only two resorts that checked off our lists and those two were Secrets Vallarta Bay and Grand Fiesta Americana. Since we had already been to Secrets, I really wanted to see a pros-cons list comparing the two, but never found one. So I am going to make one for future me and for anyone who wants a rundown on the differences between the two. Price wise they can be close to the same and other times it seems that Secrets is much pricier. I will say that both places had very low prices at one point but I hesitated to book, sigh…I wanted to wait until I knew that we were going to be vaccinated in time. Once I booked, the prices did climb a bit, what can you do? Better healthy than quarantined.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

PROS ( I have to preface this, we went during Covid and they weren’t at full capacity, things may not be the same anymore)

  • Free Covid testing upon departure. If you test positive they will PAY for you to quarantine and provide you with all your food and non-alcoholic beverages (you have to buy your own booze).
  • Close to town, walkable even.
  • Staff throughout the entire resort was exceptional. Bartenders especially!
  • No wristbands and no class/booking distinctions.
  • No problem getting chairs by the pool, again maybe because it wasn’t full capacity.
  • Drinks were good and what you wanted, no potential of being watered down.
  • Grounds were kept immaculate.
  • Plenty of pool games without silly “must-do’s” to win.
  • Clientele was more our age, maybe a little older and there was just a classy vibe, even when things were getting a bit crazy.
  • Had a more elegant and romantic vibe.
  • Horse back riding and tours available on the beach.
  • Beautiful rooms with large tubs and an ever bigger shower.

CONS

  • Beach not swimmable, rocky and strong undertow. The no swimming flag stayed up all week.
  • No nightly dancing or DJ/music by the pool (again maybe just because of Covid)
  • The resort grounds were split in half, one side was adults only and the other was for families aka kids. However the restaurants are spread out among the entire place. So some restaurants you might want to eat at will have children. On the plus side, the kids couldn’t come to the adults only side.
  • The food was just average.
  • Casino was closed (probably Covid)
  • Had a handful of suggestions of swinging and/or obnoxious advances.
  • A lot of vendors on the beach.

Grand Fiesta Americana

PROS

  • Views from anywhere were amazing.
  • Pool DJ daily.
  • Plenty of different restaurants and bars, no kids at all.
  • Food was pretty good.
  • Man made enclave in the ocean/bay. Perfect for floating and swimming. Free kayaks available.
  • Dance club/bar with DJ every night.
  • Free Covid Testing upon departure.

CONS

  • Rooms weren’t great. No bathtubs and the shower got the bathroom floor wet.
  • Outside room hallways weren’t cleaned very well, smelled like rotten food sometimes.
  • Color coded wrist bands were given out at check-in. We were told it was just to identify who bought what package through what company, ie. Costco, Expedia etc. But I don’t believe that was the truth. I think it has to do with how much you paid, or something along those lines.
  • Staff was good, but not exceptional and the service was not consistent.
  • Mojito and Martini bars weren’t open every night AND the bartender didn’t even know how to make a true mojito, so there’s that.
  • Pool chairs were taken super early in the morning. The sun didn’t hit the entire pool until 11:00am.
  • Alcohol seemed watered down and sometimes we didn’t get what we ordered.
  • More of a younger crowd that came with more of a “no f*cks given” vibe.
  • Farther from town, about 15 minutes in cab.
  • Drugs were offered, ha, maybe not a negative for some.
  • Pool games came with consequences ie. lap dances etc. No thank you.
  • Didn’t offer free quarantine if tested positive for Covid.

Now that I wrote it all out, it seems like there is a clear winner. We agreed that if we were to go back, we would go to Secrets. Secrets was just a bit more upscale, had a tad less of a party vibe, We brought up the Target vs. Walmart comparison while we were there, Secrets was Target and Grand Fiesta was Walmart.In the end, Secrets ended up having more of what we want in an all-inclusive resort.

Now the hard question…”are all-inclusive resorts worth it?” Who knows? I am an all-inclusive resort novice. I have been on my share of cruises and I have heard other peoples stories about how great these resorts are but I ask myself, is there something better for the same price?

The problem, if there was one, is that we live in an area that is home of the California burrito and the fish taco. We have Michelin star restaurants, craft cocktail bars, breweries and some amazing wine. So, when we go to these resorts are we actually downgrading from our norm? The answer is yes, sounds snobby perhaps but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just a realization that we have it good in San Diego and if we want the warm ocean water, amazing views AND great food and drink, it doesn’t come in an affordable all-inclusive package. But I am also not on board with paying a ridiculous amount of money for multiple meals daily and adult beverages hour by hour, day by day. So we get what we get.

I think if you are a simple person, and don’t spend much thought on food and are fine with domestic beers, then this is probably an amazing vacation. Me, I am a food snob and self appointed wine drinker, so I will go on these trips and appreciate the simple things on the vacation, sun, love and free flowing wine.

With that, a friend of ours that we actually met at Secrets PV, is a travel agent. He highly recommended the Hyatt Ziva in Puerto Vallarta if you aren’t as picky as we are.

In the end, no matter where you go and stay, it will be amazing.

Secrets Vallarta Bay

Grand Fiesta Americana

The Devil made me do it.

Isn’t it great when you stumble upon a great place by accident?

I knew nothing of this bar aside from some good reviews that I saw on Trip Advisor. I had some notes saved for days like these when we were going to be wandering around. It was an open air bar on the Malecón with around 12 bar stools, we soon found out that this was in fact a Sun Devil’s bar, yeah that college football team from Arizona. That took the illusiveness out of it but we stayed and we were happy with that choice. The owner of the bar graduated from ASU back in the day and then moved to PV and opened this place. It’s prime real estate so I imagine he is riding high on the hog. The bar menu was written on the walls in chalk, I ordered a passion fruit margarita, Shawna ordered a mango colada and we also threw in two flaming Dr. Peppers because somehow, she has managed to go through life without ever having one, truthfully she still hasn’t. Her amaretto never left the shot glass and she just chugged Modelo, ha!

Once we finished our drinks we decided that it was time to get some food. I don’t know why we chose the place we did but it was a good decision.

We sat to this view while chatting with an American man who just recently moved from Washington state to Puerto Vallarta with his wife. He went on about how good the food was and how great it was to live there. Then my molé enchiladas arrived and it went silent.

Happy and full we hopped back into a cab to our hotel and I bet you can guess what we did next.

That’s right, back to pool and this view.

Teleport me back!

Before dinner we popped into the Mojito bar where the service was slow, the drinks were worse but the spectacular view helped us swallow the poorly made drinks.

One drink at the Mojito bar and then we made our way to Gulietta, the Italian restaurant. The porcini risotto was the highlight, so good in fact, we would go back for more.

The next morning (day 3) we had coffee and breakfast delivered to the room and then….headed down to the pool. The fun pool, not the boring pool. The fun entertainment took place in the pool with the booze, the pool without the bar was for the boring people and the boring fun, well that’s what Emilio (see below) said daily .

We played Bingo and water volleyball and then we met new friends. Toby and Lord were from our neck of the woods aka California. We became fast friends and after dinner, which I am sure we had, we met them at their hotel room for some tequila. Sounds shady right? It wasn’t, they are really great people and they even convinced us to try this tequila that was….sippable. gasp! Still seems shady huh? Ha, we sipped and talked and talked and sipped and then went up to the sky bar. The people watching was on point, I am sure drinks were spilled but the laughing and dancing never stopped. I am sorry to say that we didn’t take a picture with them, but we will someday.

Wash, rinse and repeat. Same routine, different day. Day 4 and we had found our groove, we knew what activities we wanted to participate in and which ones we did not. For instance, I played Texas Hold Em’ and Lord was part of the Juego Loco.

I mean, what even was that? Ha, ha. After that brilliant and brave performance by Lord, we took a moment to salute the Mexican Air Force.

Mexican Air Force

We met another couple in the pool that day and they were self appointed avid Karaoke singers. They told us about a bar called Kooky’s in town that had Karaoke on Thursday’s and it just so happened to be….Thursday. We tossed the idea of leaving the resort around and decided to make a decision after dinner.

Dinner.

We ate well at the Japanese restaurant and committed to a night out, we called an Uber into town for some Karaoke.

We ordered some drinks, said hello to the ladies that invited us and took this all in.

AMAZING!

Fun times. It was a fun time to sit back and watch magic happen…. from a safe distance away.

Sadly, it happened. We woke up to our last full day of our trip. The people we had met and spent our days with were starting to disperse and new guests were arriving. We took advantage of one more day. We floated in the warm ocean water, enjoyed the slight chill of the pool and watched a pretty remarkable belly flop contest.

We had a really good lunch at the Cevicheria and an even better dessert.

The coconut ice cream was incredible.

We decided we needed to have the mushroom risotto one more time before we left, so off we went to the the Italian restaurant again. Finally, I ordered a really good drink.

The one and only, espresso martini.

We went up to the Sky bar thinking that since it was a Friday night and new people had rolled in that it would be a busy, great music situation. That was not the case. Turns out that most everyone went into town for their Friday night and we watched some musicians play instrumentals that lullabied us down to our room.

That’s it, that’s how it ends. We slept in, packed, ate one last meal, said our goodbyes and hit the road to the airport.

We had a great time. Cheers Puerto Vallarta, thanks for the fun!

Now…. Since we have been to both Secrets and Grand Fiesta, which resort would we revisit?

T.B.C.

Grand Fiesta, Fiesta Fiesta

Oops, we did it again (insert Britney voice). We went back to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at a different resort this time so that counts as trying something new, right? When striving to pick a warm destination for an affordable getaway we have a couple of things to consider. First, we don’t want to be away from the girls any longer than we have to. So, with that in mind, we don’t want to spend two days of the trip on trains, planes or in automobiles. Second, we want an all inclusive and preferably adults only because duh. Cabo didn’t have what we were looking for exactly so we were hemming and hawing between Cozumel and PV…. again. The travel to get to Cancun along with the travel to get from there to Cozumel sucked so much time that we committed ourselves to a different all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta.

This was the view from our room at the Grand Fiesta Americana. It’s located south of the Malecón opposed to Secrets, (where we stayed last year). That resort was just near the heart of the town. We decided against any excursions this time, setting aside just one day to head into town to see whatever we missed the last time.

It’s such an easy flight down there and we were on the tarmac by 3:15. However, travel had seemed to return to normal and the line for customs was longer than the most popular ride at Disneyland, probably. Finally we were in a cab with a very watered down margarita by 4:45 and at the hotel just after 5:00. Everything else went smoothly and the weather was incredible so we set everything aside, put on our bathing suits and went straight to the pool.

One of the reasons we picked this place was because every room, restaurant and bar had this view. For dinner we ate at the Mexican restaurant. To start we had the guac and a squash blossom quesadilla, both delish. I also had the pollo en molé, Shawna ordered something that she liked but we don’t remember exactly what…chefs kiss!

The sky bar was a big deck with hot tubs, a dance floor, a bar and restrooms. This is where the nightly entertainment took place and the DJ set up after to close out the night. You guys, this was a people watching haven. Much different than the PV Secrets, also this crowd range was a tad younger. The other thing we realized while driving to our hotel was that it was Pride week in PV, how fun! We people watched, laughed and cringed until the early hours before falling into our bed.

The next morning we went downstairs to have breakfast, it looked like it was originally a buffet but now was an order and wait situation. Different lines for different stations. We had chilaquiles, mimosas and croissants. We weren’t terribly impressed, but it did it’s job of filling our bellies before our day of endless drinks at the pool bar. Then we found a spot at the pool, which we would learn, a task that needs to happen early in the morning if you want a good spot (aka next to the pool bar). I am pretty sure you can pay a staff member to save you a spot, just a tip, a good one in my opinion.

Once settled, we sat, sipped and sunned. Can we just note the water and sunscreen in the picture? Gotta hydrate and protect our skin from ALL the sun-kissing.

The entertainment staff was fantastic and they provided plenty of things to participate in or just watch from a safe distance away. I will divulge more into this in due time.

We spent the entire day in the pool, eventually the DJ packed up, the bar closed and that was our queue to get ready for dinner.

Dinner wasn’t great. We ate at the tapas bar and ordered generically which resulted in tough octopus and stale bread. We heard that some of the options were indeed delicious, but I can’t confirm that. Afterwards we sat in the lobby and listened to a hispanic Jake Gyllenhaal play the saxophone.

Tuesday was our in town day. We woke up, ate room service and then had the concierge call us a cab. It was a whopping seven dollars for our cab driver to take us to Playa de los muertos. Which is also known as gay beach, another fun fact.

Looking south from the pier.
Looking north from the Pier.

We knew if we just walked north along the water that we would eventually hit the Malecón and also where we had lunch on our last trip. (That post is here.)

I wanted to peek at the shops on the River Cuale but when we got there, it was a “Donde esta el baño” situation. So we sat in the closest air conditioned place we could find, ordered drinks and relaxed for a few. I had a Cadillac marg and she had a mango marg and let me tell you, those were the two best drinks we had since we left San Diego, sigh.

We shopped, walked and happened upon a place called the Devil’s bar. I remembered reading about this place in all of my pre trip browsing. So we popped in and order some drinks.

TO BE CONTINUED!

Dos mas Dias

It was my brother’s first full day in PV and we had big big plans…. stay in the pool ALL day. We started with breakfast downstairs. In the old days it would have been a buffet but now it’s more like a virtual menu. Choose what you want and they will serve it to you. Their pastries were much better than the ones we had in Cancún, actually I think all the food was better. I started the days with croissants and mimosa’s, my babe had french toast, a very strange cold muesli/yogurt mess and strawberry mimosas. The guys ate normal breakfast foods, however Casey’s friend ate like there wasn’t going to be anymore food for the rest of the day.

Once at the pool, blowjobs and donkey semen started flowing. You never knew where the shots were coming from, there was alway someone ordering something for everyone. We all took turns playing ping pong, volleyball and black jack.

The food that came out of the pool cafe was some of the best. Carne Asada street tacos with fresh spicy salsa, a Gyro that was really good and their burgers were also solid. I did order the Aguachile one day and it was quite good but I was too full to really enjoy it.

I swear we aren’t horrible at ping pong.

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This was the evening of our fancy wine dinner. We made reservations in the wine room of the French Restaurant. If you purchase a bottle of wine it comes with a special chef’s menu. We had fresh french bread, there is nothing better than warm fresh bread with cold salted butter. Casey pretty much took down two baskets himself. The beef tartare was especially delicious, surf and turf for the main was cooked perfectly and we ended with a chocolate soufflé. It was delicious and worth it if you ever decide to visit.

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The evening ended in the lobby as usual with good company and music.

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We woke to our last day in PV, we planned on spending the first half of the day in town. After a quick breakfast we called an Uber to pick us up.

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Once in town we did a little window shopping and then chose a place for lunch. We picked a place that had outside seating with a view. The weather however was ridiculous. It was so humid that my sundress felt like a wool blanket. We were the only ones in the entire restaurant which was nice but we were melting. Finally we moved inside and our waiter/chef turned on a huge fan and we could finally relax.

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I had fish tacos and they were incredible. When I asked the guy for some hot sauce he brought me out a tray of different bottles. I chose the habanero one and it was so good that I bought it. As you can see, I haven’t used it at all since we have been home.

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Since we were so hot and sticky all we wanted to do was go back to the resort and jump in the pool. One more round of drinks and pool games to end our stay. We gathered our new friends and planned on a group dinner together as a farewell meal.

Casey was staying in the preferred club part of the resort. I think the perks with the preferred club were that you got a quick and solo check-in, they also had their own hot tub and a private lounge/bar that only preferred guests (plus invites) could access. We planned to meet him in his lounge for a drink before dinner. Let me preface this next part of the evening with this; Before we hit the pool that day we had to meet someone at the concierge to arrange our ride to the airport. As we were walking away I noticed two men that I hadn’t seen before. I commented to Shawna and Casey on the taller mans legs. They were long, lean and nicer than most of the people there. Strange thing to point out but seriously they stood out to me. Fast forward to Casey’s preferred lounge. As we were waiting for our adult beverages, those same, very flamboyant men walked in. The one we will call “legs” walked right up to Shawna and professed things to her that shouldn’t be said in front of other people in a public place in the daylight. He said that he was watching her at the pool and although he was clearly not into women that she made him question his sexuality, barf. It was annoying the way he went about it but they seemed like nice guys. We said adios and carried our drinks up to Casey’s room to check out his digs. His room was nicer than ours in a few ways, his tub was on the patio and his room seemed to get a bit more sunlight. We put on some music and attempted to salsa on the patio.

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Six of us had a nice dinner at the Seafood restaurant, the sun was just starting to set making for a perfect backdrop. Since it was our last evening everyone we had become friends with planned to meet in the lobby for farewell drinks and music.

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I should probably give you some more background on the people we hung out with so the following stories flow better. We met the couple from New Jersey on our first day, they were our faves, just two really nice people. They were meant to be married in Hawaii in September but since that was canceled or postponed for the time being, they took a trip to Puerto Vallarta. {We can forget about the Idahoans}. Then there was a threesome, two girls both married to men in open relationships and a gay guy, we will call him Ken. The three of them traveled together and if I remember correctly they all worked together. Next we have Weldon, he was there solo, sober and also gay. (Not that any of that matters aside from the sober part. I don’t know why anyone would choose to go to an all inclusive if you aren’t getting free booze. That’s the most expensive part, am I right?)  Lastly we have Chris and Kory, happily married and fun. Then there was Legs and his husband Johan.

Earlier in the week when we all had dinner at the Mexican (I think that’s in the last post) we were with the threesome, Weldon and the New Jersey couple. That night was when I decided I didn’t really like Ken. He came off very narcissistic, I don’t know, I just didn’t like the guy. There is a reason I am telling you all of this. 

Back to our final evening. Since everything basically shuts down at 11:00 we had planned ahead. We pre-ordered drinks and had a couple of bottles of wine for everyone to share. We also brought down a bluetooth speaker so we could keep our own entertainment going. Ken sat down next to me on the couch and I just kept telling myself, be nice. Then he said, “so I have a funny story.” I was intrigued. Apparently after our dinner the other night at the Mexican restaurant, Weldon invited Ken back to his room for a casual connection. I don’t know what or how it came about but Weldon ended up kicking Ken out of his bed and his room after Ken divulged that he was a Trump supporter. I am pretty sure I spit out my wine, that was the best thing I had heard all week. #FUCKTRUMP

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The evening was so fun, everyone was playing music and we were all swapping stories (not Covid) and then….Legs walks in, without his man, apparently Johan was napping the day off. You guys, I don’t even know how to explain him but I will try. He struts up to our group as we are all sitting and chatting, addressing everyone he dramatically points to Shawna and isn’t shy about letting us all know his sexual feeling towards her. He gets graphic and this is where I start to get a little fucking upset, bring it down dude, not appropriate. We all look at each other like, “who is this guy”? He then goes outside and I follow him, this is when he apologized, saying that he’s sorry, he didn’t mean to come off offensive and then I got a sob story about his childhood and yada yada yada. Still chatting, Johan, his husband, wakes from his slumber and comes down to join us. Legs then goes inside to greet him. I am caught in conversation outside when I missed it. I feel like I always miss the good stuff. {side note, almost every time Shawna and I go out, if it’s near or far, shit like this happens. I know she is amazing and has a magnetic personality but seriously, every.time}. When Legs walked back inside he didn’t sit next to his husband he sat next to Shawna all while dropping his drink all over his pink pants and the couch.

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That is how our last night ended. A lot of OMG, WTF’s and so much laughter and dancing. We called it a night, exchanged numbers and headed to bed.

We had one last breakfast before heading to the airport.

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We really enjoyed our time down there. If or when we go back, there are a lot more things that I want to explore but I tell you what, it’s hard to get out of the pool.

Now it’s back to all things hard, but “we can do hard things (Glennon Doyle).”