Brisas Group, which has a collection of Mexico hotels geared to business and leisure travelers in both urban and beach destinations, completed renovations and expansion at two of its properties, the Galeria Plaza Reforma in Mexico City and the Hacienda Jurica in the colonial city of Queretaro.
A renovation at the Galeria Plaza Reforma in 2016 added a rooftop swimming pool and lounge on the 12th floor that offers views of Mexico City's skyline and bustling financial district. The hotel is steps from the city's grand major boulevard, Reforma, and the tree-lined Zona Rosa neighborhood.
Also included in the renovation were upgrades to the hotel's 433 rooms and suites, public areas, fitness center and meetings rooms and the opening of the Mood cocktail lounge.
In Mexico City's booming culinary scene, the hotel is known for Almara, a restaurant by French chef Guy Santoro, who has created "Mexi-terranean" cuisine, a blend of Mexican and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
During my recent hosted stay at the hotel, Santoro's creativity and expertise in the kitchen were apparent, with delicious cream of corn soup, followed by fresh red snapper and decadent chocolate fondant.
All of the hotel rooms feature desks with Herman Miller chairs, flat-screen TVs and minibars. Guests staying in Executive rooms have access to daily continental breakfast and evening cocktail hour in the Brisas Business Club.
A suite at the Galeria Plaza Reforma, the recently renovated Brisas Group hotel in Mexico City.
The Galeria Plaza Reforma is part of the Brisas Group's diverse collection of hotels. Its Galeria Plaza brand, in addition to the Reforma hotel, includes a property in the port city of Veracruz.
More properties in the brand are under development. One is the Galeria Plaza Irapuato in the colonial city of Guanajuato, scheduled for a summer opening. Brisas also is planning two more properties in Mexico City (San Jeronimo and Insurgentes).
The 182-room Hacienda Jurica in a quiet suburb of the colonial-era city of Queretaro. In 2016, a wing was added with 58 Brisas Business Club Rooms that are extra spacious, at 420 square feet each. Also new is a stand-alone convention center that consists of a large ballroom that can be divided into three smaller rooms.
The hotel is full of colonial-era charm. Built in the 16th century as a hacienda, its handsome stone walls, arches, chapel, gardens and courtyards set a tranquil and elegant atmosphere. The hotel restaurant Los Hules serves traditional dishes from Queretaro and overlooks a large outdoor swimming pool and centuries-old rubber tree (palo de hule), from which the restaurant takes its name.
The city of Queretaro is about 130 miles northwest of Mexico City and 25 miles from the colonial city and American expat mecca of San Miguel de Allende. Queretaro is one of Mexico's main industrial centers with booming aerospace and manufacturing industries. As a major business-travel destination, its international airport has expanded and now has nonstop service from Houston, Atlanta and other U.S. gateways.
Queretaro also draws leisure travelers. The city was founded in 1531 and is considered one of Mexico's most beautiful and history-rich cities. The charming downtown is full of baroque churches, plazas and elegant buildings of ornate architecture, all part of a Unesco World Heritage Site.
The patio at the Hacienda Jurica in the colonial city of Queretaro. Brisas has added a wing with 58 rooms and a stand-alone convention center.
Pedestrian-only streets and leafy plazas are lined with restaurants, shops, cafes and grand buildings, such as the former monastery of San Francisco that dates to 1540; the early 19th-century Queretaro Cathedral; the Republic Theater, where the Mexican Constitution was announced; and the 18th-century Government Palace overlooking the city's large main plaza. Another major Queretaro historical sight is a 74-arch aqueduct built in 1738 that still provides water for the city from nearby mountains.
In the countryside outside of Queretaro are several of Mexico's Pueblos Magicos — government-designated Magical Towns — that are full of charm. One is San Sebastian Bernal in the shadow of the 1,100-foot-high rock monolith of Bernal, the third-tallest monolith in the world, that towers over the cobblestone streets and tree-filled plazas.
The state of Queretaro also has grown to become Mexico's second-biggest wine-growing area after Baja California. The biggest producer of the 100 wineries in the region is Spanish Freixenet, which has a tasting room near Bernal. Many smaller producers are open for visits, as well.
One is Azteca Vineyards, where the tasting room is a beautiful old hacienda set amid landscaped gardens and vineyards. The winery is only 7 years old but has already garnered accolades in international competition. Azteca's success has led its owners to start construction of a 48-room hotel adjacent to the vineyards, scheduled to open later this year.
In addition to its Galeria Plazas and the Hacienda Jurica, Brisas also operates several well-known Mexican resorts: Las Hadas in Manzanillo, Las Brisas in Acapulco, Las Brisas in Ixtapa and Las Brisas in Huatulco.
In 2013, Brisas launched its Nizuc brand with the opening of the Nizuc Resort and Spa on two secluded white-sand beaches near Cancun's airport. The 274-room, Mayan-themed resort sits on 29 acres and features suites and villas with private pools and a 30,000-square-foot spa.