We love a sunny resort holiday and Mexico has always delivered. We have travelled to Puerto Vallarta and stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel and also visited the Costa Maya as part of a cruise out of Florida. Just a few hours flight from the US, Mexico offers plenty of options for a resort holiday to relax and enjoy some local culture - or simply hang out in a full service hotel relaxing and soaking up the sunshine.
This trip we visited the Cabo area with a stay at the Royal Solaris in San Jose Cabo.
The Royal Solaris is actually a time share, so although we simply booked through a normal hotel booking website, we were still exposed to the timeshare sell. Upon arrival at the hotel we received an individual “Concierge” to explain the hotel features to us. However after declining quite sternly for the third time to attend the VIP breakfast, (to find out about the amazing opportunities for time share at the hotel) our Concierge had very little further information to give us! Not a great start to the stay - but thankfully it did not really dampen the experience and we were not bothered about timeshare any further.
The Royal Solaris is an all inclusive resort. This means that all our meals, drinks (including alcohol) and entertainment were included. If you have ever cruised, a resort like this is a very similar experience. Once you arrive there really is no reason to have to spend any money - except for tips if you are wanting to do so.
The hotel had a number of eatery options a pizzeria, snack bar serving hot dogs, burgers and nachos, a sushi station (which was amazing), a buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a couple of specialty a la carte restaurants one of which served Churrasco Argentinian (char grilled meats served to the table on swords and carved at your table). Add to that 24 hour room service (with a delivery fee) and a stocked fridge of soda, water and beers in your room - there was no reason to go hungry or thirsty.
Add to this all the bars around the hotel that were also included. Cocktails from the pool bar, tequila shots by the beach, wine with your dinner in the restaurant, late night night-caps in the lobby bar - all included. And the free pour serves of spirits put hair on your chest!
Then there was all the entertainment included. There was a kids club where kids could be signed in from 9am - 5pm (our kids chose not to use this but it was still an option and looked like it had a great range of activities), poolside entertainment that ranged from darts competitions, black jack, movie trivia, aqua aerobics, ping pong tournaments and more - there was never a dull moment poolside.
And in the evenings there was a large theatre with entertainment that for us included a Michael Jackson tribute show and a traditional Mexican dancing show. And if that wasn’t enough the entertainment crew also kept patrons busy in the evening at the lobby bar with activities such as karaoke and various game show type entertainment.
On our first night we joined in on the Karaoke at the lobby bar and discovered one of the entertainment staff, a dancer named Holly, was in fact from Adelaide, Australia (our home town). She had only arrived at the hotel in the last week, there was also one other dancer on staff who had been at the resort for 12 months, also from Adelaide.
The girls were comforted by having someone from home at the hotel, they told us in 12 months they had only come across four other Australian visitors at the resort. And they always seemed to be from South Australia! If you visit, be sure to say hello to the girls - maybe take them some Vegemite.
The resort is located on the beach, we stayed just before Hurricane Bud was heading for town so the beach was rough and not swimmable. However we still enjoyed walks on the sand, listening to the sounds of the sea and getting hair braids from the beach vendors.
From the street in front of the hotel a local bus could be caught for the cost of $1USD to take you to downtown San Jose which was filled with restaurants, shops and art galleries. Just beware the local buses stop at about 8pm so if you are going for dinner you may need to get a taxi back. We visited downtown on a Sunday night and got caught out with no buses or taxis around, luckily the restaurant owner gave us a ride in the back tray of his single cab truck - when in Mexico!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
If you are looking for accommodation in Sydney there is a myriad of choices. A range of hotels to suit your budget, apartments, AirBNB, camping and more. We have stayed at a number of hotels across the city, last year we took the kids and stayed at the Funky QT hotel. This year on a weekend trip without the kids we decided to up the star rating and checked in to the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.
Here are six reasons you may want to check in to this hotel that you may not see listed on their website.
So you may see this listed on the website - but it has to be said. As far as locations go, you are not going to get much better than this in Sydney. Right in Circular Quay, at the bottom of The Rocks the hotel is really centrally located.
The airport train stops some 500m from the hotel, you can catch a ferry from Circular Quay to a myriad of destinations around Sydney and you can see the Opera House and the Bridge from your room! (dependant on room location - we had a partial view of the Opera House from our room as pictured).
You can walk to The Rocks and enjoy the restaurants and bars, stroll down to the Museum of Contemporary Art and enjoy breakfast there with the Opera House over your shoulder, a 10 minute walk will have you in the Shopping malls, a 15 minute walk will have you in Darling Harbour and a 10 minute walk will have you in the Botanical Gardens.
As far as locations go in Sydney for accomodation, this one ticks many boxes.
Complimentary Shoe Shine
How many hotels offer you a complimentary shoe shine? At the Four Seasons Sydney you simply place your shoes in a bag and hang on your room door by 1am and by 7am they are returned all polished and shined ready for your day! Loved it - wished I had packed more of my shoes!
Turn Down Service
The turn down service is probably one of the first things hotels cut when they are looking at tightening budgets - but I love it. There is nothing better than coming back to your room in the evening to find fresh towels hanging in the bathroom, bottles of water by your bedside, curtains drawn and the night lighting turned on.
If you like to pack light it is great to know before hand if your toiletries can be left behind. Four Seasons Sydney offer a great range of quality Appelles toiletries including shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bar soap and moisturiser.
Australian designed skin and hair products, Appelles feature a combination of essential oils with botanical extracts in environmentally friendly packaging. Safe to say, it will not be detrimental to your skin or hair to use these products on a weekend getaway.
Check In Service
Now this is something I have not seen before - the check-in staff physically step out from behind the desk to personally hand you your room key when you have completed the check in process. Check in staff generally have a desk as a barrier between them and you and conduct the checkin process from behind that counter.
At the Four Seasons Sydney they have obviously recognised that barrier, so to break it the staff physically walk out from behind the counter to stand beside you, hand you your room key and welcome you to the hotel. Such a small act but one that really stood out as a hotel that is determined to offer an element of personalised service.
Charismatic Chef - Francesco Mannelli
This one you may also see on their website, but that may not translate into how charming and passionate the head chef Francesco is. Apart from the amazing premium spirit cocktails with unique mixes of fresh ingredients that are on offer, Francesco has introduced a stylish and simple menu at Mode Kitchen and Bar that focuses on fresh, quality, Australian produce.
We were fortunate enough to meet Francesco on our visit where he enthusiastically spoke about his joy for cooking at Mode, creating a new menu and sourcing quality ingredients. He proudly displayed the restaurants signature menu item, a 1kg grain fed T-bone sourced from the Coorong. As South Australians we were impressed that much of his produce comes from our State. I was a combination of impressed yet disturbed by the size of the cut of meat on offer - surely no-one would eat that on their own! Would they?
And restaurant manager, Simone Cordedda also ensured we were welcomed and taken care of. When we passed him in the lobby after our initial meeting he made sure to say hello.
Of course there are plenty of other reasons listed on the hotel’s website - the rooftop pool is also a key highlight - but the above were our personal takeaways.
Have you stayed at the Four Seasons Sydney? What non-brochured perks have you found at hotels around the world?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
December 2016 we had a two-night stay in Sydney before joining a cruise. Finding a hotel in Sydney this trip had a few challenges. A) The price of accommodation in December is always at a premium and B) Finding a hotel room in Sydney with a room occupancy for four people also limited our choices.
The Itchy Feet Family consists of two adults and two children, Master 10 and Miss 7, and we prefer to only have one room. Many hotels in Sydney require families to purchase two rooms due to maximum occupancy rates of three.
However, we stumbled across a flash sale with priority rewards chain and discovered the QT Hotel. Located in Market Street, this boutique hotel is situated in the centre of the CBD right in the thick of the shopping district and almost directly underneath the Sydney Tower.
At $250 a night the hotel offered twin queen beds, perfect for a family of four with young children. And what a surprise this hotel was.
The Boutique hotel is actually owned by the State Theatre and the styling reflects the connection. Quirky little additions throughout starting from the uniform of the porters, the wall of vintage suitcases in the lobby and the dress mannequins reflecting pieces of art - we were fascinated by the intricate details of the hotel.
The room was spacious for Sydney standards, really funky decor topped off with a large bathroom consisting a his and hers sink, deep round tub and large shower with a rain shower head.
In-room we had free Wi-Fi and movies as well as a Nespresso coffee machine that came with fresh milk to warm in the milk frother for a true in-room cappuccino.
The hotel had a tiny in-house gym with a few pieces of equipment, however another great addition to a stay at the QT hotel is access to the Virgin Active Club located just a few minutes walk from the hotel. We were staying on Boxing Day, so it was closed, however from what we saw on the internet anyone that takes their fitness seriously would appreciate the value of this additional extra.
Although located in the thick of the CBD, another great advantage of this hotel was just how quiet the room was. We were only staying on Level 4 and yet not a sound of the outside world could be heard from the comfort of our room. Another rarity for a hotel room anywhere in the world, let alone Sydney.
From the hotel you are in walking distance of China Town, Circular Quay and Darling Harbour and on your doorstep you can just walk across the street to be in the Westfield Shopping district with a myriad of choices for shopping and dining.
I did overhear a guest unhappy that her room had not been serviced in the afternoon and when we went out in the evening at 5pm we also had to request a room refresh as it had not been done. However given it was a public holiday I imagined they may have been low on staff. To their credit the reception staff were very apologetic and when we returned later that evening the room had been cleaned.
If you are after something a little bit different from your typical chain hotel, the QT Hotel in Sydney certainly delivers.
Check Availability Today.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Other blogs you may be interested in:
- 24 Hours in Sydney - With Kids
- Ya'll Come Back Soon - Our Visit to Dixie Dude Ranch
- Look Out Zimmer Frames, Zip Lines are Coming Through - Adventure Cruising
- Getting Dirty In Vietnam - Visit to the Nha Trang Mud Baths
When Trump was announced President Elect, Master 10’s first concern was “Does that mean we can’t go to Mexico again? How do we get over the wall.” Having just visited Puerto Vallarta his concern was quite legitimate.
In June 2016 we were heading Stateside and wanted something to break up our US adventures. Randomly, the Hard Rock Hotel all inclusive resort at Puerto Vallarta caught our eye.
Just a three hour flight from Los Angeles, the thought of spending a few days at an all inclusive resort in the sunshine ticked all the boxes to ease into our three week holiday.
And in Mexico ALL inclusive means just that! Once we stepped foot on the resort, there was not a further dollar to be spent. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, mini bar, coffee shop, pizzeria and the swim up bar - ALL INCLUDED!
The resort boasted many dining options from a traditional buffet to, of course, a Mexican eatery as well as an Italian outdoor restaurant by the beach and an Argentinian restaurant serving meat by the sword.
And there was no going thirsty. There was a mini-bar in the room with three bottles of liquor ready to poor, a swim up bar and a constant flow of servers ready to shake a new cocktail (or mocktail for the kids).
And if you complained that your cocktail was too weak the bar man’s response was to simply provide you with your own bottle of Vodka to top it up! What did they care! At the Italian restaurant when I ordered a glass of wine with dinner - I got the whole bottle.
The kids loved the freedom of being able to swim up to the bar and order a mocktail or head into the Mexican cafe for a bowl of guacamole and corn chips. It gave them a sense of independence and they relished in it.
As well as food, there was also plenty of entertainment at the resort. I can imagine at certain times of the year the resort would be quite a loud party place. We were fortunate that there was not so much of that going on whilst we were there. Whilst we enjoyed our afternoon cocktails and nightly sundowners we don’t exact fit into the frat party category or party people.
The resort had amazing facilities for the kids club unlike any I have seen before. However our kids preferred to wonder in and out of the unsupervised games room where they could play pool, video games and get a soda and popcorn rather than sign in to be supervised. There was too much going on poolside with a water slide, beach soccer tournaments and poolside bingo with the entertainment staff.
The location of the resort did not allow for a stroll out the front gates to the “real” Mexico, so we needed to make a conscious effort to get out and about and not just be lured by the cocktail server and poolside lounges.
We were given resort credit that could be used on tours so we used that as a prompt to get out and about booking day trips for zip lining and quad biking and simply took taxis to get into town and explore.
So next time you are booking a cheap return flight to LA, consider a side trip to Mexico and you won’t be disappointed by a stay at the Hard Rock Hotel Puerto Vallarta.
You can book your stay with Agoda who have great rates.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
ITCHY FEET FAMILY has also stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Bali - read our review
Having been to Bali a couple of times, I had always vowed that I would NEVER stay in Kuta……. but as you learn in life you should NEVER say NEVER!
Our last trip to Bali we got an amazing deal at the Hard Rock Hotel, right in the heart of Kuta. I was sceptical - but I have to say, I would actually stay there again. Here are my top four reasons why.
The pool area at the Hard Rock Hotel Bali is amazing. The largest free-form swimming pool in Bali, with an amazing sand bar, this pool is off the hook!
Not only does it have slides for the kids and the mandatory swim up bar for the big kids, but it also has a great vibe.
During the day it is easy to find a chill out space to read and soak up the sun, and for those that like a bit more going on the crew do a great job to keep people entertained. The kids loved the foam disco party, the beach volleyball and the biggest splash competition.
2. The Location
I know this hotel is right in the heart of Kuta and for a family Kuta is probably not the location that comes first of mind, however it really worked.
In the morning, after breakfast together as a family, the kids would head to kids club and we could take a five minute stroll and be in the thick of shopping and massages.
My children hate shopping and whilst they actually like to get massages in Asia and wanted to come with us, it was nice to be able to go on our own occasionally. There was no need for a taxi or any commute, we just walked out of the hotel and into a spa.
An hour (or maybe two) later, we could be back at the hotel - again no taxi required - to collect the kids for lunch.
In the evenings we had plenty of options for dining at our doorstep and we were also within walking distance of Waterbom Park..
3. Rock Royalty Lounge
I have to admit, having access to the Rock Royalty Lounge certainly put a shine on our stay here.
This is Hard Rock’s equivalent to a “Club” area and it really was a nice extra to include.
Instead of eating breakfast in the large buffet restaurant (which was in itself great), Rock Royalty allows a much quieter experience with personal table service in a more intimate, yet very funky, dining area.
In the afternoon snacks and soft drinks were available followed by early evening canapé’s and cocktails.
Admittedly Rock Royalty felt a bit indulgent - but we certainly loved it! The kids relished in the independence of being able to order mocktails and enjoyed happy hour as much as we did!
If you can get it included as part of a package for a reasonable price, I would say go for it. I would not pay top dollar for it as you want to get out and explore and not spend your whole time at the hotel trying to get the value from it.
4. Kids Club
There are two things we always require in a sun holiday, a swim-up bar and a great kids club! Hard Rock Hotel has two big ticks on this one.
The kids club had two quite large indoor spaces but the daily program quite often took them out of those rooms and into other areas of the resort to explore.
The kids would go rock climbing, out to the garden for a picnic, to the sandbar for soccer and much more. The daily program was entertaining and the staff were as you would expect - enthusiastic and nurturing.
The kids club, like the hotel, had a very funky vibe to it and the kids enjoyed playing with others and being entertained. They even performed on stage poolside one evening after spending a day in rehearsal.
Have you stayed at Hard Rock Hotel Bali? What did you think?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.