yellow steps leading down to a pool with blue-checkerboard tiles and a beach beyond
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Cuixmala

Cuixmala is a fantasyland. Read our review of its 10 casitas, six bungalows and three villas, which give guests a taste of the good life in Mexico.

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spanish colonial pink hacienda at top of lawn with volcano in the background
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Hacienda de San Antonio

This grand estate offers a taste of how Mexican aristocracy lived and boasts 25 guest rooms filled with gorgeous art and antiques. Read Indagare's review.

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jungle with white stucco building topped with rooftop pool and palapa peeking through the trees
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Hotel Esencia

The boutique Hotel Esencia feels beautifully of the destination, like being invited to a chic Mexican friend’s beach home. Here's our review.

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Hotel Enrance with cacti and fire features. Its a circle drive with the entrance being a thatched hut against white stucco
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Las Ventanas al Paraíso

Las Ventanas al Paraíso, meaning “the windows to paradise,” is an iconic, romantic resort that lives up to its hype.

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infinity pool with orange loungers lining it, overlooking ocean
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One&Only Mandarina

On a hilly swath of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, One&Only Mandarina defies almost all stereotypes of a typical Mexican beach resort

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curvy pool surrounded by palm trees
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One&Only Palmilla

One&Only Palmilla is the ultimate in pampering service and family-friendly facilities and offers one of the few swimmable beaches in Cabo.

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Exterior of the hotel lit up at night with the pool and two chairs on the beach with a bonfire
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Rosewood Mayakoba

Situated within a 620-acre complex surrounded by lush mangroves and emerald lagoons on the Riviera Maya, Rosewood Mayakoba is a full-scale private retreat.

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Andaz Mayakoba

Andaz Mayakoba hotel within the Mayakoba resort complex in Mexico's Riviera Maya offers modern accommodations, lush grounds and a strong sense of place. As expected at Andaz hotels, guests will feel fully immersed in the local environment and culture, as Mayan-inspired accents are found throughout the property.

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Pool Villa at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Banyan Tree Mayakoba

As the place for its first venture outside of Asia, the Banyan Tree hotel company chose the Riviera Maya. For one, because the beach resort destination is close to the U.S., but also because it offers details close to the company’s own philosophy, including an importance placed on the conservation and preservation of the environment. There are no guest rooms at the Banyan Tree, which opened in March 2009 as part of the Mayakoba complex: all the accommodations are freestanding private villas, with individual gated entries and high walls surrounding them. Each comes with a separate living area and a sizable pool, which is nice if you are traveling with family and friends and want to chill out in the privacy of your own villa during the day.

When choosing your accommodation, it is important to decide if you want to be right by the beach or prefer to be based inland (you can reach the beach by walking or via a golf-cart or bike ride, which depending on where you are situated can take 5-10 minutes). You can choose among ocean-view or ocean-front villas, which are next to the beach club, or you can stay in villas closer to the spa and reception, which overlook the lagoon. Both areas offer a large resort pool area, in addition to the private pools in each villa. Families should book a townhouse, with three interconnected bedrooms and a rooftop pool perfect for lounging while children nap. Some of the other multi-bedroom villas have separated sleeping areas that are suitable only for older kids or couples traveling together.

Banyan Tree has never been shy about its Thai heritage, and at times, the Asian-inspired design, including massive temple-style roofs, seems slightly out of place given the Yucatán location. That said, there are thoughtful Mexican details scattered throughout, like custom-made Talavera sinks, hand-crafted sculptures and local handicrafts. The property scores high in the food department, and the beach club restaurant specializes in local cuisine. Saffron is the more formal restaurant on property (it serves contemporary Thai cuisine), but it is just as welcoming for families with small children.

If you fancy a change of scenery, you can also eat at any of the restaurants within the Mayakoba complex and charge it to your room. The transfer from one Mayakoba hotel to the other is no more than 10 minutes and is complimentary. This is especially good to know since the nearby Playa del Carmen can be overrun with Cancun tourists at times.

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Cafe at Be Tulum, Tulum, Mexico

Be Tulum

Visitors who like the idea of Tulum but cannot handle rustic rooms only have one option: Be Tulum, which offers air-conditioning and 24-hour electricity (not a given at most hotels in the area). Rooms and suites are for adults only and feature dark Brazilian wood detailing, large floor-to-ceiling windows, freestanding bathtubs (though not great water pressure), ceiling fans and select touches of color in the textiles used throughout. The sexy pool and lounge area would not look out of place in Miami or Los Angeles, with cool designer chairs and dramatic lighting at night. The rooftop bar is pure Mexico, though with expansive views and a laid-back ambience. The hotel is about a 10-minute drive to the town of Tulum. Children must be 12 years or older.

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belmond san miguel suite bed

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada

Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada in San Miguel de Allende is a central boutique-style property with modern luxury and authenticity. Read the Indagare review.

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pool surrounded by palm trees and a white building backdrop

Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa

The first luxury resort on the Riviera Maya, Maroma, A Belmond Hotel is on the best beach and has an authentic, destination-specific vibe.

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Brick Hotel

A laidback, design-forward boutique hotel that feels hip and in-the-know, surrounded by greenery and set in the heart of Colonia Roma.
Entrance to the hotel shows how remote it is in the jungle

Casa Chablé

Far from the bustling shoreline of Tulum, Casa Chablé is an intimate, nature-focused hideaway with just 10 rooms and beach bungalows.

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Bedroom at Casa de las Olas, Tulum, Mexico

Casa de las Olas

Even the entrance to Casa de las Olas is understated. An (easy to miss) wooden sign with a carved, colorful wave on it (‘olas’ in Spanish) points left off Boca Paila, a few yards before the stone arch that leads into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere. This southernmost location, removed from the rest of the palapa-style hotels further up the beach, assures an utterly private location. During my four-day stay, I hardly ever saw more than four people, including my husband and me, on the gorgeous white-sand beach. The five guest rooms all face the beach and turquoise sea, and you fall asleep and wake up with the sound of waves crashing up on its shore. Interiors are simple, with king-size, four-poster beds, cool, tiled floors and bathrooms with handcrafted, biodegradable products. All of the rooms have small kitchenettes (the property doesn’t have a restaurant), where guests can prepare basic breakfast, and essentials, like drinking water, coffee, sugar, oil, vinegar and wine are pre-stocked.

Even surrounded by Tulum’s eco-properties, Casa de las Olas raises environmental stewardship to another level. It is completely off the grid, powered entirely by solar panels; the expansive, lush property is irrigated with one hundred percent harvested rain- and stormwater; and the architecture of the buildings makes use of natural ventilation (there’s no air conditioning, though most of the year, Tulum has a refreshing breeze coming from the sea). Owner James Greenfield’s commitment to sustainable, green living can also be seen in the biodegradable bath products, the fact that all the furniture was made by local craftsmen using local materials and that food waste is collected and composted on a daily basis.

Reading through the guest book, you begin to see a pattern: “Don’t do anything without consulting Jimmy first,” says one entry. “If you come with an itinerary, throw it away and ask Jimmy,” says another. Indeed, the presence of James Greenfield is half the fun of staying at Olas. A born New Yorker, he left a fast-paced real estate life for this passion project in Tulum, and his enthusiasm for his new home is contagious. Jimmy’s the type of host who will whisk you into town for the best breakfast tacos; appear with the key to a cenotes usually locked to the public; or invite you to share a freshly sliced pineapple at the communal table in front of his house, also on the property. Many hotels claim that they feel like staying at a local friend’s house—at Olas, this is actually true.

Depending on the type of travelers you are, the removed location will either be a huge bonus or a negative. It’s best to have a car when staying here to drive to dinners and explore the region. There are also bikes available, for lunches at such spots as Casa Violeta or Posada Margherita. I, for one, arrived at Casa de las Olas with a long mental to-explore list (yoga class, massage, Coba, kayaking, snorkeling). And as soon as I settled onto a lounger, shaded by a coconut tree, every item on that list dissipated. Understated, laid-back Olas allows you to truly unplug, and best of all, you can feel good about recharging in a low-impact place that celebrates its surrounding nature.

kidney pool in a patio behind a red building

Casa Oaxaca Hotel

More of the “Favorite Aunt” than a “Grand Dame,” Casa Oaxaca represents the traditional beating heart of warm Oaxacan hospitality. Guests here enjoy old-growth flowers and vines throughout the central courtyard as they take their typical Oaxacan breakfasts, while a veteran team of hotel staff go above and beyond to provide the kind of white-glove service you’d expect from a much fancier property.

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a white manor with carved brown accents

Casa Polanco

Set in a Spanish-revival building, Casa Polanco has a chic private-home vibe and is a new favorite five-star property in Polanco.

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casa pueblo tulum pool deck

Casa Pueblo Tulum

Click here for Indagare Travel's Casa Pueblo Tulum review. This chic boutique hotel in Tulum town is 20 minutes from the beach and is a creative hotspot.
inside of a distillery with words embossed on the wall

Casa Silencio

In the hills outside Oaxaca City, Casa Silencio beckons travelers into the picturesque Valle de Silencio with its serene ambiance and high design—an intentional escape from the bustling city center.

view of stucco hut with thatch roof and a private plunge pool

Chablé Maroma

Along the Riviera Maya, sea breezes circulate through the 70 open-air villas of Chablé Maroma. Read our review of the beachfront resort.

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private villa's patio with plunge pool and hammock hanging in front of garden area

Chablé Yucatan

Chablé Yucatan Resort and Spa offers exquisite accommodations and a dynamic wellness experience. Here's our review of the resort.

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Chileno Bay Resort & Residences

Cabo's Chileno Bay Resort & Residences is a beautiful resort perfect for families and groups of friends. It also has one of few swimmable beaches in Cabo.

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Aerial View - Costa Careyes, Mexico

Costa Careyes

Costa Careyes (or Careyes as initiates tend to refer to it), is not technically a private club, but it certainly feels like a sexier version of Lyford Cay, the members-only enclave in the Bahamas. One villa comes with a rope ladder bridge to its own wave-crashed peninsula. Two others come with moat-like pools so guests can swim from the porch off of their bedrooms to the dining patio for breakfast if the spirit moves them.

Inspired by the jet-set scene of the Costa Smeralda, the scion of an Italian banking family, Gian Franco Brignone, founded the resort and real estate development in the early 1970s. He staked out a wedge of land between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo and began with a beach house on a palm-shaded cove. According to legend, he lured Gianni Agnelli as a houseguest in the early days. Sir James Goldsmith rented houses in the 1980s, before purchasing a 25,000-acre parcel down the beach where he created his own fantasyland, complete with a menagerie of African animals and a Moorish castle, called Cuixmala.

Over the years, the Brignone family worked with architects, artisans and aristocratic homeowners to fashion a distinct Careyes look for the sixty private houses and the hotel (now closed) and restaurants that they gradually added. Some of the most extravagant homes have been built in the 2000s but all embody a kind of mad Mediterranean-meets-Mexican fiesta/siesta lifestyle. The cliffside houses, in a riot of bright colors—from cobalt blue to deep peach and electric pink—emphasize glamorous open living. Palm-thatched shaded great rooms extend out to vast stone decks inlaid with mosaic patterns and infinity-edged pools that drop down to Pacific views. Forget the current craze for houses that blend into the environment. Here, they stand out and make a dramatic statement like the bougainvillea that blooms flamboyantly along the pathways.

Where to Stay

There are a total of sixty private houses (castles, villas and casitas) in Careyes, forty of which are available for rent when the owners or their friends are not in residence. Each house or villa rental comes fully staffed with a cook, housekeeper, and in some cases butlers and house managers. Contact our bookings team to discuss the best house for your needs.

Dress Code

With the founder Gian Franco Brignone parading around in a flowing caftan and carrying a gnarled wooden cane, it’s no surprise that informality and individuality are the two keys to packing for Careyes. The one exception is the themed parties, such as “white” parties and Casino Royale nights. Before you arrive: check with your house manager to see if there will be any costume events.

Pool Lounge at Esperanza, Cabos, Mexico

Esperanza, An Auberge Resort

Perched on a rock formation near Cabo San Lucas, Esperanza, managed by renowned Auberge Resorts, of Napa’s Auberge du Soleil fame, doesn’t have much of a sandy beach but boasts dramatic vistas of the crashing Sea of Cortez. There’s something about the property that feels instantly easy and welcoming: guests, many of whom have been coming back annually since it opened in 2001, mingle over breakfast at one of the resort’s excellent outdoor restaurants and walk barefoot down to the pool.

The casitas are housed in one of several three- and four-story thatch-roofed stucco buildings that cluster around a manicured lawn and small cove. Every accommodation is spacious (the smallest room is 925 sq. ft.), has in-room iPads and regional art and sculpture, offers a view of the sea and features a private terrace or patio with either a hammock or a hot tub. The resort used the renovation process after Hurricane Odile in September 2014 to improve on public spaces and completely redo all of the soft goods and decorations in each of the rooms.

The newest offerings, also completed after the hurricane, are the multi-bedroom Luxury Suites, each equipped with private butler service, a full kitchen and private pool. Couples craving privacy should go for one of the recently redone suites or the penthouse, which has its own elevator entrance and two outdoor terraces.

The residences, on the other side of the 17-acre property and part of the Auberge Residence Club, consist of two-, three- and four-bedroom suites also situated in the multilevel structures and featuring a similar design scheme (the flexibility and space of the residences are ideal for large families traveling together). The property has several pool areas, including a gorgeous multilevel space in the family-friendly Residence Club section.

The spa features 14 treatment rooms and a lengthy menu of destination-specific offerings, such as the Margarita Medley, a scrub with moisturizer made from local Baja limes. The gym offers 15 complimentary fitness classes a week, including yoga and Pilates. While the property does seem a little outdated in comparison to some of the others in the area, the sprawling layout, multiple pools and dining venues and excellent babysitting service make Esperanza a solid option for families. There is also a kid’s program with activities ranging from ceramic painting and piñata parties to yoga classes and stand up paddle boarding.

Visitors not staying on-property can still enjoy dinner at fine-dining Cocina del Mar, which has a dramatic, romantic setting: tables on three tiers built into the side of the cliff and offering sweeping views of the sea. Diners seated on the bottom tier should be aware that more aggressive waves may get their feet wet.

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hotel pool with multiple lounge beds and umbrellas and beach in background

Etéreo, Auberge Resorts Collection

Guests arriving at Auberge’s new Riviera Maya resort, Etéreo, the first of the three resorts to open in the Kanai complex just above Playa del Carmen, have the option to receive a brief shaman’s blessing with incense, Mayan chanting and shell blowing to help set an intention for their stay or their lives, a practice that ties to the ethos of the hotel and reflects the connection to the ethereal (and Maya traditions)—to honor the past, stay in the present, create the future. It’s one that also suggests that a stay at a luxury hotel can be transformative. The shaman places a mini shrine on a small shelf outside your door with a Maya figure and two shells, talismans for an auspicious stay. Touches like these are echoed throughout the resort—in everything from design elements to the menus and activities.

With 75 rooms spread across eight towers of three or four levels, this property, which opened in December 2021, feels modern and stylish but not sprawling. Studios and suites feel sophisticated and distinctive, and many come with outdoor plunge pools. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass walls let in the light and invite easy access to the terrace. Local touches, like a carved wooden wall dividing bedroom and bathroom spaces with a recurring O-shaped design represent the zero of the Maya calendar (and the cycle of life); handwoven wall hangings, leather headboards, and striped rugs, pillows and baskets and a straw beach bag made in Oaxaca and the Yucatán add to the sense of place. The largest three-bedroom suites are 2,000 square feet, but even studios feel spacious at 875 square feet, with substantial closet space and well-equipped mini bars. The sky deck suite has its own floor, along with a balcony and plunge pool, a fire pit and somewhat more privacy and a view over the mangroves to the beach and the sprawling space ship-like St. Regis Kanai resort next door.

Dramatic elevated walkways lead guests from the main buildings across the 400-year-old mangroves to pretty pools or the beach, both of which have crisp white umbrellas and comfortable outdoor beds and cabanas.

Sleek design with Maya accents also carries through in the spa and fitness pavilions; the Sana Spa has its own (if man-made) “cenote“ in the form of an indoor soaking pool designed to look like a natural limestone cave pool. There is also a bath house with a sauna, steam room and sound room, along with an assortment of  Maya-inspired treatments using local herbs to promote healing. There are a range of yoga and HIIT classes, along with suspension workouts, too, and Jésus, the resort trainer, couldn’t have been friendlier or more engaged. As for the rest of the attentive, warm staff, aside from the guias (your host-guides during your stay), much of the team moves around the site by underground tunnels and in separate elevators, so guests have the walkways between the lobby pavilion, spa, restaurants and rooms mostly to themselves.

You will not want for food here: Multiple restaurants include Itzam (Mexican, with its own wood-fired comal for homemade tortillas) and Che Che (for ceviche and Japanese-Peruvian inspired dishes); El Changarro (beachside tacos and other light bites); Alberca (a particularly tasty poolside tuna poke bowl, ceviches, salads and sandwiches); or room service; and Chu Chu (a cute truck for coffee outside the well-curated boutique, serves coffee and good pastries from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m.; iced coffee or tea is complimentary). Guests can also make reservations at the other Kanai properties. 

Activities on- and off-property seemed substantial and designed to reflect Yucatan culture, including the weekly Maya calendar reading with local astrologer and storyteller Itzel Castillo. Guests can also take a class with a local chef, artist or ceramicist; enjoy paddleboarding, scuba, snorkeling, sailing, cenote visits; and visit Tulum or Chichén Itzá. There is a kids’ club on-property, though we saw mostly couples and families with either infants or older children during our visit. Overall, the only drawback is that the beach feels a bit too spotless, perhaps because of the sustainability requirements to protect the mangroves, and there are no bathrooms or changing areas at the beach, so you have to walk to the pool area or back to your room. But the sand sculptures of sea turtles and dolphins that seemed to magically appearwith messages of hope and peace are guaranteed to brighten your day.

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External view from Bedroom at Fairmont Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Fairmont Mayakoba

Part of the Maya Riviera’s Mayakoba resort community, the Fairmont Mayakoba has 401 guest rooms located in casitas of various sizes scattered around the forty-five-acre property. Most rooms have views of one of several natural lagoons, which guests can travel across via complimentary lanchas, small covered canal boats. The rooms are spacious and well designed for families. The Signature Casita Rooms, for instance, feature a large master bedroom with huge marble bathroom and dressing area and a living room, which can be outfitted with twin cots and second bathroom. The rooms and bathrooms are attractive, with sleek, contemporary furnishings - not likely to offend anyone but not particularly specific to Mexico.

If the rooms are as nice as those in the best resorts, the service and the crowded feeling of the public areas remind you that what really sets the top properties apart from the next level down is not the infrastructure but the people. Although there are five pools, families tend to pack in around the pool that is not near the beach, possibly because of its popular water slide. At peak holiday times, it gets so crowded that you may not find a chaise if you don’t stake one out early. All restaurants feature a kids’ menu but service can be exceedingly slow.

In addition to a fantastic Willow Stream Spa and 18-hole Greg Norman golf course on the property, the Riviera Maya offers a spate of family-friendly activities from diving or snorkeling in Cozumel (the world’s second largest coral reef) to zipline riding though the jungle or exploring the Mayan ruins of Tulum—many of which can arranged by the hotel. Bottom line: At first glance this looks like a true luxury resort but its size and service give the experience a slightly mass-market feeling. On the other hand, it is only forty minutes or so from the Cancun airport, which is easily reached from both coasts, so for a quick fix of sun in winter, it’s reliable and can be reasonable. Tip: The nicest rooms are the ones on the beach in a private area of the resort. Each of these comes with butler service.

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Four Seasons Los Cabos

The Four Seasons Los Cabos is a beautifully designed beachfront resort with a swimmable beach on the East Cape, a remote part of the Cape.

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