Most people’s experience of the starter version of Mexico includes the Cabo San Lucas pool party scene, wandering the art galleries of Puerto Vallarta, snorkeling the cenotes of the Riviera Maya and navigating Cancun’s night clubs. But for those looking to delve deeper, there are fabulous resorts beyond the traditional hotel zones that provide a more authentic counterpoint to Mexico’s mainstream vacation culture. To help you navigate some of the country's best resorts, we chose four of our favorites:
Capella Pedregal — Cabo San Lucas
Hidden almost in plain sight, this lavish retreat is actually quite close to the town of Cabo San Lucas, but is separated from the noisy streets and bustling marina by a private tunnel through a mountain that leads guests to the resort.
Emerging into the light of day, you are greeted with a cold towel, a house-made margarita and a plan of action for your stay. A personal assistant will be in touch before you arrive to book any spa appointments, dinner reservations or activities you would like. You are then shown—through the desert-landscaped grounds including indigenous cactus—to your room where a standard welcome amenity of chips, guacamole and mini Coronitas await (as it will every day at 4 p.m.).
Rooms at Capella Pedregal start at over 800 square feet, and are decorated with beautiful artisanal touches including hand-carved wooden furniture, sculpted metal beds with leatherwork headboards, ceramic tiling and works by local artists. All guestrooms also include your own private plunge pool.
In addition to your room pool, guests have their choice of three others around the property with one dedicated to families and children. The 10 private treatment cabanas at the hotel’s Auriga Spa are all arranged around the spa’s own private pool, complete with magnificent overhead water features, and many open directly out into the water. Treatments are inspired by the phases of the moon and incorporate The Organic Spa products. The facility also recently introduced one- and three-day packages as well as yoga and bootcamp programs for the more athletically inclined.
Though Don Manuel’s (named after the owner) is a fine-dining outlet with a delicious take on contemporary Mexican cuisine and an intriguing wine list, the standout dining experience is at El Farallon at the far end of the property. The restaurant is spread out on several stone patios above the crashing waves under a starry sky, with music playing and torches flickering. Diners can choose their entrée from the fresh catch of the day and have it prepared to order. And if you like what you eat, you can book a private cooking class with one of the resort’s chefs and learn how to make specialties like ceviche, tamales and more.
Viceroy Zihuatanejo — Ixtapa
Zihuatanejo has long lived in the shadow of bigger destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco in its heyday, as well as the resort town of Ixtapa right next door; but that just means this under-the-radar oceanfront oasis makes for the perfect laidback getaway.
Just a few minutes outside town along its own stretch of beach, the Viceroy Zihuatanejo is a luxurious little enclave with meandering garden paths, free-form pools and fountains, and a prime spot on sandy Playa La Ropa with amenities like beach butlers to cater to guests’ every need, and palapas with swinging beds for utter relaxation. The 70 rooms and suites feel like little casitas, and are sunny and bright with native textiles and artwork, private patios (some with infinity-edge plunge pools) and enormous bathrooms.
Guests can partake of casual Mexican fare at the beachfront La Villa restaurant or grab a cocktail and ceviche (or even a tequila-tasting class) at the Coral Bar. Or they can opt for an over-the-top six-course tasting menu at La Cava, or simple but elegant dishes at La Marea (which means “the tide” in Spanish), where they can practically dip their toes in the beach sand from the main dining deck.
One of the hotel’s signature experiences is a half-day cooking class where guests can accompany the hotel’s chefs into town to pick out the fresh catch of the day from the fish market, peruse the produce at the main market in town, and then help prepare and enjoy a beachside feast for lunch.
When it’s finally time to unwind, the cozy Moorish-style spa offers signature treatments like the Lava Shell Therapy where guests are massaged with smooth shells that have been heated using minerals, kelp, algae and saltwater before being pampered with vegan, biodegradable Osea skincare products, perfect for soothing muscles before another day out on the beach.
Rancho Pescadero — Todos Santos
Just a 45-minute drive up the coast from Cabo on a newly constructed highway lies the sleepy little surfer town of Todos Santos (home to the immortalized Hotel California), and this barefoot-luxury retreat outside of town along a strip of deserted beach.
Guests arrive at Rancho Pescadero along a private road and are welcomed by name before being shown to the poolside bar for a welcome margarita. There are two pools here, the one near the main building with chic cushioned daybeds, as well as another quiet one with lounge chairs and a small café-style area for private events. The resort built little palapas and cabanas at intervals along the wide beach for some solitary sunning, or where you can book an outdoor spa treatment in advance.
The 27 villas here are rustic but comfortable—no TVs, but the Wi-Fi signal might just reach you—and offer either double or king beds with decorative overhead netting. Sitting areas are furnished with sectionals for lounging the evenings away over a good book, that is, if you’re not sharing a few beers with the other hotel guests by the fire pit. Outdoor patios include a breakfast table and lounge chairs. The bathrooms are spacious and have a retro vibe with a sunken shower-tub combination.
Every morning, a fresh breakfast basket with coffee or tea, fruit and pastries is delivered to each room, but guests can get something heartier at the pool bar or at the main indoor-outdoor restaurant near reception. For dinner, Executive Chef Rodrigo Bueno’s menu includes classics like flavorful cochinita pibil tacos with rice and black beans, roasted local fish in ajillo with nixtamal and potato gnocchi, and Baja shrimp in green curry.
Though you could keep busy by heading into town and visiting the art galleries and shops, you can also just stick around the resort and borrow one of the complimentary surfboards or bicycles to explore land and sea, or take one of the daily yoga classes in the specially built pavilion.
Nizuc Resort & Spa — Cancun
Cancun might be played out, and most top-end travelers tend to head to the exclusive resorts of the Riviera Maya and Tulum, but just 10 minutes from the airport and before you get to the melee of Cancun’s chaotic Zona Hotelera, sits Punta Nizuc and the sprawling Nizuc Resort & Spa.
Situated on a strip of land that was once a Mexican presidential retreat, the property was originally developed by Aman Resorts before the design was taken over by architect Alejandro Escudero. Nizuc takes advantage of panoramic lagoon views to stun guests upon arrival with sweeping vistas out over the water from the airy, high-ceilinged lobby.
A self-contained oasis, the resort aims to make guests feel as though they never have to leave. After all, there are three pools, including a quiet adult one at the far end of the property, as well as six restaurants serving everything from Peruvian tapas to casual Italian fare, Asian cuisine and, of course, gourmet Mexican at Ramona.
The resort’s spa has partnered with ESPA and offers signature experiences like a Mayan Cacao body treatments that includes a full-body massage as well as a moisturizing rub with pure cacao oil. Its facilities include a series of hydrotherapy pools, a salon and a fitness center as well.
From traditional hotel-style rooms to private residences with their own enclosed gardens and pools, the hotel features 274 guestrooms. Many of the higher room categories have their own plunge pools, and the Penthouse Suites have expansive outdoor decks with dining and lounge areas in addition to the pool and an outdoor shower as well.
The décor scheme here is contemporary and spare, and rooms have high ceilings with floor-to-ceiling windows, stone floors and dark wood furniture that gives it all a cool, contemporary feel. The enormous walk-in showers and freestanding bathtubs don’t hurt either. Then if you do decide to leave the property, Cancun’s party strip of clubs is just a 15-minute taxi ride away, and the resort can also arrange day trips to nearby sites like Cozumel and Chichen Itza.