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“Garza Blanca is great, but possibly it's own worst enemy?”

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Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa
Ranked #14 of 123 Hotels in Puerto Vallarta
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed June 7, 2011

If you are reading reviews of this hotel you essentially know the deal - it is an above average hotel with large suites and is still "new" to operations. I agree with this overview and the impression that me and my wife decided on was that Garza Blanca might be it's own worst enemy. Why? It is soo nice (upscale accommodations) that you expect more from every aspect of the hotel and you don't always receive it in the service side. When we researched this resort, it was endless and exhausting and I think it was a good decision overall. If you are expecting an 'average resort hotel' you will be very impressed with Garza Blanca upon arrival - it is beautiful and very well appointed comparably.

We arrived on Friday, May 27th and the weekend was definitely busier due to the US long weekend and a wedding that was happening on the Saturday. Service very much suffered when it was busy - I would say this review was going to be much different if service didn't improve (which it did after the weekend) - it doesn't seem like they are prepared to be a busy hotel quite yet.

Check in was fine - yes, they want to have you sign up for a presentation, but just agree and don't go. Anyone who complains about having their time wasted at a presentation at a resort in Mexico "because they were mislead" should be ignored by seasoned travelers. The presentations are always the same at resorts, so stop saying you were cheated of your time, just don't go and stop trying to get a discount. However, they did take us to the wrong room type without saying anything...they took us to a 1 bedroom suite instead of a Junior Suite. I read a review here on TA where they did this previously, so I knew right away and asked to be changed back. The 1 bedroom is very nice and I dare say nicer than the Junior Suite - we just wanted the jacuzzi, etc. They will try to pass it off as an upgrade and you should stay in the 1 bedroom, but I think they have less Junior Suites than 1 Bedrooms, so they try to manage inventory this way. They moved us immediately, we didn't even have to go back to the front desk, so nothing major.

We stayed for 8 nights in a Junior Suite on the all inclusive plan - inclusive makes sense if you are staying at the hotel for meals and lounging as prices for meals/drinks would add up (if you added our daily bills, we ended up 'paying' about $25 for the room itself!). The rooms are large, well decorated and have excellent bathrooms and terraces - overall the best we have experienced in Mexico. The rooms have some quirks but overall the room is beautiful and for the price you can't complain (no matter how hard some people try). The highlights are the hammock, 4-person jacuzzi tub, double sinks, views to the ocean and across to PV. Note that our bed was pretty firm and you will have issue if you *need* a soft mattress but fortunately I like them! And yes, they have the 'do not disturb' door hangers now (if you are reading lots of the previous reviews). Housekeeping was good - usually early afternoon and turn down service comes mid evening - no issues, the ladies were great.

Beach service was terrible for the most part (I had to walk up to the bar to order all our 10 beverages on the first Saturday and not once did someone come to us to take an order). The beach itself is okay overall, a bit small and kind of on two levels - upper where the loungers are and lower where the beach and tide come in. The sand is nicer than most I have seen and the water is good for PV but it really isn't a 'wow' overall (lots of seaweed in the water). Still fun for a land locked Canadian to spend some time each day in the surf!

Internet works sporadically - there is something with their server and assigning wrong IP addresses, so you can connect easily to their networks but you will not be getting any actual access to the internet. Frustrating in this day and age. Miguel at the Towel concierge helped us and he can make sure you get connected in minutes - so look for him.

Noise/Sound issues: Yes, this hotel is very close to the highway and you can hear noise. No doubt about it, unless you are on the beach, you will hear either cars or some construction at various points of your stay. Construction was not a major deal and was hardly noticeable compared to the street noise. Any rooms on the ends (like junior suites) will get this noise while some of the middle rooms would have less issues (1 bedrooms?) I would think.

After the weekend it really slowed down for occupancy and from previous reviews this seems to be the normal atmosphere here - lots of space for loungers, better pool service and quieter overall. Service was still "Mexico speed" so a server comes by maybe 3 times in 2 hours or so. Towels are not the best but you get endless supply (no cards, no giving room numbers, etc) and they provide complimentary magazines, books, sunscreen for use by guests at the pools which are quite lovely.

There are lots of staff and you might think this is a plus, but there is almost too much staff so you are served by about 4 servers/bussers/concierges on average. You end up not really knowing who "your" server is - this can make tipping awkward. We ended up tipping half on our bill and half in pesos in the bill fold as we didn't know who was getting what. We saw a bartender take our 150 pesos tip and put it in his pocket one day, so if you are leaving cash for your server - give your bill directly to your server only, don't drop it at the bar or give to another server.

Room Service was fairly quick for the most part (usually about 30 minutes) but it can be hit or miss - nothing major, but consistency is not there. Sometimes you get cream with coffee, sometimes you don't sort of things. Average prices, okay selection. French toast was really great for breakfast in the restaurant and with room service.

Aquazul (Snack shack at pool) - service was below average and we only went twice as we would rather just order poolside and we didn't go for dinner due to the poor service at lunches (probably due to the busy weekend when we were trying Aquazul). Drink service was good, but service was slow overall. They almost ignore you until you tell them that you are sitting at a table because you actually want something...

Blanca Blue - the main restaurant is beautiful and food was definitely above average - we really liked the food. Selection was smaller if you are staying more than 3-4 days, but that is okay as some items were must-have-twice items (asparagus/prosciutto ravioli was amazing). Service is a bit better here and this was one of the highlights - go to this restaurant for sure. Great wine list, they can make almost any drink, great coffee and a cigar menu! It can be hard to get the bill at the end so make sure you ask for the bill and don't say something like "thanks, we are fine" as they will literally leave you alone and not come back.

Overall they could use some tightening up on service standards to equal the beautiful hotel itself, but for the current lower pricing they are offering I would recommend this hotel to most vacationers.

  • Stayed: June 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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9  Thank Sandy_Calgary
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,719 - 1,725 of 1,945 reviews

Reviewed June 5, 2011

The greeting set the tone for this place, they have you sit down and basically attempt to get you to agree to attend a “free” (you pay a symbolic $20 that is apparently refunded at the end) breakfast where there is a 3-hour time share demonstration. If you go to the demonstration, they give you a small percentage off the over-priced spa and Blanca Blue food as well as free breakfast.

We stayed in the jacuzzi suite in building number 3, fifth floor, room number 3503B. The room itself was gorgeous and huge, bigger than the apartment we call home in Seattle. The bathroom is enormous with a separate shower, toilet room, Jacuzzi tub, and double sink (but soap for only one sink). The king size bed is hard, the chair for the desk is not the correct height for ergonomics, and the sofa is uncomfortable and small. On the wrap around deck, there is a four-person jacuzzi, two-person hammock, table with two chairs, and two lounge chairs. There was a minifridge that was not stocked, but that was fine because we bought beverages at the OXXO in town and brought them back to the room. Being at the end of building number 3, had a fantastic view of Los Arcos. Our deck is set back from the adjacent deck, so it might have been awkward if someone had been staying next door as we could see directly into their deck. The wrap around deck is exposed to the nearby freeway, so instead of hearing the crashing waves, we heard cars backfiring and brakes screeching all day and night. There are speed bumps installed on the freeway in front of the resort, so cars slow down as they approach and speed up as they drive away. Even with the sliding glass doors closed, the noise from the freeway was still heard in the room. You can’t really leave the sliding glass door open and listen to the waves while you sleep because of the adjacent car noises and there is a sensor that turns the AC off when the sliding glass door is open. We did not sleep well our first night because of all the freeway car noise.

There was no wifi available in our room. So we had them send up an ethernet cord, but that didn’t’ work. After several phone calls over about an hour, an IT guy who spoke little-but-enough English arrived. The operator said she’d call when someone was coming, but never called. IT guy deleted one of our drivers and did something to our IP address. He got the internets to work, but our wifi on our laptop is screwed up now and we think we need to reinstall the driver.

Other reviews described the construction noise as minimal, but we found it so bad that we couldn’t relax poolside, and went down by the ocean where the waves were better at masking the jarring noises. Even then jack-hammering, pounding, earthmovers, and the beeping of vehicles backing up could still be heard over the ocean waves, making serenity and relaxation more of a dream than a reality. The amount and types of noises probably depends on the project of the week with regard to the building they are constructing on the hill. It was quite bad the four days we were there. One hotel guest brought his ipod dock (without headphones) down to the beach and started playing music loudly, perhaps to block out the construction noises.

When we returned to our room on our second day, they were doing construction on the room below ours, so we had to endure more hammering noises. We spent 90 minutes repeatedly calling the front desk complaining about the noise and asking for it to stop. They said someone would call us back with an update, but no one ever called. They never apologized about the noise and didn’t seem to care.

Our third day, the maid never came and our keys stopped working. There are no courtesy phones in the hallways, so we had a long walk back to the lobby, as we were on the far side of the resort, to have them fix our keys. Again, no apology for the inconvenience of keys or lack of maid service. It's like you have to tell them how to do their job.

The e-mail we received before our stay said check-out was at noon and check-in at 3 p.m. But hotel staff said check-out was at 11 a.m. and check-in at 4 p.m. They refused to give us a late check-out. We had an evening departure flight, so they said we could do the beach/pool and then use the hospitality room to shower. The hospitality room is more like the Lack-of-Hospitality-Room. It is a public area with showers and toilets. There was only one clean small bath-size towel and no hair dryer. There were lockers, but with no keys to lock them with. I had to get my husband to walk down to the lobby (again no courtesy phones anywhere) and request a hair dryer. There are also no lotions or hair products in the Lack-of-Hospitality-Room, which one would expect in a resort of that claims to be of such a high caliber.

There is no gift shop with beverages or toiletries for purchase, so stop at the Wal-Mart or Oxxo in town before getting here if you need anything. Taxi cab drivers are cool to stop enroute and wait while you shop. We did this twice. There are no ice machines, but they bring ice to the room.

The poolside food was good, especially the burrito and ceviche. The pina colada was not so great. I would stick to beer, corona or pacifico. There is coffee in the room, but they charge extra if you want more, which seems stingy given the price per-night of the room.

It is about a 100 peso taxi ride from the main town. Every cab driver knows where the place is located. There is also a nice air conditioned courtesy shuttle in to town at 6 p.m., or the public bus if you want a fun experience. We took the bus to the botanical gardens. There appears to be no specific bus stops; one just waits on the side of the road until the bus comes by.

The beach, pools, and views are fantastic (albeit, marred by construction and freeway noises). I think they trucked in nicer sand to the beach, which made it nicer than other beaches in PV. There are rocks, but that is to be expected I think at all beaches in PV. Local families do come to the beach to picnic, but that didn’t bother us: it is Mexico’s beach, and everyone has the right to enjoy it.

Overall, this place has potential, and the inconveniences wouldn’t have been such a big deal if this place wasn’t charging $230+ per-night. It's all about expectations, and I have higher expectations with a higher price tag.

  • Stayed: June 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank platoaristotle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 1, 2011

This trip is all about expectations for us. We were expecting much more i guess. The hotel is positioned to be like paradise yet there are some massive gaps they need to work on before it gets my 5 stars. Every guest we we spoke to laughed about how bad the service has been. The service is far from 1st class. the food is not bad - when you get it, we had one couple receive undercooked chicken! almost every time there was an error on our bill. the pool area is magnificent but very noisy as the resort is on a min road, couple that with the fact that they are building 4 new buildings in the area, leaves little space for serenity. oh and those 4 new building they will try sell you in a 3 hour timeshare demo! we avoided that luckily. rooms are nice, views and sunsets are spectacular. there isn't much of a beach either. over all - lack luster, need to raise the bar on service, get sound proof partitions in the room, minimize the number of kids, finish off the construction and don't try position the timeshare preso as something else!!!!

We wont be back. I got back today - not feeling super relaxed. the two stars i gave it was for the views and decor of the place both of which were really good

Room Tip: try stay in buildings 1 or 2
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  • Stayed: May 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank PruvBruv
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 30, 2011

First of all I HATE BEING LIED TO. I guess I should expect it in Mexico these days when they tell you they ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT GIVE YOU A TIME-SHARE PRESENTATION. LIE, LIE, LIE. THEY WASTED 3 HOURS OF THE BEGINNING OF OUR VACATION AND SET THEMSELVES UP FOR FAILURE.

Don't get me wrong, the rooms are absolutely beautiful, and for the price we still feel we scored big time. All the staff is extremely friendly (even when they are lying to your face) and a few of the staff really shined with great service and nice personalities. BUT, no internet the whole time we were there and almost no phone service (if I didn't own my own business and have a nine-year-old that would have been fine), no boutique (again, would have been fine if I didn't need a hat and some Tylenol), extremely slow service at both restaurants and a beach you had to brave a wide line of baseball sized stones to get from one stretch of sand to the sand at the breakers.

A lot of reviews talked about the construction noise, but that did not bother us at all. The pool has many water features that mask the noise of both the construction and the road traffic and the breakers just outside the window lulled us to sleep every night.

In conclusion, coming from a hotel owner and operator for 36 years, this is an absolutely gorgeous property that needs a GM that gives a rip.

Room Tip: Found a great deal on SniqueAway
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  • Stayed: May 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank James S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 23, 2011

We stayed for five nights in the jacuzzi suite, which was gorgeous. jacuzzi tub inside, with outdoor jacuzzi on the veranda; beautiful view; automatic air, when you close the sliding doors. Plenty of closet space and spacious, well decorated room. Excellent food, when it was available. There is only one indoor restaurant, and casual poolside dining. Our first visit to the restaurant and they are out of two of the four entrees. (Thursday night)
The service was quite disappointing. Had to call to stock the mini bar; had to call twice to clear the dishes from 36 hours prior, left outside the room; NO tylenol, bandaids or any necessities for purchase or at front desk. Spotty internet conductivity; No menus for the restaurants in the rooms; No prices or descriptions of spa services, except at front desk; A 50 minute massage costs $120; Worst of all, had to endure the "time-share spiel" at the next table during breakfast; They do offer free transportation to and from town, which was convenient. The beach was quite rocky and many locals picnic there on the weekends.
For a supposed 5-star hotel, the service and amenities did not measure up. Dreams, 5 minutes up the road, is a 3-star, that seems more like four and a much better value and venue.

Room Tip: Upper floor Jacuzzi suite definitely the best !
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  • Stayed: May 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank gopula
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 11, 2011

Stayed at Garza Blanca last week and had a great experience. It looks as though some of the negative comments from 2010 have been addressed....though wi-fi is not available in the rooms, just the pool area (and it can be dodgy) - but they do provide an ethernet cable for a direct connect in the room.

Upon arrival received a complimentary upgrade to a 1 bedroom suite which had the big terrace, hammock, two bathrooms (including showers), 1 whirlpool jacuzzi tub, full kitchen, and laundry facilities.

The room has good decor, and my view was directly to the beach and Los Arcos. Maid service seemed to come later in the day - mine was usually between 4 and 6pm so no problems about early doorbells :)

The infinity pool is beautiful, and the wait staff was very attentive to making their rounds around the pool to gather drink and food orders. The Ceviche is great, by the way - its a lovely lunch or afternoon snack.

As others had mentioned, this is NOT a kiddie place, or typical "resort in mexico" - its somewhat refined, quiet, and a nice adult crowd without (during my time at least) a lot of "partiers" and noise. There was construction across the street which detracted a bit... but if you sit by the fountains in the pool, that pretty much drowns that out... or a few chelladas will as well.

Finally, I liked that it was OUTSIDE of the bustle of PV. While we used a taxi a few times, for most day trips we took the bus (7 pesos per person) back and forth, as the bus stop is literally out the front of the resort and across the street. Perfect place to get away, but also close enough to get to town.

  • Stayed: May 2011
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank x_BigMike_x
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 10, 2011

My wife and I spent five days at this hotel from April 30 to May 4. At check-in, you realize immediately that this hotel is geared for a boutique experience and not for a ton of people. This is a good thing! You simply sit at a desk with the concierge who quickly checks you in while the bellman brings you moist towels. Everyone raves about the view from the lobby out to the ocean, I take no exception. There are two buildings, our room was on the south side of the resort. We chose Puerto Vallarta because we like the town and it was a better value for airfare from Denver. We booked a Junior Suite, and were offered an upgrade to a one bedroom. We declined the upgrade because we wanted the hot tub on the balcony and we didn't want to cook.

The room met all expectations. The junior suites are on the corner of the building facing the ocean and the terrace wraps around the corner so we had a view straight out to the ocean and south to Los Arcos. The hot tub worked perfectly, the hammock was comfortable and the terrace was wonderful.

On booking through Expedia, we received a $250 resort credit so we ate all our breakfasts, lunches, and one dinner at the resort. The meals and drinks were excellent as was the service. The beach was clean and the umbrellas were plentiful. From what I could tell during the time we were there, there were no more than 20 to 25 people staying at the resort. The pool was warm and beautiful, I can see why it was declared the best infinity pool in Puerto Vallarta.

Only two things could have been better. I am a systems administrator and a third-party services provider. Guys like us don't get true vacations, and we have to be available to jump into any emergency. It seems like every time I go to Mexico, one of these emergencies happen. My way of dealing with them, is to drill through the Internet and make appropriate fixes or call the appropriate parties for technical assistance. Unfortunately, both the wired and the wireless Internet connections were spotty at best. The structure of the hotel's network looks sound, but I'm guessing the Internet connection is satellite and those are often somewhat unreliable. Normal people probably don't care, I really have no choice.

The second thing is, while our room faced south and Los Arcos, it also exposed our room on the fourth floor to the traffic noise of cars, trucks and motorcycles going south. This road is essentially Mexico's version of the Pacific Coast Highway and while it settles down nicely late-night, the activity begins about six in the morning. We certainly got used to it and it wasn't a dealbreaker but at first it was pretty annoying. I have no idea how to fix this.

Overall a terrific place to stay and a wonderful choice for anyone who wants to explore the restaurants of Puerto Vallarta at dinner time. I would not trade this vacation for any other. It is a terrific value, go and have fun.

Room Tip: Choose the Junior Suite over the one bedroom
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Stayed: May 2011, traveled as a couple
2  Thank bermurray
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa

Address: Km 7.5 a Barra de Navidad, Puerto Vallarta 48390, Mexico
Location: Mexico > Jalisco > Puerto Vallarta
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#5 Family Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
#9 Business Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
#10 On the Beach Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
#10 Spa Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
#11 Romantic Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
#12 Luxury Hotel in Puerto Vallarta
Price Range: $193 - $1,704 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa 5*
Number of rooms: 165
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Spectacularly flanked by the vibrant blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the verdanant tropical forests of the Sierra Madre mountains, Garza Blanca Preserve Resort & Spa nestles gracefully just minutes south of historic Puerto Vallarta, one of Mexico's most dynamic and sophisticated vacation destinations.All Suites feature in-style decor that include marble floors, granite countertops, private terraces, whirlpool tubs and artisan in room amenities.Our ultra-chic gourmet restaurant is one of Puerto Vallarta's most sophisticated and premier dining options, catering breathtaking ocean views, a stylish lounge, a 230 label award-winning wine cellar, and a selection of unique contemporary dishes tailored to scintillate your senses. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Garza Blanca Preserve Hotel Puerto Vallarta
Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort And Spa

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