Thank you, SPG Getaway Free Promotion. This promo let my fiancé and I enjoy a long weekend at the St. Regis Punta Mita. I actually think the promotion enabled MANY people to use their free nights there. Brad used his free nights there, the guy who shared a cab with us to the airport used his there, and judging from the threads on Flyertalk, many many others used theirs there as well.
I netted 4 free nights from the promo, but due to time constraints, we were only able to use 3 of them. We used all 3 this weekend for our stay from Thursday to Sunday. Before we departed, there were two orders of business that had to be taken care of. The first was to call the hotel and let them know that I was a Platinum member of SPG. Normally this would be an unnecessary step, but I booked the reservation when I was still a Gold member; SPG’ s system isn’t smart enough to update the reservation once a new status level is crossed. The other thing we had to do was book round trip transportation between the airport and the St. Regis. I thought this was steep, at about $250 USD round trip, but it turns out that the town of Punta de Mita is actually pretty far from the Puerto Vallarta airport. Most of the PVR resorts are in an area north of the airport called Nuevo Vallarta, but Punta de Mita is at least three times as far north. In fact, I don’t think you would save much money by booking a regular taxi.
For flights down there, we paid for the outbound and used United miles for the return. The return was 17,500 miles per ticket in economy, and after buying two, the total damage was 35,000 miles and a few bucks in fees. For the outbound, we actually got a pretty great deal via Orbitz on an SFO-DEN-PVR routing, with the SFO-DEN leg leaving on Wednesday night and the DEN-PVR leg leaving early on Thursday morning. United canceled the DEN-PVR flight a few months back so our new “intelligent” automatic re-routing was SFO-DEN-SFO-PVR. I suppose if we were trying to mileage run, this wouldn’t be a bad idea, but we were really looking forward to relaxing. A quick call to United got our itineraries changed to SFO-PVR non-stop on Thursday (I’ll be sending our original receipt in for original routing credit). We were both on the same itinerary, and while my upgrade cleared at the gate, there was only one seat left, so I gave it up for someone else to have so the two of us could sit together. We had exit row seats anyways – for a flight of only a few hours, I don’t think an upgrade is that important anyways.
We were absolute retards about getting to the airport on time on Thursday morning. I really don’t know why we thought a rainy day at rush hour in San Francisco wouldn’t yield a lot of traffic. I also don’t know why we didn’t consider the fact that we’d be arriving around the same time as everyone else for flights to Asia at SFO. By the time we finally got to the ticketing area of SFO, it was less than an hour til departure, the kiosks were rejecting us for check-in, and even the 1K lines were ridiculously long. Luckily, an agent in the ticketing line was extremely helpful and got us checked in. By the time we went through security, they were well into boarding zone 2, but we made the flight!
The flight was uneventful. I had the Thai Chicken wrap of UA’s buy on board, and I thought it was a little gross. That’s disappointing because I think their Choice Menu is actually pretty good, but it has gone downhill since they first unveiled it. Hopefully the rest of their sandwiches don’t suck too – I’ve been spoiled recently and haven’t too many seats in economy to know for myself :-).
If you’re used to arriving in a Mexican airport, then you know what it’s like to arrive in PVR. As soon as you get your bags and pass through the final inspection point, the timeshare sales people, taxi drivers, and shuttle drivers swarm you. Having a ride booked with the hotel eliminated the need for taxi negotiation. We went to the “Luxury Shuttle” kiosk at the airport, they gave us cold towels, a bottle of water, and our suburban was ready to take us to the resort. The driver was quite nice, had plenty to say, and even offered to swing by a place where we could grab a beer on the way up. We declined his offer, though, anxious to get to the resort.
Punta de Mita is actually a gated resort community, something i was not aware of. Once we passed through the initial gates, it was probably another ten minutes in the car before we arrived at the St. Regis. The St. Regis has a very beautiful entry way, and much like our experience at the Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay, there was no typical front desk style check-in. As soon as we got out of the car, our bags were taken from us, and we were escorted to a table overlooking their beautiful terrace of pools.
Such a Beautiful View
Fresh margaritas awaited us at the table, and a hostess came and welcomed us to the resort, letting us know that our room was ready. She informed us that due to platinum benefits, we would receive free wi-fi as well as an amenity. For the amenity, we could choose between wine, a cheese plate, or points. We got the wine, but I thought it was a bit silly that we could only get one or the other – wine and cheese go together! As an SPG Platinum, I’m used to the next thing out of their mouth being, “And Mr. Hanson, we have an upgraded room for you…”, but I didn’t hear that this time. When I asked about an upgrade, she told me that the resort was booked full and they could not accommodate an upgrade. Blast. Oh well. She escorted us to a golf cart where someone took us to our room, 7101. He dropped us off and told us that a butler would be over to see us shortly.
The “standard” room we had at the St. Regis Punta Mita blows many suites I’ve had at other hotels out of the water. It was a large room with a walk-in closet, a wall-mounted HDTV, a desk, and a sitting chair. We had a large, private patio where we had a table and a lounge chair and a small grassy area. On the other side of our room, there was the bathroom. The individual toilet was sectioned off with its own door, and we had two sinks and a separate room dedicated to a shower and a bathtub. Continuing out the other shower door was a large outdoor shower. Very cool! I haven’t had an outdoor shower since the Ritz in Krabi.
After we finished checking out the room, the butler was over to tell us about the resort, explain the restaurants, the layout, etc. He informed us that our room came with two complimentary pressings and complimentary shoe shining. We forgot to utilize those services. He also explained that there were three restaurants: Carolina, Sea Breeze, and Marietas. Carolina was the fine dining restaurant, Sea Breeze was the “california style” casual dining, and Marietas was also casual, but only open for breakfast and lunch, as it was near one of the pools. And speaking of the pools, they had three of them. The one closest to Sea Breeze was an Infiniti Pool that reminded me of the Marriott’s adult pool in Wailea. There was also a family pool and an adult pool. The way the place is landscaped, it feels extremely tranquil and calm, even when it is fully booked up.
Speaking of it being fully booked up, we were told that we couldn’t have an upgrade because the place was full. We decided to check… I pulled up the SPG site and tried to book a room for that night. Completely booked. I tried for Friday night. Also completely booked. Okay. It looks like the hostess told the truth :-). I know this is not the case with some *other* resorts. In any case, we LOVED our standard room so we were just fine with it. We took a quick walk around the resort before deciding to go out for dinner. We knew that we’d eat a couple meals at the resort, but we wanted to venture to the local town for our first night.
The town is about a 15 to 20 minute walk from the St. Regis. The hotel will arrange a ride for about $10 USD, but we felt like going for a stroll. There are about four restaurants in a row, right on the water there. Tino’s was recommended to us by the St. Regis so we gave that one a shot. We had our best meal of the weekend there, and when we return, we’ll go right back. We both had a couple beers, started off with some ceviche, and then I got bacon wrapped shrimps. Katy got the lobster. As I was eating my succulent shrimps, I laughed and said, “I told you – you should have gotten the shrimp!” It was amazing. She gave me a bite of her lobster, and then I thought otherwise – hers was even better! Given recent strength in the US dollar, the exchange rates here are rather favorable, and this entire meal ran us only $60, and we sat right on the beach. Awesome. We got a taxi back to the St. Regis as it was pretty dark. Always best to pre-negotiate rates in Mexico. We got a ride for $10.
Lobster at Tino’s, just outside of the Punta de Mita gated area
For the next few days, we just relaxed at the pool. We didn’t do any excursions or anything like that. We’ve both been to Mexico many times, and we’ve done most of the touristy things to do. I think if we were there for a couple more days, we might try and do an activity or two, but we really just wanted to make it a relaxing weekend.
Every day at the adult pool, at least while we were there, The St. Regis ran a BBQ, cooking up some of the best tacos we’ve ever had, and surprisingly, they were reasonably priced! For 100 pesos, about $7.50 at the time of this post, we got four tacos. They also had ceviche and burgers. We had a burger one day, but the tacos really stole the show. We ended up eating the BBQ twice. Service at the pool was excellent. Buckets of bottled water on ice were brought to us regularly at no charge, complimentary popscicles came in the afternoon, and complimentary sun screen was always available.
Poolside Tacos from the BBQ
We tried the Sea Breeze restaurant one evening, and it was fine, but it really wasn’t anything special, and it was about twice the price of Tino’s just outside of town. So even if you were to pay for a round-trip taxi, Tino’s would still be cheaper than Sea Breeze. Of course, there is some convenience to eating at the resort and charging it to the room, but it just wasn’t that great. I think next time we go, we’ll probably go check out a couple of other places outside of town.
Our last night at the resort, we decided to try out Sufi, a restaurant recommended to us by Brad. Apparently Brad isn’t the only person to like it. Sufi is not part of the St. Regis resort, but it is contained within the Punta de Mita complex. It’s a beautiful restaurant that overlooks the water, and it is quite a fine dining experience, but priced quite reasonably. The presentation of our tortilla soup was awesome, and I enjoyed steak while Katy got some ridiculously good tuna. We decided to skip dessert, but as it was Katy’s birthday, they brought us a little something special anyways.
Dinner at Sufi (not part of the St. Regis resort)
Although, apparently something was lost in translation because the plate delivered to us said “Happy Anniversary” instead of “Happy Birthday.” Whoops! We didn’t say anything… it’s the thought that counts :-).
And then today, we went out to the pool early in the morning for one last half day in the sun, before heading back to cold and gloomy SFO. We had breakfast out by the pool. I had some enchiladas and Katy had the chilaquiles.
After hanging out there for a while, we packed up and got our resort car back to the airport. They were running low on cars so we had to split it with another guest, which I didn’t mind, but the resort was kind enough to proactively tell us that they would be splitting the car charge equally between us, rather than double charging us. I thought that was a nice gesture. And like I mentioned earlier, it came out in conversation that the guy in our car was also burning his free resort nights as well!
All in all, we had a wonderful weekend at the St. Regis. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to do a long weekend away. For us, an entire week might be too long, only because there isn’t that much to do in Punta de Mita. It is too far from Puerto Vallarta to really go into town for any short duration. Definitely go check this gem out. It’s one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed, but it still can’t compare to the Ritz Carlton Reserve Phulay Bay in Krabi :-).