Travel Agent recently returned from Gala Vallarta, which took place February 11 – 12 in Puerto Vallarta. During our stay we got a chance to tour several newly updated hotels and resorts in the area – here’s our firsthand report.
Sheraton Buganvilias Puerto Vallarta
We stayed at the Sheraton Buganvilias Resort & Convention Center, which is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation project that started in 2017. The project most recently added the Embarcadero Gastro Bar, which serves over 50 premium tequila or mescal labels, plus a large selection of wine and craft beer.
Also included was a refresh of all of the hotel’s 473 guestrooms. Next up this year it plans to open a new Asian-themed restaurant, as well as a new sports bar.
Grand Park Royal Luxury Resort Puerto Vallarta
During our visit we also had the chance to tour the Grand Park Royal Luxury Resort Puerto Vallarta, approximately 15 minutes south of the downtown area on the Bay of Banderas, which wrapped a renovation project this past January. In addition to a refresh of all 226 of the family-friendly all-inclusive’s guestrooms (all of which are oceanfront), the project added a new sports bar, as well as a new kids’ pool outside of the existing kids’ club.
Good to know: the property is set on a secluded beach with only a condo building next door, making it a good option for families looking for a quiet respite from the busy downtown area. The Suite Embajador, one of the resort’s top accommodations for families, consists of two adjoining corner rooms with a private entryway area connecting them. In the other tower, the Family Suite offers another option with two beds, two large couches and an extra-large area for storing luggage separated from the main living space by a divider.
Garza Blanca Resort & Spa and Hotel Mousai
Also set a ways out of town, next we visited two properties set on an 85-acre, private nature reserve: the family-friendly Garza Blanca Resort & Spa and the adults-only Hotel Mousai, both of which are members of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.
The two resorts consist of a series of towers set on either the beach or in the mountainside jungle. Access between the two areas is available either by foot via a skybridge or, since the terrain can be quite steep, by a trolley that runs every 15 minutes. SUV service can also shuttle guests around the property after hours, when the trolley isn’t running.
Garza Blanca has a number of two-bedroom, apartment-style suites in the mountain towers with a number of nice touches for families. The open-plan living space includes a massive, fully stocked kitchen with granite countertops and an extra-roomy walk-in pantry that the hotel can help stock upon request. Guests can also bring in a private chef if they don’t feel like cooking. There are three bathrooms – a master bath with both a tub and a shower that converts to a steam room, an en suite bathroom in the second bedroom and a guest bathroom in the hall – and, outside, a large, wraparound terrace with mountain views, an outdoor Jacuzzi and a hammock. There is also an in-unit washer and dryer.
At the Hotel Mousai, expect rooms designed in a more contemporary style, all with their own terrace, hammock and outdoor Jacuzzi. The standout here is the rooftop bar, which opens onto an infinity pool that, given the tower’s mountaintop location, provides for some spectacular views.
Looking ahead, the resort plans to open new towers for both Garza Blanca and Hotel Mousai in 2020.
The Hacienda Hilton Puerto Vallarta Resort
Back in town, we got the chance to tour La Hacienda, a new section of the Hilton Puerto Vallarta that opened in March 2018 after the hotel purchased the building from the neighboring Crystal property. La Hacienda was fully renovated following the purchase, but Hilton kept much of the traditional Mexican architectural and design features throughout. It now consists of 192 junior suites situated around a central courtyard, with two restaurants and one sky bar providing views over the surrounding city.
The Hilton Puerto Vallarta is the only all-inclusive Hilton property in Mexico.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
The next day, we toured the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa, which completed a renovation of its lobby and guestrooms last year. The project added a new tequila bar to the lobby – in fact, this hotel is the only Marriott with its own tequila, and it even has its own on-site “tequilar” (think a sommelier, but for tequila). In the 433 guestrooms and 29 suites, the renovation incorporated a number of new colors and design elements that draw on the traditional culture of Mexico and the state of Jalisco, including new agave-patterned wallpaper.
Guests here should also try to snap a photo of Mitzy, the property’s cat. We hear she’s something of an Instagram celebrity.
Things to Do
Aside from the hotels, during our trip we had the chance to check out a few activities to recommend around town.
Vallarta Food Tours offers small groups the chance to explore the city’s cuisine; we had the chance to experience their newest itinerary, a tour of the Versailles neighborhood. Only about 15 minutes from our hotel, this area is home to a number of “up-and-coming” local chefs that have moved to the neighborhood to escape rising rents in some of the city’s more touristy areas. As a result, the cuisine we sampled was a mix of traditional comfort food, as well as some more creative, high-end inventions – adventurous eaters only!
For travelers looking to take in a show, recommend Rhythms of the Night, which is bookable through Vallarta Adventures. Guests travel via boat across the Bay of Banderas to a private island that was once the home of famous director John Huston, whose Night of the Iguanas put Puerto Vallarta on the map, tourism-wise. The show takes place in an open-air amphitheater, and it is helmed by Gilles Ste-Croix, who is perhaps best-known as the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil – a fact which shows in the crowd-wowing acrobatics on display.
Finally, for fitness buffs, we had the chance to try out a yoga class at the Westin Puerto Vallarta. As with the rest of the Westin brand, wellness is a big focus year – yoga and Zumba classes are run all week, and are even included for EP guests at the hotel.