Upscale travelers pick the best hotels in Mexico

By Bob Schulman

Photo courtesy of Capella Pedregal.CABO SAN LUCAS -- There’s a big hill between this booming resort town at the tip of the Baja Peninsula and the nearby Capella Pedregal, Mexico’s recently voted No. 1 hotel. But guests don’t show up huffing and puffing from a long climb -- thanks to the 1,000-foot-long tunnel carved through the hill by the folks at Capella. The tunnel also puts night spots in Cabo San Lucas like El Squid Roe, the Giggling Marlin and Cabo Wabo within walking distance of the hotel.

Still, guests tend to stick around the Capella, often in the private plunge pools in the hotel’s suites, villas and casitas. Or getting rubdowns in its 12,000-square-foot oceanfront spa. Or for chats around their room’s fire pit. Or for in-room meals whipped up by their own major domo. No wonder readers of the prestigious Travel + Leisure magazine recently named the 96-room Capella as Mexico’s top resort.

Zip across the Sea of Cortes to the mainland, and you’ll find the country’s No. 2 hotel – the St. Regis Punta Mita -- about 20 miles up the coast from Puerto Vallarta on the Riviera Nayarit. (That’s quite an honor for Starwood Hotels’ St. Regis, since Punta Mita – anchoring the northern end of a 50-mile-long bay -- is the home of a cluster of uber-luxury hotels.) Spread out over 1,500 acres, features of the 120-room St. Regis include a tennis center nestled in a palm grove, a 10,000-square-foot spa and not one but two Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses.

St. Regis Punta Mita. Photo by Bob Schulman.The No. 3 pick of Travel + Leisure’s readers is the Rosewood Mayakoba on the country’s Caribbean coast south of Cancun and a little north of Playa del Carmen. Here, dotting a maze of lagoons, 130 posh suites suspended over the water offer such amenities as private plunge pools, rooftop sundecks, oversized terraces and their own boat docks. Called “Sense,” the property’s 12,000-square-foot spa (on its own little island) has 12 treatment rooms offering “a pure wellness experience.”

The reader spotlight goes back to the tip of the Baja Peninsula for choice No. 4:  the One&Only Palmilla on the 20-mile-long resort corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Featured on the property are 172 airy rooms decked out with floor-to-ceiling windows offering eye-popping views of the Sea of Cortes. It’s said “romance fills the air at the One&Only” (listen close and you might hear midnight guitar serenades coming from a little cove on the beach).

Photo courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba.The last of Mexico’s “Big 5” hotels is inland at the iconic Four Seasons Hotel

in Mexico City. Looking much like a stunning high-rise hotel with the charm of a colonial hacienda, the 240-room resort is accented by tropical gardens packed with the likes of old-world courtyards, fruit trees and orchids. A popular option is outdoor dining under the stars.

Mexico’s five runners up to the “Big 5” in the Travel + Leisure poll were (in descending order): the Banyon Tree, also in the high-end Mayakoba area of the Riviera Maya; Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun; Rosewood’s Las Ventanas al Paraiso just outside Cabo San Lucas; Esperanza, an Auberge Resort, up the coast from Cabo San Lucas; and the Four Seasons Punta Mita on the Riviera Nayarit.

Photo courtesy of the One&Only Palmilla.Results of the magazine’s survey of Mexico’s most luxurious properties    (http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best-2014-top-hotels-and-resorts-in-mexico) were among its recently published 2014 rankings of global hotels, destinations, cruises and other travel products.

If you go:

Capella Pedregal  (http://www.capellahotels.com/cabosanlucas)

St. Regis Punta Mita (http://www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis/index.html)

Rosewood Mayakoba (http://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/mayakoba-riviera-maya)

One&Only Palmilla (http://palmilla.oneandonlyresorts.com/)

Four Seasons Hotel (http://www.fourseasons.com)

Cover photo courtesy of Capella Pedregal

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