ATLA May 2013 : Page 80
Mexico Hot list meXican sun Under the Mexico’s epicenters of traditional and contemporary luxury are luring globe-trotters to revel in a glamorous renaissance of epic proportions. | By Paul Rubio | Capella Pedregal’s dramatic lobby entrance
Travel Under The Mexican Sun
mExico's epicenters of traditional and contemporary luxury are luring globe-trotters to revel in a glamorous renaissance of epic proportions.
The southern capes of the Baja Peninsula, or Los Cabos (visitloscabos.travel), are some of the world's most fabled shorelines—and for good reason. The aquamarine crossroads of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez dazzle with astounding natural beauty and a handful of resorts that flawlessly capture an extraordinary union of desert, sea and modern opulence.
Between the 20-mile corridor uniting the towns of Cabo San Lucas to the west and San Jose del Cabo to the east, several exalted resorts battle for the title of Mexico's "it" hotel, each delivering a bespoke incarnation of paradise. Stellar service, dreamy vistas, showstopping design and refined accoutrements are givens. It's the fine details that set these juggernauts apart, leaving jetsetters and glitterati with multiple definitions of heaven on earth.
Near Cabo San Lucas' iconic Land's End, Capella Pedregal (capellahotels.com/cabosanlucas) is the newest of the ultraluxe hotels and embraces the apex of taste and style, while imparting an unwavering ambiance of utter romance. Cover to cover, a stay at Capella Pedregal reads like an epic fairy tale. The prologue: the grand entrance through Pedregal Mountain by way of tunnel, whereupon a vision of light reveals a postcard-perfect image of tropical paradise, while impeccable modern architecture mingles with sleek reflection ponds, and low-lying cacti flush towering date palms exposed to a brilliant blue sky and cerulean waters. The narrative: the potpourri of paths along swathes of virgin beach with Land's End in the horizon, whale-watching by day and stargazing at night from the en-suite infinity pool, sipping guava margaritas and fine wines with new friends at the hotel's larger swim spot, and enjoying unabashed pampering in a private over-water pavilion at the 100,000-square-foot ocean-view Auriga Spa.
The 66 rooms, suites and family villas in all nine of Capella's rock-hewn low-rise structures overlook the ocean—there's not a bad view anywhere in this highdesign enclave. Intricately studded and etched, mesquite wood doors open up to elegantly designed Mexican sanctuaries. Framed by exposed wood trusses and panoramas of sea and sky, spaces are decorated with custom-made hardwood furnishings, exquisite candelabras, hand-embroidered lampshades and artistic textiles revealing colorful journeys through the country's diverse regions.
You'll spend far too much time at Auriga Spa, likely indulging in one of the cleansing or revitalizing signature treatments inspired by the lunar cycle. Despite its mammoth size, the spa intentionally keeps its number of treatments rooms to 10, each one is like a lily pad where you enter from land and can exit directly into the pool's shallow ponds.
Experiential eats also add to the Capella Pedregal high. Tucked into the cliffs of the property's western perimeter, El Farallon is a new take on an old-fashioned outdoor fish market, where selections of fresh-caught seafood change daily. At Crudo, lunch light on fresh sashimi, sushi and ceviche to save room for complimentary guacamole and chips delivered to your room every afternoon.At signature restaurant Don Manuel, a Mexican gastronomic tour de force may include octopus aguachile, lobster tamales, tamarind- and coconut-glazed duck breast, and macadamiacrusted sea bass. Or, amp up the romance factor and dine on the beach. Under starry skies, the resort transforms its stunning shore into a private open-air dining room (tiki torches and rose petals included), with Champagne at the Ready and a decadent multicourse meal savored at your leisure. It's just another example of how every whim is accommodated to perfection.
Facing Land's End from the opposite vantage point, Esperanza, An Auberge Resort (esperanzaresort.com) offers a front-row seat to the desert-meetsthe- sea majesty of Los Cabos.This hillside Relais & Chateaux property capitalizes on its natural surrounds, with view-heavy infinity pools along the ocean's edge and a romantic outdoor hot tub, sheltered by vaulted palapa ceilings, on the terrace of each 1,200-squarefoot unit. The resort's two wings mark a clear division between the familycentric villas on one side of the property and the adults-only hotel on the other, ensuring that kids and honeymooners don't mix.
Esperanza's principal approach for distinguishing itself is an extensive roster of activities.The resort's fitness mantra plays out through complimentary daily classes of beachside yoga, boot camp, T R X and Zumba. The Spa at Esperanza offers a bevy of Mexican- and Asian-inspired treatments, with a hydrotherapy circuit that includes steam caves, a warm spring soaking pool and a cool waterfall. Wildlife enthusiasts love the sea-life adventure experiences, which include swimming with whale sharks, watching humpback whales and releasing sea turtle hatchlings. Come evening, you'll be well on your way to becoming a certified tequila aficionado after an informative (and intoxicating) tasting course with Master Tequilero Christian Moya. On Thursdays, Esperanza's La Palapa restaurant transforms into an all-out fiesta under the stars during Mexicanisimo, featuring live music, fireworks, local vendors and taste sensations from around the country.
Further east, toward San Jose del Cabo, Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort (rosewoodhotels.com/en/ lasventanas) dutifully merits the illustrious reputation it has gained the world over. At any moment, warm and smiling staff stands eager to deliver stellar service that never feels forced or required. The iconic, whitewashed buildings, enveloped by color-splashed cacti gardens and scintillating seascapes, exude a constant "wow" factor. In the alfresco lobby, handcrafted mirrors reflect ocean blues, while bare branches from Baja thirstlands spring to life with handblown red-and-pink glass hearts. Seven quieter boutique pools surface as resplendent oases from the core beachfront pool, where you'll share far too many Micheladas and margaritas with fellow jet-setters.
This all-suite grande dame has remained at the top of her game, never forgoing utmost excellence in all facets of design and operation, or forgetting that a little nip and tuck never hurts. In 2011, Las Ventanas al Paraiso added a sumptuous new spa, replete with Zen-inspired indoor-outdoor treatment rooms.And earlier this year, the hotel announced a new chapter in its history. By the end of 2013, there will be a few more "windows to paradise," as the resort unveils its new luxury beachfront villas.
Just down from Las Ventanas al Paraiso is celeb fave the One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos (palmilla.oneandonlyresorts. com)—where top-to-bottom bespoke treatment comes standard.However, it's anything but a standard hotel. Threads that match your wardrobe appear in your closet; fresh fruit arrives daily, as does an afternoon snack; a bedside aromatherapy menu allows you to pick an evening scent to lull you to sleep; and that's just the beginning of the seemingly endless parade of gratis hospitality menus provided.
Perched above the beach along the Baja peninsula's edge, Palmilla boasts 172 guest accommodations housed in single- and threestory buildings with red-tiled roofs, whitewashed walls and breathtaking beach vistas. Unique In layout and design, guest rooms vary in category, but all are jaw-droppingly impressive: Think a spacious 1,100-squarefoot one-bedroom suite, with separate living room, wet bar and huge outside terrace. In the bathroom, an immense picture window streams in sunlight, highlighting an open shower (with rainhead, naturally) and stand-alone tub. Here, extravagances include luxe trimmings, sumptuous "Mexiterranean" cuisine, an ESPA-stocked spa and exquisite service.
ON OUR RADAR
Close to San Jose del Cabo, the sleepy town of Puerto Los Cabos is wide awake, now that Hotel El Ganzo (elganzo.com) has made its much-hyped debut.The 72-room boutique hotel, whose name translates to "the goose" in English, channels a vibe that's part Soho House, part Standard Hotel and 100-percent cool. Look forward to live music from indie artists downstairs and libations in the see-through rooftop swimming pool upstairs.
Away from the buzz, a private enclave on the western tip of the Baja peninsula is where you'll discover the quiet, posh digs of Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Resort & Spa (pueblobonitopacifica.Com). Settle into one of the resort's 154 luxury suites (each one has an ocean view and a terrace for sunset-gazing), and leave your cash and tykes at home—this exclusive haute haven is all-inclusive and adults only. Begin working on your sun-kissed glow at one of Cabo's only resorts with private beach access and an expanse of beachfront swimming pools.Lounge on a swinging feathertop bed in a private cabana, or order up a frozen top-shelf libation at the swim-up bar, before heading to the award-winning holistic Armonia Spa. Saunter over to one of five onsite restaurants, such as Horizons, where a different themed cuisine experience is executed on the beach each night. Or you can always venture out to one of the four sister properties' culinary offerings, and you'll still enjoy all-inclusive status.If you want to work off all those indulgences, let the hotel arrange a wellness program, or activities such as a desert safari, horseback riding or a canopy tour of the jungle.
Puerto Vallarta (visitpuertovallarta com) may have reached its peak during The Love Boat era, but, in the last decade, the city has worked tirelessly to regain its original luster. The multimile paved boardwalk lining the city's shoreline, the Malecon, has been completely reimagined and renovated. Joining the now spectacle of iconic sculpture by Mexico's top artists, like Alejandro Colunga Marin and Sergio Bustamante, are charming Storefronts reconstructed to accommodate scores of international coffeehouses, more than 30 diverse galleries featuring the work of both international and homegrown talents, and dozens of restaurants leading Mexico's culinary revolution.
At Cafe des Artistes (cafedesartistes.com), in the heart of Old Town Puerto Vallarta, acclaimed chef Thierry Blouet doles out French modern cuisine with a Mexican flair in A stunning century-old home, boasting exquisite gardens, an alfresco dining courtyard and a comprehensive wine library.Next door, his Thierry Blouet Cocina de Autor (thierryblouet.Com) stages an intimate epicurean adventure, hosted either in a candlelit dining room or in the company of lofty banyan trees.
Deeper in downtown, one hotel in particular is attracting scores of international glitterati and helping put Puerto Vallarta back on the luxury tourist map. Hacienda San Angel (haciendasanangel.com) has become a household name for savvy jet-setters. Discreetly tucked into the hills of Old Town Puerto Vallarta, this adjoining series of refurbished colonial homes (including actor Richard Burton's former love shack) is now an exclusive 20-suite boutique hotel, embracing Puerto Vallarta's fabled history and beauty from the 18 th century onward.
Original in design, each suite Is adorned with religious relics, antique art and an intermixing of Mexican and European artifacts, completing a "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" narrative. Take the San Miguel Suite, where decor includes a Mexican armoire from the early 1900s, a handcarved cathedral mirror crafted in 1860 and a 1920s-era replica of the Monja Coronada from Guadalajara's principal cathedral
Across the cobblestone streets from the enclave of restored homes, Puerto del Cielo is an alfresco wedding chapel exclusive to guests of Hacienda San Angel. Here, it's not so much about matrimony, as it is about relishing the serenity and solitude produced by sweeping coastal views. The grounds of Hacienda San Angel are also rife with indulgent en-suite plunge pools, sprawling terraces, majestic courtyards, manicured gardens, the superb Hacienda San Angel Gourmet restaurant and million-dollar views of Old Town Puerto Vallarta. In fact, the hotel's rooftop restaurant, private terraces and signature suites dole out panoramas so inspiring— they're arguably the best in all of Mexico's Pacific Riviera. Absorbing the timeless rapture of the town's terra-cotta rooftops, the azure glow of Banderas Bay and the zenith of church spires at all hours could easily constitute your greatest moments in Mexico. A regal bathroom at Hacienda San Angel Despite some 200 miles of lush Pacific coastline, the Mexican state of Nayarit quietly flies under the radar, and that's what appeals to its visitors.
The untamed shorelines of Riviera Nayarit (rivieranayarit. Com) are peppered with funky, boho-chic pueblos that attract everyone from the brave and eccentric to the avant-garde and rebellious. Towns such as stony-streeted San Pancho and vibrant Sayulita explode with colorful galleries and edgy boutiques housed in striking spaces that channel both Miami's Design District and New York's Meatpacking District. Even with these artsy outposts, these surfcentric stations showcase a beautiful Mexico in the raw: developed, yet still innocent—untainted by tourism and enveloped by virgin jungle, far off the beaten path.
Since upscale accommodations have yet to match the caliber of the shopping, most sybarites prefer to experience this road less traveled in a series of day trips, anchoring themselves in the Riviera Nayarit's most coveted pueblo, Punta de Mita—a short 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta Airport. It is here where cultural patchworks are swapped for modern luxuries, namely in the form of trusted hotel brands.
As their names suggest, both the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita (fourseasons.com/ puntamita) and The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort are located in the esteemed private residential community of Punta Mita (puntamita.com), the most coveted address of the greater Punta de Mita pueblo. Within this safeguarded sanctuary of leisure and pleasure, the resorts share amenities such as the landmark Jack Nicklausdesigned golf courses, which include the spectacular Paci'fico course, famous for its Tail of the Whale par-three hole that juts several hundred feet into the Pacific Ocean.
The 173-room Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita delivers a delightfully predictable pampering experience that's synonymous with its namesake brand. Service never falls below the highest standards of excellence, and the list of inhouse amenities comprises a small book. Rooms are housed within clusters of larger Mexican casitas, each 650 square feet in size, but varying in vistas (beachfront, oceanfront, ocean view and garden view). Emerging from a soft refurbishment in 2009, resort rooms are tech-savvy, and interiors exude stylish sophistication.
At this fun-filled paradise, sun-worshippers and romanceseekers gravitate toward the resort's adult-oriented Tamai pool complex and lounger-lined private beach. Meanwhile, families float circles around the lazy-river pool and make a splash at Nuna, the principal infinity-edge pool nestling in the Pacific Ocean. Water sports- Enthusiasts gather at the Four Seasons' second private beach, where complimentary kayaks, Jet Skis, paddleboards and snorkels await. Those longing to venture deeper into the great blue hook up with Punta Mita Expeditions (puntamitaexpeditions.com), the local one-stop shop for various marine adventures. Their most popular expedition, the Marine Safari, explores Marieta Islands National Park, offshore atolls hosting rare blue-footed boobies, abundant marine life and Hidden Beach—lying midocean within an exposed crater, this natural phenomenon is accessible only through a cave entrance.
A more intimate hotel experience is enjoyed at the refuge Casa de Mita (casademita.Com), a distinctly Mexican, thatched-roof estate of six guest rooms and two sumptuous suites on a quiet stretch of downy sands. The private ocean-facing terraces foster a feel of your own private Mexico. Further north on the coastline, the forest marries the sea at the 12-room Imanta Resort (imantaresorts.Com), an architecturally inspiring enclave that peeks through dense blankets of trees formed by the Sierra de Vallejo national biosphere, rising like a glorious lost Mayan city. Towering over a private half-mile of beach and 250 extraordinary acres of pristine tropics, uberluxurious Imanta offers extreme privacy, pampering and total escapism.Oversized yet understated, the stonewalled bungalows impress with ravishing symmetries and a sensual, rustic elegance that matches the beauty of its surroundings. Feast on local, fresh fish at Catch of the Day, the resort's restaurant on a stretch of private beach, and soak in the scene-literallyfrom one of the cliffside, ensuite or public infinity pools dotting the majestic property
In the '80s and '90s, Cancun (cancun.travel) was branded a stomping ground for hormonecharged, Coppertoned college kids eager to realize their ultimate spring break fantasies.But tired of the sardine-packed hotel rooms and eyesore bungee cranes, Cancun exercised an arduous, islandwide effort to rid itself of underage heretics—the goal being to gift its Coronaspeckled beaches with classier joints. Following a whopping $71 million beach recovery project and a surge in private capital, Cancun's reinvention as an upscale beach destination is well underway.
Today, increasingly recognized for its exquisite turquoise waters, velvety sands and chic offerings, Cancun's luxurious beachfront havens are enjoying well-deserved of-themoment status. Where once there were only a couple of luxury addresses on the island, they now share Cancun's shoreline with posh neighbors like Du Mexique, an intimate and artsy French-Mexican eatery with just six tables, and Luxury Avenue Cancun (luxuryavenue.com), a fabulous boutique mall with two dozen outposts, including topbrand shops Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo and Fendi.
To keep up with the changing neighborhood The Ritz- Carlton, Cancun (ritzcarlton.Com/cancun) has complemented its eight bars and restaurants, expansive 17,000-square-foot private beach and two swimming pools with a spectacular culinary center, a grander Kayanta Spa and enhancements to its Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center. Additions aside, the rooms—365 total in 13 accommodation categories— foster the greatest memories.ach boasts unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea from a private balcony that overlooks a superlative stretch of baby blues. This pampering sanctuary is anything but the Cancun you thought you knew.
On the culinary front, the hotel's signature restaurant, Fantino, is celebrating a redesigned menu. Since they offer the best in Mediterranean fine dining, dress to the nines for an evening of old-school, white-glove service, while indulging in succulent dishes, such as truffle-crusted sea scallop over short-rib tortellini and porcini-crusted filet mignon in a red wine shallot reduction.
At the opposite end of the island, the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort & Spa (fiestamericanagrand .com) typifies the age-old adage: It's what's inside that counts. While boldly tiered architecture showcases luxury circa 1990, interiors and amenities personify it in 2013. To keep up with the pressure of its new neighbors, its now-completed three-year renovation has replaced glass balconies with wrought-iron counterparts, and refreshed all 602 rooms (across 11 accommodation categories) with a sexy, modern edge.
Spanning three Mexican states—Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo—the coastlines of the Yucatan Peninsula are alive with jaw-dropping luxury. Most notably, top-notch resort brands, easily rivaling the Caribbean's most treasured mainstays, swarm hot spots Riviera Maya and Tulum.
Located south of Cancun and five miles north of Playa del Carmen, the prestigious, private community of Mayakoba (mayakoba.com) houses four such cases of extreme lavishness, currently with Fairmont, Rosewood and Banyan Tree, and with an Andaz resort opening in 2014. Uniting the Caribbean Sea with ecologically sensitive mangrove colonies and an extensive underwater cave system, resort-studded Mayakoba doubles as an award-winning 1,600-acre ecological reserve. In fact, all four resorts have been constructed along the biodiverse maze of labyrinthine canals and lagoons that define the region's natural splendor.
Since becoming the community's first tenant in 2006, the Fairmont Mayakoba (fairmont.com/mayakoba-rivieramaya) has constantly reshaped its product to remain a flagship resort for the brand and a top player in Mexico's competitive market. Near a swathe of prime beach, 34 casita suites take shape as a "hotel within a hotel," each with a stunning vista. These 1,000-square-foot-plus eco-chic spaces are all appointed with private plunge pools and 24-hour butler service.
The greater resort is a mere golf-cart ride away. Here, you'll find several excellent farmand sea-to-table restaurants (including El Lobby Lounge bar, El Puerto Restaurant steakhouse and authentic Mexican eatery La Laguna Restaurant and Lounge); the 20,000-squarefoot Willow Stream Spa, an adults-only infinity pool, and the 18-hole Greg Normandesigned El Camaleon golf course. And, for kids ages 4 to 12, Fairmont Mayakoba offers three complimentary hours daily of a fun-filled activity at its Discovery Club & Adventure Camp.
Latent charm is the norm, not the exception, when it comes to Latin America's myriad colonial towns. Bucking this trend, is San Miguel de Allende—the rogue pueblo that fired the first shots for Mexican independence in 1810 and renamed itself in honor of hero Ignacio de Allende circa 1826. Situated in the heart of Mexico's central highlands, San Miguel de Allende sparkles with multihued, candy-coated streets and fairy-tale architecture. Synonymous with Mexico's glamorous renaissance, the polished colonial town keeps history stylishly alive.No need to dust off your high-school Spanish here. As the majority of investors and homeowners are American or European, English is more common than Espanol. And there's nothing lost in translation when referring to the splendor of this UNESCO World Heritage site, which begs the question: Was Disney hired to perfect the facade of this 18 th century colonial town to create a surreal, historical playground for ambles and daydreams? Thankfully, this reverie is reality—the countless gardens, convents, neoclassical and neo-Gothic churches, and baroque-style homes of San Miguel de Allende are fodder for personal travel dispatches. In 2006, influenced by a strong cultural heritage and the growing demand for luxury tourism, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts endeavored a bold blueprint of cultural preservation and development in the historic soul of Mexico—Rosewood San Miguel de Allende (rosewoodhotels.Com/en/sanmigueldeallende).This living museum pays homage to its native country's classical periods of design brilliance, while immortalizing its traditionally popular customs.
The five-year development of the 5-acre Rosewood San Miguel de Allende enclave produced a storybook fantasy that transports visitors to an enigmatic juxtaposition of a bygone age and splendid modernity. Fashioned in traditional Mexican hacienda style, expansive rooms surround either a central courtyard or aromatic fields of lavender. Exteriors alternate between tints of rusts, reds and yellows lying in vibrant contrast to the bright blue skies over central Mexico's oldest town. Fireplaces, marble bathtubs and exquisite period furnishings come standard in all 67 rooms and suites.
Outside, towering arched domes lead from one building to the next, with the end of each corridor awash with antique and contemporary art, availing more modern marvels: a cabana-lined infinity pool; the fabulous Sense, A Rosewood Spa; a subterranean wine cellar constructed of local river rock and dedicated to Frida Kahlo; and a classic outdoor amphitheater. Scale the stone stairs to reach Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar, a high-design outdoor restaurant and bar pushing the envelopes of both cuisine and mixology and serving an incomparable bird's-eye view of San Miguel. While you can't go wrong with any of the 28 small plates on offer, the octopus with bravas-style potatoes, duck tacos carnitas with molcajete sauce, crispy tuna tostada tortilla and churros with Abuelita chocolate are first-class tickets to foodie heaven.
Downstairs, near the central courtyard, 1826 Restaurant specializes in larger Mexican plates featuring locally farmed organic ingredients and those plucked from the on-site herb garden. Don't miss Sunday brunch, when the restaurant— and its adjacent orange grove— transform into a highbrow Mexican street-food fair, serving everything from tinga de pollo (chicken in a chipotle-tomato sauce) to chiccarron prensado (pressed pork) to handmade blue corn tortillas filled with either huitlacoche (corn truffle), squash blossoms or rajas poblanas (roasted pepper strips in cream). As much as Rosewood San Miguel de Allende honors the past, Hotel Matilda (hotelmatilda.com) looks to the future. The slick, hypermodern hotel functions amid a grand collection of thought-provoking art, heralding from cutting-edge newcomers to prominent painters like Diego Rivera, whose 1942 portrait of the owner's mother, Matilda, headlines the lobby library.
An unassuming entrance off San Miguel's cobblestone streets gives way to a world of haute minimalism and esotericism. Behind the checkin desk, a mosaic of screens projects a colorfully mesmerizing, kaleidoscope-esque display. Stark walls, glass doors and muted marble floors allow eclectic works of art to shine, from stand-alone Medusa-like head sculptures to contoured, bronze arms reaching through the wall and doubling as cocktail trays. The color parade extends to Matilda's 32 rooms And suites, where turquoise accessories complement various ensembles of masculine woods, never failing to achieve an ambiance of understated elegance.
The journey of enlightenment continues through creative gastronomy cooked up in Matilda's kitchen. Helmed by renowned chef Enrique Olvera, Matilda's signature restaurant, Moxi (moxi.com.mx) recalls the sophistication and ingenuity of the world's top Michelin-starred restaurants. Feast on innovative dishes, like the jicama ravioli filled with lump crabmeat in a light broth of aguachile and braised cabbage, and the sea bass alpastor topped with pineapple puree, serrano pepper and cilantro.
Originality is also everpresent at the award-winning Spa Matilda. The subterranean boutique spa includes an Apothecary Concierge and an extensive spa ingredient bar, allowing guests to create their very own beauty product for use during treatment. In keeping with the bespoke spirit, massages are tailored to individual guests, often paired with a 30-minute hammam ritual to ensure utter relaxation.
EAT + DRINK
A diamond in the rough within Cabo San Lucas' "zona turistica," Bar Esquina is an urban-chic eatery serving eclectic international cuisine with a Mexican flair. Local A-listers frequent this joint, renowned for its grilled prawn pizza, spicy tuna tartare and blackboard of everchanging artisan cocktails Bahiacabo.mx/restaurantbar
Flora's Field Kitchen
Perfectly manicured and visually stimulating, Flora Farms is a California-style organic farm outside San Jose del Cabo, headlined by the wildly popular Flora's Field Kitchen.This restaurant exudes rustic elegance, and the simple-yet-fresh California cuisine is a delectable respite for those who've had one too many tamales. Flora-farms.com
A working organic farm at the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, Los Tamarindos features a fabulously fun cooking school, where students gather ingredients from the field and explore the intricacies of contemporary Mexican cuisine in the alfresco kitchen. After preparing an exquisite four-course meal with a local top chef, eat and imbibe under the dining-room canopy, enjoying Napa-esque vistas. It doesn't get better (or more locavore) than this!Huertalostamarindos.com
This intimate restaurant in downtown San Jose del Cabo peppers farm-to-table freshness with gastronomic prowess. Dishes like the sweet roasted chicken with chocolate and the spicy fradiabla shrimp (prepared with chipotle, orange juice and white wine) are mouthwatering masterpieces. Save room for the hot dulce de leche lava cake, dripping with dulce de leche ice cream.Casanatalia.com
A top Los Cabos eatery for 17 years, Tequila Restaurant does more than just a few things right. Everything from chef Enrique Silva's seafoodcentric menu wows the senses, but it's his sublime tequila shrimp that's a best-seller year after year. The dimly lit, verdant outdoor dining area guarantees an incredibly romantic evening in picturesque downtown San Jose del Cabo.Tequilarestaurant. Com
From the Gulf of Mexico to the Sea of Cortez, Mexican waters teem with enchanting marine life. A short day trip from any of Mexico's major resort towns leads to a likely encounter with celebrity aquaculture, from 35-foot whale sharks and 100-foot blue whales to 80,000-pound humpback whales and giant manta rays.
They're in fact sharks, not whales, but these majestic sea giants are actually completely harmless. Swimming alongside them with only mask and snorkel is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. From May to September, make personal history by swimming off the islands north of Cancun with Whale Sharks Cancun (whalesharkscancun.com), among one of the world's largest seasonal congregations of whale sharks. From October to February, relish this magical experience in La Paz Bay on daily expeditions from Cabo San Lucas through Cabo Expeditions (caboexpeditions.com.mx) or through the sea-life adventure experience program at Esperanza, An Auberge Resort.
The big-boat days of humpback whale-watching in Mexico are long gone.Nowadays, motorized zodiac rafts allow wildlife enthusiasts to come practically face to face with these impressive 40-ton creatures. From mid-December to late March, visitors to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit snap prize humpback photos on the Whale Watching Photo Safari with Vallarta Adventures (vallarta-adventures.com). During these same months, whales also congregate to mate off the coast of Los Cabos, engaging in ornate displays of courting and dominance. On the Zodiac Whale Watching Adventure with Cabo Expeditions(caboexpeditions.Com.mx), savor what will probably be the best whale sightings of your life, as you can expect to see breaches aplenty.
SPA OF THE CENTURY
Gem Spa (gemspacancun.com), arguably Mexico's finest sanctuary, more than lives up to its name. Even if your travels lead elsewhere, allot one day to fully experience this wellness wonder at the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun Resort & Spa. The stunning triple-story, 43,000-square-foot facility unveils a rare dimension of utter spatopia, with nine hydrotherapy stations, plus a heated Olympic-sized pool (flaunting another five hydrotherapy stations). Riffing cleverly on the spa's moniker, ubiquitous light therapy and gems are used to complement different chakras in treatments like the Mayan Jade experience, the Mayan Emperor facial with amethyst, and the amber and gold regenerating facial. Achieve a true inner glow with one of several diamondinfused therapies (yes, you read that correctly).
In between Cancun and the heart of the Riviera Maya, the former fishing village of Puerto Morelos is buzzing. This is thanks to the prowess of young, talented chef Jonatan Gomez-Luna, on display at Le Chique restaurant located in the all-inclusive Azul Sensatori Hotel, by Karisma (karismahotels.com). There's a surcharge for outside patrons, but it's worth it. Each plate and drink is delivered in a uniquely theatrical display. Expect frothy oysters served on a bed of smoking seaweed and homemade tomato and potato garlic crisps served in a Pringles can. To fully appreciate this bedazzling gastronomic circus, order the full tasting menu, likely to include two dozen over-thetop food and beverage samplings.
(casadragones.com), a highly coveted brand of sipping tequila, operates its San Miguel de Allende showroom in an extraordinary 17th century house of the same name. Though a visit to this exclusive spot is by invitation only (summons are reserved for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Howard Schultz and Martha Stewart), concierges at both Hotel Matilda and the Rosewood San Miguel de Allende can occasionally score tequila tastings for VIPs and well-heeled travelers. With a limited production of less than 22,000 bottles per year, this superpremium 100-percent blue agave joven tequila is renowned for its complex-yetsmooth flavor, meant to be consumed exclusively at room temperature and in pure form. Like great art, each bottle is engraved, signed, numbered and dated, all by hand. The Casa Dragones experience entails a tour of the estate, as well as several gourmet food and tequila pairings in Riedel Ouverture tequila glasses.
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