“It sounds so simple I just got to go,” James Taylor sang of Mexico. He was spot-on at any time, but particularly now when it’s one of the few places Americans can travel without taking a COVID-19 test first or quarantining on arrival. That’s not to say safety isn’t a priority, as enhanced airport protocols have masks, sanitizer and social distancing ubiquitous. Visitors do fill out a health questionnaire on arrival and temperatures are taken. It’s that Mexico is just a quick flight away for most of us, and our neighbor to the south has been a favorite destination for decades.
There are so many layers to Mexico, you can go time and again and never have the same journey twice. Even the familiar areas are always adapting with the times, with new resorts that blend in with natural surroundings and emphasize quality, service and wellness. Though entry is simple, hotels and resorts are at reduced capacity and have safeguards everywhere. Fortunately, there are so many Virtuoso-preferred accommodations in Mexico that you can travel throughout the country in style and safety.
Cancun/Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos tend to see the most visitors and are probably the areas you’re most familiar with. What you may not realize is the sheer variety of the resorts there means there’s a lot more to them than the cookie-cutter all-inclusives swarmed by college-aged spring breakers you might imagine.
Just minutes away from the Cancun airport is NIZUC Resort & Spa on grounds that once served as a getaway for Mexico’s president. Given the tranquility you’ll find there, you’d scarcely believe how close you are to the busy hotel zone. Down the coast, resorts such as Chable Maroma, which offers a Mayan rebirth ceremony, and Rosewood Mayakoba, which preserves the mangrove ecosystem around the resort, deliver authenticity as well as a great beach. Overwater bungalows along the Riviera Maya can satisfy your desire for the lagoon experience without venturing all the way to the South Pacifc. Just inland in the Yucatan, Merida is a base for exploring a land of cenotes and Mayan ruins.
Just outside Puerto Vallarta, resorts such as Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, Four Seasons Punta Mita and One&Only Mandarina are oases of exclusivity with secluded settings, culinary delights and endless activities for families and couples. There are resorts aplenty in Los Cabos at the end of Baja California. Given the area’s geography, there aren’t swimmable beaches aplenty. One of the few can be found at One&Only Palmilla, where every room has a view of the dazzling Sea of Cortez.
From Costalegre to Zihuatanejo, Mexico’s Pacific coast is dotted with secluded coves and pristine beaches. All along that stretch, you’ll find Virtuoso-preferred boutique hotels and resorts to put your feet up and take a load off. Be it the 16-suite Las Alamandas spread out over 1,500 acres of tropical paradise, the Cuixmala private estate on 32,000 acres of biosphere reserve or the romantic retreat of 59-room Cala del Mar, you’ll be far away from cares and crowds. The 56-room Thompson Zihuatanejo is close enough to town for day exploration before you retire to your private beachfront oasis. No wonder Red and Andy were so eager to get down there after they left Shawshank.
We love the beach as much as anyone. We’d be remiss to leave out the wonderful cultural experiences in Mexico’s colonial interior, however. Mexico City is one of the culinary capitals of the world, and three Virtuoso-preferred hotels there put you in the heart of the restaurant scene and the posh neighborhoods of Roma, Condesa and Polanco. The magnificent ruins of Tenochtitlan are just outside the city, and the centro contains the city’s well-preserved Spanish architecture.
Puebla’s entire downtown is an open-air UNESCO World Heritage site, as is Oaxaca, which preserves key components of pre-Spanish cultures, passed down today in artisan villages where time-honored traditions produce handmade textiles from natural materials. San Miguel de Allende, another World Heritage site, is about as close to heaven as you can get on Earth and an artist’s dream. The service and accommodations at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende and Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada keep that heavenly feeling instilled all through the night.
If you want to eat, drink and be merry in 2020, there may be no better place than colonial Mexico. Just like James Taylor, you might forget to go home.