Mexico is a big place and has been a favorite vacation destination for travelers from across North America for decades -- even despite recent news about safety. From ancient pyramids to stunning colonial towns, and deserts to beautiful tropical beaches, the country is blessed with a wealth of things to see and do. It also happens to be a paradise for budget-conscious travelers -- generally speaking. While you can enjoy a Michelin-starred meal in Mexico City for far less than you'll pay elsewhere, and beachfront bungalows in coastal regions like Oaxaca and Jalisco can be a bargain, luxury hotels in the country still come with a hefty price tag. With that in mind, we've scoured Mexico for awesome alternatives to some of the country's poshest resorts and hotels. And while you're not likely to score private butlers or clifftop plunge pools, with a few trade-offs here and there, our list will help you find your own version of the perfect escape.
Amid the endless string of all-inclusive resorts that run from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas, the One&Only Palmilla is decidedly secluded from the fray. The setting — along a mountainside abutting the Sea of Cortez and shrouded by a towering jungle canopy — is unmatched in the region. With fine-dining venues by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, private butlers, a staff that knows guests by name, air that’s perfectly perfumed day and night, and one of the few swimmable beaches in Los Cabos, there’s enough here to make even the most seasoned luxury seekers blush. Rooms are tricked out with an array of perks, from unpacking services, palatial showers, and espresso machines to bespoke bath products, balconies with sea views, and private pools. This level of service and seclusion doesn’t come cheaply, though, and the Palmilla is one of Mexico’s most expensive resorts.
To be fair, it’s tough to score the level of service and number of features that the One&Only packs into its privileged setting for a less prohibitive nightly rate. There are decent alternatives, though, including the Grand Solmar Land’s End Resort & Spa. This upscale pick offers enough high-end polish and pampering features to make it a viable option for those seeking a classic Mexican resort escape. Rooms are spacious and done in a handsome modern hacienda style, and many feature full kitchens or ocean-view balconies. The spa sits along the Pacific Ocean, making relaxing massages an even more blissed-out experience. There are also eight pools (including oceanfront infinity options), and food ranges from sushi to local Mexican fare. Keep in mind that while it does have a stunning setting on the back side of Land’s End, just a five-minute drive from downtown Cabo San Lucas, the ocean here is dangerous and not swimmable. Unfortunately, that’s common throughout Cabo.
All-inclusives might get a bad rap in some corners of the travelsphere for drawing rowdy partiers or equally rowdy families bent on having as much fun as possible on the cheap. However, there are numerous luxury all-inclusive resorts throughout Mexico that put that stereotype to rest. Cue: the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. The sprawling property typifies the best of what an all-inclusive experience can be. The postcard-perfect beach (outside of Play del Carmen) sparkles in the tropical sun, while beautiful pools, swanky dining options, separate areas for families and couples, and a truly stunning spa all add to the high-end vibe here. Views from many of the serenely designed rooms look out onto the resort’s beautiful grounds, and the best options front the Caribbean Sea and the beach. Expect luxury perks in rooms like premium L’Occitane bath products, rainfall showers, Nespresso machines, and shared or private butlers.
The Grand Riviera Princess All Suites Resort & Spa has a fairly devoted following among all-inclusive vacationers — and that’s for good reason. This resort packs all of the features needed to enjoy a worry-free getaway into a package that can often cost just one-fifth of the rates found at luxury properties like Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Along with its sister resort, which is just next door, the Grand Riviera Princess offers 12 pools, a number of restaurants, nine bars, and a long white-sand beach that’s the definition of pretty. While it doesn’t quite reach the level of style and sophistication found at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, there’s just enough style here to make it a great upscale alternative — right up to the lovely thatch-roofed massage cabanas, spacious and modern gym, and large rooms. Many of those rooms look out onto the beach or have swim-out pool access. Others feature jetted tubs on balconies overlooking the nearby jungle.
San Miguel de Allende is a magic little colonial town that’s packed with swanky boutique hotels, art galleries and studios, museums, and stunning architecture. It’s no surprise, then, that this small city has exerted an outsized pull on international travelers. Hotel Matilda is one of the more rarified options in San Miguel de Allende, and part of that exclusive atmosphere comes from (one of) its prized possessions: a restaurant helmed by Enrique Olvera, the owner of Mexico City’s famed Pujol. Fine-dining aside, the hotel is bursting with style, and has an art-gallery-meets-design-mag vibe from top to bottom. Work by buzzworthy Mexican artists hangs throughout the property, and rooms are tricked out in sexy decor that includes four-poster beds, pendant lights, dark hues, and reclaimed wooden details. The attractive spa and the pool — dressed up in vibrant flowers and a wall-sized mural — only add to the posh appeal. It also has a prime location right in the heart of San Miguel de Allende.
The Hotel Matilda and this charming option, the Hacienda El Santuario, couldn’t be more different from a style perspective. However, they both have tons of character and an essential attention to detail that sets them apart from the rest of the San Miguel de Allende pack. Rooms at Hacienda El Santuario skew classic, with handsome hardwood accents, locally produced textiles, and Talavera tiles. Artsy touches in the hotel’s courtyard make this former convent feel up-to-date, with free bikes and an excellent free breakfast adding to the value. Not all rooms are air-conditioned and the hotel does lack the Matilda’s destination dining scene. But when the town’s main plaza is only a five-minute walk away, it’s hard to argue with the postcard-perfect package at El Santuario.
Think you have to fly to Bali for private villas tucked into dense jungle foliage? Think again. The Viceroy Riviera Maya is a chic, exclusive, and private escape that’s prime territory for honeymooners or anyone wanting to feel like they’re thousands of miles away from the real world. While the setting is hard to beat — despite being in the resort-packed Riviera Maya, it’s shrouded amid the forest — it’s really the 41 private villas that are the star of the show here. Picture spa-worthy bathrooms with outdoor rainfall showers and soaking tubs, plus thatched roofs, luxury linens, high-end in-room tech, and spacious private balconies with hammocks. The beach here is the textbook definition of tropical, and many villas look right out onto the sea. Contemporary Mexican fare is served at the hotel’s well-liked restaurants, while the spa pulls its treatment menu from ancient Mayan traditions.
For some travelers, Holbox Island might be romantic enough on its own to make it an alternative to the built-up Riviera Maya. That fact aside, the island is also swarming with boutique hotel options that range from budget to more upmarket. CasaSandra Boutique Hotel is on the higher end of Holbox Island’s boutique options, with lots of beachy appeal and unwound vibes. Rooms are spacious and perfectly balance modern style with rustic touches. Expect wood-beam ceilings and rough-hewn tile floors alongside colorful local textiles, sharp hardwood furniture, and subtle artsy touches. And while contemporary comforts like air-conditioning come standard, you won’t find modern-day distractions here: none of the rooms have TVs or Wi-Fi. A pretty central pool plays second fiddle to the gorgeous beach, while the restaurant serves what some call the best seafood in the Riviera Maya.
Tucked away in Mexico City’s most exclusive central neighborhood — Polanco — you’ll find the equally posh Las Alcobas. This boutique property is a design-lover’s dream. Interiors seamlessly blend classic, contemporary, and rustic decor, with artsy twists employed in subtle ways to create a high-end finish. Two foodie-pleasing restaurants offer destination dining for hotel guests, tourists, and locals alike, while luxe perks include in-room spa treatments, twice-daily housekeeping, and private steam rooms in some suites. Bose sound systems and other premium in-room tech amenities come standard, while marble bathrooms are nothing short of stunning. The hotel also features a small massage room and fitness center.
Mexico City’s historic Centro feels like an entirely different city when compared to the luxury boutique-lined streets of Polanco. The Centro is home to some of the city’s most famous museums, historic sights, and traditional cafes and restaurants. Here, Mexico City’s bustle is on full display day and night. That makes the comparably serene Zocalo Central feel like a true oasis in the middle of a rambunctious neighborhood. The views of the Zocalo and Catedral Metropolitana — available from many of the hotel’s choicest rooms, as well as its lovely rooftop terrace and restaurant — are breathtaking. The rooms are fresh and modern, with neutral tones and wood details complementing classic accents like wrought-iron bed frames. The central location is prime for sightseeing — just keep in mind that noise may be an issue at some times of day.
While the mind might not naturally put the words “luxury” and “kid-friendly” in the same sentence, many of Mexico’s top luxury resorts also offer stellar kids’ programs. Rosewood Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya is no exception. Not only is this one of the most exclusive and expensive properties in Playa del Carmen, but it also offers the most extensive children’s services. Of course, there’s a tranquil beach and numerous pools, but the amenities here go far beyond that. For starters, guests can expect child-sized robes in the guest rooms, poolside snow cones, meal discounts for kids, and a kids’ club that provides a wide array of activities, from nature walks to kid-friendly cooking classes. Baby monitors and babysitters are also readily available. Adults won’t be left out either, as there are a number of tranquil escapes within the resort, including a luxe spa.
The Ziva is Hyatt’s family-friendly all-inclusive brand and this outpost — on Mexico’s far west coast in the Los Cabos region — certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. However, its major downfall is the lack of a swimmable ocean. Unfortunately, while the beach here is stunning, the waters offshore are treacherous. That doesn’t seem to deter many families, though, as the pool is one of the biggest in Cabo and the theater puts on family-friendly entertainment nearly every night. There are a number of restaurants, ranging from kid-approved fast food to a massive buffet and more upmarket Asian and French fare, as well as a pretty spa and extensive gym. The kids’ and teen clubs are packed with activities, and include all manner of toys, games, and video games. There’s also a splash pool with a mini water park for an alternative to the hotel’s main pool. Rooms are fresh and modern, and some include swim-out access.
Located far away from the wild party scene in Puerto Vallarta, the 11-room Imanta Resort is a secluded wonderland. The vibe here is exclusive and removed from the trappings of the real world — doors don’t lock, paths meander through the gorgeous landscape to the stunning cliff-flanked beach, and the jungle sprawls in all directions just beyond the resort’s borders. The rooms are outfitted in rich hardwoods and neutral marbles, with subtle artistic touches, and all include luxe private pools, massive bathrooms, and extras like Nespresso machines. The beach here is natural and beautiful, while the dining options include a casually barefoot lunch venue and a fine-dining dinner restaurant. A boutique selling locally sourced products brings even more unique character to a stay here, and the outdoor spa is a true experience in its own right.
Similar in size and secluded setting to the Imanta Resort, Hotel Escondido is an excellent and intimate coastal retreat for travelers looking to see a less-visited side of Mexico. Perched along the rugged shores of Oaxaca, in Mexico’s south, it’s an almost impossibly attractive property — from the striking desert landscapes to the sleek bungalows. There are only 16 units here, keeping the vibe tranquil, and all include contemporary furniture, chic hardwood details, and rustic thatched roofs, which create a romantic, beachy hideaway. Hammocks, private pools, and views across the across cacti, mountains, and beach all sweeten the deal. An artsy little boutique, simple spa, and well-liked contemporary Mexican restaurant add to the value of a stay here. And the beach? While the surf here can be rough, it’s a development-free stretch of golden sand that feels miles away from the real world.
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