This article was first published on MoneyInc, May 2019.
Mexico is an underrated destination. A cultural haven, Mexico is THE place to visit for food, music, art, adventure, ocean excursions, biodiversity, animal migrations, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s a beautiful country that is easy to get to, with many direct flights and over 50 international airports throughout the country. Besides being affordable and outright amazing, many hotels are offering great deals and additional bonuses like free room upgrades, additional nights free, complimentary dinners, spa services, and more. For those who don’t wish to stray too far from the hotel, check in to one of these Mexican getaways to heat up the romance, entertain the kids, or just find some rest and relaxation. Soak up your vacation fantasy in one of the most picturesque hotels in the world.
Boho Chic Romance
Arriving at Nest on the Mexican Caribbean is like being transported to your own private villa. When was the last time you visited a place that had no municipal power or water? It may sound primitive, but that’s the magic of Tulum. Only an hour and a half from Cancun, Mexico, at the southern tip of Riviera Maya, Tulum is a destination unlike any other in the world. Hotels are limited in capacity, with most having 20-50 rooms. Almost all are boho chic style and feature a level of boutique charm. With only 12 rooms and a private villa, the beachfront property Nest creates beauty and simplicity with the natural environment, above and beyond other nearby resorts.
Each morning lends to excitement as your made to order breakfast (included in price) of local fruit and yogurt, freshly squeezed juices, coffee and tea, digestive shots, and dishes like huevos rancheros or grilled veggie tacos are served with your feet in the sand just steps away from the glistening sea. No need for shoes, as the silky shared sand “living room” is situated beneath the palms past tropical jungle foliage leading you from your room via sandy pathways to the beach. Somehow this small plot of land on Tulum Beach has managed to still be swimmable as the exploding sargassum builds up on the neighboring hotel beaches.
Originally built as one of the first private family homes in Tulum in 1996, Nest’s transformation has kept an authentic style. Minimalist boho chic rooms are carefully decorated with artisanal finds made by local craftsmen. From a garden top floor apartment to a tower room or an ocean view loft, we returned this time to stay in one of the newly remodeled rooms. Our jungle room, called Tulik One was built with traditional Mayan methods using hand laid stone, Chukum walls, and accented in local natural woods. Full-length windows surrounded our spacious room with high palapa ceilings dotted with romantic hanging basket lamps. Private terraces come with hammocks, garden chairs, or even in our Tulik, a long outdoor wooden table that could seat at least ten. The other rooms we’ve experienced at Nest have been equally amazing and unique.
What makes it unique:
The quiet special villa size of the hotel makes it feel like your own property. The whole atmosphere is romantic. Burning oil in glass bottles guides the sandy pathway through the palms to the beach at night. Complimentary happy hour with a signature drink occurs each day from 5 – 6 pm.
Solaz Resort Los Cabos
At the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Cabo is easily accessible by air from many major US cities and is even ideal for a last-minute weekend jaunt from Los Angeles. Perched on 34 acres overlooking the Sea of Cortez, the luxurious less than one-year-old Solaz Resort was built to blend with the environment. From the open ocean view lobby with driftwood furniture, 400-year old cacti, and water arteries on the floor, find your path to the sea through enchanting desert gardens with native trees, bushes, and flowers infused with nature’s flitting butterflies and birds. As you move throughout the beach retreat covered in ocean blue marble (known as Mexican marble), the angles and lines of the buildings and even the cacti placement cast mesmerizing shadows from sunrise to sunset. From my breakfast view above the gallery rooms, the flat roofs covered with endemic plants and a few lone artistic looking cacti blend with the natural world.
The tranquil native botanical gardens lead you to infinity pools that line the entire 40,000 square foot of Solaz’s white sand beaches so that from most views the sparkling ocean and pool become one. Arrive early in the morning to enjoy the 50-meter infinity pool to yourself while staring at the sparkling turquoise sea. Hop in and out of the infinity pool to a heated jacuzzi or lounge chair, or make your way to one of the only swimmable beaches in Cabo right out front, nestled between two natural rock beds. But always be mindful of the strong surf.
Located midway between bustling vacation city Cabo San Lucas and the historic town of San Jose del Cabo, the 128-room beachfront oasis features modern one- and two-bedroom guest rooms and suites with a private entrance and patio with unobstructed views of the sea. Gallery rooms come with a plunge pool and a small patio with a hammock. A visit to Cabo is also not complete without tasting the region’s Baja cuisine, with major ingredients coming from the ocean, such as chocolate clams, lobster, shrimp, and varieties of fish like red snapper and tuna. If you don’t want to leave the extraordinary property, there are five restaurants and lounges to satisfy every palette. Mako became our favorite beachside lunch and dinner location on this open terrace where Baja fish tacos, guacamole, oysters, and ceviche became regular requests.
When you feel like taking a break from the sun, spend a few hours or more at Solaz’s Ojo de Liebre Spa, a 10,000 square foot space where guests can try out a Himalayan Salt Igloo touting numerous benefits for detoxifying and calming. Before or after your massage treatment, facial, or body wrap, enjoy a steam and infrared shower, or thalassotherapy, where seawater used in numerous water circuits pounds the back and soothes and refreshes the body and skin.
What makes it unique:
Throughout Solaz Resort the Baja California setting pays tribute to contemporary art from Mexican artist Cesar Lopez-Negrete incorporated into the grounds and gardens for you to discover. El Gabinete “Del Barco” is the resort’s indigenous gallery, showcasing an impressive array of rare regional artifacts from the Baja California peninsula, such as a 43-foot long whale skeleton and historical map collection.
Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa
Situated on a sandy strip in Banderas Bay against the stunning backdrop of the Sierra Madre Mountains, the Marriott Puerto Vallarta received a major upgrade in 2018. The 433 ocean facing guest rooms and suites all with private balconies were renovated in warm neutral sand tones. The open-air lobby entrance is filled with modern colorful décor, swinging pods, and an ice cream parlour.
The new Ceviche and Tequila Bar located in the lobby features over 270 different bottles of tequilas, mezcals, and draft beer, along with a menu of freshly prepared ceviches. Don’t miss the taco and margarita pairing with combinations like Mango Lychee Lime Margarita and Zarandeado shrimp on a salmon pate taco. Since the hotel owns their own tequila brand – Tequila CasaMagna – distilled by artisan’s hands and rested in American oak barrels, sign up for a tequila tasting or paired Jalisco dinner with 7 courses with food from the region and tequilas to match. Audrey Formisano, the onsite certified Tequilier can educate you on the best blanco, reposado, or anejo. When you tire of Mexican food, check out Champions Sports Bar (with Xbox in the game room for kids), the Deli Los Mangos, or the live teppanyaki dinner show at the redesigned Mikado Japanese Restaurant, all on site.
If you are staying with children, you may want to stay put and not leave the resort. A massive breakfast buffet offers traditional fare or Mexican delights. A family-only pool boasts comfy poolside loungers as well as a play structure in the middle of the pool with a slide and splashing bucket dunker. Budget-friendly family packages include not only all meals and bar, but free child care in the Kid’s Club. Nearby are easier coves to swim in for little ones while guests can enjoy kayaking or paddle boarding right offshore. Need to get away from the little buggers for an hour or so? The Ohtli Spa will renew you with eucalyptus steam and sauna rooms, water circuits, a therapy pool, and facial and massage treatments.
About 7 minutes from the airport and ten minutes from downtown charming friendly Puerto Vallarta, the Marriot makes an easy location to get into the authentic Mexican town to explore art galleries near Café Des Artiste where the spaces are just as impressive as the art. Meander in these former homes and previous restaurants now enchanting gallery spaces dripping with hanging flowers, open courtyards, ancient tiles, fountains, and low archways. Find time for a tasty beer flight with hints of grapefruit or chili at Los Muertos Brewing, tacos at local Marisma’s streetside taco stand, and homemade creamy palettas at La Michoacana before cruising along the shoreline to view Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. Stroll the Malecon/boardwalk to peruse shops for local souvenirs or the grand flea market that sits near a river and leads to the ocean.
What makes it unique:
Several nights I watched fireworks from my hotel room balcony along the coast’s hotel zone. You can dine in the hotel’s herb garden, learn how to paint Frida Kahlo-style, and sip on a fresh chilled coconut medley or alcoholic concoction from the CoCo bar under a poolside palapa. You may wish to bring your coconut back to your cocoon daybed or poolside lounger. Turtle nesting begins in June and Marriott’s sea turtle protection program is considered one of the best in Mexico with a turtle nursery on-site where kids can watch a trained wildlife biologist and staff monitor nests. Kids can become part of the release ceremony and name their baby turtle before helping it slide back into the Pacific.
Grand Velas Los Cabos
Grand Velas forever altered our thinking about “all inclusive.” At this Cabo beachfront property, expect premium amenities, privacy, restaurant options, and outstanding service – everything included, even a pool attendant delivering your sunscreen. This five-diamond all-inclusive resort joins only a few others who hold this distinction. The $150 million resort on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is the fifth property of Velas Resorts with over 25 years of tradition in hospitality. Upon arrival, the bold sweeping architecture greets you with an open-air grand entrance three stories high, along with a team that ensures your check-in is seamless starting with a 5-minute head, neck, and shoulder massage plus a Clicquot champagne toast and fruit caviar welcome.
Located between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, Grand Velas Los Cabos features 304 ocean view suites, all over 1,180 square feet. Some rooms even come with personal plunge pools. Every area of the resort boasts dramatic ocean views. Don’t want to leave your chic oversized designer suite that comes with coffee, tea, wine, tequila, snacks and more? 24-hour In-Suite Dining is ready for you, including your lobster tail or Wagyu beef. It’s all included. Savor the pounding surf on your private terrace or retreat to your rainfall shower or enormous tub for more relaxation. You might find it hard to leave the room.
Five gourmet opulently designed restaurants offer dining comparable to the top restaurants in the world’s capitals. Choose from French, Italian, Mexican, International, and seafood and steak. Cocina de Autor showcases a 10+ course playful menu from a two-star Michelin chef. Lucca (Italian) showcases thousands of bottles of wine, while tastings and master classes are offered at the Tequila Mezcal Bar. The coffee bar near the lobby was a welcome morning treat, and a post pool nosh at the Cabrilla ceviche bar after swim-up cocktails was beyond satisfying. One day we dined on fresh sushi at their panoramic beach vista restaurant Velas 10. Great attention is paid to every detail of every meal, and everything is included in your stay.
Breakfast can be ordered right to your room at whatever time you specify the night before, or you can dine at Azul, their breakfast spot on the ocean terrace or inside with AC. Your head will spin with every imaginable option along with plenty of Mexican choices like enchiladas, stuffed chili rellano, chorizo hash, and chilaquiles. Eggs and crepes to order, freshly squeezed juices, cheeses and charcuterie, a wide variety of breads and pastries, and the best bacon I’ve ever tasted started my day with a smile. The breakfast buffet offers the best and broadest selection we have ever experienced.
Grand Velas’s 35,000 square foot spa treatment facility reminded me of hotels in Europe and Scandinavia with a eucalyptus-scented steam room with chromotherapy, aromatherapy shower, sauna, and numerous hydrotherapy pools with different temperatures, sprays, and soaking beds. We hopped from one spa pool to the next checking out each spray pressure to release muscle tension, followed by a calming ritual massage treatment that included relaxation oils, our feet tenderly washed, intention setting, and a hot candle massage. Afterward, heated loungers with warm neck pillows and cool scented towels lulled us into a state of inner peace.
For the health-conscious and those who want to reconnect body and spirit, two-level Wellness Suites may be your elixir with a Lifecycle exercise bike, crudité minibar, Vitamin C sprinkler, and aromatherapy kit. The rooms also come with an in-suite massage, personal spa concierge, and juice bar. The Technogym fitness center comes with personal trainers, exercise programs, yoga, Pilates, and meditation.
Grand Velas is also a kid-friendly resort, although I never saw any kids. There is an entirely separate area (so not to bother adults) for water play as well as teen and kids club facilities and activities that would make any adult want to join in. Forbes’ gave this resort group the nod for the top 10 coolest all-inclusive hotels, and you will quickly realize there is absolutely no reason to leave.
What makes it unique:
Besides the butler assigned to your room for your every whim, the “grand” resort still felt very quiet and private and I appreciated the infinity pool being adults-only. There was never a wait and concierge services were always ready to assist, as the friendly pool staff always on hand to bring sunscreen, cocktails, or fish tacos. A new art gallery debuts Mexican art with monthly rotating shows, which will complement the expansive art collection already throughout the property.
Also, what resort has a Michelin star chef preparing a multicourse tasting menu all included in the price? For those who wish to partake in the early morning Tequila Sunrise amenity, a pot of coffee arrives at your door accompanied by 1921 Tequila Cream liquor and fresh whipped cream. This perfect private terrace treat is a nice way to relax and start the day while possibly spotting marine life, like the whale migration that occurs from November through April.