Mexico: Resort vs. “Real”

Spring Break in Mexico!

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

You might be thinking drunken college kids, tequila shots at swim-up bars, and sunburned gringos. Or maybe Sammy Hagar. And while that would certainly ring true for many spring breakers, our family excursion with two youngsters was a little different. Although, I will admit to a shot of some fine tequila…

It started as a Christmas gift. A very affordable Groupon, actually. After a slight upsell, we ended up at Dreams Nueva Vallarta, a resort just north of Puerta Vallarta.

I’m not exactly a “resort” type. It’s lovely and all but I generally prefer a more authentic experience. We had a great time at ClubMed in Ixtapa, Mexico one year, sponsored by the in-laws but left to my own devices, I would rent a beach cottage or stay at a funky hotel with local sabor.

But back to Dreams. We had a four-night all-inclusive package (meals, drinks, activities, explorers’ club for the kids, plus nightly entertainment), and yes, it was quite dreamy. Three enormous crystal-clear pools of varying temperatures and shady beach palapas offered plenty of space for lounging with a cheesy novel while sipping drinks served in coconuts.

Frolicking in the infinity pool at the Dreams resort.

On the airy, open premises were a spa, air-conditioned fitness center, and five restaurants. Two sleek white highrise towers loomed above the beach with views of Banderas Bay and the Sierra Madre mountains. Guestrooms were large and marble-swathed with every conceivable amenity, including a free, stocked refrigerator. It was stylish, modern, and considerably more laid back than ClubMed where I felt pressure to put down my drink and join the water aerobics twice a day. I did take a paella cooking class though. And a yoga class on the beach. In a word, it was fantastic.

But I would be remiss to let my impressionable youngsters think that this sheer decadence was the “real” Mexico, so we tacked a few more days onto our trip and headed to nearby Bucerias, where my friends were teaching sailing.

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I got a tip from a guy at Dreams about an inexpensive residence-type hotel with kitchenettes on the edge of town. When we called to reserve, the owner Francisco offered to pick us up at the resort. He even stopped at a supermarket so we could stock up. What service!

Casa Ana Ruth Hotel y Suites, Bucerias, MX.

Bucerias is a sweet beach town with open-air markets, cobblestone streets, good restaurants, and friendly ex-pat Canadians with small dogs. The Casa Ana Ruth where we stayed was packed with such Canadians who invited us up to a rooftop party. After admiring a Pekingese-Pomeranian mix, I started gabbing with a Canadian gentleman from New Brunswick. Within 20 minutes we discovered we were related by marriage! Small world.

Rooftop deck at Casa Ana Ruth, Bucerias, MX.

Casa Ana Ruth seems to foster a close-knit community, many who stay there for six months out of the year. It’s located above Las Pericos, a wonderful small restaurant that serves all day and sometime has guitarist out front. Dreams was fabulous but this was the real Mexico that I love and wanted to expose my kids to. It was perfect. With the exception of the cockfighting roosters who began crowing every morning at 5am.

Could have lived without that touch of authenticity…

If You Go:

Dreams Nueva Vallarta
Paseo de los Cocoteros, Lotes 32 y 33 Fraccionamiento
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit Mexico 63732
Tel: 52 (322) 226 8700

Casa Ana Ruth
Tel.: 01 322 222 1757

This post was contributed by Lisa Dion of

Photos by Lisa Dion and Dan Dion

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