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Grand Fiesta Americana* is an adult-only, 4.5 start all-inclusive that promises paradise, and for the most part, it is. As soon as you enter, a large open-air lobby welcomes you with a breath of cool, fresh air. The decor is modern and bright, a mix of wood and fabric with a little bit of thick yarn and a pop of fresh flowers. The view from pretty much everywhere is stunning – pools weaving through the hotel grounds, rows of umbrellas lined into a ribbon, sandy beach and if you are lucky, a wale in the distance. Everywhere you look is something pretty to see and nice to sit on.

If you book through Expedia a few extra perks are added because Grand Fiesta* is a VIP+ rated resort. Some of these perks included a private check-in, a daily SPA discount, and access to the VIP Lounge on the 13th floor. One of our favourite places on the resort to spend time in the Lounge has indoor and outdoor sitting, a serene environment, stellar service, and various meals offered throughout the day. This, mostly white and green, space became an extension of our room where we had breakfast, ate macaroons, and lived our best champaign life.

All rooms have a balcony with a couple of wicker chairs, a side table, and a view of the ocean. The shower is spacious and all glass with a window looking into the room. The fridge was stocked daily with snacks, beers, and pop, and as a welcome, the table was set up for wine service with a bottle of red. As a staple in each room is a set of slippers, a robe, and a really handy beach bag which nearly everyone at the resort used. The sleep quality, however, could use some improvement, the beds are very hard with heavy blankets and despite the constant daily relaxation I slept terribly the entire time – perhaps why that half of the 5star is missing.

Unlike some resorts, where the promise of all-inclusive comes with conditions of your inclusivity level, at Grand Fiesta everything that’s promised is actually included: room service, kayaks, paddleboards, yoga classes, and all other pool-side activities. Things that come at additional cost are certain cabanas, pool-side bottle service, and non-house wine, which you will want, house wine is subpar. Eating at the resort can be a little tricky: some restaurants are closed on various days of the week, the buffet is closed a couple of times during the day, and there is nowhere to get food 24/7 so if you’re hungry after 10 pm room service is the only way (average wait is 30-40 min). On certain nights the dinner is served outside in a fun and festive style with a Mexican buffet and a show. The restaurants located inside all have dress code so flip-flops are only okay on the pool level.

For the first night dinner, we opted in for Mexican at Rojo Corazón and had a fantastic meal with tableside guacamole service, delicious steak tacos, cold margaritas on ice, and all kinds of other tasty goodness. On the far side of the beach is the Cevicheria, marked by its blue umbrellas and chairs framed by the hillside with a view of the ocean. Open only during the day Cevicheria offers a large selection of fresh seafood, homemade ice cream, and a few market-price items like lobster. Ideal for an afternoon snack, paired with bottomless mimosas, this quickly became our favourite spot.

Near the lobby is a Spanish tapas place called Serrano Station with a lovely open view of the sunset. The tapas here technicality means that everything on the menu is served as a single portion – one crostini, one bite, one spoon – the house drink special is a sangria-like compote that’s a little on the sweet side. Yuu, an Asian restaurant is precisely that – a variety of all types of Asian food from curry to sushi; soy sauce is poured per person on request, and sashimi is basically grilled fish thinly sliced. On a different level is Gulietta, an Italian restaurant and one I liked the least: portions are very small and the menu is very confusing. The Buffet has a wide range of options from different cuisines with gluten and dairy-free alternatives. In the afternoon they make snacks by the pool and at night you can watch the show from the patio.

For cocktails a few bars are scattered around the buildings: Martini Lounge has a pool table, Mojito Lounge has fun swings and a nice view, and the Tequila Lounge, well I never found that one and instead watched the sunset from the 13th-floor Lounge. The main late-night venue is Divina Skybar where the DJ plays after 11 to a small crowd of those who are drunk enough to dance and those still roasting in the jacuzzi. The nightly entertainment features a handful of dancers, some circus acts, live bands, and cultural performances. The Risky Show is what we saw on the first night and it ended with me getting a lap dance, in front of my mother – I was famous on the resort by the end of day one. When everyone forgot about that I brought a coconut to the pool which for some reason was almost as scandalously appealing as the sandwich lap dance. I guess getting your five minutes of fame on the resort is much easier than in LA (not that I was looking for it).

And then there is the Haixa Spa. With a large menu of services most of which, I found, cost more than those I can get at a 5-start hotel in Toronto but what it did offer at low cost was a water circuit: dry and wet saunas, with cold showers in between, cold and hot temperature pools with a hydrating water massage and at the end, relaxation on a lightly heated ceramic lounge with a couple of cucumbers over your eyes, a cold towel and a gentle face massage. This roughly came to $30 per person, took a couple of hours, and was worth every penny. I am now a Spa addict, sign me up for monthly service!

Address: Carr. Costera a Barra de Navidad km 4.5, Zona Hotelera Sur, 48390 Puerto Vallarta, Jal., Mexico

In the gear bag: Fujifilm X-T100 with an XF50mmF2 R WR lens. To see the trip on Instagram look up #xoVallarta19

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