Design-led hotels, exquisite cuisine, city hideaways – Mexico should be on every travelista’s wish list
As independent travel continues to boom in Mexico, several new hotels with an emphasis on style and sustainability have been quietly springing up. Far removed from the mega-resorts that permeate tourist strips like Cancun, these gems are all about design and sophistication.
For the ultimate combo of tropical greenery and sandy bliss, the Habitas Tulum on the Yucatán Peninsula ticks every box for a ‘fly and flop’. In Baja California, the beautifully retro Hotel San Cristóbal sits within a surfer’s paradise. And the wallet-friendly Casa Fayette is the first design hotel in Guadalajara, the country’s second-largest metropolis. In frenetic Mexico City, Hotel Carlota is a sanctuary that perfectly symbolises the city’s status as World Design Capital for 2018. And the Hotel Amapa in Puerto Vallarta has been generating a buzz all year. That’s your next holiday sorted. Arriba! Arriba!
The lowdown You get a jungle setting and private beach.
Best for Those seeking guilt-free luxury near the hippie-chic town of Tulum.
Opened last year, Habitas Tulum was built in conjunction with local carpenters to minimise its environmental footprint. Its 32 rooms sit on elevated platforms and have thatched roofs, hardwood floors and secluded terraces. The prime Ocean rooms are positioned slap-bang against the turquoise Caribbean waters, while the Jungle rooms are located beneath the palms.
The hotel’s central point – and its only permanent structure – is an open-air steel and glass pavilion dotted with sofas, coffee-table books and lanterns.
The informal Moro restaurant has wooden tables casually strewn amongst the trees, and head chef Federico Cappi oversees a Latin American-infused menu. Though sightseeing is recommended, you’ll need major willpower to peel yourself away from the seafront infinity pool. And for those who refuse point-blank to leave, there’s a jungle courtyard cinema, complimentary bicycle hire, yoga classes and wellness area with massage and facial treatments.
Insiders tip: A trip to Tulum wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Chamico’s – a no-frills fish shack tucked away at the edge of Soliman Bay. You can enjoy the food while you swing on a hammock…
Book it Double rooms from £309.
The lowdown Stylish Art Deco city hideaway.
Best for Urbanistas on a budget.
The latest addition to Grupo Habita’s collection, Casa Fayette is located in Guadalajara’s buzzy Lafayette district. Architects have made use of the original Art Deco structure and added a tower building to create a city bolthole that merges Forties grandeur with modern finesse. The 36 rooms range from standard doubles to a ‘Top Suite’ with private terrace, and each has panoramic windows to draw the big skies in.
The design packs an eclectic feel thanks to Milanese team Dimorestudio, who have incorporated elements from both Mexico and Europe. The glamorous bathrooms are crafted from Carrara marble and feature claw-foot bathtubs. Velvet sofas beckon in the communal areas, and in the ground-floor restaurant deep green and gold hues reign.
Here, chef Leobardo Solano Garcia’s menu fuses American comfort food with Mexican twists. Complimentary bikes are available, or you can hit the hotel’s terrace with its pool and views over the city. There’s also a spa on the top floor of the tower.
Insider’s tip: Guadalajara is home to Latin America’s largest indoor market and the second floor is a haven for foodies. Make sure you try a torta ahogada – a giant sandwich drenched in a spicy tomato sauce.
HOTEL SAN CRISTOBAL
The lowdown A hipster haven with a gloriously retro vibe.
Best for Instagrammers who want gorgeous holiday snaps.
Located on the southwestern edge of the sun-soaked Baja California peninsula, Hotel San Cristóbal is the creation of architects Lake Flato and designer Liz Lambert.
Built to reflect the atmosphere of Seventies Baja, the result is a set of whitewashed buildings with concrete floors and patterned porcelain tiles.
The 32 rooms range from poolside doubles to suites with full-length windows overlooking the Pacific or Sierra de la Laguna mountain range. The menu at the hotel’s Benno restaurant focuses on local produce – you can even accompany the chef to pick the daily catch from fishermen. For lighter dining, munch on tacos at the pool bar.
There are plenty of communal areas for lounging, plus a library and yoga deck with views – you might spot humpback or grey whales here. For those who crave more than lazing, nearby Todos Santos has plenty of eateries and galleries, while the energetic can try surfing, fishing or hiking.
The lowdown A boutique beauty in a touristy area.
Best for Couples who fancy a new take on resort hols.
‘Minimal, modern and Mexican’ were the three words Hotel Amapa used to describe itself when its launch was announced. Opening to the public in early 2019, traditional Mexicana collides with 21st-century luxe here, and the results are stunning.
Located in the historic old town, the hotel is the brainchild of developer David Harries, who was keen to offer an alternative to Puerto Vallarta’s raft of all-inclusives. Many of the 55 rooms have private balconies complete with hammocks and natural materials abound, with hanging woven lamps and locally made throws.
Although there’s a choice of restaurants and bars right on its doorstep, the hotel has its own café and courtyard restaurant, which specialises in seafood – including prawns the size of a small fist. Up on the rooftop, there’s a pool and bar, where you can watch the famous Vallarta sunset. If being up close to the sea is your bag, guests have access to the neighbouring El Dorado beach club, too. And for an essential pampering session, there’s a wellness pavilion.
Insider’s tip: Puerto Vallarta has been a hotspot for the rich and famous for decades, with big screen icons Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor putting it on the map in 1964 in The Night of the Iguana.
The lowdown A reinvented motel packed with art.
Best for Anyone who prefers industrial-chic to cosy comfort.
In the midst of the creative Cuauhtémoc district, Hotel Carlota is a former motel that has undergone a full renovation courtesy of renowned architect Javier Sánchez. The 36 rooms and suites come with concrete floors and ceilings, and are warmed by colourful rugs, locally recovered artefacts and 3D installations. Six of the suites have private terraces, and bathrooms are a lesson in white minimalism, with pull-chain toilets and sinks inspired by the city’s old laundry rooms.
Elsewhere, there are fire escape- style steel staircases and funky furniture designed by local collective La Metropolitana. High-end carpentry is also on show, with shelves in the lounge showcasing intricate Mexican handicrafts and books.
The central courtyard has a glass-walled narrow pool, which is overlooked by an acclaimed restaurant. Chef Joaquin Cardoso whips up organic, sustainable plates. Meanwhile, the poolside bar has a good range of Latin American wines and local beers. The hotel also has its own concept boutique, Taxonomia, which sells unusual kitchenware and clothing.
Book it Standard rooms start at around £82.