Hotel Mousai, a Puerto Vallarta resort with all-inclusive options, offers an ideal setting to rest and recharge.
By Sharon Stello
Standing in the infinity-edge pool on the rooftop of Hotel Mousai, gazing out at the lush green hills and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean—with an icy drink in hand, of course—all the stress melts away. There’s nothing on the itinerary except relaxation: lounge by the pool, indulge in a massage at the spa or maybe head back to your room’s balcony for a nap in the hammock or a soak in the hot tub. Then, dinner awaits at one of several top-notch restaurants on the property, located in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
There are plenty of activities—think kayaking trips, yoga classes and tequila tastings—for those who feel so inclined, but, for now, the only task at hand is enjoying the luxurious amenities and slipping into a slower pace, a welcome change from the hectic schedules we all keep at home.
Adults-only Hotel Mousai, the only AAA Five Diamond resort in Puerto Vallarta, offers an all-inclusive package with unlimited food, alcoholic drinks, room service, activities and more, plus the use of some amenities at sister property Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa. It’s a quick flight from OC or LA to Puerto Vallarta’s own airport, then an easy drive to the resort, including a short portion over cobblestone streets as you pass the downtown’s vibrant shops and restaurants. Located on the southern coast of Puerto Vallarta and tucked against the hills, Hotel Mousai offers the best of both worlds, with tropical jungle and white sand beaches nearby. But how you explore this enchanting area is up to you.
Owned and operated by Tafer Hotels & Resorts, which also has properties in Cancun and Los Cabos, Hotel Mousai’s two towers embody contemporary aesthetics with minimalist design, modern furnishings and splashes of color for a fun and inviting atmosphere. The newly opened South Tower’s lobby features playful art with life-size chess piece sculptures. A large piano awaits a musician, who often performs for those at the nearby bar to enjoy. The lobby flows into Noi, an Italian restaurant with pop art murals on the walls.
The vibrant decor continues in the suites—145 spread between the North and South towers—from a bright red desk chair to a blue velvet couch and purple accent pillows on the plush bed. Private balconies beckon with a whirlpool, lounge chairs and crocheted hammock. The bathroom features a walk-in rain shower, dual vanity sinks with touch lights on the mirrors and a Toto bidet toilet with remote control for settings like a heated seat.
Embracing the high-tech trend, an iPad can be used to control the air conditioning, lights, curtains and music while those in Ultra Suites may text their personal butler for anything they may need or desire. A premium mini bar and full bottles of liquor on several shelves above are also part of the all-inclusive package.
Guests who sign up for the inclusive plan are given a special bracelet to wear for the duration of their stay, providing access to unlimited food and beverages as well as Spa Imagine’s hydrotherapy circuit. Alternate between a sauna, steam room, pressure massage shower, warm water Vitality Pool with six mini-massage stations, large whirlpool and cold plunge pool. Other spa treatments may be booked for an added fee, from massages with hot stones or lavender and CBD oil to facials, body wraps and herbal rituals to activate the chakras.
There are also several swimming pools around the 85-acre property, from ground-floor options at Garza Blanca to sky-grazing choices on Hotel Mousai’s two rooftops with views of Banderas Bay. And in a plaza between the two resorts is TierraLuna Village, which features boutiques, a restaurant (with more to come) and a grand carousel from San Francisco, as well as live music and cultural programming with performances by mariachi bands and ballet folklorico troupes in the evenings. A trolley provides transportation between each building and TierraLaguna or guests may take the stairs to navigate this hilly terrain.
When traveling to Puerto Vallarta (or PV, as it’s affectionately called), guests might expect to find mostly Mexican dishes served at the resort. But the dining landscape at Hotel Mousai is so diverse, visitors may feel they are being whisked away to different corners of the globe all while staying on property. And the food is high-end, going above and beyond what might typically be found at an all-inclusive place; only a few premium items come with an additional charge.
First is Noi, an Italian restaurant with authentic pasta, pizza and risotto made on-site. Start with the burrata appetizer, which is bursting with freshness. The soft, creamy cheese is served with microgreens, dried and cherry tomatoes, as well as an oregano-honey vinaigrette. When it comes to pasta, choose from wild mushroom lasagna with black truffle essence; gnocchi carbonara with pecorino Romano, egg and guanciale, a cured meat; and orecchiette with zesty Italian sausage, artichoke hearts and pomodoro sauce. The risotto with Gorgonzola and moscato-fig compote is a must-try as is the ricotta-filled ravioli in a butter-sage sauce. Of course, the wine and cocktails are impressive, too, at this South Tower dinner spot. And make sure to save room for desserts such as tiramisu, semifreddo de amaretti, and panna cotta with ricotta and lemon.
If you’re craving Asian cuisine, there are two dinner options: Dao, which offers contemporary Chinese favorites, and Hiroshi, which serves sushi and other Japanese fare. Located between the two towers, Dao makes an impression upon entrance with curved lines, Mondrian-style glass walls and striking black, white and red decor such as a large tree sculpture bursting with red flowers in the center. When it comes to the menu, choose from Malaysian chicken satay with peanut sauce, pad thai, spicy beef gyoza, marinated cucumber salad, hot and sour soup, Mongolian beef, honey-glazed walnut shrimp, crispy five-spice duck, sweet-and-sour pork, dim sum and more. For a sweet treat, try the green tea creme brulee, matcha ice cream or banana and lychee spring roll.
Hiroshi, an elegant restaurant with both indoor and patio seating in the North Tower, offers everything from hot edamame sauteed in garlic and soy sauce to sashimi like kampachi seared in sesame oil and ponzu sauce or hamachi with truffle vinaigrette, wasabi and serrano peppers. Nigiri sushi as well as maki and temaki rolls are also available such as the delicious mango roll with shrimp tempura and spicy eel sauce, topped with a slice of mango. And East meets West in the Mexican roll with California peppers, “kani kama” (imitation crab meat), tuna and lime. Meanwhile, signature dishes include a rib-eye steak with wasabi demi-glace sauce, duck magret with sweet soy sauce plus cauliflower and fennel puree, and akamiso, which is grilled chicken breast in a creamy miso sauce.
For lunch, head up to the rooftop on either tower for a variety of light fare and snacks. Whether dining at a small table or lounging poolside, make sure to order a drink or two first. Choose from a margarita, mai tai or Mezcaltini, which combines mezcal, passion fruit, basil and chile liqueur, among others on the lineup. Then nosh on tuna ceviche, coconut shrimp, burgers or tacos, nachos, burritos and quesadillas with choice of meat.
Other dining spots over at Garza Blanca include Bocados Steak House and Blanca Blue, which is open all day and offers a breakfast buffet with Mexican and American favorites from tamales and chilaquiles to eggs Benedict, pancakes, bacon and fried plantains. Morning meals can also be found at The Terrace at Hotel Mousai’s North Tower and room service is available any time.
If you aren’t too full from the ongoing feast, an abundance of activities are offered including Kundalini yoga classes on the beach, on a deck with mountain views or next to a pond that’s surrounded by lush landscaping at TierraLuna. During the session, an expert instructor will guide participants through breathing techniques and yoga poses for light stretching and toning to find a state of deep relaxation while immersed in the area’s natural beauty.
Or sign up for a hiking tour through the preserve. Varying difficulty levels are available, but all include tasting wild berries, seeing local birds and learning how to recognize them by their songs as well as identifying poisonous plants. The first hike is about 1 hour and 45 minutes while a longer trek lasts about 2 hours and 30 minutes, leading to a waterfall where participants can swim.
For those who want to take to the ocean, gear may be borrowed at Garza Blanca to go snorkeling off the beach to catch a glimpse of angel fish, marlin, eels, mollusks and, sometimes, manta rays.
To explore farther from the shore, consider a kayaking trip to Los Arcos de Mismaloya, the large rock formations off the coast, just south of the resort. These giant rocks, often shrouded in mist, seem to beckon in the distance. A 5-mile roundtrip, guided kayaking tour is offered by Garza Blanca to learn about the formations and local marine life. Paddlers may hop out of their kayak to snorkel after reaching Los Arcos. Though the waves at first seems dark from up top, visibility improves as you slip into the water and many brightly colored fish can be seen swimming around in this protected area called Los Arcos National Marine Park.
During spring, brown pelicans, frigatebirds, herons and more can be seen building nests in trees on top of the rocks. Float on your back and look up toward the sky to watch these large birds soar through the air, carrying twigs in their beaks. After enjoying the sights, get back in the kayak and prepare to paddle through a tunnel in one of the rocks. Keep an eye out for rays and other creatures as you go. Migrating whales can even be seen passing in the distance, if the season is right. As you return to the beach by Garza Blanca, your arms will no doubt be a little tired, but the workout is definitely worth it.
For a less active experience, the resort also offers a chance to imbibe while learning about Mexico’s signature liquor: tequila. Sign up for a guided tasting on the Orange Deck or at Blanca Blue, over at Garza Blanca. While you sip different types of tequila, a knowledgeable bar manager will explain the differences between white, reposado (rested) and anejo (aged) tequilas as well as the process and history of this agave-based spirit. Notably, tequila has been designated as an appellation of origin like Champagne, which must be made in Champagne, France, to bear the name. So, to be called tequila, it must be produced in one of five states in Mexico, including Jalisco, where the towns of Tequila and Puerto Vallarta are both based. So take a shot, sip a glass or enjoy a fine margarita in a toast to your trip—and planned return to PV.