My wife and I had an excellent stay at the Villa del Palmar. There was absolutely nothing to complain about. We did our homework before leaving and scoured these reviews. I actually made a 5 page list of other reviewer’s notes that we printed and took with us. This took a few hours to do but worth it in the long run. Because we used these reviews so much, I thought I’d post some of our own experiences.
We booked our trip with BookIt through AmazonDeals. The Amazon deal was for four nights but BookIt didn’t care how many nights you booked. We made if for five nights for the same nightly rate as the Amazon deal. It was still considered as being from Amazon which I think helped. The other very important part of the deal was that it explicitly stated the room was an Ocean View room. From reading lots of the reviews, our biggest concern was that we would get stuck in a lousy room which would have been a bummer. But because the reservation was from Amazon and it was for a Jr. Suite Ocean View, we felt good about getting a decent room. And we did. The room number was 2626 which meant building 2 (the one in back facing the pools and ocean), 6th floor, room 26. The 6th floor put us above the palm trees so we had an excellent view of the ocean and beach. The interior of the room was spotless, had new furniture, nice wall hangings, and a new cool looking bath. The only thing about the bath was trying to figure out how to switch it to shower mode. It took me a while and my wife never did figure it out. The trick was to pull down the nozzle below the bath faucet. I’ve never seen this method before.
Now back to our trip planning. After checking Kayak for airfare, it turned out that BookIt gave us the best airfare with our package. We flew Alaska from Seattle. For some reason, I didn’t book seats on the flights but as it turned out when we got to the airport, Alaska set us up with exit row seats the entire way there and back. I’d say I lucked out there.
Before you leave you absolutely must book your airport transfer to and from your hotel. I forgot about this and was scrambling the night before. But I found what I believe to be the best transfer service in Cabo. It’s called Cabo Transfers at http://www.cabotransfers.com/. Booking was online, easy, and accepted PayPal. They email you back a confirmation, you respond and use PayPal for payment and you’re done. Paul, our driver, was right there at the airport when we landed and had a cooler full of cold beer for the drive to the hotel (about 45 minutes). We tipped him 5 bucks both ways. Price was $34 round trip for two of us. This was the best price of all the other transfer services I checked.
As far as money goes, get a whole bunch of one dollar bills before you leave. You will need them for tipping. We brought about $50 each in 1’s, plus some 5’s, 10’s, and a few 20’s. Never mind getting any pesos. You can get them at the hotel. Now speaking of getting pesos, do not get your pesos at the airport. We weren’t sure so we exchanged only $40 worth and it turned out that it was not a good deal. At the time of our trip, the exchange rate was 13:1. The airport gave us 11:1 and the hotel was exchanging at 12:1. We ended up not really needing any pesos. It was easier to tip in dollars and to deal with the merchants in dollars. They say you can get a better deal if you negotiate in pesos but that required too much brain power and we were on vacation. However, we never went into town so if you are planning a shopping trip, then having pesos would probably be a good idea.
Ok, so you’ve just landed and you’re going through customs. Save the little custom exit form that they give you as you will need that when you leave. Somehow I lost mine and it was a bit of a hassle when we went to check-in for departure. Supposedly they will charge you if you lose it but the custom guy was nice and just had me fill out the form again, but it did take some extra time.
After you get through customs, skip the peso exchange, and go directly outside. And I mean directly outside. You will go through the custom doors and will be barraged by whole lot of guys with official looking hotel lanyards and desks full of brochures. They are timeshare vampires that will scalp you if you listen to them. If you’re interested in a timeshare, wait until you get to the hotel. If you need a transfer to a hotel, get it outside. Just walk right past these guys. Ignore them even if they show you a lanyard from your hotel. It’s a fake.
Once you’re outside, you will see a number of the transfer people holding up signs for their company. Look for yours or ask anyone there. They are all nice and friendly and will help you find your transportation. Don’t worry if yours is a little late. This is Mexico.
Now that you’ve been picked up, on your way to your hotel, and have a cold beer in your hand, enjoy the ride. I jumped into the front seat so I could get a good view of the route. Paul our driver didn’t speak good English but he was very friendly and pointed out interesting landmarks (like Walmart, Costco, etc.). Yes, that’s right, there is Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, etc. there, all within a bus ride or taxi from the hotel.
When you arrive at the Villa del Palmar, check-in is easy. We were on the All Inclusive package but they still asked for a credit card since there are things that you can charge to your room that’s not included with the All Inclusive (souvenirs, store bought things, etc). One note here, if you’re from Seattle, you are probably addicted to lattes. There are no lattes in the All Inclusive plan so you have to buy them from the little deli. You can either pay for them or charge them to your room.
After check in, you will be directed to a hospitality person who will show you on a map where everything is and what you can and cannot do. They are very helpful if you’re new to the hotel. However, their main job is to sign you up for a timeshare presentation. You can politely say no. We were not interested in a timeshare but the girl was just out of college and this was her first job. She got points for signing us up and we were curious. She promised it would not last more than 90 minutes and we would get a discounted Gold Card and a free water taxi to the Arch, so we accepted. More on that later.
If you’re on the All Inclusive plan, you will get a bracelet (like the kind you get in a hospital) that you have to wear all the time, so think about which arm you want it on before they snap it shut. If you can’t move it around, it will leave a tan mark. You will get the bracelet either at check-in if you don’t go to the hospitality girl, or by her when she is finished showing you the ropes. There are also two kinds of plans, one that allows you to eat just at Villa del Palmar and one that allows you to eat at any of the three Villa resorts. Ask at check-in which one you have. Our hospitality girl mistakenly told us we could eat at any resort but in fact we could only eat at the Palmar. It was really no big deal as the food at the Palmar is excellent.
As I said earlier, our room was excellent. The bed however was a bit on the hard side for us. For a Jr. Suite, your only choice is two double beds. I asked about a queen and they don’t have any in the Suite rooms, just in the single bedrooms. Other than the bed being hard, my wife and I slept ok. I’m 6’5” but wasn’t bothered by the short bed since they tucked the sheets in very good and I never kicked them off. After five days though, I was starting to get a little sore from the hard bed.
There is a free safe in the room and a hospitality basket of food and drink. But the food and drink they leave in the room costs so we just put it aside and never touched it.
The food and dining was superb. We would go workout in the morning, shower, have breakfast outdoors by the beach, do our beach thing during the day, maybe have a pizza lunch if we were around, hang out at the pool in the late afternoon, then shower the salt off and have dinner either at the buffet dinner theater or at the beach side restaurant.
A few tips about eating. There are two breakfasts areas, one indoors in the bar and one outdoors at the restaurant by the beach. I don’t understand why anyone would eat indoors when it is so nice outside. Maybe they didn’t know that breakfast was also being served out by the beach. Also, if it is a popular theme night (Mexican, Carnival), you will want to get in line by 6:00 pm, otherwise you may not get a table in the dining area where you can see the stage. I would get down there early and grab a table while my wife was getting ready. If it’s a crowded night we would always offer the other two places at our table for other guests. It was nice to make new friends there. And likewise, don’t be shy to ask if you could join another couple. And don’t hold back if there is dancing. This is Mexico and you’re on holiday. The guests when we were there were rather boring and it took a lot for the staff to get them going. I don’t drink and my wife only has a glass of wine but we were having a great time partying it up with the staff and the entertainment crew. Now if you’re going to eat at the fancy beach restaurant and want a beach side table, it is best to make a reservation (required) early (6:30 pm), or late (8:00 pm). We ate there twice and got a beach side table early however we stayed a long time so if you don’t get a beach side table right off the bat, you may not get one until later in the evening.
Tipping – I had no idea what was right for tipping. I didn’t find very much info on it here so I just winged it. I figured that two dollars was better than one so most of the time I tipped the waiters and bartender (diet coke, non-alcoholic margaritas, etc) two bucks. For buffet dinners it was usually three or four dollars. When we had dinner at the fancy restaurant by the beach, I tipped 10% of the actual total which was around $12-14. For an omelet with extra ham and cheese, I gave the cook a dollar. For taking care of the room, we left two dollars each day. While the room was always cleaned and beds made immaculately, the housekeeping girl didn’t leave us shampoo or soap when we were getting low. Maybe two dollars wasn’t enough.
Another note on tipping. If you’re not on the All Inclusive plan, you will be billed $4 per day for tips. If you plan on doing your own tipping (recommended), you can ask the front desk to remove this charge. If you’re on All Inclusive, tips are included but I still recommend tipping yourself as this can give you a little better service plus it feels good.
About the beach. It is steep, has very soft sand, and is not that easy to walk on. You feel like you have a peg leg. The steepness causes the surf to break right on top of the sand, then roll off quickly. This can be a little daunting if you’re not a good swimmer. But if you time it right, it’s very swimmable. If you’re not comfortable with the surf at the resort, all you have to do is walk down towards party town, go past the party bars to the public beach by the marina where it is nice and flat and easily swimmable. Plus it’s not that crowded down there. If you really don’t want any crowds, walk the other way towards the rocks at the far end. You will be all by yourself. My wife and I did that on our first day and had a couple of hours of complete solitude. That was nice.
Lovers Beach – we thought this would be a quite romantic getaway. How wrong we were. We brought our own snorkeling gear and took the resort water taxi over there. It was around noon and the place was packed with lots of beach vendors, people, and boats. Because it was mid-day, the walk to the Pacific side (Divorce beach) was very hot on the feet (we were barefooted) but it was well worth it. The surf on that side is impressive. While I’m a good swimmer, I was not keen to attempt those breakers. The water taxis drop you off at Pelican beach which is where you snorkel. With all the boat traffic and people it was crowded in the water. The fish were colorful but the water was a bit clouded due to the activity. If you’re really interested in snorkeling, I would recommend looking elsewhere. We did go back the following morning a little earlier (before noon) and it was less crowded.
Buying stuff – in Mexico, you negotiate for almost everything, except at the resort. For water taxis you can either pay for a resort one, or walk down the beach and get your own for half the cost. But you have to be comfortable with negotiating. We bought some silver jewelry from the beach vendors and my wife does not like to negotiate. So we worked as a team. My wife selected what she wanted then I started to negotiate. She then walked away. When I got close to my price but not quite there, I showed them that my wife had all the money and I couldn’t pay them what they wanted. I then made them my final offer and started to walk away. That usually did the trick and I got my price or close to it. Once you get a feel for the value of the items, it’s kinda fun. You don’t have to feel bad about negotiating as they will not sell anything to you unless they are making a profit for themselves as there were some items that we could not agree on.
Here is one thing that is important when you are interacting with the local people. They are so very nice that being nice and friendly back to them really pays off. Remember names, even the beach vendors, greet them with a big friendly smile or a fist shake or a hand slap. Hug the ladies, they love it and will remember you. Make friends with the staff, especially the check-in staff, the restaurant maître de’s, the bartenders, and the waiters. If you do, you will have a wonderful time.
And now the timeshare presentation. We went to the presentation with the idea to spend the 90 minutes and get out. To make a long story short, we stayed five hours and bought a membership. The five hours was due to our interest, not their sales presentation. We bought a membership primarily due to the fact that they no longer sell a specific room for a week but points for any room, any number of days. This combined with the ability to have two vacations a year (one winter ski and one summer beach) and that we were entering an era in our lives (last daughter off to college) that we thought the timing was right to start enjoying life just the two of us. We also went to the presentation a few days after we got there so we had a chance to experience the resort first. If you’re interested in the vacation club membership (they no longer call it a timeshare), bear in mind your total cost which includes the 30 year lease, the yearly maintenance fee, and most important the cost of the All Inclusive plan if that is of interest to you. The vacation club membership does not include the All Inclusive and that by itself will cost you $100/day/person. I have found since I got home that I can still find better deals at Palmar on BookIt but no other Villa resort offers a better deal than the club membership, even with the cost of the All Inclusive. Plus, the ocean view room is important to my wife and the club membership gives you higher priority. There are other benefits that they will tell you but in the end you have to figure out if it’s right for you. If it’s not, be nice and tell them so. They will still try to convince you (that’s their job) but stick to your guns and remind them that they promised you only 90 minutes. Remind them also that their performance for you will determine whether you recommend them to your friends. That should help get you out on friendly terms.
You can check out early. We did the night before as long as you’re not going to charge anything else to your room. The All Inclusive plan is good until noon of the day of departure. Our transfer was for noon, three hours before our flight, so we got drinks and a pizza and ate them while waiting for our ride. Just before we left, I went around and said goodbye to all the staff I made friends with. I told them that if there was any way they could make it up our way that they would be welcomed at our house. I think they appreciated that.
The drive back to the airport was non-eventful even with all the security for the G20 conference. There were roadblocks and machine guns everywhere but Paul sailed right through. We stopped at two terminals. The AirTran folks got off at the old terminal that was packed solid. Us Alaska and Frontier folks went to the new terminal which was nice and spacious. Flights were on-time and now we’re back in Seattle looking forward to checking out Loreto next year.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC