A Week in Nuevo Vallarta at The Grand Mayan – Part 1: Off-Roading and Accommodations

It’s been several years since we were able to take a kid-free vacation, and while it’s not my first choice (I love being around my kids, no seriously, I do) I have to say, adult-only vacations do have their benefits and every once in a while.

We had the opportunity to stay at The Grand Mayan in Nuevo Vallarta, which I really hadn’t heard of or thought much of until we arrived.

Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta may sound alike and are in the same bay; Banderas Bay but they’re actually in two separate states

Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco which became famous after the Richard Burton movie The Night of the Iguana.  You can actually tour the home he shared with Elizabeth Taylor in PV, Casa Kimberely.

One thing we loved about the beaches in Puerto Vallarta was that people were selling jewelry and clothes right on the beach and offering up some of the most amazing food, including what became my favorite Pescado Zurandeado – which they’d grill up right there on the beach!

Nuevo Vallarta is in the state of Nayarit, adjacent to PV. It’s more relaxed than Puerto Vallarta and home to many beautiful resorts and hotels including The Grand Mayan.

Nestled in Banderas Bay, Nuevo Vallarta on the Pacific coast of Mexico, is a lush tropical oasis amid the Sierra Mountains.  

Nuevo Vallarta’s coastline stretches for almost 200 miles and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and the Western Sierra Madre Mountains. This area is known as Riviera Nayarit. 

We stayed in the Grand Suite, which accommodates 4 adults and 2 children and includes a separate bedroom and living room, dining area and kitchen and spacious balcony.  The suite itself is 1295 square feet with a light and airy decor.  


We did not have children with us on this trip, so we chose not to cook, but the kitchenette was well stocked and had everything needed to make meals.  There is a decent size convenience store stocked many family-friendly meal options.

Upon entering the suite, you’re greeted with a spacious dining and living area (both sofas convert to sleepers) to the right is the kitchen with dorm sized refrigerator, four burner stoved, microwave and counter-top appliances like a blender and electric can opener.  The common area with dining space and two convertible sofa-beds.  

The balcony overlooks Banderas Bay in the distance and closer to the resort guests mill about in the pools, lazy river, waterslides, swim up bar and various amenities. 



The Grand Master Suite at 1898 square feet and an additional bathroom would probably work best for larger families.

If you’re traveling with small children rather than additional adults or teens, the Grand Master Room at 608 square feet or this Grand Suite would more than suffice.

Off-Roading at Rancho Las Vegas, Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains

What proved to be one of our most memorable activities was visiting Rancho Las Vegas in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Puerto Vallarta.  Offered as an excursion from The Grand Mayan, we were driven to the Green Zebra office in Puerto Vallarta for a TOMCAR ride through the mountains up to a working ranch called Rancho Las Vegas. 

This tour took us into the Seirra Madre mountain range for some off-roading.  Just a short ride from downtown, after quick instructions from our guide Oscar (who drove the path ahead of us) my husband drove our Tomcar, we jumped in and were on our way.

We passed through creeks and rivers and the subtropical rainforest and stopped off a few times for some panoramic views of Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay. Our tour stopped for lunch at Rancho  Las Vegas, an authentic Mexican ranch where we had a delicous lunch and hung out by the river and just enjoyed the serene setting.  The area is bordered by agave and tequila tastings are also offered.  

There is seating all along the outside of the restaurant and plenty of nature and wildlife to take in while relaxing by the Ameca River. As we toured the cozy kitchen with our guide, I greeted the family matriarch.

“Con Permiso?” I asked, as I held up my camera for her approval. 

While my Spanish was shaky, she understoond that I was trying not to be intrusive and asking for permission to take a photo of her home. She smiled and nodded.  

While taking that one-handed cooking while holding a child, stance that moms know well, a delicious, homey and filling meal of tortillas, meat and beans were presented to us along with one cerveza per person. One beer, just one, because driving back down the side a mountain in a Tomcar is no joke you guys!!


After dinner we were left to explore the grounds, and amble along the river until it was time to head back into town.  

Driving back down the mountain was a bit nerve-wracking as we were met along the way with actual trucks and other traffic.  People do live in these mountains, so delivery vehicles are common.

We visited Nuevo Vallarta during the rainy season, in fact, during our stay in 2010, the Rio Ameca Bridge collapsed and travel in to Puerto Vallarta from Nuevo Vallarta was at a standstill for quite some time!

Rio Ameca Bridge Collapse view from Nuevo Vallarta side

Green Zebra offers exciting ATV tours featuring the Tomcar; a military grade off-road vehicle and while they no longer operate in Mexico, they can now be found in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Green Zebra Tomcar ATV Tours

The Tomcar was originally engineered for the Israeli desert and feature the hightest standards of safety, performace and reliability.  They’re built with a low center of gravity so you’re left with a vehicle that performs safely.  

If you’re interested in visiting Rancho Las Vegas, Wild Treks Adventures now offers a similar excursion!






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