I’m in the middle of my Puerto Vallarta trip report (see Planning a Vacation to an All-Inclusive, Las Caletas, Now Amber Resort Review Part 1), but before I finish writing about our resort, I wanted to reflect on our time at the beach.
My family’s love for the beach has grown and multiplied over the years. Before we had kids, my husband and I never vacationed at the beach together. He always said he was not a “beach person.” We went to France for our honeymoon instead of Hawaii or the Caribbean.
Our first family trip to a beach was in Russia, at Amur Bay off the Sea of Japan. It was April, and the water was completely frozen. Still cool to see, though!
Our first family trip to a non-frozen beach was to Oceanside, California. We rented a condo for a week in January, so it was still cold. However, the kids loved running along the sand and splashing in the waves.
My in-laws live about 30 minutes from a beach in Texas, so we have been to this small beach in Port Lavaca many times. There are almost no waves, the water is murky…but still we have had a lot of fun there.
When we started going on cruises, our beaches started getting a little nicer. This is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas:
And Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands:
My husband started going into the water on our excursions, and dare I say it, he started actually enjoying our trips to the beach!
Last summer, we spent a few days in Daytona Beach, Florida. As far as I can tell, Daytona is not the favorite beach of many Floridians, but we LOVED it there! The sand was so fine that it wiped right off our skin. The waves were perfect. My kids are still begging us to go back to Daytona Beach.
Ok, so back to Puerto Vallarta. Since my family has enjoyed beaches in several locations with different types of sand and waves, I assumed we would also enjoy the beach at our hotel in Puerto Vallarta.
I had read some Now Amber Resort reviews on TripAdvisor that said the beach was too rocky, but I shrugged off those reviews. I do not consider myself a beach snob. After all, my family wasn’t picky about beaches, right?
When we first arrived at our resort, my kids couldn’t wait to go to the beach! They were so excited that we could see the ocean from our room.
So they jumped right into the water and were happy as clams, for a few minutes.
But then things went downhill.
“Mom, what’s that smell?”
“Ouch! Something hard just hit me!”
“Something just cut my leg!”
“No seriously, what is that smell? I’m gagging!”
“That red flag just went up. What does that mean?”
There was a smell at the beach. We know the smell of the ocean (sometimes fishy, salty), but that wasn’t it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was bad.
Then, there were the rocks. Big rocks, about the size of baseballs. We had to walk over them to get into the water. Then, while we were in the water, these large rocks would come washing up on the shore. They would hit our legs when a big wave hit. Ouch!
Vendors were constantly coming up to us. They were not allowed in the lounge chair area of the resort at the top of the beach, but I wasn’t going to sit that far back while my kids were in the water. So, we were fair game for vendors. I just kept telling my kids to say, “No, gracias.” Besides, I didn’t bring any money with me to the beach.
While we were in the water on the first afternoon at the resort, a red flag was raised. Um…what? Nobody kicked us out of the water, so we remained for several more minutes. It turns out, the red flag means you are supposed to leave the water due to unsafe conditions.
The red flag was up the majority of our stay. One morning, it was a yellow flag (use caution).
The water was murky, so it was hard to tell where the depth was too high for my comfort level.
When we finished with the beach that first day, we went to the outdoor showers to get the sand off of us before entering the pools. We must have spent 20 minutes at the shower trying to get the large, course sand off our arms and legs. It just wasn’t budging! It stuck to us like glue.
I tried going back to the beach a second time with my oldest, but once we got down there the smell was so bad that we turned back. I did go on another morning with my younger two kids when the flag was yellow, but we didn’t stay long. The good news was that the smell wasn’t as bad that morning. However, the vendors were still pushy, and I felt bad saying “No, gracias” all the time.
I’m trying to figure out if we have turned into beach snobs, or if this was really just an unpleasant beach? I hope we haven’t turned into beach snobs, because I like how my family can be happy at destinations with varying degrees of fanciness and entertainment.
There were never many people at our hotel’s beach in Puerto Vallarta, and the hotel’s information book inside the rooms actually recommended a few other beaches on its “local attractions” pages. One of our taxi drivers told us that there are four rivers that feed into the bay, and that is why the water is rocky and murky. He said that the beaches are much nicer about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta in Punta de Mita.
I was really bummed that we didn’t get to enjoy our hotel’s beach for several hours each day. I was glad we were able to spend an afternoon at an amazing beach at Las Caletas, even though it cost us extra.
Note: Don’t let this discourage you from staying in Puerto Vallarta. Other hotels, like the Hyatt Ziva, seem to have better reviews of their beaches. One of our readers has reported a nice beach at his resort in Nuevo Vallarta, just north of Puerto Vallarta. I think it depends on the exact location of the hotel on the bay.
I hope that we have not been too spoiled by some beaches we have visited in the last few years, and that we can still enjoy beaches that don’t have crystal clear water and perfect waves. I love the sound and smell (usually!) of the ocean, and just being near it is a treat.
What type of beach do you prefer? Do you care about the water/waves/sand, or will any beach do? Do you consider yourself a beach snob?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.