The Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta has a special place in my heart. Its boutique hotel within a hotel, Hotel Mousai, holds many, many memories from my travels to the resort city over the years.
So when I heard the brand was opening a resort in Cancun's Playa Mujeres, I was eager to see what it had in store. To my delight, the Garza Blanca Cancun has managed to raise the bar on my previous experiences, transitioning quite comfortably to the vibe of the Mexican Caribbean.
The first impression I had when I walked into the resort was that it had serious Mousai vibes. The Garza Blanca Cancun is decidedly modern and chic -- glossy white with soaring ceilings, brilliant pops of chartreuse, marbled mirrors and expansive terraces with hammocks that overlook the turquoise Caribbean Sea. The immediate vibe is that it is still the beloved brand but elevated to a whole new level.
We checked into a One Bedroom Garden View unit, which had all the trimmings of a luxury apartment condo: two full bathrooms, a living area, fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer and a terrace large enough for a small cocktail party. The room overlooked the large pool area and the sea beyond that -- because here, even though a room is billed as gardenview, chances are there will be an impressive view of the sea.
The resort has 452 rooms, the largest of which is the four-bedroom Penthouse Loft. This expansive guestroom is split over two floors and has its own private rooftop terrace on the third level with space for dining, a hammock and a Jacuzzi. Even the smallest room category, the Junior Suite Garden View, is still a spacious 588 square feet and has a terrace with a hammock.
The resort was in soft-opening mode when I visited this past November, and work on the lobby was ongoing. But I was able to see the bones of what was to come, and it was, in a word, regal. Lofty ceilings and the white-marble facade are warmed by the glow of hundreds of chandeliers. Behind the lobby are doors that lead to the expansive pool deck, and on either end are the resort's two highest-end restaurants.
Food Truck fare with beach views at the resort. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Garza Blanca Cancun
A focus on food
Speaking of restaurants, the dining at the Garza Blanca Cancun is one of the top selling points, especially in a town like Cancun that is saturated with luxury, all-inclusive resorts. The ones that put the emphasis on their culinary programs should be sent to the top of the list, and that's the case here.
At the time I visited, the only restaurants open were Blanca Blue, the resort's Mexican restaurant, and its Food Truck/Beach Bar. And if this was any sort of a preview of what was to come, then it was a very, very good sign. (Tip: the shrimp tacos al pastor from the poolside bar menu are a must.)
The chef at Blanca Blue took us on a journey through Mexican cuisine, from succulent octopus over risotto to tender pork belly tacos and on to fresh tuna tartare. A mixologist is on hand to pair meals with the perfect cocktail, too.
Since my visit, the resort has opened its two fine dining establishments: Hiroshi serves Asian cuisine and Bocados STK is a modern steakhouse that specializes in dry-aged steaks. Still to come: an additional restaurant, Dao, and the Rooftop Pool & Bar, which will serve tapas-style cuisine from around the world.
The Garza Blanca Cancun, with its expansive pool area and views of the Caribbean Sea. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Garza Blanca Cancun
Perhaps the most breathtaking aspects of the resort are its rooftop and its spa. The sweeping, open-air rooftop playground has an adults-only pool that overlooks the entire rest of the resort and out to the Caribbean Sea.
The wellness floor -- yes, floor -- is essentially a palatial hall of tranquility. The flow of the space is mesmerizing, from the curves and geometric mirrors to the treatment rooms, hydrotherapy pools, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space in natural light.
If you're familiar with Puerto Vallarta's Hotel Mousai, this spa has Mousai written all over it. The gym, too, seems to have been cut from the Mousai cloth. Think deep-red walls overlaid with black patterns and huge windows that overlook the beach.
Unlike Mousai, the Garza Blanca Cancun is family-friendly, but it has managed to separate the spaces well enough that those traveling as couples or groups of friends will not feel like it is a "family" resort. A family pool is tucked in the back, away from the main pool, and adults are the only ones with access to the rooftop sanctuary.
The resort's beach area is small but beautifully kept, with powdery white sand and plenty of lounge chairs. The beach is shared with the neighboring Villa del Palmar resort, but guests at the Garza Blanca Cancun also have access to Villa del Palmar's restaurants.
Guests can take out kayaks or standup paddleboards, and families will love the inflatable waterpark that is floating just offshore. The resort has its own private dock, too, for guests who wish to arrange for daytrips to nearby Isla Mujeres.
For a brand that has been so iconic to Puerto Vallarta, Garza Blanca seems like it's making itself right at home on Mexico's Caribbean coast. I have a feeling it won't be long before it becomes one of the region's most requested places to stay.