Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa
ChooseWhere to spend the night in Puerto Vallartacan be daunting. Different tonear Sayulita, there are big all inclusive resorts and then there are huge all inclusive resorts. It's almost impossible to tell which is the right option for you and where the best accommodation or area in Puerto Vallarta is. I've put together a guide to help you decide the best place to stay for you, but I also wanted to share with you a more detailed review of the place I stayed, a review of the Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa .
The Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa, as the name suggests, is a reserve of mainly birds that you will see flying and enjoying the greenery around the resort. The resort is about 15 minutes from downtown Puerto Vallarta by car, so it's worth having your own transportationExplore the city and the surrounding area, unless you've come to Mexico simply to enjoy the beach and resort facilities. While this is pretty odd to me, this seemed to be the main reason thousands of Americans flock to Mexico's beaches, particularly on the Pacific coast of Puerto Vallarta. The city of 250,000 is well connected to the US with over 80 flights arriving from different directions on Saturday. The closest is undoubtedly California. Just a two-and-a-half hour flight from San Francisco, there's no easier way to escape the fog and constant winds than flying into beautiful Jalisco or Nayarit, the two Mexican provinces in the area.
Puerto Vallarta is a bit schizophrenic with a crowded, very touristy seaside part with nightclubs and loud music and a quaint if equally busy historic downtown. Garza Blanca is close enough for a quick drive into town and far enough to feel remote and paradise. Keep reading my unbiased Garza Blanca review for more in-depth information.
Arrival and check in
Puerto Vallarta coast
As a resort frequented primarily by Americans, the entire property has the same feel and approach as most hotels in the US. There is a valet who will park and return your car and you must tip each time. After parking the car at the entrance, you can go to the main lobby for check-in.
Garza Blanca is mostly all-inclusive and also has timeshare/vacation membership options, and a significant number of guests are all-inclusive plans or use their membership points to stay. As such, most spend their time in Puerto Vallarta resorting. Check-in and guest management are organized accordingly. As we were arriving on the so-called 'European plan', meaning we were on a bed and breakfast basis, we were assigned a sort of butler who would help us organize everything. When we wanted to book one of the restaurants for dinner or a spa appointment, she helped us. But if we wanted to book an excursion, we had to wait for the "Expedia Man" as he was described to us to come the next day from 3-5pm with all the tour options. As I booked my stay with hotels. com, an Expedia company, I was only able to book tours, we were unable to use the hotel's tour booking desk. Another oddity and example of how sophisticated and deeply segmented and targeted their marketing efforts are.
After we checked in, while still in the lobby, our butler sat us down on comfy sofas, gave us a glass of bubbly and walked us through the resort's facilities and the various options for our stay, including the occasional tour booking process, and we were also offered the opportunity to attend a sales presentation about their Vacation Club membership. Curious about an idea so alien to Europe or Asia, we accepted the offer. If we hadn't stayed at the resort we would have gotten a complimentary breakfast. For our time we were also offered two massages for the price of one and a discount on excursions. Even then I was shocked and fascinated by the Mexican sales strategies and professionalism. Compared to the rush and hassle of many Asian cities, this was a top-notch white-glove sale, a much more sophisticated and sophisticated way of selling us $70,000 worth of upscale tours or vacation memberships. This was a different world.
After the conversation and out of ambiguity about what we were going to do and reluctance to book anything, we were told what our room was like and had to go there on our own. Sales efforts for the sale to get us to our room would not have brought sales so it was up to us to find the way. It's fair to say that it's just pretty easy.
Garza Blanca and Hotel Mousai
Our room was in one of the three oceanfront buildings. All rooms have sea-view balconies that sit just above the ocean waves. The sound of the waves crashing on the shore was loud and clear from our beds. It was mesmerizing and beautiful, and while still clutching our glass of bubbly, we enjoyed the hammock hanging on the balcony. It was a treat.
The rooms were new, more generic high end hotel standard. Beautiful, spacious, well maintained with all the facilities we needed plus a charge for everything. Coffee making facilities were there but only free for one serving, then they were charged $5 each for a coffee dripper. Pretty strange thing in a luxury hotel. We didn't plan to spend time in the room but the sound and smell of the sea and the swaying of the hammock made for a great welcome.
Garza Blanca and Hotel Mousai
Aside from the three sea-view buildings, Garza Blanca also has two newer cliff-top buildings and the adults-only rooftop Mousai Hotel, which is part of the same resort but built exclusively for couples. The rooms on the mountain side of the resort were even bigger, newer and a bit tacky in my opinion, especially on the Mousai side. Imagine gold with red and black and cheap Asian furniture. Maybe it's because I live in Asia that I found the splashes of Indo-Thai decor a bit off against the backdrop of Mexico's Pacific Coast and the gold and black of the rest. Don't get me wrong, the rooms were fantastic, especially in the standard Garza Blanca buildings, but felt a bit like staying in a decent but uninspired furniture store. On the impressive side they were extremely large and most of them had wrap around balconies wrapping around the rooms with stunning views of the sea and coast as well as the sunset. The elevated position on the hill only adds to the stunning views.
Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa
There are three pools available for guests. The main pool is at beach level just above the sand and is the most popular of them. Located between the main lobby and the two oceanfront buildings, this pool offers a sense of infinity and enjoys great sunset reflections. There is a bar at one end and the beach is just a few steps away. As it's more popular with children, it can get a bit crowded at times. At one end is a hot tub, somewhat secluded and peaceful, which is outfitted with a man-made fireplace at night for couples seeking a romantic moment.
A second pool between the hilltop buildings added peace and quiet. While it was hotter as there was less wind, it had a nice view and was more attended by adults.
A third pool, accessible only to Garza Blanca guests after 6 PM, is the rooftop pool at Hotel Mousai. With stunning views over the bay, Puerto Vallarta and the sunset, this infinity pool was worth a mention and even a trip if you're staying elsewhere. The white theme, flowing umbrellas, and comfy loungers only added to the Ibiza feel of the place. A sunset margarita is a must. Of course there are no children to be seen here.
Hilltop pool at Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa
In addition to the pools and beach area, the hotel has a well-equipped gym and spa.
Gourmets will get their money's worth in the international, Japanese or Italian restaurants. Warning, there is no Mexican food at the resort, so I highly recommend exploring the area (hence you need a car) and heading to Puerto Vallarta for something delicious, delicious, and fabulouslocal mexican food. You are in Mexico, what is the point of eating the same food you would eat at home?
Breakfast could be taken in two places, either on the beach or up in the hills next to the two pools. It included an international selection and some Mexican favourites. Coffee has to be put aside unless you like the black diluted option and I found the breakfast pastries and breads to be rather bland and bland. The breakfast selection did not live up to the cache of the place.
I wouldn't say the service was bad but I found the very sales oriented staff and approach rather boring. At one point we made it clear that we are on a "European plan", that we will not book any excursions or tours because we want to explore the area by car (and I speak Spanish) and that we will eat out because we are also because When we came to Mexico after eating, it was almost as if we were invisible.
I constantly felt that information was being withdrawn and that we were not being helped in any way unless we made some money (by booking activities or restaurants). Upon checking in we found that I had made the booking for one person and not two and they announced that we would be charged $60 per night for the extra person. Which hotel will book a room and charge more if there are two people? I would understand that there might be an extra charge for the second breakfast, but online prices were the same whether the room was occupied by one or two people, so this was an attempt to charge us more.
Garza Blanca Mousai-Poolsonnenuntergang
When we requested two beds, they changed our booking from a hilltop building to the beachfront buildings. Although I repeatedly asked if the new two bed option they were proposing was better or the same as the original booking, they insisted they were the same and both were good. But after attending the pitch for their vacation club and seeing all the different rooms, I realized that wasn't the case and the rooms up the hill were actually much larger, newer and of a higher category. I felt like they downgraded us on purpose without any justification or even admitting it. We would still have chosen the lower category with two beds, but it was only fair of them to say so openly.
A few other surprising things (at least for non-US guests). There is room service but only from 7am to 11pm. So if you want to drink or eat late night you have to wait until morning or go to the bar. You can't self-park, so the valet's tips are unavoidable. Plan to tip housekeeping and breakfast staff, even if you're on a B&B or all-inclusive package.
Garza Blanca Mousai-Poolsonnenuntergang
I found the hotel pleasant. The view was great, the facilities and pool were very pleasant and the location was good as we had a car to get around. But I also found the resort overbearing and focused solely on convincing people to join their vacation club. We were an oddity and we were made to feel that way. The food was ok, but I've never understood why people would travel to a country with such great cuisine as Mexico and eat bad international food. Garza Blanca is a good option if you wish, so spend a few hours a day enjoying the tranquility of your resort and then explore the area. I still think that out of all the big all inclusive resorts this is actually one of the best in the area. My reservations were probably about the overall approach to tourism in Puerto Vallarta rather than Garza Blanca, which I'm sure has followed market trends. If you book, don't miss a drink at the Mousai Rooftop Pool.
Check out more photos, as well as the latest prices and availabilityHere.
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