I had never been to Puerto Vallarta, so I was very excited about the prospect of visiting over the New Year’s holiday. Coming from New York, it is, obviously, a longer trip than heading to the east coast of Mexico. However, it is worth the extra few hours of flight time. Puerto Vallarta is a charming seaside town and the old city is eminently walkable. There is a popular promenade along the water, and a not so surprising assortment of tourist shops, restaurants, and bars line the blocks. Most of one’s time, however, is likely spent at a resort and not at beaches around town.
I stayed at the Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa, located about 15 minutes south of the old town. This was the perfect choice. While the Four Seasons is about an hour north of town, I feel that the Garza Blanca is a great pick in that it is upscale, a very good value, and located not far from town for those evenings when one may want to go out to eat off property. Unlike the congested hotel zone north of Puerto Vallarta, the area south of the city, where the Garza Blanca is located, is less developed and far more secluded.
The Garza Blanca is, quite simply, stunning. Upon entry to the check-in area, I was impressed with the airy feel of the resort. To the left is a picturesque view of the beach and pool awaiting guests. The resort’s facilities include infinity pools, a lovely spa, three restaurants, and comfortable rooms located both beachside and up the mountain. The mountainside rooms offer fantastic views of the bay, and it is a short seven-minute walk down to the main property (or a shorter golf cart ride). I liked seclusion of being up the mountain. The mountain towers’ restaurant, Bocados STK, offers the best steak I have tasted in years and the view is fantastic.
The preserve mentioned in the resort’s name is a reference to the hundreds of acres of jungle on which the property is situated. While they are developing some of this for more rooms, the area is very much a lively ecosystem home to various species (and perfect for hiking).
And the Garza Blanca’s all-inclusive and breakfast-only options make for an overall smart luxury value. Guests included families with young children, families with young adults, couples, and singles. And people came from parts of Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
The beach at the Garza is perhaps the best one around. I tended to go to the beach in the late morning/early afternoon, and then moved up to the pool just above it by the mid-afternoon. That is when I usually began having a margarita or two, along with my salad.
The staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming. While the service was at times spotty, I think this had more to do with the busy holiday period and the fact that the resort was filled to capacity. My chief complaint would be the rather hard sell on the time share program. Upon arrival, the front desk invites all guests to set up a tour of the rooms as part of a pitch to buy into a vacation club and, in exchange, the hotel offers discounts discounts on tours/activities and food/drink on property. It’s worth taking the tour in order to receive the discounts (example: two spa treatments for the price of one), but I just think the hotel should make this seem more optional. It all comes as a surprise at check-in.
Overall, the Garza Blanca is a smart luxury resort in Mexico. I would certainly go back and encourage others to go as well.