December 7, 2023
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7 Retreats South of the Border

Choose one of these brand-new or recently renovated resorts for a sunny Mexico getaway

By Katie Solan

Vacations Magazine: 7 Retreats South of the Border
Riu Hotels & Resorts
Mexico draws millions of visitors each year with its sunny beaches, vibrant nightlife and incomparable culture. A popular vacation getaway, the country brims with beachside hotels from Cabo to Cancun, but a handful of new kids on the block, equipped with sparkling new amenities and innovative concepts, are elevating the Mexican resort experience.

Seven new or recently refurbished resorts in Mexico have caught our eye, each bringing something unique to the scene, whether it is Asian-fusion cuisine, standard in-room iPods or a local lock on the couples-only market. Some are all-inclusive, which means food, lodging, most land and nonmotorized water sports, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages and entertainment are included in one flat rate that's paid upfront.

Mexico's newest resort offerings can be found below. To book a stay at any of them, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925.

Riu Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta

This three-star, all-inclusive resort opened in November 2006 on famed Flamingo Beach in Puerto Vallarta. With nine stories and 550 guest rooms, the white, imposing Riu Vallarta is palatial both in size and aesthetics. Open to all ages, the resort features two beachside pools of more than 850 square yards each, with adjoining Jacuzzis and a swim-up bar. The hotel boasts four restaurants, including Nirvana, an Asian eatery so named for its bliss-inducing cuisine, and Flamingo, a grill and steakhouse that overlooks its namesake beach.

For active vacationers, there is a variety of included options, such as an introductory scuba diving lesson in the resort pool; windsurfing, sailing and snorkeling equipment for enjoying the nearby Pacific waters; a volleyball court, gym and sauna. Nighttime revelry abounds in the on-site Pacha nightclub, offering dancing and drinks into the early morning hours. The resort features live shows or music nightly.

Kids are kept entertained here as well, thanks to a daytime activity program for children ages 4 to 12. Guests also can enjoy access to the amenities at nearby Riu Jalisco, a sister resort.

Azul Blue Hotel and Spa


This stylish five-star boutique hotel opened in December 2006 in Tulum on Mexico's Caribbean coast. With just 96 suites housed in six villas, Azul Blue offers an intimate experience topped with personal attention. Before arrival, a concierge will prepare your suite according to your personal preferences in pillow firmness, aromatherapy and music (to load your in-suite iPod). Each villa is staffed by a professionally trained butler, who can unpack your bags and draw you a rose petal-bedecked bath in addition to scheduling day trips.

Part of the Karisma Hotels and Resorts family, Azul Blue prides itself on its "gourmet-inclusive" concept. A step beyond all-inclusive, its three on-site restaurants offer innovative takes on tasty cuisine: Globe features an open kitchen and plasma TVs placed around the restaurant broadcasting live footage of the chefs in action. Yuzu, an Asian grill and sake parlor, offers Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. View, an open-air restaurant, features ceviche, fish marinated in citrus juice that's prepared on a frozen marble top. Tinto, the bar and piano lounge, offers daily wine tastings accompanied by the sounds of a live jazz trio.

For an extra fee, guests can indulge in treatments at Azul Blue's spa, including temazcal, an ancient Mayan steam bath ritual. The hotel welcomes guests of all ages but is geared primarily toward adults and older children.

Iberostar Grand Paraiso

Playa Paraiso

Opened in March 2007, four-star Iberostar Grand Paraiso is the fifth property added to Iberostar's Playa Paraiso Resorts complex between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on Mexico's Caribbean coast. Designed in a Greco-Roman style, the adults-only getaway offers 300 guest suites with concierge service and 10 honeymoon villas tucked amid secluded gardens. The latter come with butler service and private plunge pools.

All-inclusive gourmet dining options include an oceanfront restaurant, four a la carte themed restaurants (two with ocean views), a poolside restaurant and several bars. In addition to soaking up the sun on a stretch of white-sand beach, guests can float the day away in the resort's saltwater pool or freshwater lake-style pool, or take a break from the sun in an indoor pool.

The Grand Paraiso offers massages and various services in its own minispa, but guests can also book treatments at El Spa, a 32,000-square-foot facility shared by the Iberostar resorts. This mega-spa has 28 rooms and offers numerous pampering treatments, plus steam rooms, hydrotherapy rooms and thalassotherapy pools.

The Royal in Cancun


The Royal in Cancun, a 4.5-star, adults-only resort, opened in February 2007 in the heart of Cancun's hotel zone. All 285 suites look out over the sea, and most accommodations are oceanfront. Suites are well appointed with the property's trademarked Royal Beds, featuring pillow-top mattresses, plush duvets, six pillows of varying firmness and 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets. Guests will find double Jacuzzis, a "magic box" for 24-hour room service deliveries, ocean-view showers with massage jets, and private terraces with hammocks.

The resort's all-inclusive package includes classes in Mexican cooking and art, as well as wine tastings hosted by the hotel sommelier. For active vacationers, the Life Fitness Center hosts sessions in Pilates, spinning, aerobics and yoga. The resort has a lighted tennis court and volleyball court and offers complimentary greens fees at the nearby Cancun Golf Club.

When the sun sets, guests can enjoy live music and shows, while the VIP Lounge is open around the clock, serving snacks, hors d'oeuvres and premium-brand beverages.

Relaxing Mayan-inspired treatments are offered at the resort's spa, SPAzul, for an extra fee, and guests can sample various flavors at six gourmet restaurants.

ME Cancun


Formerly the Melia Turquesa, the 4.5-star ME Cancun reopened in January 2007 with a chic new look and feel. The first property in the Americas from the ME by Melia brand, its 448 guest rooms have been completely refurbished with a mix of contemporary and traditional designs. Rooms feature high-speed Internet connections, plasma TVs with DVD players and access to an extensive DVD library. Accommodations in "The Level" category have iPod adaptors and docking stations and even iPods available to use during your stay, programmed with more than 900 songs.

The resort's Maxim Beach offers an electric nightlife option -- located at the resort's pool and beach areas, DJs spin nightly and Balinese daybeds offer unconventional seating. The lobby lounge, the Rose Bar, offers premium drinks in a breezy, terraced setting, while the Infinity Bar refreshes swimmers in the adults-only swimming pool.

While not all-inclusive, the all-ages resort offers a variety of dining venues to sample. Salt stays faithful to the flavors of the Mediterranean, while Silk, an Asian bistro, offers fusion cuisine. A poolside palapa restaurant offers local Mexican cuisine with a modern twist.

The 11,000-square-foot Yhi Spa offers a number of treatments and massages, using natural products inspired by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans. Helping guests stay fit and balanced on vacation, it offers the services of personal trainers and classes in yoga, stretching and meditation.

Cabo San Lucas

The newest property from the ME by Melia brand, the five-star ME Cabo opened in February 2007. Formerly the Melia Cabo San Lucas, this 150-room resort enjoys a strategic location on the only swimmable beach in Cabo, which is protected against strong currents. Each room at this all-ages resort features a balcony or terrace, with panoramic views of the rocky tip of Baja California and the Sea of Cortes. Room amenities include complimentary Aveda products, rainfall showerheads and down-filled pillow-top mattresses. Guest rooms and public spaces are artfully accented by the works of celebrated Mexican artist Yuri Zatarain.

The resort's culinary centerpiece is the Passion Club Restaurant and Lounge. Three different spaces offer a smart-casual feel -- healthy breakfasts and intimate dinners are served on the restaurant's ocean-view patio, while signature cocktails, tapas and premium tequilas are offered at the neon-lighted bar. Outside, guests can lounge on daybeds encircling a fire pit while listening to music or taking in live performances.

Nikki Beach, a luxury beach club and restaurant, overlooks the sands of Playa el Medano and features poolside daybeds, spinning DJs and live musical performances for day-to-night revelry. Its restaurant offers global cuisine in an alfresco setting.

Sun Palace


After undergoing extensive renovations following Hurricane Wilma in 2005, this former family-targeted resort reopened as the only property in Cancun exclusively for couples. The 252 rooms at Sun Palace feature a modern Mexican decor, double Jacuzzis and ocean-view balconies or terraces. All-inclusive extras include in-room liquor dispensers for a top-shelf nightcap.

The five-star property features three infinity pools (one with a swim-up bar) and an indoor pool with two Jacuzzis. Active guests can enjoy Sun Palace's water sports marina, fitness center and daily scheduled activities. And, visitors who stay three nights or longer can partake in the property's "Palace Passport" program, which offers golf and spa vouchers and various free excursions, including trips to Isla Mujeres and the ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza, as well as sail and snorkel tours.

The resort's five restaurants highlight international fare, featuring Italian, fresh seafood and Asian dishes. The Lobby Bar offers a spot to unwind and mingle any time of day. For an extra cost, guests can spend a day of pampering at the resort's spa, where treatments are designed to soothe the body and rejuvenate the soul.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2007 . Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.

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