The Best Hotels
Mexico & Central America
From eco-lodges deep in the jungle to private island resorts and chic city hotels, Central America is home to a surprisingly varied assortment of incredible hotels–most of them at an incredibly affordable price. Mexico alone is worthy of its own roundup of 100 hotels–from clifftop resorts with unbelievable architecture to avant-garde beach shacks to city hotels that feel like an artist’s apartment, this country has an inexhaustible supply of wonderful places to stay. Jungle lodges in Guatemala, treehouses in Costa Rica, and island cottages in Panama round out the offerings of this ever-alluring region.
American Trade Hotel
Panama City, Panama
On the coolest corner of Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood, The American Trade Hotel sits surrounded by colorful colonial buildings and cobblestone streets. The first Central American outpost of the stylish Ace Hotel brand, this hotel flawlessly merges historic design details with an undeniably hip aesthetic. With white wood-paneled walls and plenty of natural light, rooms are surprisingly minimalist, bright, and airy, with fluffy white bedding and mid-century-inspired furniture. It’s the coolest place to stay in Panama City, but it’s also so much more than a hotel. The lobby cafe is one of the prettiest you’ll find, with tiled floors and a long white bar in a light-filled atrium where you can order coffee, snacks, and cocktails. Danilo’s Jazz Club, one of the best bars in the city, hosts local and international acts in a setting that feels like it’s from another era.
Rich & Famous
You wouldn’t necessarily expect such urban, loft-like rooms at a beachside resort, but Casa Malca’s sleek minimalism and artsy combination of indoor/outdoor spaces vibe well among the trendy restaurants, hot nightlife, and scenic natural surroundings of Tulum. Palapa-covered day beds, pools, and outdoor lounges (with chaises and oriental rugs) merge with the cavernous, concrete-walled rooms indoors, all with views of the gardens or ocean. It’s all incredibly swank—from the modern art sculptures and chandeliers to the Keith Haring-smothered walls of the bar—especially for those wanting to feel part of the in-crowd at this hip Mexican destination.
Tried & True
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Rising from the shores of Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands and nestled between the villages of Santa Catarina and San Antonio is this gorgeously colorful palazzo. What was once a private estate is now this 15-room Relais & Chateau boutique property that exudes understated, old-world luxury. Perched on a hillside, just about every room has sweeping views of the lake and the ancient volcanoes that lurk in the far distance. Each room is uniquely lovely and individually curated with regional antiques. In the midday humidity, find respite at the two swimming pools. Both have sweeping views of the grand scenery—there’s no better place to embrace the laziness this weather necessitates than poolside at this stunning resort.
Rich & Famous
Riviera Nayarit, Mexico
This cliffside castle, towering over the ocean, was once the private estate of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, the driving force and creative mind behind Cuixmala’s ecological biosphere reserve and luxe resort property. Boasting many a celebrity stay, the main building is simply palatial, with decor and architecture of Mesoamerican, Indian, and Moroccan influences. Open-air bungalows are private, scaled-down versions of the big casa’s impeccable architecture. Cuixmala’s biodynamic, organic farm focuses on preserving the local environment—and on serving up delicious, plant-forward food in their visually stunning farm-to-table restaurant, La Loma.
Weird & Wonderful
Isla Palenque Private Island Resort
Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama
On a private tropical island in the Gulf of Chiriqui, Panama, this resort is 400 acres of uninterrupted, unspoiled natural wonder. There’s a vibrant energy at this remote retreat reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe—one of the owner’s inspirations in the island’s development. Just like your favorite fantasy adventurers, you’ll spend time here exploring the island; hiking and foraging in the jungle; and whale watching, paddle boarding, and kayaking along the island’s seven beautiful beaches. Beachfront villas, with outdoor soaking tubs and plenty of lush garden privacy, come with binoculars, personal yoga supplies, and day beds and hammocks for easy lounging.
Rich & Famous
Lake Petén Itzá, Guatemala
Not far from the Mayan wonders of Tikal in the northeastern corner of Guatemala is La Lancha, one of a handful of properties owned by legendary film-maker, wine-maker, and all-around raconteur Francis Ford Coppola. This is the second year this property has appeared on our list and for good reason—it’s pure magic. When you cross through the gates it’s as though you’ve wandered into a secret, blissful world. You’ll stand beneath the shade of the jungle, hear the roar of the howler monkeys, see the gorgeous design curated by Sofia Coppola and the shimmering beauty of Lake Petén Itzá in the distance—suddenly, your soul will be wrapped in joyful serenity. The hotel is not only quite beautiful, but the staff is truly kind. It may sound a cliché, but it’s true that they go out of their way to make their guests feel like a part of a family—and unlike your regular family, you probably won’t want to hightail it away from them after a few days in the jungle.
La Valise Mexico City
Mexico City, Mexico
In the chicest neighborhood in the coolest city in the world, La Valise is a diamond in the rough, hidden in plain sight behind an unmarked door. The hotel has no lobby, no restaurant, and no bar. It’s just three rooms, each on its own floor and each with a distinctive personality, decorated with one-of-a-kind art and antiques. The rooms are huge, with kitchenettes, living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms (some even with a bathtub). It’s the kind of hotel that immediately feels like home–but not your home. It’s the home of somebody with major panache. The type of person who might throw a dinner party attended by famous poets, artists, and dancers. A hotel like this encourages guests to integrate with the community–although a breakfast of fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, pastries, and coffee is delivered every morning, you’ll have to venture out into Roma Norte for the rest of your meals and discover the sights, sounds, and flavors of one of the most stylish neighborhoods in the world.
Tried & True
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
At this laid-back boutique hotel on the beach, it’s more local surfer vibes than over-the-top luxury, but with stays in breezy jungle casitas that have private decks, hammocks, and open-air rain showers, comfort is still a priority here. Days at Latitude 10 are spent boogie boarding, riding cruiser bikes into the charming town of Santa Teresa, taking cooking classes, practicing yoga, or reading in a hammock by the pool. Down-to-earth local food at the beachfront restaurant features ceviche, rice and beans, and homemade tortillas you can learn to make yourself.
Weird & Wonderful
This environmentally-conscious resort is a peaceful retreat amidst an otherwise busy beach of commercial buildup. Perhaps the most special stays here are in the nest-like treehouses: private bamboo-roofed guest cottages, perched on six-feet-high platforms among the palm trees. Lodging is a dream, but you’ll really stay for the yoga, meditation, and massage services that are all top-notch. Farm-to-table local food at the restaurant comes with good service and a healthy spin. The resort practices initiatives in permaculture, water conservation, solar paneling, and more, earning themselves a few big green leadership awards in recent years.
If you’ve seen a photo of Punta Caliza, either on the cover of a magazine or on Instagram, you might assume that this exquisite hotel on an island in Mexico costs thousands of dollars a night. Punta Caliza’s swanky minimalist architecture belies its warm and welcoming nature. At under $500 per night during high season, this family-run hotel is relaxed and low-key. Its defining feature is the famous pool, designed in a way so that each of the handful of rooms has direct pool access–with water literally lapping at the walls. You’ll come for the pool, but you’ll stay for the resident dogs (tiny whippets wearing winter coats even when it’s 80 degrees), homemade daily breakfast (have you ever tried huevos motuleños? It’s now your favorite food), and minimalist, eco-friendly design (we love a thatched roof!). Although the hotel isn’t directly on the beach, it’s just a short walk to the hotel-owned beach club with free lounge chairs and an auxiliary bar with only the essentials for an afternoon in the sun: tequila, margaritas, beer, chips, and salsa.