|Mexico's 10 Most Romantic Honeymoon Hideaways|
Christine Delsol - San Francisco Chronicle
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July 01, 2009
First off, let's be honest: There is no such thing as the 10 best honeymoon hotels for everyone, in Mexico or anywhere else. It all depends on your travel style, your budget, how much time you have and your expectations. What we're offering here are 10 great options for different types of honeymoons, all with a common denominator: conduciveness to romance.
Now, the inevitable question: Is it safe to travel in Mexico? Your honeymoon should be a glorious, stress-free time, so if the clamor about drug violence and swine flu worry you, choose another destination. But if you seek exotic surroundings, intriguing culture and warm-hearted hosts, you'll find that - along with incredible bargains as the tourist industry works to entice travelers - in 95 percent of the country. Read the recent Mexico Mix columns on crime and health and check the announcements from the State Department, Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization; then decide for yourself.
Total luxury honeymoon on the beach
1. The Tides Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo: Unabashed luxury - air-conditioning, 1,000-square-foot villas, private pools, hand-crocheted hammocks, mahogany-louvered doors and windows, marble showers and his-and-her sinks - comes with delicious seclusion here. Villas are tucked into "Lost World" jungle foliage, steps away from the white sands stretching north of Playa del Carmen; indoor and outdoor spaces merge imperceptibly and ever so privately. The Tides' Maya Spa, arguably the best on the Riviera Maya, offers a long menu created from ancient tradition; lovers should try the mystical fertility ritual, incorporating the Maya's sacred Xtabentun liqueur, a seed massage, drums and ancient songs invoking abundance in all aspects of life. Doubles from $585 per night; honeymoon packages available.
2. Esencia, Quintana Roo: From the immaculate, powdery sand to the simply but luxuriously furnished suites, white rules the color palette at what was once the beachfront vacation home of an Italian duchess. It's like lounging at the beach retreat of a wealthy friend with impeccable taste - and a hospitable staff that anticipates every whim. Esencia's Aroma Spa is an overgrown, Maya-style palapa whose organic design extends from walls of native chocun bark mixed with limestone to the garden where you harvest your own herbs to begin the ancient Sun Ritual. The supremely private Tower Suite, claiming the entire third floor of the duchess' house, has a 360-degree view, letting you wake to sunrise over the ocean and watch sunset from the terrace. Doubles from $459.
Honeymooning in the romantic past
3. Hacienda Xcanatún, Mérida, Yucatán: A stellar example of the Yucatán's converted haciendas, Hacienda Xcanatún was built in the 18th century and became one of the Yucatán's most important hénequin (sisal) plantations. Restoration with handcrafted local hardwood, wrought iron, clay, marble and stone has resuscitated its original luster and then some. The bathrooms might be the most romantic spots in the 18 suites: lined with local marble and ticúl stone, with either a hydrotherapy tub or a carved stone waterfall tub for two, all bathed in natural light. But they get plenty of competition from nine acres of gardens studded with fountains and bridges, and a spa employing ancient Maya healing techniques using local plants and flowers. Doubles from $245.
4. Hacienda Uayamon, Campeche: This unique hacienda hotel lies between the city of Campeche and the haunting Maya ruins of Edzná. While other haciendas were substantially (or thoroughly) restored to serve as a hotel, Uayamon still looks like a ruin at first glance, darkened by time and missing the occasional chunk of stone. The sense of arrested decay is strangely calming in the hush of the grounds. Within the crumbling walls, though, the 12 rooms and suites are modern, air-conditioned and in perfect repair. You can sleep in the sumptuous beds, in a day bed on your private terrace or hanging Maya style in one of the hammocks Campeche is known for. Besides the attentive but discreet staff, the only other signs of life you hear during your stay may be birds and the occasional monkey overhead in your jungle bower. Doubles from $220; honeymoon packages available.
Honeymoons for wildlife lovers
5. CasaSandra, Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo: Cuban writer and artist Sandra Perez found her way to this tiny speck of an island off the northern coast, where the Caribbean meets the Gulf of Mexico, and opened a palapa-meets-Swiss-chalet guesthouse to finance her dream of writing by the sea. She filled it with art and designed every detail: the tree trunks holding the palapa, the airy spaces, hand-crafted furniture, silky linens and filmy fabrics wafting in the breeze. The island has no paved roads, and there are more nesting flamingos than people. For a honeymoon you'll never forget, time your stay to swim alongside the whale sharks that congregate in shallow waters nearby from May to September. CasaSandra's spa, opened two years ago, is the only one on the island. Doubles from $220.
6. Playa Las Tortugas, Nayarit: Before there was a Riviera Nayarit, there was Playa Las Tortugas. You'll find all the starry skies twinkling through coconut palms that you can handle, but for a real treat, join Mexican veterinarians and biologists between June and December to protect nesting Olive Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles. Volunteers patrol the creamy unspoiled beach at night to prevent harvesting of turtle eggs, and can release hatchlings on the wet sand and usher them to the moonlit waves. You'll stay in a villa rented from private owners, with the option of hiring maid service and local cooks to prepare traditional meals, or simply have your villa stocked with food and drinks before you arrive. Doubles from $160.
(Way) off-the-beaten-path honeymoons
7. Verana, Yelapa, Jalisco: When you travel by boat and mule to get to your honeymoon retreat, you don't have to worry much about the outside world intruding. At the end of a small jungle path, on a hillside overlooking the Bay of Banderas south of Puerto Vallarta, you can choose from eight bungalows hidden among palms, citrus trees and bougainvillea. Though Casa Amor is tailor-made for honeymooners, the individual design themes also include a stone house, a traditional Maya home and a Japanese teahouse. You can lounge at the infinity-edged spring water pool, book couples massages under an outdoor palapa, practice yoga or rev up the activity level with cooking classes, jungle hikes, bird walks or kayaking. Either way, wind down at night with a candlelight soak in an open-air tub. Doubles from $320; reservations require five-night minimum.
8. Sin Duda Villas, Xcalak, Quintana Roo: For getting away from the world, you can't do better than the last outpost on the Mexican Caribbean, seven miles north of the Belize border. The architect-owner, inspired by Maya tradition, designed the buildings so that three private suites, two apartments and a jungle studio all offer ocean views and cooling breezes. The place embodies Mexican simplicity but provides a full array of comforts, and you can be regaled like family or left to your own devices as much as you care to be. Honeymooners who like wilderness, beachcombing on unspoiled sands, kayaking, birding, freedom from tourist crowds and authentic food will be in their element here; for more intellectual diversions, Sin Duda has an interesting collection of artwork and a well-stocked library. And there's no more romantic sight than the dazzling sprays of stars in a dark, dark, sky. Doubles from $75.
Honeymoons for culture vultures
9. Hotel Casa del Balam, Mérida, Yucatán: Unjustly overlooked Mérida is a gorgeous, vibrant city that proves the Maya civilization is far from lost. At Hotel Casa del Balam, a former colonial mansion converted in 1968, even a king-size bed and massive wooden furniture leave space enough to do cartwheels across the marble floor. Rooms overlooking Calle 60 have heavy cedar doors that bring in the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies and balcony windows that summon piano strains from the lush courtyard dining room below. It still feels more like a mansion than a hotel, with luxury touches of a bygone era tempered by modern air-conditioning and double-paned windows to banish noise. It's just two blocks from the plaza, in the middle of the best shopping and a short walk to museums, theaters, markets and a multitude of parks and plazas, which host free traditional music and dances every night of the week and a cultural festival on Sundays. From $85; $95 for honeymoon room.
10. Los Juaninos, Morélia, Michoacán: The majestic state capital's well-preserved colonial buildings host artisans from surrounding villages who fill the city's parks, markets and shops with a dizzying array of hand-crafted clothing, furniture, pottery, musical instruments, jewelry and textiles. Los Juaninos, the former Episcopal bishop's palace, stands on the central plaza, smack in the middle of museums, restaurants, theaters and landmarks such as the cathedral and municipal palace. Arcades filled with 18th century stained-glass and elegant rooms blending European, Mexican colonial and native style bring history to life, but the service is pure 21st century luxury. It's ideal for exploring the heart of the city, but be prepared for some noise, notably from the church bells. The rooftop restaurant and bar offers a front-row seat for the Saturday-night light show at the cathedral. Doubles from $180.