For Spring Break 2019, we headed to Puerto Vallarta on the West coast of Mexico for some warmth and relaxation. We don’t do the resort thing very often. But since this time we wanted a vacation that didn’t require much planning, we thought we’d give it a try. We decided on Crown Paradise Club in Puerto Vallarta because it is an all-inclusive resort catering primarily to families vacationing with kids.
Caution: Crown Paradise has two properties in Puerto Vallarta: Crown Paradise Club and Crown Paradise Golden. Golden is an adults only resort and will not allow you there with your kids. On the other hand, Club (where we went) is a family resort.
Crown Paradise Club is a short 5-min ride from the Airport, just south of the cruise port in what’s called the Zona Hotelera Norte (North Hotel Region). It is close to a lot of the action: restaurants, shops, malls, etc. And it’s on the beach in case you were wondering.
After 6 hours of airports and planes, we were ready to dismantle, put our vacation attire on, and relax. As we arrived at the Crown Paradise Club, we were both wondering if we were at the right place. The entrance and area around the front of the resort leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not that we were suddenly in a bad part of town. It’s just all very anticlimactic. So much so that Rachel looked at me and said, “Are we here?” in disbelief when we pulled up.
There’s no long driveway, no canopy, no grand entrance… And all of that would’ve been fine had we known. We didn’t because the pictures on the resort’s website show differently. Guests step into the hotel lobby directly off the city street. Also, the lobby was probably more suited to be a city market: chaos, shops selling trinkets, people everywhere, and no one to welcome us.
Review: 3/5 – Good area of town, but lacks curb appeal
Since we knew we were going to get there before check-in time, we were excited to use Crown Paradise Club’s Hospitality Room. The resort’s website advertises the Hospitality Room as a place where you can change into/out of your swim clothes before check-in/out. Perfect! We “checked in”, got our bracelets on, and headed to the Hospitality Room with our suitcases.
The Hospitality Room is located at the very end of a long, dimly lit hallway (we found out later all hallways at the resort were dimly lit). With some apprehension, we proceeded until we found them (there are two of them). As we looked through the glass door, it looked like nobody had been in there for days since the lights were turned off. But motivated by our intense need to get our vacation on, we walked in.
The room is equipped with lockers, a TV, a water cooler, men’s/women’s bathrooms, and couches that have been sat on more times than the seats at the NYC subway. I mean it’s been used and abused. Still, we persevered. Because there was nowhere else to put our luggage, we put them on the couches (at least we found suitable use for them) and changed into our swimwear.
Review: 1/5 – About the only good thing was that we could change into our swim clothes
Beach and Pools
At last, we headed to the beach. At most resorts, it’s always a little challenging to find a place to sit/lay around the beach or pool areas, especially in the early afternoon hours. During Spring Break. With a mix of excitement and frustration, we found a few chairs and a cabana to put our things down, get a drink and some food, and try to unwind, now with sand beneath our feet. Aside from the first few hours we were there, there was always great availability of chairs and cabanas.
The beach at Crown Paradise Club is relatively clean. A little rocky, but clean. There’s a pier with a covered gazebo at its end that splits the beach in front of the resort. During the time we were there, we experimented with beach on both sides of the pier. We found that the beach on the left side (as you look out on to the ocean) was less rough and had fewer rocks, so we lingered there the most.
Besides the beach, the resort has 2 pools and a waterpark for children 0-12 years old. The pools were clean and centrally located, but in need of maintenance. Missing or mismatched tiles, uneven decking, and broken chairs are common at the resort.
Rating: 4/5 – Good, but needs some maintenance
After going back to the front desk for our keys, one of the resort’s service staff led us down another set of dimly-lit hallways to our bedroom. The bedroom – oh, the bedroom – was by far the deepest disappointment we had.
Like the pools and chairs, the bedrooms are in dire need of a major renovation. In fact, the whole place is, but the bedrooms most of all. As we walked in, it looked like the room hadn’t been cleaned in days, maybe weeks. There was dust and grime everywhere. A telling sign we would confirm during the rest of our stay that the resort does not have enough staff to service the place appropriately – at any level. Besides the lack of cleanliness, there was no hot water in the shower, and the toilet just ran incessantly after the first flush. Luckily, the maintenance staff was able to resolve those issues.
As for the rest, the beds were ok, and the fridge was restocked daily. That’s about it…
Rating 2/5 – Needs major attention to bring up to acceptable
Food and Drinks
The resort has 4 restaurants (1 buffet and 3 a la carte) and 2 snack bars that open basically when the buffet restaurant closes between lunch and dinner. It also has 4 bars – one each in the lobby, pool area, beach area, and sports and games area – and the wait staff come by the beach and pools regularly to take orders.
La Palapa – International Buffet
Factory-standard with most resort, the Crown Paradise Club has a buffet restaurant serving “international” cuisines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The food was actually good overall. During each of the meal times, there routinely are 1-3 stations making food “a la carte” like omelets for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch, for example. But as with most buffets, the food quality and taste ranges from really good to awful. At La Palapa, there’s enough variety to suit most tastes. Also, since the resort caters to families, it dedicates one area of the buffet to kids where the counter height is lower, and the food is “kid-friendly.”
Rating 3/5 – Add the good and subtract the bad, you get about… Average
Sans Souçis – a la carte French Restaurant
By far the best dinner option on the resort, Sans Souçis had legitimately good food. We ate there 3 different evenings during our stay, partly because we liked and partly for lack of better options. Regardless, it is the best option on the resort, and guests are treated to good-tasting and good-looking food. It was the only restaurant at Crown Paradise Club serving steak, seafood, or escargot, for example.
Rating: 4/5 – A little to my surprise, Sans Souçis is actually pretty good!
La Piazza – a la carte Italian Restaurant
The views from La Piazza are probably its high point. Because the restaurant sits just off the beach with large windows all around, we had unobstructed views of the Pacific as the sun set. Before dinner is served, guests can take full advantage of the antipasto bar with cured meats, cheeses, bread, anchovies, capers, etc. The antipasto bar was great, and the kids loved it.
The food actually cooked by the restaurant staff, on the other hand, was a disaster. We were told by our waiter that we didn’t need to order because they served all the food “family-style” (shared plates for the whole table), so we ended up trying everything they had on the menu.
It was bad. Not only did it not taste good, it was poorly prepared too. The food lacks the proper ingredients, and the preparation the right techniques. I’m not a food snob in any way. We’ve eaten all kinds of things in all kinds of places over the years (including fried maggots in Bangkok). But we were served ravioli instead of tortellini for example, and the pasta was barely cooked! I mean it probably went from the box to warm water for 2 minutes, then to our table. It was hard.
Since we ended up trying all the food and not liking any of it, we didn’t go back to La Piazza for the rest of our vacation.
Rating: 1/5 – Maybe the chef had a back day. Who knows?
Fujiyama – a la carte Asian Restaurant
We were pretty excited to go to Fujiyama because we both really enjoy Asian cuisine, and it’s a breeze to serve the kids fried rice. The restaurant sits higher than other buildings on the property, so we got a “panoramic” view of the place.
Like La Piazza, it has an appetizer bar with a limited, but varied, selection of Asian dishes. Most of it is good, but don’t get the sushi unless you want to be entirely disappointed. The food we ordered was mostly tasty (we went twice), but not great, and Rachel was puzzled that they don’t serve any side dishes with the entrees (no rice or noodles for you!)
Rating: 2/5 – No better than your neighborhood Asian joint
Look, we’re realistic. We know we shouldn’t expect great food at a resort, but Crown Paradise Club failed to deliver even mediocre food consistently.
Rating: 2/5 – Across the board, the food was slightly below what you could easily get at home
Because the resort caters to families vacationing with children with activities and food to suit “each member of the family.”, we had high hopes. And in some ways, it delivers on the promise, but it falls short of excellence because of maintenance and staffing issues (do you see a pattern here?)
Baby Paradise – childcare for toddlers (1.5-4 years old)
Crown Paradise Club offers childcare for babies and young children included with the stay price. Honestly, this was the one feature that sold us on the resort. We wanted to try it out and see if it works for us.
In theory, it sounds perfect to be able to drop off your kids with professional caretakers in a safe environment with planned activities and a reserved area just for them. What’s not to like about all of that? But in practice, Baby Paradise is located off yet another dimly lit corridor, the furniture was dirty, and there was never anybody there. We never felt at ease to drop Ian off and go off to the beach or dinner. So we didn’t. We never used. Toddler childcare was quite possibly the biggest reason why we chose Crown Paradise Club, and we never felt good about using it. What a disappointment… The truth is we were not about to “force the issue” just to see what we thought about it.
Rating 2/5 – Based on the facilities alone. We can’t speak for the service itself
Aquapark – waterpark for children (0-12 years old)
Now, we did use the waterpark. A lot! Every day. We would go to the beach in the morning, have lunch, then head to Aquapark for the afternoon. The kids had a lot of fun too. The white waterslide was Lucas’ favorite while Ian preferred the frog slide.
The waterpark has a pirate ship, a castle, 9 waterslides, and pools of varying depths. In front of the waterpark, there’s an area with tables, chairs, and umbrellas, allowing parents to conveniently sit and watch while kids play. Best of all, the wait staff regularly service the area.
Although the resort’s website also advertises a “private check-in”, crafts, and movies, there are no pictures to show potential guests what the area looks like. Well, because it’s so small and not private at all, we, once again, chose not to send our kids there. By the looks of it, most parents didn’t send theirs either.
Rating 4/5 – Despite the nonexistence of a “private check-in”, the waterpark is a big hit with the kids
Nitro Club – nightly shows
Another standard feature of most resorts are night clubs, and Crown Paradise Club is no different. Nitro Club has shows every night at 8 or 9 pm, depending on the day of the week. Each evening, the shows have a different theme: acrobatics, cabaret, Hollywood stars, Disney characters, etc. We decided to go to Disney night at Nitro Club.
The show itself didn’t disappoint. Consisting of songs from Disney movies (think Frozen, Alladin, Madagascar, etc.) It was fun and energetic, and the kids were fully into it. However, if you’re expecting Disney quality production, don’t. It’s entertaining, but not “world class” entertaining. Temper your expectations, and your family will have a good time.
Also, one slight inconvenient is that Nitro Club is technically outside Crown Paradise Club. Guests have to leave the resort and walk a half a block down the road to access Nitro Club. It wasn’t a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning.
Rating 4/5 – Good, fun activity for the kids, but don’t expect “world class” entertainment
In total, we spent a week at Crown Paradise Club, and our stay had its ups-and-downs. The resort clearly caters to families vacationing with kids, and that has its perks. However, the food, bedrooms, and lack of maintenance massively detract from the experience. We still managed to have fun (come on! Beach, sun, warm weather…), but we will not return to Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta.
Overall Rating: 2/5 – Despite its appeal to families, Crown Paradise Club falls well short of a good value