Category: Preferred Club Ocean View
Booking Information: 6 nights, All-Inclusive, price: $1948.34 (reserved through bookit.com)
Full disclosure: I’ve been to A LOT of all-inclusive resorts over the years. I love the convenience and the feeling of not worrying about the cost of each meal and beverage because I’ve already paid for everything in advance. Because I’ve been to so many, I’ve become a little pickier over the years. I would like to preface this review by saying that I’m getting nitpicky here, but overall, the resort is a great place to go on vacation. This is especially true because there always seems to be an enormous online discount on the cost of the resort. For the price that we paid, I enjoyed our experience and if you’ve never been to an all-inclusive before, this is an excellent introduction to what you can expect from this type of vacation.
Hotel Background: The Now Amber is a family resort that is on a shared property with a Secrets resort, which is an adult’s only facility. They are owned by the same parent company. The property is divided by a large set of bushes and adults that are staying at the Now Amber are allowed to use the facilities at the Secrets side so long as their kids are not with them.
Getting to the Resort: The resort is fairly close to the airport in the main strip of hotels by downtown Puerto Vallarta. I recommend taking a taxi from the airport because we were charged $20 for a family of four to leave the airport and only $10 to return to the airport from our hotel at the end of the week. To get a taxi, simply bypass all of the timeshare salespeople that are all over the airport after you leave the customs area, go outside of the airport, and you will see people with signs for “Only Taxi”. These people will fill out a paper that you will use to pay as you leave the airport property, and they will hail you a cab. It’s very simple and the taxis (and pretty much everyone else in Puerto Vallarta) will take pesos or US dollars.
Location, Location, Location: One of the best things about the Now Amber is that it’s really close to downtown Puerto Vallarta. You can walk to the downtown boardwalk in about 15-20min along the road or beach or take a taxi for just a few dollars. Downtown PV is a great place to spend some time because the boardwalk along the water is closed off to cars. You can find street artists, high and low end shops, countless restaurants, as well as nightclubs if you want to stay out late. I particularly liked shopping at the small flea market on the boardwalk that had many of the same cute souvenirs as the other shops but for a few dollars less expensive if you are willing to haggle on the price. The other shops don’t like to negotiate the price of their goods.
What did we like about the Now Amber?
The Kids Club- The Explorer’s Club was one of the best kids clubs I have ever seen. There were tons of outdoor and indoor places to play including a rock climbing wall, a trampoline, kitchen, arts & crafts table, etc. There was also a full schedule of engaging activities for the kids and bilingual staff that seemed to really enjoy the children.
The Nighttime Shows- Each night there is a different show that you can watch at the outdoor amphitheater and each one that we saw was entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. Our personal favorite was the Mexican Heritage show where there was an interesting performance of Aztec warriors as well as Folkloric dancers and Vaqueros. My daughter (6) especially loved all of the dancers and she was so impressed with how quickly they could change their outfits and come back out for another routine.
The Staff- Without fail, every single staff person we interacted with throughout the week was friendly, courteous, helpful, and professional. I was VERY impressed with the hotel staff.
The Turtle Release- During certain times of the year there are turtle eggs that hatch on the property. If eggs hatch on a given day the resort staff will allow the guests to help release the turtle babies into the ocean. They teach the guests, especially the children, how to handle the newborn turtles and send them off on their journey. It was a magical experience for my kids to participate in the turtle release.
Thanksgiving Dinner- We’ve never been out of the country on Thanksgiving Day before and I didn’t expect a foreign country to celebrate an American holiday, but boy was I wrong. The hotel went all out. There was a buffet by the pool with almost every Thanksgiving side dish that I could have imagined as well as delicious meat options, including turkey (obviously), pot roast, and ham. The staff members dressed as Native Americans and Pilgrims and walked around to let the kids take pictures with them. The dessert spread was absolutely incredible and my kids were so excited because they had cotton candy and lollipops. The evening included a live band that played American hits such as “Sweet Caroline” and “Sweet Home Alabama” and finished up the night with a fireworks show. I don’t know if many hotels in Mexico have this as an option on Thanksgiving Day but I was more than impressed.
The Preferred Club- When you check in to the hotel and inform them that you have booked in the Preferred Club, you are escorted to another building where you have a small check in desk. The check in is very fast and you are shown around a small snack area where they have hot and cold food available all day as well as a high end coffee and espresso machine that you have unlimited access to. There is also a private 2ndfloor bar with higher end alcohol options. Just a small warning- the bartender is VERY generous with his pours so be careful with your drink consumption.
The Activities- You are given a schedule each evening for the following day and it is full of fun activities. It felt similar to a cruise ship in the level of things to do each day. There are items for adults only, families, and just for kids. My kids were never bored and because of all of the fun things to do, I believe this is their all time favorite resort.
The Gym Facilities- The gym is located on the Secrets side of the resort and is spacious and well maintained. There was never more than four other guests when I was in there and I was able to use all of the equipment that I am accustomed to using when I am in the US. There was also a cleaning lady constantly wiping down all of the equipment and an attendant that will check in with you to see if you need a towel and/or water.
The Coco Café- Oh my goodness, there is nothing like an iced coffee on a hot day (in my opinion). There are two cafes on the property and I highly recommend ordering a frozen cappuccino at least once during your stay. Delicious!
What did we dislike about the Now Amber?
The Dining Options When Traveling with a Large Group- Although the hotel advertises itself by saying “no reservations necessary” at most restaurants, the fact is that if you’re traveling with a group of 6 or more you’ll end up waiting quite a while for a table, unless you want to eat at the buffet. One evening we tried to get ahead of this issue by asking for a table 30 minutes in advance but we were told that we weren’t allowed to even put our names down and get a buzzer unless our whole group was ready to go. If I were traveling with just adults this would be no big deal. I would get a buzzer and go up to a nearby bar and have a drink, however when you’re traveling with kids, it’s really difficult to keep them occupied in the lobby for an hour while waiting for a table AND then expect them to be well behaved at dinner once we were seated.
The Food Overall- I wasn’t really impressed with the food at each restaurant. Although there were a few dishes that were good such as the sushi at Himitsu and the shrimp cocktail at Castaways, I wasn’t left wanting more the way I have been at other all-inclusives such as The Marival Residences and The Hard Rock. Now, this may have been better for my waistline overall as I didn’t indulge in the same way that I usually do on vacation because I didn’t love the food as much as I usually do.
The Size of the Resort- This is a pretty small resort for an all-inclusive, especially considering that it is split in half between Secrets and Now Amber. It’s a great size if you’re planning on going on a lot of excursions during the day but since we were mainly hanging out at the pool, it felt small. Also, because it is fairly small, the pool chairs can sometimes be hard to get. We noticed that people would head out really early in the morning and place their books and sunscreen on chairs around the pools. It was frustrating because sometimes those same people wouldn’t return to the chairs that they had saved in the entire time that we were at the pool. Because this seemed like the only way to secure a decent location, we employed the same strategy. *Side note- we were at the resort over Thanksgiving week so it is probably one of the resort’s busiest times.
The Noise- This is probably my biggest complaint overall. It was SO loud at night and I don’t think a single room on the entire resort was immune from the noise. There was some kind of singing, dance music, and/or karaoke going on until 11PM every single night. As a family resort, one would think that the music would die down a little earlier but the noise from the lobby bar and from the Secrets side of the resort was blaring. If I were traveling without my kids I probably would have loved all of the music, but as it was, I was pretty crabby each evening, and tired in the morning. Thank goodness for those delicious frozen cappuccinos at the Café.
The Facilities- The rooms felt dated. Although the bedding was soft and the rooms were cleaned very well each day, you could see signs of wear and age almost everywhere you turned. My husband and I both really hurt our shins on a part of the bed frame that was sticking out and the toilet room was one of the smallest I have very been in. I’m happy I am not claustrophobic because it would have been difficult to use the bathroom if I was because it was such a cramped space.
Other Interesting Tidbits:
By choosing the Preferred Club you are given “upgraded” toiletries. I was especially happy that there was an extra toothbrush and toothpaste in this upgrade because my husband forgot his. However, there was only a conditioning shampoo instead of a separate shampoo and conditioner. I was trying to be smart about my packing on this trip and I didn’t pack any conditioner because I assumed that there would be some in our room. The conditioning shampoo did very little to treat our hair after a long day of swimming in the ocean and pool. By the end of the week my daughter and I had hair that was the texture of straw.
Casino- There is a casino for adults on site that is open from 11am-1am each day. I did not use the casino but when I looked inside it appeared to have table games, slots, and all of the typical fun things that casinos usually provide.
There is a Doctor on Site- I didn’t even know that this was a thing, but I guess at some resorts there is a full time doctor or multiple doctors on site. Unfortunately, we found this out the hard way. Our son hurt himself at the Explorer’s Club (no fault of the hotel or staff BTW) and we were able to meet with the doctor and she assessed our son’s injury. She recommended that we go to a nearby hospital to get an X-Ray, which we did. Both the on site doctor and the doctors at the nearby hospital were bilingual and incredibly helpful. Thankfully our son did not break or severely damage anything and we were sent back to the hotel with a neck brace and a prescription for some anti-inflammatory medication. Because of this positive experience I will definitely make sure to check and see if any future hotels we are staying at have on site medical care.
Will we be back to Now Amber?
Probably not- especially not with our kids. As much as I love the kid activities, the nighttime music was so loud and disruptive that I had a terrible night’s sleep the entire week. If you are the type of person who doesn’t mind this, or can sleep with earplugs in, then the Now Amber is a good deal for the reasonable price of your stay.