- North America,
- Riviera Maya,
Trip to Mexico to see Coldplay with little vacay to follow up the show.
Tel: 877 528 3490 (toll-free), Tel: 52 984 873 4835
The entrance to this peaceful hideaway lies on a jungle path off an unmarked sandy road. It's hardly the place you'd expect to find a striking white Italian-style villa. But the Duchess of Ferrari had the home built in the early '90s to entertain world-weary friends, and it's since been transformed into a 29-room high-end hotel. Set on 50 acres of wild land and a broad white-sand beach, white-on-white rooms are split between sea-view suites in the original buildings and newer private cottages facing tropical gardens. Amenities include flat-screen TVs, elaborate sound systems, and electronically controlled shades, making a high-tech contrast with the artful arrangements of driftwood and primitive carved bowls. The best villa rooms are on the second floor and have large balconies overlooking the pool and sea. Families will prefer the multibedroom cottages, which have private pools. Guatemalan chef Bernardo Garcia focuses on local ingredients and indigenous cooking methods. The Aroma Spa also takes cues from local culture, using precious stones, heated rocks, seaweed, and cacao to help melt away stress and balance energy flow.
Rosewood Mayakoba, Mexico
Tel: 888 767 3966 (toll-free)
The staff at the Rosewood Mayakoba achieves the perfect service-to-friendliness ratio. Cart drivers meet guests at their doors with open umbrellas during tropical rain showers and waiters quickly memorize cocktail and coffee preferences. The service sets the tone for guests, making the vibe here far more social than at the Mayakoba development's other chichi options, the Banyan Tree and the Fairmont. Much of the development is a protected reserve, and the outdoor Yucatán limestone showers, waterside plunge pools, and sunken tubs in indoor gardens in the 128 suites (none smaller than 800 square feet) play off that nature-focused bent. The stark cubist buildings, on the other hand, seem to shimmer against the azure sky. Though it's tempting to cocoon in your luxe retreat, guests are easily lured out by the contemporary European fare at Casa del Lago, the casual Mexican meals served pool and beachside, and the primo tequilas at the Agave Azul. Even more enticing is the Sense Spa, whose waterside treatment rooms and spa café reside on their own private island. This is, in short, the ideal way to experience Mayakoba.
Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Mexico
Riviera Maya 77710, Mexico
Tel: 800 591 0439 (toll-free), Tel: 52 984 877 3688, Fax: 52 984 877 3689
The Banyan Tree is that rare luxury hotel that provides both the hallmarks of a high-end property—private in-villa pools, beach butlers, rain showers—along with a real sense of place. Local limestone was used to construct the hotel's 132 villas, which start at an enormous 3,000 square feet. The design is a subtle synthesis of Mexican artisanal traditions with the Banyan Tree brand's Asian heritage. Oaxacan rebozos double as throws on the beds, and custom-made Talavera sinks grace the bathrooms, while the architecture echoes the southeast Asian tradition of wrapping sleeping and living areas around an outdoor space. At Mayakoba, the outdoor area includes a swimming pool (at 382 square feet, it seems unfair to call it a plunge pool), a hot tub, loungers, a terrace area, and a hammock. Indoor-outdoor bathrooms have open-to-the-stars soaking tubs silhouetted by walls of candles as well as thoughtful toiletry bags that include just about everything that you'd need during your stay, from organic bug spray to honey lip balm. The villas are arranged around a series of lagoons and waterways; most are a ten-minute bike or buggy ride from the beach (those set on the sand have great views but lack the privacy of the rest of the resort). You can tool about the property on Trek bikes or on silent (and eco-friendly) electric boats. Be sure to take one of the hotel's eco-tours, which float past turtles sunning on rocks and cormorants darting amid the gnarled mangrove trees along the hotel's canals. The Thai restaurant, Saffron, perches above one such canal and is the most atmospheric of the property's five restaurants. Above all, make time for the spa, which specializes in Thai herbal massage and also includes a rainforest complex, a circuit of hydrotherapy and thermal treatments inspired by the Mexican jungle.—Colleen Clark
Mandarin Oriental, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Playa del Carmen 77710, Mexico
Tel: 800 526 6566 (toll-free), Tel: 52 984 877 3888
Art and architecture enhance the natural expanse of this tranquil 36-acre enclave, where emerald grass pyramids echo the local Mayan culture, and the 128 white-on-beige rooms form a neutral backdrop for the lush vegetation surrounding them. The decor is a lesson in luxe minimalism, with bamboo floors, glassed-in showers, and sleek wood and rattan furnishings. Twenty rooms are situated beside the region's dreamiest destination spa, with a watsu pool shielded by trees and vines; an outdoor lap pool framed by lawns; and a peaceful, shady café—and that's just the outdoor amenities. Indoors, therapists and trainers soothe and strengthen muscles with Thai massage, jet-lag herbal wraps, and intensive yoga classes. On-site restaurants include the Mex-Asian Ambar, which rises like a UFO above a languid lagoon, and Aguamarina, a casual oceanfront seafood restaurant. One caveat: The exclusivity of the resort can make it feel a bit cold. Couples looking for an ultraprivate getaway might not notice, but social travelers will want to opt for the more friendly Rosewood Mayakoba.
Tides Riviera Maya, Mexico
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Tel: 888 230 7330 (toll-free), Tel: 52 984 877 3000
Thirty deceptively earthy villas dot deep jungle trails along the beach at the Tides. The Viceroy Hotel Group (of the Avalon Beverly Hills, and Viceroy Palm Springs and Viceroy Santa Monica fame) took charge of the eco-friendly retreat in 2006 as the first phase of its Riviera Maya invasion (Next up: residences by powerhouse architect Ricardo Legorreta in the nearby Mayakoba development). Mayan carpenters constructed thatched villas with all the comforts of a rustic billionaire's cottage: bathrooms with marble showers and Molton Brown toiletries, canopied beds with 500 thread-count sheets, and outdoor living rooms with private plunge pools, hammocks, beach beds, and the occasional butterfly. The beach is narrow and long, and the spa heavily devoted to native traditions like temazcal (Mayan sweat lodge). Well-selected wines and high-end tequilas accompany Mediterranean-Mayan dishes at the on-site Azul restaurant—indulge in delicacies like the caviar-topped swordfish sashimi. For getting back to nature without skimping on frills, the Tides is ideal. But be forewarned that noise from nearby construction could cause trouble in paradise.
Maroma Resort and Spa, Mexico
Tel: 52 998 872 8200, Tel: 866 454 9351 (toll-free)
José Luis Moreno created this beloved barefoot-luxury resort long before the Riviera Maya became the hot destination it is today. After being acquired by Orient-Express Hotels in 2002, it was expanded, and the jungle-lush estate (a former coconut plantation) is now a sleek operation with 65 rooms, including spacious Sian Nah oceanfront suites with plunge pools and private fitness rooms. The 7,000-square-foot Kinan Spa has architecture based on "Mayan sacred geometry," and offers temazcal, massage, a meditation pavilion, and yoga retreats. The food—even the calorie-reduced spa cuisine—is wonderful. Candles are lit throughout the 25-acre resort at night, leading the way along winding paths. Inside the rooms and suites, sconces, archways, and nightstands built into curving walls create an old-world Mexican ambience; some units have heavy wooden tables and chairs on private terraces and casement windows to let in sea breezes. But pyrophobes and claustrophobes beware—flickering votive candles and oil lamps are part of the turndown ritual here, as is a voluminous gauzy mosquito net draped around the bed.
Capella Ixtapa, Mexico
Ixtapa 40880, Mexico
Tel: 52 755 55 51100, Tel: 877 247 6688 (toll-free)
The Tides Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Tel: 52 755 555 5500
The Tides Zihuatanejo launched Mexico's beach-chic movement in 1978, when it was known as the Villa del Sol. The hotel was made over in 2007 by hip-arbiters the Viceroy Hotel Group (of Viceroy Palm Springs and Avalon Beverly Hills fame), which kept some of the spirit with original folk art but modernized the design with white-on-white linens and upholstery and couples-size infinity pools on the suite terraces. Streams trickle beneath bridges and beside bamboo groves between the adobe-inspired buildings that house the resort's 70 guest rooms; softly lit trails lead to the beachfront restaurant and La Cava, a wine-cellar dining room. The hotel is located on Playa la Ropa, Zihuatanejo's most popular stretch of sand, but a roped-off lounging area provides privacy and beach-butler pampering; mayordomos care for any other needs and preferences. The small spa features a yoga wellness program and a yoga pavilion on the beach.—Maribeth Mellin
La Casa Que Canta, Mexico
Tel: 888 523 5050 (toll-free), Tel: 52 755 555 7030
La Casa Que Canta (The House That Sings) is crawling with lovebirds. There's good reason: The 25 cliffside suites have views of Zihuatanejo Bay and balconies that are perfect for sunset-watching, private plunge pools, and patios with white hammocks and cushioned loungers that invite snuggling. Each suite also has a pink marble bathroom, a complimentary minibar, and lots of folky-chic Mexican art. Pathways lead down the rocky cliff-side to an infinity pool, saltwater pool, spa, and gym—as well as to Playa la Ropa. Here sit two separate, superposh beachside villas, El Murmullo and El Ensueño, which come with private butlers, concierges, and chambermaids (Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Karl Lagerfeld have been among the occupants). In order to keep the general honeymoon-ness of the place intact, no children under 16 are allowed.