Friday, September 18, 2015

Four Seasons Punta Mita

This is a continuation of our Punta Mita trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

After two wonderful nights at the St. Regis, it was time to move to the next property, the Four Seasons Punta Mita. We were both very excited, as we had never stayed at a Four Seasons before and had heard a lot of wonderful things about their personalized service.

We took a taxi to the Four Seasons, which was located inside the same gated community.  It was maybe a 5-7 minute drive from the St. Regis.

My first impression was that the property was noticeably older than the St. Regis. The lobby area felt more like a typical hotel lobby.

Four Seasons Punta Mita lobby

We were welcomed by name with a cold towel and then escorted to sit down in the seating area. We were given a juice welcome drink, and M also got one in a plastic cup. They also welcomed M by her name (they had asked for names when we made our reservations).  It was a really nice personalized touch.

Toasting to part 2 of our Punta Mita vacation

Similar to the St. Regis, they transported us to our room in a golf cart. Our driver/host was very nice, and throughout our stay he always addressed us by our name every time he saw us. He mentioned that we could call for a ride 24/7, and so we actually did quite often. The hot and humid weather was a little too much sometimes, and the property was actually quite big. Our room was in the Iguana building, which was a bit further away from the lobby and restaurants, so getting rides on the golf cart was pretty helpful.

Golf cart to take you around the property

The Iguana building was located next to the Kids Club and the entrance to the lazy river, which was super convenient. However, as I mentioned, it was a bit further away from the main lobby. But we did like the fact that it was very close to activities for kids.

Iguana building

One thing to note was that each building had its own laundry room--washer & dryer machines with detergent.  We took advantage of that to do two small loads of laundry.


The room was a good size, but coming from the St. Regis, it did feel smaller. It's basically a regular hotel room size, whereas the St. Regis was definitely larger.

We also noticed that the bed was smaller than at the St. Regis. The decor was a little bit older, but everything was in good condition and clean.

The hotel provided a very nice welcome gift for M, which included both regular and swim diapers, wipes, baby bath set, turtle stuffed animal, and foam letters that spelled M's name. She also got a welcome snack basket--chocolate milk, cookies, and jellies which she loved.

The grounds around the property were very lush, as you can see in the view from our balcony. Our room was the garden view, the entry room category. We did have a small peekaboo ocean view. We didn't use the balcony much though as it was so hot out.

Seating area & balcony

The bathroom area also looked a bit dated, but also in good condition and clean. There's a shower area, a tub, and dual sinks. The bathroom amenities were L'occitane brand which was nice, and they even provided after sun healing balm.


Food at the Four Seasons Punta Mita


Breakfast was included in our Travelzoo package (which would otherwise cost around $100 for 2 people). Breakfast was at Ketsi restaurant, the open air restaurant near the lobby. The view from the restaurant was nice, although we typically did not sit near the edges because there were a few birds who were pretty aggressive. Even for breakfast, I saw on a couple occasions the birds eat off the buffet table!

The breakfast spread was pretty good. There's the typical egg station, pancake/waffle/french toast, bacon/sausage, cereal, fruits, pastries, etc. The one unique thing that the Four Seasons had was a fresh juice and smoothie bar. I always got the smoothie of the day which was always delicious. My favorite was the banana/peanut butter/soy milk smoothie!


Service at Ketsi was typically pretty good. They were very accommodating of M. In addition to bringing a high chair, they always provided her with a set of Hello Kitty utensils, a bib (which she never wanted to wear), and a sippy cup with milk.

They had a pretty good selection for kids meals that we usually took advantage for M. One thing to note at the Four Seasons, kids under 5 eat for free. We didn't know at first but soon were explained this wonderful benefit by one of the servers.

View from Ketsi Restaurant


For our first night's dinner, we went to Bahia, located by the beach at the Four Seasons. The food was mostly grilled. We ordered the skirt steak and grilled octopus, and both were wonderful! The skirt steak was very tender, as was the octopus!

Again, M's food was completely comped, which was nice!

I believe that dinner for us cost roughly $70 USD.


Another onsite restaurant was Aramara, but it was closed during the nights we stayed there.

Kids Club

The Kids Club at the Four Seasons was definitely much better than the one at St. Regis. It was more adequately staffed, and the toys seemed to be in much better condition. They also had planned activities for older kids. Since M was still young, one of us stayed with her whenever we went.

They also had an option to hire a baby sitter if you wanted to. I believe they cost $17/hour with a 2-hour minimum. During my stay there I saw a couple kids with the baby sitters, so the parents could enjoy some adult time.

Kids Club

We could also order food for the children that would then be charged as room service. I ordered lunch for M one time, and again it was comped!


One of our most favorite part of the Four Seasons Punta Mita was definitely the lazy river! They had inner tubes and noodles available to float on which was nice. This pool was sooo relaxing and unique. Dan and I would take turns watching M while the other floating around for a lap and then switch off :)

Service at the pool was generally pretty good. They always brought a small cooler with iced water bottles (free), and we could always order food in addition.

Lazy River

The main family pool was located near Ketsi, and was just breathtaking. See the picture below that I took on my iPhone!

Main Pool

There's also a separate adult only pool which was very private and quiet, but I didn't think it was as nice because there weren't any ocean views, and it's not by the beach.

One standard item at each pool was the "sunblock" station where they had multiple types of sunblock to choose from! I also noticed that the restrooms were air conditioned, which was really nice as the temperature was just too hot otherwise.

Every few hours, the staff would bring free little "treats" around. I think we got small smoothies, fruit, and other cold drinks.

Beach Area

We planned on spending a day at the on-site beach, but ended up only staying maybe 20 minutes. It was just too hot!! We ended up going back to the pool to cool off. :)

M had a great time though. They had free sand toys for kids to use so she had a blast.


We were glad to finally try a Four Seasons resort after hearing so much about it. Service in general was a little better/more personalized than the St. Regis.
  • We loved the lazy river pool; it's so unique!
  • Similar to the St. Regis, water was very available and free everywhere! So no need to make a stop to buy water outside before staying at the resort.
  • Overall the resort was a little bit older and could have probably used some updates (note: during the time of our stay, they were doing some construction work near the lazy river, so maybe the resort was getting some much needed renovation!)
  • The resort provided "free" activities around the resort, such as nature walk, Spanish class, history lesson, etc. We didn't take advantage of it, but there seems to be quite a few options every day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

St Regis Punta Mita

This is a continuation of our Punta Mita trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We flew to Punta Mita via Alaska Airlines. Even in economy, I felt that the leg room was pretty good. We ordered some in-flight food--chicken banh mi sandwich and the cheese plate--and the sandwich was probably the most delicious paid economy in-flight food we've had! It was warm and so delish! The sandwich cost $7, and we thought it was pretty fair definitely worth it for airplane food.

M did pretty well on the flight; she played with her new sticker book and was also on the iPad a lot. :) She also took her afternoon nap during the 3.5 hour flight.

Airport transfer to St. Regis Punta Mita

We pre-booked transportation from the airport to the St. Regis which cost 1700 pesos (around $120 USD) one way. I figured it was a safe option, so we didn't have to deal with looking for taxi when we arrived. It was definitely a great option as they were waiting for us, had an umbrella ready (it was raining), and even allowed us to make a stop at Walmart to buy water and snacks. The driver was also very professional, dressed in uniform, and spoke good English. I definitely highly recommend considering this option.

I also requested a car seat for M which they had ready (although the quality seemed a bit questionable and also looked quite old :p), but it was still nice to at least have it included.

The drive took around 45 minutes. Punta Mita was actually located inside a gated community, they checked for our name before letting us in, so it did feel somewhat safe. The whole complex looked very manicured and upscale.

Check In

We arrived at the resort and were welcomed in the reception area. As is common in other St. Regis hotels, there was not a check-in desk. In this case we were welcomed with a cold hand towel to cool down and a drink choice of either iced tea or margarita.  The host directed us and provided our stay information in the open air lobby/seating area. Afterwards we were whisked to our room via a golf cart.

St. Regis open reception area

The welcome area/lobby was beautiful with views of the ocean. We really felt like we were on vacation as soon as we arrived!


Our building was next to the kids swimming pool, and not too far from the lobby, which was nice. The room was a good size; to me it felt almost like a suite. There's a small foyer area as soon as we walked in.

Foyer area

To the right was the bedroom area with small desk and TV, as well as a lanai with garden view and a peekaboo ocean view.

To the left of the foyer was the huge bathroom with dual sinks, a bathtub and indoor + outdoor shower areas.

Shower & bath tub
Double sink

The room was in good condition and did not look worn down.  The resort is still somewhat new. (I think 7-8 years old?)

We got a welcome voicemail message from our butler but didn't really use much of his services during our stay. I almost considered calling them for the complimentary tea service and free garment pressing, but ended up not doing it.

Lanai/balcony area

We really loved the room, and it felt bigger than just a room, more like a mini-suite or bungalow.

Pools and Kids Activities

There were several pools around the property. We went to the family pool which was right by the beach. They had some floaties for the kids available in the pool, which was nice. The pool was a good size, but there was hardly any shade. We came in September which was one of the hottest months, so it was too bad that there's not much shade around the pool.

Right by the pool, there's a kiddy fountain play area which M loved! They also had sand toys available, and she had a blast. 

Nearby they also had a small kids table setup for morning activities. M did water painting on ceramics, and she really enjoyed it. I really felt that the resort really tried to cater to kids and families, which was great for us.

Kids Club

Another one of M's favorite was the Kids Club. It was actually located on the other end of the resort, near the spa and gym area. The kids club was actually a bit run down, which was a bit surprising for the St. Regis. There were not that many toys, and even the ones that were available looked very used and old. Nevertheless, M still had a blast. She got introduced to play doh and she loved it so much. When it was time to return to our room she didn't want to go, the attendant allowed us to take one play doh to the room, which was a nice gesture.

Food at the St Regis Punta Mita

For our first night, it was raining really hard so we ended up ordering room service. We shared a pasta dish and chicken nachos. They were both pretty good.

We added the breakfast package for our stay (I emailed the concierge in advance).  The cost was $20 USD per person plus taxes and service charge. I highly recommend this option as breakfast would have cost double that if not already included in the room rate. The breakfast buffet was at Sea Breeze restaurant, which had indoor and outdoor seating. We always sat inside (air conditioned) to keep cool.

The breakfast spread was pretty standard: baked pastries, hot food (pancake/French toast/egg/bacon/sausage), cold station (cheese, smoked salmon), yogurt, milk, cereal, fruit, egg station and a quesadilla station. Overall food quality was pretty good, although it's probably not on the top of our favorite breakfast list.

One thing to note: Breakfast was actually served until noon. So we could have had a later breakfast, skipped lunch, and gone for early dinner (but we didn't).

Sea Breeze

Other On-Site Restaurant Options

Carolina was the fine dining option and apparently very popular; reservations are recommended. We didn't end up eating here since we had our toddler-aged child with us and wanted something more casual. I had heard great things about this, so I would recommend checking out.  :)

Mita Mary was their restaurant on a boat by the beach. It looked really cool but because it was so hot, and the fact that they only had bar seating, we did not eat here either.

Sea Breeze was the main restaurant where breakfast and lunch were served. We had lunch here once, as it was the only option with air conditioning!! All other options were either by the pool or beach with no AC!  :)

Fish Tacos at Sea Breeze

Transportation to other places

The St. Regis had onsite "taxi" service available 24/7. When I say taxi, I mean luxury SUV.  :) We took this to grab dinner in town one day, and also to transfer to the Four Seasons resort after a few nights. One thing to note at the St. Regis, the taxi service was run independently, so we had to pay either cash or credit card directly to the driver.


We had a really wonderful stay at the St. Regis. Service was generally pretty good, and everyone was very helpful.  Our room was huge and gorgeous, and I had never been to a place where kids were so welcome and catered to.  It was fantastic overall!

A couple other notes from our stay:
  • Tipping was generally not required. They made a note that a 10 percent service charge was already included and that tipping was not expected. However, I still did get the sense that tipping was appreciated.
  • We bought bottled waters from Walmart on our way to the resort which was actually not needed at all. Complimentary bottled water was provided pretty much everywhere!!! We had never been to a resort where bottled water was free and so available!
  • As I mentioned, try to to get the breakfast package included in your room rate as it is cheaper than paying at the restaurant.
Overall, we loved this resort and would highly recommend it to others. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Punta Mita - Trip Introduction

I've always had Punta Mita on my bucket list. I first found out about it after reading about the St. Regis in Punta Mita from a lot of the travel bloggers. Additionally, a couple friends have vacationed there. Not to mention the Kardashians visit there frequently as well. :)

Punta Mita is a high end beach destination in Mexico, about a 45 minute drive Northwest of Puerto Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta itself is a 3.5 hour flight from San Francisco, so quite an easy destination to get to from the West Coast.

Trip planning started when I saw a Travelzoo deal earlier in the year for the Four Seasons Punta Mita. The deal was actually very good in my opinion. We had never stayed at a Four Seasons before since it is usually very expensive. So when I saw the Travelzoo deal, we just couldn't pass it up. We booked the three night deal in a garden view room (their lowest category) for $949 + taxes & fees (an additional $200-ish). This is by no mean cheap, but it is a good deal for a Four Seasons. The package also included breakfast, premium Internet, and 15 percent off food and beverages.

I also booked an additional two nights at the neighboring St Regis, using SPG points at 20,000/night. So we had a total of five nights in Punta Mita! I was so excited, and this trip actually came sooner than we expected.

We were a little nervous traveling with M, but she was older (recently turned 2 years old) and seems to be traveling better as she gets older. So we were hoping that it would be somewhat easier this time around. She could sit still for longer and be distracted with the iPad. She's now also into activities like stickers, coloring, etc. So we just had to make sure to have enough for her to do in flight.

We did not bring a car seat or pack-n-play.  The car service that we booked provided a car seat and she could sleep in our hotel bed. We also weaned her off bottles, so it's nice not to have to bring too many extra things.

Lobby at St. Regis Punta Mita

Here's the breakdown of our trip:

Punta Mita - Trip Introduction
St. Regis Punta Mita
Four Seasons Punta Mita

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

London & Paris - Summary & Tips

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We had such a great time in London & Paris. We definitely packed in so much for the short stay...hehe. We especially loved Paris and hope to come back some day.

Here are some tips based on our experience during our trip in London & Paris!

Wi Fi:
  • London: We pre-booked a wifi hotspot device since we did it in Japan and thought it was super useful. For London, a lot of cafes actually offer free wifi, so having a pocket wifi might not be as necessary. But it was still helpful -- the cost was just over $8/day and we got it from Tep Wireless.
  • Paris: We felt wi-fi in Paris was more necessary and useful than in London, because it wasn't as easy to find free Wi Fi. We got ours from Hippocketwifi that Dan ordered beforehand, and cost around 30 Euros. You can choose to pick up at airport, or they can deliver it to your hotel. If you can, do the airport pickup to avoid confusion at the hotel.

In City Transportation
  • London
    • Get an Oyster card if you are going to use the tube (subway) a lot. During our first tube trip to Harrod's, we didn't get an Oyster card, and turns out the one way ticket costs double if we buy a single ticket versus loading money into the Oyster card. The Oyster card requires a 5 pound deposit, and you will have to buy it from a booth.  Once you're done, you can get the deposit back.
    • We also took Uber a lot. Distances between places in London were not that far, so going places for the most part only cost us 5-10 pounds. So I would recommend Uber for in-city transport.
  • Paris
    • The Metro in Paris was a lot cheaper than the tube in London. We got the 10 pack tickets for around 14 Euros, so each trip cost roughly 1.4 Euros. The metro lines were all color coded and for the most part pretty self explanatory. One thing to note though, if you have to transfer lines, the distance between one line and the other could actually be quite a bit of a walk.
    • It looks like there's an 8 Euro minimum for in city Uber ride as all our ride cost exactly 8 Euros! We used this a couple times before we figured that out. :)

Airport Transportation
  • London
    • We booked an airport transfer from LHR to our hotel in Covent Garden with Exclusive Airports. They were on time and we were pleased with the service. It cost 48 pounds, and I paid 50 pounds total.  This would probably be my recommendation (versus taking taxi, or even the train). We considered the train but it would still cost around 40 pounds total to get to the city, and then we still have to buy another ticket to get to our hotel, and I really didn't want to be carrying suitcases up and down the stairs.
    • On our way back from the hotel to LHR, we tried requesting Uber, but the driver canceled our requests twice (probably because they didn't want to make the trek to LHR), so we ended up having to find a taxi last minute! I would NOT recommend using Uber to go to the airport, but it would be better to pre-book return with transfer service like Exclusive Airports. We ended up paying taxi a total of 86 pounds, since they were more expensive and charged a fee for paying with credit card. This was 36 pounds more than if we had pre-booked the transfer! The only positive was I got to ride in a black London cab, but at a premium price! :)
  • Paris:
    • We didn't pre-arrange arrival transfer and ended up getting a taxi that supposedly took credit card. However, when we arrived at our hotel, the taxi driver could not process our credit card. We did not have any Euros, so Dan was held up for a while. Thankfully the hotel concierge offered to pay the taxi driver in cash for us, and have it charged to our hotel bill. So in hindsight, we should have pre-booked transport beforehand.
    • For our return to the airport, we pre-booked transport with for EUR 55. We were very pleased with the service. It was a bit cheaper than our Taxi, and the car condition was much nicer, and we didn't have to worry about hailing a cab. 

Restaurants: Here's a summary of all the places we went and a brief note on each one:
  • London
    • Shake Shack: Great burger place (the shroom burger is really good), but not unique to London as they originated from the US (NYC).
    • Hawksmoor: Famous steak place. Not the best that we've had, but pretty decent. The Sticky Toffee Pudding though was outstanding.
    • Corinthia's Afternoon Tea: Good experience, but not outstanding. I think the most famous one (which we couldn't get in) was the Claridge's.
    • Rock & Sole place: Very low-key fish & chips place. Pretty decent and huge portions!
    • Gauthier Soho: Our most favorite meal in London! Price was not too bad for fine dining.
    • Dishoom: Super popular Indian restaurant. We tried eating here twice but lines were always too long. Finally went in for breakfast and it was really good.
    • Bone Daddies: Hipster ramen place - we both think Ippudo is still better, but this place has unique flavors.
  • Paris
    • Angelina's: LOVE their hot chocolate. Very touristy place but worth a visit, if not for the hype.
    • Breizh Cafe: Excellent crepe place. Must make reservation in advance.
    • L'avant Comptoir: Our favorite meal during our whole trip. Low key wine bar with menu hanging from the ceiling. Everything we ordered was delicious and price was reasonable.
    • Les Cocottes: Solid restaurant near Eiffel tower.

Other Tips:
  • London:
    • West End Shows: We wanted to catch a show very last minute, and tried getting same day ticket from Mathilda's box office the morning of at 10AM. We came a few minutes after 10AM, and the cheapest tickets remaining were 67.50 pounds each. I found an online deal from London Theatre Booking for 33 pounds each, but was too afraid to pull the plug. But we went to their counter next to the Covent Garden station, and ended up getting those seats for 35 pounds each! So definitely recommend last minute tickets from London Theatre Booking!
    • Bath & Stonehenge Tour: I also signed up for Groupon UK (separate login from US), to get Buy 1 get 2 tickets for a Stonehenge & Bath tour with Day Tours London. Definitely recommend looking up for local Groupon discounts during your trip. :)
  • Paris:
    • If you are going to be in Paris for a few days and want to visit museums, definitely get the Paris Museum Pass which allows you to visit several museums and you won't need to be in line to buy tickets. We got the 2 day tickets for 42 Euro. The more museums you visit and the longer your stay, the more back for your buck. Don't confuse it with the Paris Pass, which has a lot more included but costs way more.
    • Versailles Tour: If you want to visit the main palace, either come REALLY early (like 30 minutes before opening), or visit it in the afternoon after the lines die down. We arrived at 10:30 AM (1.5 hour after opening), which appeared to be the worst time. The line snaked around multiple times, and we ended up waiting in line for 1.5 hours. If you arrive around the same time like we did and the line is too long, my recommendation would be to go visit the garden first, and leave the main palace towards the afternoon around 3-4 PM when the line was non-existent.

Until next time!