Jthere is no way around it. Cancun is synonymous with spring break.
It’s a boring cliche, one that overlooks the real Cancun, full of locals who maintain the city as a hub for North American tourists, or the cenotes and archaeological sites that dot the area with its rich historical significance.
But of course, the stereotype is not without merit: Zona Hotelera, the city’s main crowded strip of all-inclusive and budget hotels, is lined with chain restaurants and tourist traps, of course, but also with palaces. of frozen drinks, dives, striptease, Señor Frog’s, and disco after disco.
Cancun can indeed be an all-now-all-at-once party for people who feel like raging until 2 a.m., waking up in a stupor, drinking an elixir against the jaws of wood, then to rage even more.
Not exactly my scene. And so I was intrigued when, as part of our Room Key series, The Daily Beast was invited to visit Garza Blanca Cancun, a brand new all-inclusive that puts its “gourmet dining” experience first.
The huge hotel, built during the pandemic on a quiet strip just north of Cancun, includes three self-billed ‘fine dining’ restaurants (with a fourth under construction), a poolside snack bar and a food truck offering a great raw sea bass. street fare and tacos.
Despite being all-inclusive, meals are elevated, thoughtful, and never feel mass-produced. All restaurants feature open kitchens, a brand of trust in food being the star of the show.
Among the signature dining venues is Hiroshi, which attempts to fuse authentic sushi with upscale Mexican twists. The resulting meal is surprisingly the least interesting of Garza Blanca’s offerings. The Japanese-themed restaurant goes to great lengths to establish credibility (for example, waiters greet diners with “hajimemashite, watashi wa [their name] disappointed”), but the meal only shines occasionally. However, I for one would never turn down an all-inclusive, mind-blowing level of smart sashimi dishes, traditional nigiri, dumplings and juicy robatayaki meat and vegetable skewers.
Next door, steps from a hotel lobby adorned with marble and gold, is Bocados Steak House, which puts dry-aged cuts of beef in the forefront. From almost any seat in the dining room, the blazing, sizzling grill is visible. Smoke, fire and protein smells are pervasive but not overwhelming. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, and even some applications plated atop a heavy tree stump dish, but the specialty is the steak, especially the included juicy, dry-aged rib eye. in the all inclusive. (For an additional fee, diners can get dry-aged porterhouse or other ribeye cuts like bone-in or wagyu.)
The resort’s culinary gem, however, is Blanca Blue, the spacious dusty blue and white linen restaurant with huge windows overlooking the Caribbean (the tranquil Isla Mujeres, accessible via ferry from a nearby hotel, can be seen at horizon).
At dinnertime, Blanca Blue offers both innovative and traditional versions of Mexican cuisine. A grilled octopus dish with beans and roasted carrots was arguably the most exciting pulp dish I’ve had at any hotel restaurant, let alone an all inclusive.
And now I’m going to write something that may elicit sneers, but be patient: Blanca Blue’s breakfast buffet was my favorite meal of the entire stay. And it could be yours too.
Along with colorful stations filled with pastries, freshly sliced fruit, and breakfast staples like eggs and bacon, Blanca Blue offers one table a day rotating a series of traditional Mexican dishes.
One morning conchinita pibil (pork marinated in citrus juice and aromatics and slow roasted in a banana leaf) was eye-opening – the best I’ve ever had. Another morning the pork was offered al pastor (grilled on a spit with pineapple and spices), once again rivaling any version I’ve had elsewhere. Other morning meals included a really vibrant tortilla soup, served in a kettle warmer with customizable attachments on the side, and pancitatripe cooked in a salty broth with lime pepper.
Aside from the dining experience, Garza Blanca is all about luxury.
The hallways seem gargantuan, perhaps by design, especially during a pandemic where personal space has become a key priority for most travelers. The pool is immaculate, with five large swimming areas, including an infinity pool with an Instagram-ready transparent glass wall.
Turn around on the roof and you’ll face an extensive wildlife sanctuary that coincidentally is home to many of the hotel’s namesake white herons. The bright, slightly odd and seemingly endless green looks like something out of a landscape by Tomás Sánchez.
The top floor of the hotel also includes a series of penthouse suites, each with multiple floors of bedrooms and bathrooms, and each with a rooftop terrace and private hot tub. Both Ashanti and Simone Biles have hosted large parties in these suites.
The resort is also particularly suitable for families. First-floor pool-facing rooms are bordered by a moat-shaped plunge pool that runs the length of the hotel. Garza Blanca Cancun provides a crib, monitors, bouncers and strollers as well as a themed gift bag filled with handmade toys and coloring books. There’s also a kids’ club with a room with lots of toys and, of course, video game consoles.
Perhaps due to the spaciousness of the property, one can easily indulge in water sports for all ages (including a floating obstacle course as a game) or spend an entire day in the pool and not never feel cramped by families.
Garza Blanca also recently opened its rooftop terrace, featuring great views, a full bar, an event ballroom, a soon-to-open Chinese-themed restaurant, and, of course, an infinity pool.
From one angle, just before entering this adult-only swimming hole, the edge meets the sea perfectly – a delightful illusion, especially when pondering the bottom of your fourth cocktail.