Grand Velas is Mexico’s hot new spa property

Grand Velas Spa & poolNUEVO VALLARTA – “Another ‘Miami Vice,’ Senora?” asked the pool attendant as I peeked from beneath my umbrella-shaded poolside perch. Half strawberry daquari, half pina colada, the question was about a newly-discovered tropical drink.

“Si, gracias,” I replied and returned to my horizontal position.

At the edge of Banderas Bay on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, my location was Nuevo Vallarta, 15 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta (the Mexican town made famous in the 60s by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during the filming of “Night of the Iguana”).

Grand Velas new spa property I was poolside at Grand Velas, the area’s centerpiece and newest addition (it opened in April). It’s an all-suite, all-inclusive spa resort whose name translates to grand villas. My initial introduction to this Mexican retreat had been a day earlier.

It was slightly warm and muggy when I arrived at the imposing open-air lobby, situated beneath a 100-foot high palapa (palm covered) roof. But any discomfort was immediately remedied with a cool towel and fruit punch.

“Senora, shall I put your luggage on the luggage rack?” asked Fernando, my room escort, a friendly young bellman with a ready smile enhanced by silver braces. “Would you mind placing it on the bed – it’ll be easier to unpack,” I requested. “You’re the boss,” he said cheerfully, heaving my oversized bag from the ground as if it were weightless.

“If you have any requests, call 007,” said Fernando as he approached the door. He comically added, “Like James Bond.”

After his departure I munched on chili-flavored corn nuts from my balcony’s cozy lounge. My view, like every suite’s, was of the manicured courtyard and three infinity edge pools that spill into one another – the backdrop was the Pacific.

At the pool with my ‘Miami Vice’ I pondered this land known for its mariachis and margaritas. What more could one want? My answer: a massage. I headed to Spa Grand Velas – the resort’s full-service, 17,000-square-foot facility.

For a spa aficionado like me, reading its menu was like a Southern Belle devouring Gone With the Wind. It overflowed with a selection of innovative treatments that borrow from European techniques – including facials, scrubs, bath therapies and wraps, as well as specialty services like slimming anti-cellulite treatments and non-invasive neck/face lifts.

I carefully studied the spa menu but felt both overindulged and overwhelmed until I received the assistance of Jessica, a spa consultant. With her counsel, I selected the Spa Prestige Facial (80 minutes, $146 US).

“You’re set for tomorrow. Arrive at least one hour prior to your treatment to enjoy the hydrotherapy ritual,” she advised. This preamble featured a sauna, eucalyptus inhalation room, herbal steam room, whirlpool, pressure shower, Swiss shower and two-temperature contrasting lagoon plunges.

The ladies’ spa (there’s a separate men’s spa) was predominately white and liberally adorned with red hibiscus and fuchsia bougainvillea. It teemed with discreet activity.

An attendant served flutes of chlorophyll water (to detoxify, I learned). Another dispensed chilled aromatherapy washcloths. Soiled and discarded towels were immediately retrieved and a young woman tossed fresh flower petals into the lagoon pool.

“Senora Dial,” an attendant called. I stepped from the cold plunge into a warm robe she held for me. A heated clove-scented pillow was placed on my neck and I was escorted to the lounge to await my technician.

“My name is Paulina,” said the therapist in introduction. Once I began chatting, I realized she spoke little English. But that discovery soon became irrelevant. In my private treatment room named Oasis she started the facial with a foot massage (I’m told every treatment begins in this manner).

The selection of the Spa Prestige Facial was initially difficult but its description read: “The first anti-aging ‘booster.’ A break-through cellular technique that utilizes the regenerating protein HSP.”

The facial also featured three individually applied masks – one formed a mold of my features a la Phantom of the Opera. And the finished result rewarded my choice – a complexion nearly void of pores.

At the end of the treatment, Tibetan chimes rang and Paulina softly announced, “Your service is over.”

My assessment of the Grand Velas experience: The staff was especially friendly and helpful. The food at each of its three restaurants was exceptionally tasty. And the spa treatments are among the best.

* Treatments range from $35 (U.S.) to $145 (U.S.) and include tax. Room rates begin at $290 (U.S.) night (based on double occupancy). For information, go to www.GrandVelas.com.