Whenever we speak with travel advisors about where their clients are traveling to, Mexico is almost always mentioned. And that’s for a handful of reasons — for one, it’s been one of the few countries open to Americans during the pandemic and, for another, it’s proximity and accessibility from the States. Another good reason to visit? Mexico has seen plenty of new hotel openings in 2020 and will continue to debut new properties all throughout 2021. Here are some that Travel Agent is most excited about:
Just before the holidays, on December 22, 2020, the Kimpton Aluna Tulum opened. While not on the beach, we like that this property offers great access to downtown Tulum — great for anyone who’s looking to explore the area. (Although should you want to head to the beach, the hotel does offer complimentary transportation to its beach club, where guests are waited on by beach butlers.)
To best discover Tulum, the Kimpton Aluna Tulum offers bicycles that guests can use. Options include the downtown area handcraft shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. A visit to an organic chocolate, chewing gum and melipona bee honey-producing farm is a different and interesting way to know the traditional local lifestyle. Should they want to bike to the beach, those are only about two miles from the property.
Beyond downtown and the beach, Tulum has plenty going on, especially for eco-travelers. There are several archaeological sites (Tulum National Park, Cobá, Chichén Itzá), natural sinkholes typical to the Yucatan region, and ecological tours of the jungle to a monkey sanctuary or to do birdwatching, as well as snorkeling and zip-line options.
The hotel has two top suites, each with a rooftop terrace complete with its own Jacuzzi. The rooms also have a living room, bedroom with a baldachin bed, spacious vanity area and one-and-a-half bathrooms. The balconies offer views of the gardens. Tip: Guests can also arrange for outdoor meals or drinks on their rooftop space. Óscar Molina, director of sales and marketing, tells us these rooms, along with its other four suites (without rooftop access) are the Kimpton’s most popular.
The Bhanu Sky Restaurant at Kimpton Aluna Tulum is a must. Open only for dinner, it has an exposed kitchen, with its specialty being anything cooked over fire, coal or smoke. The small plates are designed to encourage guests to try a variety of options and share. The all-day restaurant, Parallel 20°, serves light meals inspired by all the destinations in which the 20th parallel crosses through, including India, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and China.
For wellness-seekers, the hotel provides Vinyasa yoga lessons at the rooftop deck every morning, with a view of the jungle around the property. The Kimpton can also arrange for spa treatments upon request (and there’s also a 24-hour workout room for guests).
Another nearby option is Casa Teka, which actually opened in late 2019. Located in Tulum’s “Hotel Zone,” Casa Teka has just 11 rooms split among four cabins. The top accommodation is its Presidential Suite, which offers a kitchenette, terrace (complete with hammocks) and living room.
What’s cool about the hotel is it provides direct access to two cenotes, perfect for a variety of water activities or just relaxing.
Located adjacent to one of these cenotes is the restaurant Muyal. The specialty here is food from Oaxaca and it’s ideal for breakfast and lunch. We hear the signature dish is the Tlayuda, a traditional Oaxacan cuisine consisting of a large, thin, crunchy, partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat, Oaxaca cheese and salsa. Casa Teka’s second restaurant is Sabio, which serves Mexican fusion with dishes highlighting local ingredients cooked by grill and a masonry oven.
Also pretty cool: Casa Teka is entirely plastic-free.
Across the country in Riviera Nayarit, the One&Only Mandarina opened in November with 104 villas and 54 private homes. We like how this resort offers plenty of privacy for guests who may still not want to mix and mingle with other travelers.
For this traveler, we would opt for Villa One, located on the hilltop at the center of the resort yet completely tucked away amongst lush greenery. Just a short distance away from the resort amenities — including internationally renowned cuisine, a Polo & Equestrian Club, the beach and rainforest adventures — the 18,805-square-foot villa is a home base for up to eight guests. Amenities include a private cinema, wine cellar, spa, gym (complete with Technogym equipment), living and dining rooms and an infinity pool.
Another option for families/groups are the Cliff Villas, which have a king bed and queen sofa bed, along with a plunge pool and spacious terrace. For larger families, the Villa Banderas, and two-bedroom Villa Tortuga and Villa Jaguar offer more spacious and luxurious accommodations.
For couples, the Treehouse Villas offer private balconies and plunge pools. With an entrance off a private bridge, the villas also have daybeds and soaking tubs.
Mexican Chef Enrique Olvera leads the resort’s Carao restaurant, serving Mexican specialties through a combination of “modern approaches and revered ancient technique.” The menu highlights locally sourced; we’re told that a must-order is the Aged Whole Fish Zarandeado-style, a regional cooking method where the catch of the day is marinated in dried chili paste before being slow roasted over hot coals.
Situated in a natural volcanic rock garden, One&Only Spa has six treatment rooms cocooned beneath a canopy of large Higuera trees. Good to know: Enlisting global natural skincare brand Tata Harper, One&Only Spa is the first and only spa in the world to introduce Tata Harper’s Sensorial Reset, a holistic wellness immersion to elevate the senses and transform the skin. Additional treatments from Tata Harper include the Mystique Herbal Codex, inspired by the Badianus Manuscript, the earliest text on Mexican medicinal plants and ancestral remedies, and Nature’s Sanctuary Treatment, created exclusively for the resort and designed to calm and relax the mind and body. The spa design accommodates local treatments and cultural experiences, including mud baths and a temazcal.
Guests can also enjoy the “Wine and Your Stars” experience, a healer-led reading of star alignment over wine in the privacy of the guest’s villa.
About that Mandarina Polo & Equestrian Club: Sister club to Aspen Valley’s famous equestrian center, here, guests can receive horseback riding lessons for the whole family, enjoy trail riding, take informative polo lessons and/or experience weekly Charro nights that provide a glimpse into traditional Mexican celebrations.
Nearby attractions include the quaint seaside town of Sayulita, known for its premier surfing. Local craftsmen also offer artisanal, handmade gifts and goods. The town of San Pancho also has a charming downtown area with authentic restaurants and shops. Lastly, the town of Altavista boasts 56 catalogued petroglyphs, rock carvings from centuries ago.
One of the main attractions in the Port of San Blas is La Tovara National Park, which, jointly with the San Blas mangrove ecological region, is “one of the most important winter habitats for birds in the Pacific,” according to the World Wildlife Foundation. A paradise for bird enthusiasts, the region is home to 250 species of birds, including black-bellied tree ducks, the great blue heron, roseate spoonbill, and endemic birds, including the bumblebee hummingbird and the South American hummingbird.
Other new resorts in Riviera Nayarit include the 324-suite Conrad Punta de Mita — which is the Conrad brand’s first ever resort in Mexico and the second Conrad brand property in the country — and Auberge Resorts Collection’s 59-suite property Susurros del Corazon in Punta de Mita. The 415-room Dreams Punta de Mita Resort & Spa and 200-room Secrets Punta de Mita Resort & Spa are slated to open their doors in the second quarter of this year.
Heading a bit further south in Costalegre, Jalisco, Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo will debut in late 2021. Guests can expect what the resort bills as “three distinct enclaves;” these will include a private beachfront for families, a panoramic clifftop for adults and a secluded hideaway.
The Cliffside Rooms are expected to be the most popular. The 54 rooms, each with its own pool, all afford ocean views, as well as 750 square feet of interior space. These adult-oriented rooms are reached by a cart path that meanders up through jungle. The top digs will be the expansive five-bedroom Clifftop Presidential Suite. Located cliffside at 250 feet above the ocean, the suite has a swimming pool that is 200 feet long and wraps around the entirety of the accommodations. Additionally, there is a full kitchen and a service entrance to allow for at home dining.
For families, the Beachfront Suites, as the name suggests, offer direct access to Majahua Beach.
The Discovery Center at Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo will offer “back-to-nature” activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, surfing, fishing, paddleboarding and more. Those looking to schedule a tee time should note there’s an 18-hole David Fleming-designed golf course available for guests.
On the wellness side, The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo will have eight treatment rooms — one of them a couple’s suite — and a nail bar and hair salon, inspired by the healing surroundings of the jungle, mountains and ocean. A highlight is the temazcal ceremony in a heated dome (the centerpiece of The Spa) and traditionally led by a shaman who performs a heated massage using scented herbs.
Then in Mexico’s luxury resort destination, Villa La Valencia Beach Resort & Spa Los Cabos is slated to open in October 2021. Located in the tourist corridor between San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, Villa La Valencia will offer spacious suites, incredible views of the Sea of Cortez, a luxury spa and more.
Great about Villa La Valencia’s location is that it’s directly on a swimmable beach, something not every Los Cabos resort offers.
The crème de la crème when it comes to accommodations will be the Three Bedroom Penthouse Oceanfront. Guests can expect two king beds, plus two queens, and four full bathrooms, along with a fully equipped kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a dining room for eight and expansive terrace with some of the best views on property.