Km. 7.5 Carretera a Barra de Navidad, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
Making the most of its dramatic location near the Los Arcos formation between Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya, this expanding, well-run all-suite hotel boasts some of the best rooms in the region and one of the best local restaurants.
Garza Blanca Preserve was built on the site of a hotel and beach bearing the same name, a place frequented by stars who came to this once-deserted area to escape. Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Fonda would not recognize the level of luxury that is presented in its place, with sleek marble interiors and too many amenities to count. Fortunately, Hollywood stars---and those not so famous---will enjoy the attentive and professional service that backs up the physical aspects.
Architect Javier Moreno Reyes created drama around every turn in the public spaces and the initial impression after arriving in the lobby wows even the most jaded travelers. Sure, the lighting and the furniture are impressive, but to the front through the restaurant is a view of the Pacific Ocean through a wall of glass. To the left is an open view of Los Arcos rocks and the coastline, with the walls of the building providing the frame to this perfect postcard shot.
After a welcome drink and sit-down sign-in, a bellhop leads you upstairs to one of the penthouses or past the pool to one of the other buildings with different suites. The 4000-square-foot penthouses are simply amazing, with three bedrooms, panoramic views, and wrap-around terraces. Each has a full kitchen with extra touches like a wine fridge and granite island, a laundry room, a full eight-person dining room, and lots of lounging space. Each has a six-person whirlpool on the terrace and another in the master bath. Each bedroom has its own bath though, with double marble vanities and Bvlgari toiletries.
The units in the other buildings all have a furnished balcony and an oceanfront view, but different configurations go from standard rooms with a wet bar to studio junior suites (most with whirlpools on the terrace) up to two-bedroom suites. All rooms are outfitted with large flat-screen TVs, complimentary Internet access, and sumptuous bathrooms with ample closets and extensive toiletries. The suites all have a full kitchen, a pantry, and large open living/dining room.
Eventually another set of rooms and condos will go up on some of the 85 acres in the jungle across the road and the spa will move from its current location to a grander space there. For now the spa has four treatment rooms overlooking the ocean, plus a sauna, steam room, relaxation room, and gym with new equipment.
The Blanca Blue restaurant is magical at sunset, with its outdoor terrace ringed by torches and stepped views from most inside tables as well. It is anchored by a semi-circular bar manned by a talented bartender and a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled wine cellar allows a peek into one of the best selections in the area. In many local restaurants the cuisine doesn't live up to the view, but in Blanca Blue's case it's a different story. Every dish is presented with a flair, whether it's a catch of the day accompanied by basil cous-cous and a pepper prawn sauce or a duck and foie gras dish accompanied by a chard polenta cake and a port-cherry sauce. Each course is a visual delight on par with what you would get from a big city restaurant that's been showered with acolades.
Outside, the free-form tiled pool is split into two sections. One is an infinity pool overlooking the bay, the other section is flanked by big boulders and fountains. In the middle is a sunken circular restaurant and bar with a view and from here waiters zip around serving guests lying in cushioned chaises. A pool concierge dispenses towels, complimentary sunscreen, books, and games. Here guests can reserve a complimentary kayak or snorkel gear.
The beach here is not all that large, but the sand is white and the water is a brilliant blue. That's in sharp contrast to the murkier water found in Puerto Vallarta proper and Nuevo Vallarta, especially in rainy season. Naturally the staff is happy to set up excursions to the city center or to local attractions, including a zipline facility and the botanical gardens nearby.
To make use of a kitchen, get it stocked before arrival through the concierge or stop on the way for groceries after leaving the airport in a rental car: it's a ride of several miles from this location just to get to a convenience store. Otherwise, there are very few downsides to this well-managed new resort and it hums like one that has been open for a decade.
Web Address: www.garzablancaresort.com
Total Number of Rooms: 79
Published rates: $250 to $1,480
Review and photos by Timothy Scott
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