by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Members of the Vazquez family have owned and worked at this lovely property since the 1970’s. The family matriarch, Dora, is among many family members who live on the grounds and are available to answer your questions and meet your needs 24 hours a day.
Garza Canela is Spanish for the Boat-billed Heron, one of the thousands of birds that can be found in the mangroves of the nearby national park. The hotel is extremely popular for birders. Green herons live in the many trees on the property and hummingbirds feed naturally in the trees — no feeders necessary — allowing for bird watching from your balcony or terrace.
There are 35 fruit trees on the property that provide many of the goodies you’ll eat with your meals — mangoes, guava, pineapple, avocados and five kinds of bananas. A vegetable and herb garden also contributes to the fresh flavors that come from sister Betty’s kitchen. A chicken coop in the back not only provides colorful entertainment, but also provides a good portion of the organic eggs served at the Delphin Restaurant.
The hotel is located in San Blas, on the northern end of Riviera Nayarit, about an hour from the state capital of Tepic. That’s where you’ll find the closest golf courses. The town of San Blas, population 5,000, is home to a number of ex-pats from the United States and Canada who have lived here for years. It’s considered a Bohemian-style community with a number of artists, writers and free spirits. There is not a lot of nightlife. The people who come here do so for the small town flavor and interaction with Mother Nature.
La Torvara National Park is about 15 minutes away. The El Borrego Beach is about a ten minute walk from the property.
Our Editor Loves
- Family-owned hotel
- Chickens to feed
- Kids' pool and playground
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Garza Canela has 50 spacious guestrooms with a variety of layouts and services. Seriously -- the guest ooms have a lot of space for kids to stretch their legs while parents are getting dressed. The windows open for a fresh breeze in the evening if you like to sleep without air conditioning. The entire property has complimentary Wi-Fi, and there isn't an extra charge for cribs.
The closest to the pool and with no steps to climb, the four cottages sleep four in two double beds. Showers only, no bathtubs.
Standard rooms sleep five in two double beds and one twin bed. There are mini-bars and TVs, but no DVDs and no bathtubs.
One junior suite has a king size bed and plenty of room for a crib. No bathtubs.
The three suites are the only room setting that includes a bathtub for the kids. They sleep four in two double beds. There are mini-bars and TVs, but no DVDs or bathtubs.
With a full kitchen, living room, and bedroom, the house is just as cozy as home. However, it is just for two people, perhaps three if the child is an infant in a crib.
Quiet, a few blocks away from center so don’t hear the loud music at the bars on the weekend
Beautiful grounds and pool
Pool is warm
Feels very private
Our junior suite was big
A/c works well - but we left it on day and night
Flat screen TV with cable
Restaurant on site has great food and is beautiful
Large shop with quality arts and crafts from MX
Our room needs updating. The website shows a few rooms that look updated but I think the suites are not.
Restaurant-bar closes at 8:30. It would be nice to have a drink after that but you have to go back to the plaza.
Towels are thin and you have to ask for washcloths. Seems random to ask for washcloths.
Overall: as long as you know your decor might be a little old it’s definitely worth it. The pros outnumber the cons.
Took my wife on an overnight trip to tour San Blas and stayed here on the recommendations of a friend who had stayed there before. The hotel was clean and staff were very friendly. Its a nice location with a colonial feel, I would go back again.
Garza Canela has a small collection of adults and children's bikes on the property, free for your use around town.
Betty Vazquez frequently teaches Mexican cuisines and welcomes children to participate. You choose the menu -- if you want to make a better guacamole or rancheros huevos, or something more advanced, just let Betty know and that's what it will be. The cost covers the ingredients only, so it varies depending on your choice of entrÃ©e. The classes are not regularly scheduled, so if this is something you're interested in, mention it when you make reservations. Betty travels out of the country representing Mexico at special events, so sometimes she may not be available.
Feed the Chickens
Mama Dora feeds the chickens twice a day -- 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. -- and the kids are encouraged to help.
For toddlers, a Little Tykes slide and other toys are available, but older kids will like the big slides, rugged climbing wall and tunnels to zoom around in. There's a Ping Pong table and game tables in an open pavilion adjacent to the playground,
Get up early and you can join Mama Dora for her daily swim in the pool, which is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. A round children's pool adjoins the much larger adult pool, which has alcoves and underwater seats to enjoy the water away from the main action. The pool is within close proximity to the playground so parents can swim or lounge on the deck and easily watch the kids enjoy both spaces.
Betty Vazquez is a professionally trained chef, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu in Paris who studied under the infamous Madame Brassart. Yes, the food is that good here.
The Delphin Restaurant
Betty takes pride in her ability to get children to try new and unusual dishes. Sure, she will fix you a hamburger, but she is just as likely to have your kids eating squid or other exotic foods. If it's not too busy, she will often take children back into the kitchen to show them how their meal is prepared.
During the busy holiday season, breakfast is a buffet, but otherwise, all three meals are served a la carte. The menu also changes somewhat seasonally, but everything is prepared fresh from scratch.
Count on lots of seafood, soups, fresh salads, and incredibly good homemade bread. Because of the large number of estuaries around San Blas, the local blue shrimp is considered the best in all of Mexico.
Hours are 8 to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 1 to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner.
Yes, whatever you like from the restaurant's menu is available in your room. Service coincides with the open hours of the restaurant, which are 8 to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 1 to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Because the national park and Mother Nature take center stage in this part of Nayarit, no one sprays for mosquitoes or other bugs. Plan to bring some bug spray along.
The family engages the services of the teenage children of their employees to babysit for the extremely reasonable rate of about $12 per 8-hour day. The kids do not leave the property during this time.
Mother Dora chose to honor St. Jude for the blessings given to her family business by building a chapel on the property. It is a peaceful setting to spend a moment of reflection or private worship.
A doctor is on call 24 hours a day.
If you bring your own vehicle, covered parking is available.
Mama Dora is also in charge of the boutique, which carries an impressive selection of clothing, Aztecan jewelry, pottery and other home dÃ©cor items from throughout Mexico. Children's clothing is included in the selection.
The Art of Smart Timing
Like much of the region, the Garza Canela is busiest in the winter months, when snowbirds from North America escape the cold for the lush environment of northern Nayarit. Also, late summer is busy, just before Mexican families return their children to school. It's quite humid in the late summer, which is considered the rainy season, so there are fewer Americans at this time. May and October are bargain months at the hotel.
San Blas and Garza Canela are about three hours north of Puerto Vallarta and the international airport. A public bus route stops in San Blas about four blocks from hotel. If you rent your own car, note that much of the drive is on a nice four-lane highway, but about an hour or more is on winding coastal roads that enjoy their fair share of potholes. Slow down and be alert.
San Blas is not that large that walking to many of the restaurants and shops is out of the question. Otherwise, a private automobile or taxi are the best choices. The hotel does not have a shuttle.
For Mom and Dad
You'll not find any nightlife to speak of in San Blas, but the Vasquez family knows every restaurant operator in town. Ask for suggestions, then arrange for a babysitter and enjoy a quiet night in beautiful San Blas.