Mexico’s ancient Aztecs had luxury down to a science: fine-stone houses, soft beds made of the finest skins, feathered capes, gold rings, and aromatic steam baths. Today, luxury continues to welcome guests south of the border with villas overlooking the Pacific, top-notch all-inclusive resorts, and strikingly modern boutique properties in the heart of the city. Stunning views go hand in hand with gourmet cuisine, tradition teams up with cutting-edge technology, and unparalleled service defines unforgettable vacations.
The Pacific Coast offers a study in contrasts, from the verdant Sierra Madre mountains that cradle Puerto Vallarta’s Banderas Bay to the stark desert landscape of Baja California’s Los Cabos. Here, Mexico’s hoteliers have handpicked the loveliest destinations to welcome their guests.
Accommodations on the Pacific run the gamut. In Puerto Vallarta, for example, guests can choose an eco-chic hideaway carved out of the jungle with breathtaking views of the bay enjoyed from private terraces or a gorgeously restored villa in the heart of the city, tastefully decorated with priceless antiques. Spa services combine ancient techniques with modern technology, lending comfort to both body and soul.
Vallarta itself is an intriguing combination of cobblestone streets, exceptional restaurants, a vibrant art culture, and unspoiled natural beauty. Among the draws of this “San Francisco of Mexico” is its status as a gourmet hotspot. In fact, every November, chefs, and gourmands the world over gather for its famous Gourmet Festival. It also offers fabulous sport fishing and signature golf courses.
The heart of the city is its malecón, the boardwalk that lines the shore and offers a sort of outdoor gallery of sculptures created by famous artists. Lined with restaurants, top-notch galleries, and gorgeous boutiques, it’s the place to see and be seen. A quick check with a knowledgeable concierge will reveal hidden shops and exquisite, one-of-a-kind jewelry and accessories, unique Mexican art and antiques, and fine fashions from local and international designers.
Some 45 minutes by road from Puerto Vallarta in the neighboring state of Nayarit, the area known as Punta Mita has been attracting the most soigné visitors with gorgeous villas, exclusive hotels, and Golden Bear greens. Access-controlled gates hide sumptuous gardens, infinity-edge pools, and Architectural Digest-style interior design.
Due south of Puerto Vallarta, the dual-destination known as Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo brings its own brand of luxury to Mexico travelers. Zihuatanejo and its distinctive “barefoot elegant” boutique hotels—think thatched roofs, lush garden courtyards, elegantly hand-crafted furniture, original artwork, and fine amenities such as Frette linens and down comforters—are a magnet for travelers in search of a spot away from the public eye. Ixtapa, built exclusively for tourism, boasts larger hotels, fine marinas, and championship golf courses.
In Los Cabos, extraordinary retreats have already been catering to Hollywood heavy hitters who come here seeking a combination of privacy, excellent service, magnificent accommodations, and 330 days of sunshine a year. With the Pacific on one side and the Sea of Cortes on the other, the area has a well-deserved reputation as a luxury sport-fishing haven with a wealth of marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and more. Its championship golf courses boast names like Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Jr., and Tom Weiskopf and have hosted many a high-profile tournament. Modern marinas such as the grand Puerto Los Cabos in San José del Cabo fill their slips with sleek yachts.
Nature goes to extremes in Los Cabos: Here the cactus-studded Sonoran Desert spills into the blue water, offering dazzling views. A relative newcomer to the hospitality scene, Los Cabos features accommodations that tend toward a mix of modern design with the best of Mexico’s rich history. Many of the finest hideaways are spread out along the corridor that joins San José and Cabo San Lucas, though a choice selection of tiny boutique hotels—some with amazing restaurants—have sprung up in the hearts of these two towns.
It’s easy to imagine oneself in an ocean-view suite, perusing the linen menu while an unobtrusive butler serves canapés to accompany the complimentary bottle of artisan tequila waiting tableside. Dining has also been elevated to fine art, spurred on by the influx of world travelers.
The Mexican Caribbean
The Caribbean side of Mexico has been a tourist playground ever since its striking combination of sugar-white sand and piercing blue water caught the eye of developers some 30 years ago. Cancun is a true metropolis by the sea, with high-rise hotels lining the shore. A good number of five-star hotels have found their niche amongst these, offering first-class service and accommodations for those who wish to stay in the heart of the action. The city displays its wares in high-end shopping malls filled with duty-free treasures that will delight even the pickiest of buyers, while restaurants, discos, and nightclubs beckon at night.
Farther south down the coast, the Riviera Maya is a destination all its own. Much less developed than Cancun, this area has its share of large hotels but has carved out a nice niche for upscale boutique hotels and their special brand of service. This area, too, is full of five-star all-inclusive hotels catering to families, groups, and adults-only. Though to some “luxury all-inclusive” might seem like a contradiction in terms, hoteliers have integrated the two qualities—luxury and variety—seamlessly, eliminating cheesy plastic bracelets for cool-looking ones and substituting the generic all-you-can-eat buffets with gourmet restaurants. And while some properties still have the fun “activities team” in the pool area, many have replaced it with discrete pool waiters and beachside spa cabanas.
Magical Mexico City
It’s impossible to reduce a megalopolis the size of Mexico City into a few lines: Perhaps it will suffice to say that it’s one of the leading cultural capitals in the world, with more than 100 museums, as well as concert halls, theaters, a variety of educational institutions, and a nightlife that rivals that of any European city. Vestiges of ancient cultures stand side by side with colonial monuments; its cuisine is a veritable cornucopia of flavor, texture, and history; and the shopping—well, let’s just say that Polanco has nothing to envy Rodeo Drive. The city is as cosmopolitan as it gets, yet it’s still a place where a Saturday can be spent browsing the mercado in a beautiful plaza or tasting local specialties to the sound of the mariachi. Accommodations follow suit, ranging from the modern and minimalist to the lush elegance of Old-World style, always accompanied by Mexico’s distinctive brand of service and warm hospitality.
The best way to find your perfect stay in Mexico? Talk to an expert: a travel advisor can take your preferences and translate them into something to write home about—and you won’t be charged a penny. Call SkyMed Travel at 800-568-8994 to get yours going!