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Garza Blanca Preserve Resort—Puerto Vallarta

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 Resort

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.

Suite at Garza Blanca

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.

In 2013, the hotel built two additional towers on the jungle side of the hotel's property (just across the road). A trolley runs about every ten minutes from the front lobby to the two new towers, the pool area between them, and to Garza Blanca's new separate hotel within a hotel, Mousai.

Garza Blanca penthouse bathroom

The two new towers each have 22 junior suites that run up each side of the towers' center and 22 2-bedroom suites on the corners. Each junior suite and 2-bedroom suite can be combined to accommodate up to 8 people. All suites have an incredible ocean view. The front glass wall of each retracts completely, opening up the rooms to the outdoor terrace, making them feel grandiose. The natural surroundings of the hotel are brought inside with leaf motifs, wooden sculpture, wicker patio furniture, shells, flowers and strong, earthy color schemes. Each suite feels like a beach house elegantly decorated for style and comfort.

The penthouses of these towers have dramatic picture windows on all sides and, like the suites below, completely open up to combine to the outdoor terrace and inside living room. These penthouses sleep 6 with a master suite located on a second-level mezzanine with a glassed in porcelain stand-alone tub, soft yellow daybeds and spacious dressing and vanity areas.

In suite diningTo make use of the kitchens, get them 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. Wi-fi will run you US$10 per day, per device.

The other new edition to this side of the property is Bocados, a steakhouse with a spectacular view of the ocean, perfect for sunset dining. The menu has a range of both American and Argentinian-style cuts like Mignon, Vacio and Rib Eye along with smaller bites that include tom yum Soup, shrimp aguachile and clam chowder. BocaDos and Blanca Blue have a breakfast buffet and serves lunch and dinner a la carte for guests of both Mousai and Garza Blanca.

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. A second infinity pool and bar area has been installed between the hotel's two new towers. This pool feels the most private, with tall plants and trees surrounding it on both sides while not reducing its great view of the Pacific.

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.

Since the building of Hotel Mousai in December 2014, guests at Garza Blanca now received 40% off services at the Imagine Spa, with its hydrotheraphy room and long list of spa services, Hiroshi, the ultra-hip sushi bar located in Mousai's main lobby and Mousai's rooftop bar and pool. They also have free access to the Mousai gym and can head up to the rooftop after 6pm. Since Mousai is an adults-only hotel, all visiting Garza Blanca guests must be over 16.

This well-managed resort has both chic intimacy and family-style comfort, fused together in a way that doesn't feel forced or discordant. With the new addition of Hotel Mousai guests can now enjoy top-of-the-line spa services and a chic night out without ever having to leave the property.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 72
Published rates: $350 to $1,480
Review and photos by Timothy Scott, 2015 update by Lydia Carey.