The world has never felt less accessible to U.S. passport holders. But all is not lost for those dreaming of a place in the sun. You can navigate the myriad and ever-changing rules for countries still welcoming Americans or book a trip to our oft-overlooked neighbor to the south, Mexico. (Land borders are closed, but who was going to drive there, anyway?) Here, there are no testing or insurance requirements, but the Mexican government does set capacity limits for each state, based on new coronavirus cases and hospital occupancy.
Of our three destinations, this is the easiest to access, which doesn’t mean it isn’t exclusive. Local luxury travel advisor Michelle Orr (mastertravel.org) recently returned from a stay and described it as “Gilligan’s Island, but with a butler.”
Chablé Maroma opened two years ago after its first Chablé property opened, which is much harder to reach in the Yucatan. Though Maroma is north of Tulum, it has none of the tourist bustle of the Riviera Maya. There’s a bright, modern feel to the property.
Fly to Cancun: Four hours from NYC airports
Drive to Chablé Maroma: Thirty minutes—trust us, it’s near Cancun, but it’s not Cancun.
There are seventy individual villas at Chablé Maroma. Wake up to a picnic basket of coffee and breakfast pastries outside your door each morning. And if putting on a swimsuit and heading to the resort pool is just too much effort, slip into your private plunge pool artfully hidden by the local greenery.
The villas all have three separate rain showers. Two are in an outdoor glass room; the third is al fresco. Relax on the terry cloth-covered chaise lounge placed in the bathroom for no other purpose than perhaps an afternoon nap. There are two restaurants on-site, and both will also deliver food to your room or the beach.
• Chablé is famous for its spa offerings, and the new Maroma property does not disappoint. Treatments are inspired by ancient Mayan rituals and involve floral balms, citrus and frankincense oils, coffee and tobacco scrubs, and locally quarried quartz crystals, plus, hip herbal naturopathic potions. Also try the tezmacal, a Mexican twist on a Turkish bath.
• If you want to explore off-property, check out the nearby Mayan ruins or cenote dives. The world’s second-largest barrier reef runs past the property, stretching well past Belize. It’s easy to find snorkel and dive opportunities.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE
This mountain city of snaking cobblestone streets has been Instagram-ready since the eighteenth century and is home to more than 350 markets and restaurants. It’s been named “Best City in the World” multiple years in a row by the readers of Travel + Leisure. With good reason—it’s possibly the hippest of all UNESCO sites.
The closest airport is in Guanajuato, a little over an hour’s drive from San Miguel, Mexico City is a three-hour drive. You may want to rent a car to easily explore the multitude of natural hot springs, just a short drive from town.
Why travel high into the mountains to visit the most magical city in Mexico and then stay anywhere but right in the mix? Here are two mansions-turned-hotels to choose from.
The Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada is a cluster of colonial mansions linked by cactus-filled gardens. The central manor, Casa Palma, features a lap-able lagoon size pool of turquoise water, flanked by luxurious loungers. You’ll never want for a thing since every room comes with a butler. If you prefer the option to swim sans suit, choose a suite with a private plunge pool. All thirty-seven rooms and suites have a slight wabi-sabi quality, with stone fireplaces, copper-lined tubs, herringbone wood flooring and regional textiles.
A 300-year-old former mayor’s mansion is the home of the stylishly spare Hotel Amparo, which has been operating as a private hotel since October 2020. The award-winning five-room hotel is now strictly available on a buyout or private basis. Your stay includes full access to the restaurant, bar, two courtyards, rooftop gardens, wine room and more. But why book just a room when you can have the entire hotel?
Book a walking art tour to trace the stories of Rivera, Siqueiros and Kahlo along the cobblestone streets. Then rest your feet and your soul in one of the nearby hot springs. Drive twenty minutes to local favorite La Gruta grotto where hot water gushes down the wall of a dark rocky cave. Or check into the private subterranean Maya Baths.
The term “best-kept secret” has been thrown around for many destinations that were neither secret nor best. For decades Careyes has been a backdrop for the high fashion-set. In the mid-80s, the iconic Calvin Klein Obsession ad was shot here. In addition to supermodels, this under-the-radar private resort has attracted jet-set bohemian types in the know. Wealthy Italian Gian Franco Brignone bought the raw land after spying it from the air in 1968. His vision was to create a refuge for artists, poets and musicians to come together to create, inspire and be inspired.
Located on Highway 200, which links Manzanillo to Puerto Vallarta, Careyes is just over an hour’s drive from Manzanillo International Airport and a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta. Private airplane charters operate between Puerto Vallarta Airport and a private FBO with a 4,000-foot grass landing strip located approximately fifteen minutes from Careyes by car.
Careyes is an exclusive getaway only reached after traversing through thick jungle, and it announces itself to the ocean with a coastline of brightly painted residences reminiscent of Portofino. You could stay at the new Club Residences (they don’t call it a hotel, but it feels like one). Or book a villa, inclusive of staff.
If you tire of the beach, dip into one of the ninety swimming pools throughout the resort. The most expansive infinity pools are at the ocean castles Sol de Oriente and Sol de Occidente. These bright castles are built in the center of circular infinity pools high above the ocean.
• The entire Christmas-to-Easter polo season—there are two Bermuda- sized playing fields, a big draw for European and South American playboy types.
• On the cliffs of the property, you’ll spy what appears to be a mammoth cement coffee bowl discarded by a giant or the gods. One night founder Gian Carlo dreamt of a man and a woman united by the cosmos while bathed in the light of the setting sun. He commissioned the Copa del Sol from his dream. Guests can participate in a once-in-a-lifetime sound healing experience inside the gargantuan art.
• If you’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man, but you’re an adult who prefers five-star accommodations, try to score an invite to Careyes’ exclusive celebration, Ondalinda.
• The “town” has seven different restaurants. Most are either beachside or poolside. There is no market or grocery store, so you couldn’t cook for yourself even if you wanted to. Careyes’ town square boasts a chic art museum, a small cinema, stylish shops and even a small hospital. Yes, rapid COVID tests are available.