Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Cabo San Lucas – November 2010

Thinking of Vacationing in Cabo? Check out this Review by Peachhead™ Founder Linda Perry
I left rainy Los Angeles to visit the warm hot sun in Cabo San Lucas during our Thanksgiving break. We flew on American and you are now able to check in online for international flights. You still have to go to the counter to check in your bags but they have baggage check in only so it was much quicker. Then we walked right through the security with our boarding passes in hand.
When we arrived in Cabo we had to go through customs. Once completed we had everyone trying to give us a ride to our hotel. Luckily the hotel we were staying at had already set up the transportation for us so we just walked past everyone until we found the correct company. The drive from the airport to the our hotel was 45 minutes. We were staying at the Villa del Palmar , in a 2 bedroom ocean front suite. What an incredible room. There were 2 bedrooms, a living room with a pull-out sofa, a dining area, full kitchen, and even a den with a pull-out sofa. The room also has a washer and dryer and even a Jacuzzi on the patio overlooking the ocean….what a great way to end the day.
The hotel has a large pool with a water slide shaped like a whale, and the staff play games and music and entertain at the pool. We like to hang out at the beach so that is where we hung out during the day. We immediately went in the water and it felt so great…..not too cold. They have an adult and a kids menu at the beach/pool (kids’ menu had grilled chicken, hot dogs, hamburger, pasta, mac and cheese, etc). They also have a kids’ pool that is very shallow with water shooting out.
The hotel has a game room with wii, playstation, x-box, and foosball. You pay by the hour to use it. There is also a little grocery store and an ice cream shop on the property.
Screen shot 2010-12-06 at 2.31.02 PM.pngFor our first night of dinner we went to El Faro Restaurant at the Villa del Arco Hotel. The restaurant is an oyster, sushi and tequila bar that also serves hot and cold Asian-inspired specialties. They have tables outside, as well as couches, and we sat on the couches overlooking the water. The food was fantastic. We ordered miso soup, chicken fried rice, beef filet with sesame seeds, shrimp tempura, sashimi, and sushi rolls. We really enjoyed our dinner. We were so stuffed–but there is always room for dessert, so we had the chocolate cake and the milk cake…yes, milk cake. Very fluffy, soft and yummy.
After spending a magnificent day in the sun we were off to our Swim with the Dolphins at Cabo Dolphins . What an amazing experience. We were grouped into groups of 8 and each person in the group had the opportunity to feed, dance, shake hands, pet, kiss, be pulled in the water by holding the dolphins’ fins, and take photos with the dolphin. My girls were in heaven and I have to admit I was loving it, too. It was a 45-minute adventure that my kids will remember forever. They have different packages based on your kids’ ages.
For dinner that night we went to La Casona Restaurant, at Villa La Estancia Hotel–right next door to the Villa del Palmar. I had no idea that Cabo could have such great food. This restaurant was very elegant. We sat outside right next to the fireplace. They have blankets on the back of the chairs in case you get cold and they even brought a stand over to me to hang my purse on. They started the dinner by bringing us a bread plate with a choice of at least 6 different breads, including a cheese bread that had soft melted cheese inside…yum. They also had a plate of dipping sauces and spreads for the bread. Next was the chef’s complimentary bite-sized appetizer. We ordered a Caesar salad that was made tableside and it was quite the show and tasted amazing. Even the soup was incredible. I had the crispy goat cheese ravioli that was followed by a spoonful of sorbet to prepare for our main course. They have a kids’ menu so my daughter had the spaghetti, but we also got her a side of grilled chicken. They are known for their steaks and they offer quite a selection, ranging from Angus to Prime to Kobe. I went for the prime filet and it was amazing. As full as we all were, we couldn’t pass up dessert when we saw they had our favorite warm chocolate cake. It was served with ice cream in a little cup and it was superb. The perfect ending to the perfect dinner….but wait….as you leave the restaurant they have a plate filled with little chocolate truffles to enjoy as you walk back to your room. By far one of the best meals I have had in a long time and certainly the best I have ever had in Cabo. Days later I was still thinking about that dinner and think it was one of my all-time favorite dinners.
Our next evening we went on the Pirate Adventure . They have three different adventures: Whale Watching Tour, Snorkeling Tour, and the Sunset Tour. We went on the Sunset Tour but were lucky enough to see whales as well….what a sight. The adventure is a 2 ½ hour boat tour where you sail by the Arch and Lover’s Beach. The view was incredible at sunset. They offer complimentary snacks (wings, chips and salsa, and sandwiches) and an open bar. The entire crew was full of energy. It was a fun family adventure. They put on a little show where they get everyone up dancing and at the end of the night they put on a pirate show and end the evening with fireworks. After our cruise, we headed to Panchos for dinner. They have great chips and salsa and the most tequila of any place in the world (or so they say). The food was good as well. They had mariachi singers come to our table and sing…the kids loved that.
Here is the link for the “Fall into Winter” promotion that is currently on sale at the Cabo resorts & Vallarta resorts through the Villa Group Resorts:
The sale is on now and reservations must be booked by December 19, 2010 for travel up until December 19, 2011. There is a blackout for the Christmas/New Year’s week, though. If you decide to stay there, let them know you heard about it on Peachhead.
Our last night in Cabo we switched to the Hilton Los Cabos . We stayed here years ago and were anxious to return after hearing of their renovations. This hotel has the nicest infinity pools. The hardest thing was trying to decide where to sit because each location had its own charm. I chose the top deck because you look into the infinity pool, which looks like it is dropping into the ocean. The pool water is a comfortably warm/cool temperature. There are 2 pools and 2 Jacuzzis. They also have a kids’ club for ages 4 – 12 with games, air hockey, and wii games. The best part is they don’t charge you to leave your kids there. The beach water is very calm here (although it is a bit of a walk from the pool to the water). We rented jet skis and had a blast riding along the water. We ordered lunch at the pool and I have to say that this was probably the best pool food I have had at any hotel. They have 2 restaurants to order from (and the pool server will bring you the food from either restaurant). One is a sushi restaurant which was really good. The other serves fresh made pizzas, tacos, hamburgers and more. The kids’ menu even had filet on it that Amber thought was amazing. After hanging at the pool and the beach all day we headed to San Jose for dinner ($20 taxi ride). We ate at Morgans Restaurant and Cellar. The atmosphere was great and the food was delish. We walked around the shops a bit in San Jose and then headed back to the hotel for a nightcap. The bar at the Hilton is very nicely designed and very comfortable…full of couches and pillows. No live music (although they start that in January) but they have large tvs with sports on.
Cabo San Lucas is a great getaway with or without kids. The flight is only 2 ½ hours and you are in a completely different world.
My accommodations at Villa del Palmar, activities, and dinners at El Faro and La Casona were hosted by Villa Group Resort.
For more great vacation options, visit Linda at Peachhead.net.

A Mexican Getaway by Marcie Pickelsimer

Marcie Pickelsimer, founder of Grown in My Heart and a member of the Villa Group travel affiliate network, got the chance to visit Nuevo Vallarta and shares priceless vacation memories and tips.
PV Mexico 2010 226.jpgI’m beginning to think that living in Mexico might not be so bad as long as I can live at the Del Palmar Flamingos and had my food delivered to me poolside everyday. I don’t think Jenny Craig would go for it though and with all the money I’ve been paying her lately it would be such a waste, wouldn’t it? Oh, but I could dream.
The entire family returned home last Saturday from Mexico, sun drenched and beer logged (at least the adults, that is). After literally living in paradise for seven days the leaves on the ground were not a welcome sight.
But I digress…Since this is a review I’ll make it easy and outline a few things.
The Food:
While the resort only sports two restaurants and two bars (open at different times), the food is fabulous. The Bellavista Restaurant offers a causal breakfast buffet or menu dining, à la carte lunches, and buffet or à la carte dinners with themes such as lobster, Mexican, Argentinian grilled meats, and pasta. The open air Cafe is both pool and beachside and serves pizza, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican items, and tropical drinks (and beer and liquor) from late morning to early evening. The Cafe turns into an Italian restaurant, La Trattoria, at 6 pm for beachfront dining. They serve fabulous pizza, onion rings, quesadillas, and fruit plates. They also have the most incredible gelato.
During the day, servers cater to quests every whim: one only has to raise an empty glass or lift an eyebrow to signal their attention. Servers are hospitable, kind, gracious, and very child friendly. Although the all-inclusive information states no tipping the servers do expect tips and because the minimum wage in Mexico is so low we actually didn’t mind. It is the way they make their living.
The all-inclusive package:
My family chose the all-inclusive package because we took two young children and knew they would want to snack during the day. This was actually a great deal for us and in my opinion the only way to go if you eat more than one meal and drink more than two drinks at the resort per day. The daily cost for the all inclusive is $70 for an adult and $35 for a child under 12. When you add up food prices and drink prices it makes complete sense. Additionally, the all-inclusive package includes all of your non-motorized water sports, kids club, and the fitness center.
Children’s activities:
DSC_0702.JPGI have two boys that LOVE the water but they can only get so much of the beach and the pool. SO, it was a great option for us that the Flamingos had a Kid-Certified Staff. Everyday there were age-specific activities for our seven year old (two was too young). He could make bracelets, paint ceramic animals, play bubbles, join movie time, or even join in some good Pirate fun. During Prime Vacation season they also have Kids Nights that include dinner, arcades, discos and movies. My boys were exhausted by 5 pm because ALL they wanted to do was surf the waves or play in the pool waterfalls.
The resort also offers babysitting services which we used once. The service is $15 an hour and if you use it after 10 pm you will also need to pay $15 for a taxi. Pretty reasonable. The babysitter we used was the concierge from the hotel next door (also part of the Villas) who had a child the same age as our oldest.
The BEST activity of the week was the Sea Lions. Every Tuesday the resort brings in a Sea Lion named Maggie for all of the hotel guests (and neighboring hotel guests) to see. (It’s part of a tour promotion) Maggie was absolutely gorgeous and super sweet. She smiled, gave kisses to Gus, and was a blast to see.
Adult Activities:
My husband loved the adult activities, as he was able to play some vigorous beach volleyball, pool volleyball, and water polo.
The resort also has theme dinners on Sunday nights. It’s a little over the top but they have interesting Mexican entertainment, good food, great drinks, and entertainment for the kids.
Additional Activities:
Because my family was at the resort to review the property the General Manager offered us some fabulous extras so that we could see all the resort had to offer. I would not generally pay for these activities because, well, we can’t really afford these extravagances on just my husband’s salary. However, I do HIGHLY recommend that if you get the chance to try one or two of these please, do. They were absolutely fabulous.
Spa treatment;
My husband and I were offered the Honeymoon spa treatment at the Tatewari Spa that would include a European Seaweed Facial, Therapeutic Hot Towel Massage, Tropical Exfoliation, a bottle of champagne and Hors d’oeuvres. It is valued at $225. However, my husband is not really into spas. So, I offered to take my mother who was along for the trip with us. We were able to choose whatever treatment we wanted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The spa is absolutely beautiful, a little pricey (but they are always offering deals), and the treatments are incredible. We both chose the mud massage and a facial and I honestly LOVED it, as I had never had either.
Dinner at La Casona;
Um, Heaven? We hired a babysitter for this evening because we wanted to be able to have at least one dinner without a child on our lap or food flung at us. It was well worth it. Chef Eugenio knows his way around organic foods, raw foods, gourmet delights, and even fabulous desserts. The menu includes specials like Kobe beef and his own specialty, Creme Brulee. Dining at La Casona is not included in the all-inclusive.
En Villa Dining with Chef Eugenio
The Villa La Estancia directly next door to Flamingos is an ownership community that is absolutely divine. We were invited to tour THE Penthouse and enjoy dinner created by Chef Eugenio and his staff. I can’t explain how special this was to my family. We were able to enjoy the sunset from the top of the resort, sip a cocktail, and dine with one of Mexico’s premier chef’s.
Cooking Lessons with Chef Eugenio
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The last day of our trip Eric and I had the unique opportunity to have an afternoon cooking lesson with chef Eugenio. Yes, me…the one who does not cook. I actually learned to cut vegetables the correct way, learned a fabulous secret to REALLY good guacamole, and I now have an incredible recipe for Tortilla Soup (that I can’t wait to try!).
The afternoon included a Personalized Chef Jacket, lunch and wine, a recipe book, diplomas, and the lesson. The afternoon is valued at $200 per couple.
You can take a tour of the entire facility online at the Villa Del Palmar Flamingos.
*As a member of the Villa Group Travel Affiliate Network, The Villa Group Resorts gave my family the spa treatment, several dinners, the cooking class, and a portion of our stay in return for this review.
Visit Marcie online at Grown in My Heart, an adoption community where everyone can grow together.

Relation-Trips: The Ultimate Couples Getaway

user651_pic1053_1254758104.jpgIf you haven’t been away with your partner since kids entered your life, then attention mom and dads…it’s time to jet off on a Relation-trip! Villa Group Resorts is proud to announce a romantic retreat in Riviera Nayarit Mexico featuring relationship experts, authors and TV personalities, Matt Titus and Tamsen Fadal.

Matt and Tamsen will be hosting a “Villa Group Resorts Relation-Trip” retreat in Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta at Villa la Estancia and Villa del Palmar Flamingos from October 20-24 – offering 3-4 night ultra inclusive getaways for couples that include all the ingredients for the ideal romantic vacation. No need to plan, since your vacation will include everything from spa services, to culinary classes, cocktail parties, food and beverages and much more! To find out how you can book your ultra-inclusive “Relation-trip” today, visit Villa Group Resorts and speak with one of their virtual agents or contact them by phone at 888-844-8169.

And if you plan to vacation with your spouse and leave the kids supervised at home, here are five tips from Matt and Tamsen on how to make the most of your romantic getaway…

1. Leave it Behind
A getaway is just that, a way to get away from it all. In this fast paced world, it’s easy to bring it all with you, money issues, career concerns, pressure about the kids and any other everyday problem you can think of. Stop the conversation and leave those things behind, it’s the only way to ensure the perfect trip to bring you both back to center.

2. Turn It Off, So You Can Turn It On
Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Four Square – your friends don’t to know every move you and your husband/wife/lover make. Turn off the electronics, so you can turn on each other instead.

3. Take Time To Be Single
It may sound crazy on a romantic getaway, but this is the time to relive the days you used to spend getting ready to see your significant other. Take one morning of the trip and go workout, get a massage and get pampered, then get together for a date night. It will feel just like “it used to be.”

4. Stay In One Night
People always feel like they need to book up every moment of their romantic getaway, but there is nothing like dinner in, one night out of the trip. Order room service or have dinner served on the balcony of your room. Listen to some great music, crack open a bottle of wine and just be in the moment together.

5. Stock Up
Scented candles, romantic CD’s, massage oils and anything else that gets you in the mood should be the first things you pack in your suitcase. This is the time to break out all the things that you “just don’t have time for,” between work, the gym and cooking dinner every night.

relation-250x250.jpgAbout Matt and Tamsen:
This dynamic married duo are the authors of the relationship book series “Why Hasn’t He?” and starred in the Lifetime Television docu-drama “Matched in Manhattan.” Additionally, Matt was recently featured as one of the country’s leading matchmakers on NBC’s reality hit, “The Match Off.”
The pair host Meredith Corporation’s nationally syndicated weekly segment ASK MATT & TAMSEN which is seen in over 75 television markets across the U.S. Matt can also be seen on a weekly basis as the host of his very own CBS-TV segment called, appropriately enough,”MATT-ERS OF THE HEART.” The Emmy-Award winning Tamsen can be viewed daily as she anchors the morning show at WPIX-TV.
Matt’s advice is regularly featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, while together the duo currently contribute to The Huffington Post as well as the popular celebrity lifestyle publication OK! Magazine. Along the way they have also appeared in USA Today, Elle, TV Guide, Men’s Fitness, Life & Style Magazine, New York Daily News, NY Post, Time Out New York, Tango Magazine, About.com, iVillage.com, and HollywoodLife.com among many, many others. For more information, visit The Love Consultants.

Vacation 411: Answers on Mexico Travel & Safety

DSC_0006-1.jpgAs an avid traveler and lover of amazing places and deals we can share with your our readers, we are thrilled to be working with Villa Group Resorts as we help spread the word about their gorgeous resort properties in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta and coming soon…Cancun and Loreto Mexico!
Offering families, couples and singles incredible and affordable getaway options throughout the year, this season, Villa Group has introduced ultra-inclusive vacations that include dining and beverages, a kids club, babysitting options, spa packages, golf getaways, dolphin excursions, water sports and much more!

Having stayed at Villa la Estancia in Nuevo Vallarta, I immediately felt like I was being welcomed into the lap of luxury – receiving a hand massage the moment we walked into the lobby. We stayed in a two bedroom suite complete with marble floors, private bathrooms, cozy living room, dining room, massive kitchen and sweeping balcony with a wet bar…can anyone say…margaritas? While I’m culinary challenged (no need to cook since there are fabulous restaurants on the premises including the award-winning La Casona), it’s great knowing that while we’re on vacation, we can store refrigerated snacks, drinks, and breakfast items if we want to sleep in and the kids are in the mood for cereal and cartoons. And the granite countertops, state of the art appliances and sweeping views of the ocean and pool and bathrooms to die for, are not so shabby either!

As you contemplate where you’d like to go for your next vacation, the Villa Group Affiliate Travel Network, comprised of nearly two dozen dynamic parenting and lifestyle bloggers, will offer a series of helpful articles that will give you the inside track on all things Mexico. For our first post, we’re tackling important questions that most travelers ask when they travel to Mexico. Hopefully, this will help guide you as you plan your next vacation!

Q. Is it safe to drink the water in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas?
A. In Puerto Vallarta, you should be aware that incredible efforts have been made to provide safe water to residents and tourists. Over the last two decades, the Mexican government spent millions of dollars developing a safe water purification system in the area. As a result, this state of the art system has greatly reduced water-induced illnesses for travelers visiting Puerto Vallarta.

According to CaboExpo.com, for visitors to Cabo San Lucas, the resort location has never had the significant water quality problems that mainland Mexico as traditionally experienced:

“Sitting at the bottom of the Baja Peninsula, the fresh water in Los Cabos is some of the best in Baja. The local waters start thousands of feet above Los Cabos in the very tall mountains north of Cabo, drain down into local aquifers, and then are treated locally and then often treated again at the hotel or restaurant level. Tourism is just too important to let bad water become a factor.”

Q. Is it safe to travel to Cabo and Puerto Vallarta? Where are the dangerous parts of Mexico anyway?
A. According to AOL, which recently devoted extensive coverage to Mexico and issues relating to safety and even gives an overview of the places you should avoid, you’ll take comfort knowing that both Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas were ranked as being incredibly safe for travelers. As a precaution, always avoid streets that are not well lit (as you would in any country), but for the most part, your experience should be safe, relaxing and enjoyable!

Q. Are there any safety tips you can offer to a traveler who has never been to Mexico?
A. When you arrive at the airport, make sure you have made provisions for yourself and your traveling companions to take you to your accommodations. There will be many individuals offering you a ride or claiming to be your driver – while they are friendly and it is safe to ride with them, you will be better served if you book a car in advance.

If you decide to leave your resort and travel to a location in the evening, make sure when you are walking at night that you are aware of your surroundings and that you traverse well lit streets. Or, arrange for a car to pick you up after your evening is over. Better to have someone waiting for you to take you back to your hotel then go off exploring in the middle of the night!

Take precautions while swimming, snorkeling or surfing! The surf can be rough – especially in Cabo San Lucas and if you are not a strong swimmer, you may want to take precautions. Or, book an excursion that will take you on a guided water tour with experienced lifeguards on board.

Q. What about taking a road trip – is it better to book a tour or can I go on my own and explore?
A. While you can certainly rent a vehicle and explore Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas on your own, your experienced will definitely be enhanced if you register for a tour that is led by someone who truly knows the lay of the land and the water! While it’s always nice to discover new things, you can accomplish that by being a part of a guided tour and traveling with a group of vacationers like you. Of course, if you’ve been to either resort town many times, then you may feel more comfortable venturing out and returning to a favorite destination – suddenly you’ll be the expert offering tips to new travelers. But if it’s your first time, we suggest consulting with your hotel concierge who can offer some great tour options for you and your family.

Q. Are there parts of Mexico we should avoid due to the BP Oil Spill?
A. Here’s a quick geography lesson: The BP oil spill is nowhere near Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. While the spill has contaminated many US cities located near the Gulf of Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta are located on the west coast surrounding the Sea of Cortez. While travelers may believe that Mexico might have been affected by the recent environmental disaster, the hardest hit regions have been in the United States.

125x125.jpgIf you’re interested in finding out how you can book an unforgettable vacation in Mexico, visit Villa Group Resorts and check out this special deals page exclusive to our readers – where they’ve got some incredible vacation options this summer or check out the Villa Group home page for tons of great vacation options for you, your partner, girlfriends and family! The offers run through December 2010 so you can book now and still save on your vacation!