Say "Mexican vacation" and you're bound to conjure images of border-town dives or noisy resorts. There isn't much in between. Enter Mexico Boutique Hotels, a collection of unique Mexico properties founded by John Youden. Each hotel emphasizes location, innovative cuisine, high-end amenities, and excellent value. Yet for all the uniformity, each property is unique. From historic buildings in city centers to stylish modern outposts in beach, jungle, or country settings, there's an MBH hotel to suit all tastes. Here are a few of our favorites.
Located just outside trendy PV, on the way to Punta Mita, beautiful Casa las Brisas
sits on a pristine secluded beach. The seven-room, villa-style hotel is the creation of Marc Lindskog, a former restaurant and hotel designer who, along with his Italian greyhounds, now oversees the laid-back getaway. White stucco walls, hand-painted tiles, thatched roofs and carved-wood cabinets (the latter stuffed with paperback novels) bring Vallarta flavor to the decor. The creative cuisine is made from locally grown, organic products.
Three villas---one of them a former haunt of Richard Burton---have been renovated and ingeniously combined to form Hacienda San Angel,
a chic haven overlooking Puerto Vallarta's Banderas Bay. Within walking distance of the town center, the sophisticated nine-room hotel feels completely isolated from the real world: tropical gardens, relaxation pools, and winding, statue-lined pathways help create a magical and romantic vibe. Chill out at the terrace pool, which offers a breathtaking view of the city and bay, or at the relaxation pool, surrounded by fountains and a patio for sunning. Breakfast and a nightly cocktail hour are complimentary, and an on-site chef can easily whip up something superb to be enjoyed in the privacy of your room.
A thirty-minute boat ride along the Pacific coast, followed by a short uphill trek through a lush jungle setting, brings guests to Verana
, an eight-room mountaintop hotel just south of PV. Created by two former film set designers, this secluded, atmospheric setting expertly combines modern touches (glamorous infinity and freshwater swimming pools, chic design elements, international cuisine) with more rustic ones (outdoor showers, a ban on televisions and telephones). The on-property spa features open-air soaking tubs, a Watsu pool for water massages, and a full menu of skin and body treatments. Rooms are surrounded by citrus trees and bougainvillea, and each one is decorated with antiques and handcrafted wooden furniture.
In the heart of charming Guadalajara is the lovely Villa Ganz,
a restored residential mansion. Simply and sweetly decorated, the ten rooms are either in the main house or set around a lush backyard garden; one, the former maid's quarters, has its own terrace. Guests gather for breakfast or drinks in a cozy outdoor lounge outfitted with an oversized fireplace, dozens of extra-tall candles, and wool throws for those nippy nights. Attentive service, amenities like free wireless Internet, and a convenient location have helped make Villa Ganz popular with both leisure and budget-conscious business travelers.
A couple of hours outside Guadalajara, near the beautiful town of Lagos de Moreno, the warm and intimate Hacienda Sepulveda
makes guests feels like they're weekend invitees of an eminent Mexican family. Which, in a sense, they are: the traditional rural mansion has been in the Serrano family for three generations, and is still often used for family reunions and events. The current patriarch himself has decorated each of the ten guest rooms with a mix of both Mexican and international antiques and fabrics. After a day of horseback riding, swimming, or indulging at the top-notch new spa (which features a traditional Temezcal steam ritual), guests enjoy excellent meals prepared with old family recipes. Come morning, coffee and homemade biscuits are just outside your door.
, one of the newest additions to the MBH roster, is a much-celebrated design hotel just off the beach on Playa del Carmen's bustling Fifth Avenue. Interiors are contemporary-industrial---exposed electrical ducts, tile floors, concrete walls, plasma TVs that broadcast streaming video of the ocean, and up on the roof two water tanks serve as swimming pools. Best of all are the "floating" beds: a super-comfy pedestal bed underneath which you'll find a mini-bar, luggage storage, pull-out night tables, and a big drawer containing a Polaroid camera. A DJ can usually be found spinning in the lounge, and a juice-and-cocktail bar operates at reception.
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