Sorry this is such a long review but I thought the more honest, the better for individuals to make decisions on their travel plans..
First let me start off by saying that I have a five star rated timeshare in Puerto Vallarta that I exchanged with Interval for this place as the flights from where I live to Puerto Vallarta were very expensive. We could drive to San Carlos in about 7 hours so we decided to do that. As a family we have been vacationing in one area of Mexico or another for over 10 years and we LOVE it down in Mexico (the people, the culture, the food, the beach--everything!!) so it was with a fun attitude and a carefree heart that we arrived in San Carlos...
CONS (and there are many):
if you look at the website for this hotel you will see a beautiful lobby in two pictures that are examples of wonderful marble and tasteful furnishings. That lobby IS NOT located at this resort.. I don't know where it is because it is also NOT at any of the other hotels located nearby and we checked. When we booked this hotel, we did look at those pictures and figured the hotel to be at least a 3 or 4 star resort...it is more like a 1 star hotel.
The front lobby is small and has one computer for their internet service for their guests. It is supposed to be a wireless service, so I brought my laptop down however the wireless service never worked so we were regulated to using the ONE computer they had to check emails from home. Unfortunately, the kids who were staying at the hotel held the computer hostage most of the week and even asking them nicely in Spanish (because YES I do speak Spanish) had the kids saying no to both me and the hotel employees who would then shrug their shoulders at me when the kids would say they were surfing the web (for two and three hours!)
Of course the worse thing was the rooms, I have always come to expect when vacationing in Mexico that the beds will be hard so that I won't complain about however the ceiling fan in the room, one of the blades came flying off and almost hit my son who was sleeping on the pullout sofa! When we reported the fan, it took at least 3 calls (over several hours) before anyone came up and then they spent lots of time looking for the screws to use them to put the fan back together. When I finally realized that was what the maintenance man was doing, I told him that I wanted NEW screws put in the blades as obviously the old screws were bad!!
Then I guess they must have just gotten new doors on the units but they don't fit correctly as there are gaps under the door and on the sides that let in bugs. The first night we had spiders and crickets in our room so the next night after asking ALL day for the hotel to fix it they sent up a gentleman who put up weather stripping that helped the sides but not the bottom so we wound up putting towels down by the door to keep out the bugs!
The most "hilarious" thing was when the cable TV stopped working for 2 1/2 days. Granted I don't go on vacation to watch TV but at night when we are winding down we watch CNN or the Discovery Channel. The message on the screen said in Spanish that the credit card on file for this account was not valid...The hotel said they were having problems with the cable company and they promised it would be fixed by the end of each day... However it took 2 1/2 days before we finally had cable again. Thank goodness, we brought DVDS with us (they do have DVD players in the bedroom part of the room-- we had the maintenance man move the DVD Player from the bedroom to the living room as our TV in our room didn't work anyways.. they did finally replace it)
The housekeeper comes only to throw out trash and replace used towels... (so Moms if you are thinking of a week of NOT being everyone's personal servant, this is not the place to be because you are making beds and cleaning up all week!!)
I had to ask for a second set of sheets for our bed as ours had holes in them. The housekeeper told me that if they cleaned the room before the 3rd day of my stay that I would be charged $15. So I told her that to give me sheets with HOLES in them was unacceptable. Plus the "comforter" was just about threadbare! Needless to say, I got the new sheets! However, the comforter was the best one she had so she encouraged me to stay with that one. When I saw my parents comforter in their room, I agreed that mine was probably one of the better ones.
There is NO room service at this hotel and the menu for lunch is VERY limited down by the pool. Most of the stuff on the menu, they don't have! By the third day, I was a little frustrated with the waitress at the pool side restaurant telling me that they "don't have that" that I asked to talk to the manager. Octavio was very nice and he told me that an Italian chef had made up the menu but that most people didn't like the food so he stopped ordering the food to make those items (over half the menu) . So I asked him why didn't he make a menu of things that he thought people would enjoy (just something simple.. something uniquely Mexican etc like tacos, nachos, fajitas or something American hot dogs, chicken sandwiches etc) he said that he was thinking about it and maybe NEXT YEAR would do it! (WHAT???) Also you have to go the restaurant to order anything. The waitresses and waiters do not come around the pool to ask if anyone wants anything and once you order and receive your food you will never see them again unless you go to them.. When I told Octavio that the majority of resorts have staff who go around the pool getting orders and this would be a great way to make money for the restaurant he kind of shrugged at me and said he would think about it for next year.
The "spa" for this place is a gazebo type TENT located next to the dilapidated pool. The man who comes every day to give massages (nobody ever went over there for a massage as it is in the open) charges a seriously HIGH price ($110 for a massage?? in a tent???) The pool has exposed rebar around the edges and the pictures that they show on their website of this pool are very misleading! The first part is only 6 inches deep, the second part 2 feet and the rest of the pool is about 4 feet in depth. So this very large pool is actually not very big at all!
The worst part of the pool was that the locals used the pool as their community pool. One family would check in and would stay for the free two nights stay for agreeing to sit thru the time share presentation. That family would invite all of their friends to come and everyday this would happen. One day we counted with NO exaggeration, 39 different people coming into and out of one bottom floor condo. Kids running around screaming, jumping off of the coolers they brought with them into the 4 ft section of the pool. One little boy one day decided the bathrooms located adjacent to the pool was to far to go and urinated on the wall next to the pool while his parents and their friends watched and laughed!
I am NOT in anyway being unpolitically correct in saying that I did not want the local Mexicans coming to the hotel. I guess it is more about that the children were not watched at all, their parents were busy drinking, playing dominoes and gossiping with each other. I complained to the hotel front desk about all of these "visitors" and how they threw trash everywhere and did not pick it up etc , how they were so loud at night (like 10-11pm at night) but yet NONE of these people ever ordered anything from the pool side bar or restaurant. They would bring coolers full of stuff to eat and drink. So it wasn't like the hotel was generating business by letting these folks in. As a matter of fact, they were making business suffer because those of us who were paying hotel customers refused to stay around the pool and went elsewhere in town to enjoy ourselves. Hmmmm just doesn't sound like good business practices to me!
We did decide to leave early from our vacation due in part because of the hotel's response to an "emergency". While in the ocean in front of the hotel, (the beach part is all rocks but in the water there are areas of sand and rock to swim in and snorkel) both of my sons were stung quite badly by jellyfish. Of course, we helped them with all remedies you are supposed to use. The hotel did contact a rescue in town who saw my oldest son as his stings were on his ears and all down his neck (VERY VERY painful). However, at the rescue we were informed that they had treated several people from our hotel the day before because of jellyfish stings. When I returned to the hotel, I spoke to the front desk and suggested to them that they should put up signs in English and Spanish to warn people that jellyfish may be in the ocean and to swim with caution. The man at the front desk told me that he didn't think so. I was kind of puzzled by this response so I asked him what he meant? He responded that they were not responsible for the ocean. So I gave him an example of when we are in Puerto Vallarta or Cancun the hotels put up flags (red, green, yellow) to warn people of the conditions in the water. And that I had actually seen the hotel guards/lifeguards ordering people out of the water when the red conditions also had an undertow which is very dangerous etc. And please believe me when I tell you that I was NEVER rude or nasty, just really puzzled by his response. Anyway, the clerk held firm that if people get stung it is their problem not the problem of the hotel. As a parent, I was surprised that the clerk would be so callous about his response especially where children are concerned. I can't tell you how much I do not coddle my kids and I'm not one of those "bad Americans" you hear about on vacation. I am not demanding. I am almost always pleasant and accommodating! And more importantly, my family and I know how to make our own fun. We don't depend on the hotel etc to have activities for us. We are happy swimming in the pool, making sand castles on the beach, snorkeling in the ocean etc. We love to collect shells and rocks. But at this point, we had had enough and so we decided then for the first time EVER to leave vacation EARLY! We drove back to Arizona and continued our few days left on vacation doing stuff near our home that was fun.
Go horseback riding with the Rancho at the Paradiso Hotel (although the hotel is not very nice and their beach is a huge distance from the hotel) The horseback riding was great and Astrid is wonderful. She speaks English, Spanish and German. Her "horse" knowledge is extensive and she is great with adults and kids of all ages and it doesn't matter what your experience level is with horses, she got the horse for you!!
The restaurants in town are wonderful and the staff is very helpful and kind.
First on the list is Bananas Restaurants, so if for whatever reason you decided to come to this area, go to Bananas for any and every meal!! Their prices are the best and their food is WONDERFUL!! They were very accommodating to my younger son who eats only certain things (hot dogs, chicken nuggets, pancakes... a gourmets dream he is NOT!). Their steaks are fab! But their special dish of BBQ shrimp is absolutely to die for!!!
Charley Rocks is good too but no real food for little kids --their lobster is great!! but Jax Snax is great to go to get food for little ones (to go) and then bring with you to places like Charley Rocks.
Blackies is great too.. their mixed grill for two is plentiful and reasonably priced!
The restaurant at the Marina Terra Hotel is great although the service is slow... not inattentive just a much slower pace than us Americans are used to but the food is definitely worth the wait!
If you go into Guaymas (the town next to San Carlos), it is NOT a tourist town and it is harder for Americans who do not speak Spanish to be successful in buying anything there. However the three steak and seafood restaurants that are on the road on the approach into town are very good and reasonably priced but they are outdoor restaurants so they can be a little warm. But if you go in the evening, it is cooler and the food is good!
Rosa's Cantina is ok but you order food from a window and go up to a second window to pick it up. Their English is ok but the dining room part is little dirty so we only went once for breakfast and never went back.
Obviously, we feel cheated that we exchanged our beautiful, highly rated resort for PVC. Don't get me wrong, the Sea of Cortez is beautiful and our view from our room was wonderful. One day we even saw two dolphins and two sea lions swimming close to shore but none of that surpassed the fact that the hotel and its accommodations were definitely substandard. No one at the hotel was overly rude but they are definitely not trained to deal with tourists (sometimes, staff wouldn't even be in a uniform or a shirt from the hotel which would make me believe that they were not an employee) Often they were confused by simple tasks like me asking for a better set of sheets than ones with holes in them or if they could clean up after the frig had leaked water all over the ground. We met other nice families there from USA who were having some of the same difficulties we were having so we KNOW that we were not alone! Some of the families left after only one or two days and drove back to Arizona.
I guess I feel that if the description of this hotel had been clear, I would have paid the money to fly to Puerto Vallarta. Although more expensive, at least I would have a vacation that I would look back on with happiness.
Its not like I am asking for my money back cause I know that won't happen. I am just writing to warn people so that they know what to expect before they book. Also, this hotel is the nicest hotel in the area which is kind of scary. The Plaza hotel that is next door is poorly kept although they do have a sandy beach but plenty of rocks in the water making swimming difficult but snorkeling is fine. The Marina Terra has no beach just a marina. The Paradiso Hotel has rooms that are so small that it makes my walk in closet look like a home for 12 people plus the beach is so far away from the hotel part.
From what other people have told me that San Carlos is one of THE places in the world to go scuba diving so if you are an avid scuba diver I guess despite the substandard hotels, this would be the place for you.
Los Altos, California