Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa

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Say hello to a new Puerto Vallarta hideaway with a great sense of place that taps into the upscale market with quiet elegance. Less than a year after its grand opening, Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa has taken advantage of its location—10 minutes away from downtown Vallarta, but seemingly a world away from its crowds—to bring back the laid-back glamour of another time in this Mexican city.

According to general manager, Miguel Andres Hernandez, the original Garza Blanca hotel was born approximately 35 years ago, when Vallarta was enjoying its Hollywood heyday. It became famous for romantic dinners on the beach and its geographical seclusion was also coveted by the jet-set. After that period ended, the property remained empty until a few years ago, when the name, what was left of the property and approximately 85 acres behind it were snatched up. Today, Garza Blanca encompasses a hotel, residences available for sale, villas, a restaurant, a spa and beach club. This new property is not only putting a new spin on the Vallarta of yesterday, but it’s also taking advantage of what is still its most romantic asset—its lovely beach and view of Banderas Bay—with torch-lit dinners and assorted events.

“We wanted to take the most representative elements of the Garza Blanca of old and improve upon them,” says Hernandez. First and foremost to this renaissance is its location. Unlike the other coffee-colored, coarse-sand beaches of the area, the sand of Garza Blanca beach is delicate and white, explains Hernandez, which makes this strip of coastline a micro-climate within Banderas Bay with great biodiversity, including its namesake white heron. Lolling about on the beach and by the pool, we spotted a couple of these, as well as other species of birds.

The hotel itself gears around a high-end, “with it” concept that is classic and light, heavy on lifestyle and easy on the eyes, with architecture that celebrates the feel of the area and integrates both the man-made and the natural. The design is very much inspired by—and focused on—Puerto Vallarta. Hernandez describes it as “a synergy between the architectonic, good taste, a bit of minimalism, very deco…and an integration with the ‘preserve’ part of the property.”

The elegant lobby, which provides a casual private check-in as well as concierge services for activities galore, features a massive atrium that opens into a view of the infinity pool, the ocean beyond and the famed Vallarta arches farther away—it’s Banderas Bay served on a silver platter. Although this grand passage to the beach was there before—when the original property was erected—it has since been slightly shifted so the arches are now its focal point. Around the pool, one can spend an entire day with utter ease, with beach concierges ready with sunscreen, a tasty menu of ceviches and other yummies and waiters waiting to bring these to you.

“This is a mini-destination with no competition or comparison around Banderas Bay,” says Hernandez. “And we’re focused on selling an experience of a day, a week or a lifetime.”

in-room luxuries Garza Blanca offers six categories of spacious guestrooms and suites, including gigantic penthouses. Accommodations feature huge terraces accessible from various parts of the rooms, and large windows that showcase the resort’s inspiring setting. Guests enjoy subtly chic details throughout, including marble showers and whirlpool tubs, Bvlgari and Molton Brown amenities, travertine floors, state-of-the-art entertainment systems and upscale furnishings, many with a great splash of color resembling those found right outside. Some rooms have kitchen areas, others mini-bars and coffee makers; suites and penthouses come with both dining and living areas, full kitchens with breakfast bars, utensils and full-scale appliances—even a separate washer and dryer in their own laundry room. Suite terraces have whirlpool tubs for al fresco relaxation overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

One of Garza Blanca’s best attributes, in fact, is this generosity of room options, especially when it comes to groups of friends and families. Three couples can book a 3-bedroom penthouse, for instance, and enjoy privacy and complete comfort, not to mention a vastly affordable stay. It’s also a very romantic product, ideal for lovers seeking a bit of quiet without having to sacrifice their wants. Guests can request en-suite services such as a massage or a private chef for an intimate dinner. In other words, says Hernandez, “We understand that everyone’s got a different purpose to their vacation.” With the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains sloping behind and around the property and its pretty, safe beach framing its other side, this is no doubt one of Puerto Vallarta’s finest properties today, very different from other resorts in the area—and very Mexican. “There is nothing ‘institutional’ or standard about the hotel,” adds the general manager.