Mexico’s leisure travel industry has, according to leading tour operators, been “decimated” by the escalating violent drug cartel turf war that, while not directed at tourists, in 2010 alone claimed 107 American lives, according to the U.S. State Department.
This year, the $12 billion-a-year industry is seeing its biggest decline yet due to safety concerns along border towns, which, coupled with higher airfares, is causing the once thriving and popular travel locale to reach out further to their neighbors to the north.
But undeterred by the chaos, Coast travel writers have set out to prove what Mexican officials claim: that tourist districts are still safe and thriving.
Starwood recently opened a St. Regis in Mexico City, Westin opens in Guadalajara in August, Hilton Worldwide has plans to open five new hotels in 2011, and while vacancies are high in hotels and resorts across the country, there are good deals to be had in Mexico. Coast recently had writers travel to three different resorts in Mexico City, Punta Mita and Tecate, and they all returned safely, with glowing reports.
St. Regis Mexico City
As I followed my butler through the doorway, he lightly touched a panel on the wall and my room discreetly, yet dramatically came to life – the lighting subtly rose, illuminating the understated style and elegance of the furnishings, while a wall of curtains softly swished open to reveal floor-to-ceiling glass and a breathtaking view of the tree-lined Paseo de la Reforma just below.
The St. Regis Mexico City is a hotel like no other in the famed Mexico City Historic Centre. Designed by César Pelli, this refined oasis is an architectural work of art, a seamless blending of form and function that instantly envelops you in its understated sophistication and luxury in the heart of this large and culturally diverse metropolis. The sleek 31-story tower features 189 beautifully appointed rooms, including 36 suites, all with sweeping views of the city that cater to world and business travelers alike.
The accommodations epitomize refined luxury. From the subtle yet elegant interior design, which draws heavily upon the local art and culture of Mexico, to the signature St. Regis butler service and the state-of-the-art business amenities, this hotel surpasses even the most seasoned traveler’s expectations. Especially sumptuous is a treatment at the elegant, full-service Reméde Spa. Located on the 15th and 16th floors of the hotel, the spa and its ultra-modern fitness areas and pool feature panoramic views of the city that make the experience seem all the more sublime.
Dining at the St. Regis Mexico City doesn’t disappoint either. Begin the evening with a cocktail in the King Cole Bar, where you can sip Champagne or enjoy its own world-famous bloody Mary featuring tequila and a unique blend of spices.
Afterwards, enjoy a delightful meal at the Diana restaurant, where you can choose from a menu featuring Mediterranean cuisine with a unique Mexican twist that will open your eyes to the truly magnificent and subtle flavorings of authentic Mexican ingredients such as shrimp and slow-roasted meats skillfully prepared with Mexican spices.
For more intimate groups, try a private party in the Decanter room, which is tastefully decorated and features custom Riedel barware and decanters. Or if you are looking for something truly different, the St. Regis Mexico City features a rooftop helipad that can be booked for intimate private events (like that special engagement) and offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the cityscape.
The hotel is centrally located, allowing visitors to explore all that this fabulous city has to offer. Highlights include seeing the many sites of the Historic Centre, such as the Chapultepec Castle; an afternoon of shopping and people-watching on Masaryk Avenue featuring 20-plus luxury boutiques; visiting one of the more than 160 museums in the city; or seeing the staggering Pyramid of the Sun and the Temple of Quetzacoatl en Teotihuacán, located just a few miles outside of the city.
A worthwhile stop is the Frida Kahlo Museum located in the Barrio de Coyoacán, a charming old part of the city teeming with life. You can spend hours exploring the cobalt blue home where she and Diego Rivera lived, entertained and worked. Afterwards, stroll through the delightful neighborhoods and parks of Coyoacán or take a break and enjoy lunch at Los Danzantes, which sits on the edge of the park and offers views of the historic Templo de San Juan Bautista, where you can enjoy a hearty and delicious black bean soup.
Centrally located only 30 minutes from Mexico City’s Benito Juarez Airport, the St. Regis Mexico City is a destination not to be missed.
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St. Regis Punta Mita
Stepping into the reception area at the St. Regis Punta Mita, I was completely unprepared for the view that awaited. There, framed by the open doorways and windows surrounding it, were three beautiful infinity pools cascading dramatically down a hill to the palm-studded beach and gorgeous Pacific coastline.
This was the first of many breathtaking views I encountered while at the St. Regis. Set upon white sand beaches on the Banderas Bay on the Rivera Nayarit in Mexico, this hotel immerses guests in unsurpassed luxury with a decidedly Mexican flair. Designed by Roy Azar, the St. Regis Punta Mita is comprised of a series of beautiful villas and palapas, which delightfully blend Mexican and Mediterranean architecture. There are 89 guest rooms and 31 suites each lavishly appointed. The highlight for me was my luxurious indoor soaking tub and the ultra private outdoor shower.
Punta Mita Resort – Riviera Nayarit, Mexico” src=”https://lprluxury.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/stregis-001.jpg” alt=”The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort – Riviera Nayarit, Mexico” width=”900″ height=”600″ />
The St. Regis Punta Mita is designed to entertain all ages. In addition to gorgeous white beaches, there are three infinity pools in the large garden area, with one dedicated specifically to families; tennis courts; organized activities for kids of all ages; and two Jack Nicklaus golf courses, including the Pacifico, featuring its famous three-par “Tail of the Whale.”
The Banderas Bay is rich in biodiversity and offers guests an opportunity for a wide variety of activities such as snorkeling, diving, deep sea fishing, and canopy trips though lush tropical forests, to name a few. Or if you choose, you can take the short trip to the nearby surfing village of Sayulita, where you will find interesting shops and wonderful little restaurants hugging the beachfront.
One of the highlights of my trip was a wonderful treatment at the Reméde Spa. This beautiful and relaxing spot features nine treatment rooms, including two rooms for couples’ treatments. There is a divine outdoor relaxation lounge where you’ll be tempted to spend the entire day luxuriating, sipping cucumber water and dipping in the outdoor spas.
After all this recreating you will build up quite a hunger, and the St. Regis Punta Mita is sure to please. Start with breakfast or lunch at the al fresco Las Marietas, where you can enjoy authentic Mexican specialties beneath the three open Palapas. For dinner try the Sea Breeze, with an eclectic menu featuring contemporary California cuisine.
I had a delicious beef filet carpaccio with crispy provolone cheese to start, followed by a wonderful marinated sea bass in fresh ginger with squid ink sauce as an entrée. The hotel’s signature restaurant, Carolina, with its stunning views, amazing food and elegant and eclectic décor is not to be missed either. And make sure to take in the sunset from the Altamira lobby bar with its spectacular ocean and pool views and outstanding selection of tequilas and specialty cocktails; it is the perfect place to unwind after a long day.
What made all this even more enjoyable was the St. Regis staff’s incredible attention to detail. From check-in to the butler service to the spa, everyone was absolutely delightful. The night we dined at Carolina, the head waiter set up a telescope on the terrace so we could view the stars.
And getting to all this luxury is just a short flight away. Located a mere 26 miles north of Puerto Vallarta International Airport, it’s an easy destination to get to for that much-needed winter break. And the signature blend of distinctive accommodations, fine dining and amenities will quickly transport you to another world.