Some destinations in Mexico are known for their large all-inclusive beachfront resorts, while stylish boutique hotels, budget hostels and modern chain hotels are popular choices in other parts of the country. Whether you prefer a AAA Five Diamond award-winner or a value-priced place to hang your hat, you’ll find lots of possibilities in Mexico.
Hotels are generally rated from one to five stars; however, the ratings may not necessarily be consistent in terms of what each hotel offers (and the number of stars may not be consistent with what you’d expect), so it’s always a good idea to read reviews and verify specific amenities and services before making your decision.
There was a time when all-inclusive resorts had a rather so-so reputation. The food tended to be middle-of-the-road, served in endless buffet lines, and the overall decor and amenities made it clear that these hotels were for people looking for value prices rather than indulgent vacations. But times have changed. In the past decade or so, Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts have diversified and expanded rapidly, improving their quality and adding many categories and price points.
You can still find bargain-priced, very basic all-inclusive resorts, but most of the all-inclusive hotels in Mexico today are in the mid-priced and upscale categories, and they pile on the amenities: stylish decor, beautiful guestrooms, lots of services, top-shelf spirits and multiple dining venues that serve expertly prepared meals a la carte — all included. You could actually spend your entire vacation without ever standing in a single line for food. Many resorts also have magnificent spas (although you’ll pay extra for treatments).
For top-of-the-line luxury in an all-inclusive setting, consider hotels like Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita and Grand Velas in the Riviera Maya, or Le Blanc Spa Resort and Live Aqua in Cancun.
For family-friendly, attractively priced options with lots of amenities (including extensive children’s programs), consider chains like Dreams Resorts and Riu Hotels & Resorts, both of which have properties in most of Mexico’s major beach destinations, and Oasis Hotels and Resorts, which has several properties in the Cancun area.
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Mexico is home to many different types of full-service hotels with the European plan, which means that the price includes accommodations but not food. European-plan hotels are located in beach resort destinations as well as major cities.
Among the choices in the luxury category is Capella Pedregal in Los Cabos, which offers culinary programs and events, as well as special meals in a private dining room or right on your terrace or balcony. St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, on the Pacific coast near Puerto Vallarta, offers accommodations ranging from deluxe rooms to opulent suites.
Mexico has countless options for full-service hotels in the middle and upper-middle price range. In the larger cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, as well as many beach resorts, you’ll find nearly every major international hotel chain, including Hilton, InterContinental, Westin and Marriott, to name just a few.
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Some of the most interesting and unique accommodations in Mexico are in the boutique hotel category. These hotels, which tend to be smaller than larger chain hotels, are often housed in interesting buildings — sometimes very historic, sometimes super modern — and they tend toward unique decor.
A company called Grupo Habita was the first to introduce design-oriented boutique hotels on a grand scale in Mexico, and today that company has an impressive portfolio of hip, noteworthy properties in cities including Mexico City, Puebla, Monterrey, Acapulco and Puerto Escondido, to name a few.
Mexico Boutique Hotels is another good resource for researching boutique properties; this marketing organization represents independently owned properties around the nation.
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Bed and Breakfast Inns
In many cases, there is crossover between the boutique hotel and bed and breakfast categories. The basic definition of a bed and breakfast inn is a small hotel, usually independently owned, that includes breakfast and perhaps other meals and services with the price of accommodations.
In Oaxaca, the Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast Association is an organization of family-owned and operated guesthouses and small hotels. BedandBreakfast.com lists dozens of such properties across Mexico.
With these smaller properties, it’s especially important to make sure that they have the amenities that you desire. For example, some travelers can’t live without their Wi-Fi or want to make sure there is a 24-hour reception desk, TV or telephone. Cancellation policies should also be verified with these smaller properties; even when booking online, it’s important to read the fine print and call the property directly if you have any questions.
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Mexico Vacation Rentals
Renting a private home, apartment or condo can be a worthwhile option for travelers looking for additional space and a more authentic feeling of living in the destination. General sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO offer private homes for short- and long-term rentals in many popular cities in Mexico, and sometimes local tourism offices can help travelers get in touch with rental options.
In Cancun, Resort Condos Cancun specializes in vacation condo rentals for families seeking extra space in the Hotel Zone. In the Riviera Maya, Brisa Caribe is among the companies that specialize in villa and condo vacation rentals. In Los Cabos, Baja Vacations manages luxury beachfront vacation rentals, while Puerto Vallarta Villa Rentals offers a similar service in Puerto Vallarta.
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The wealth produced by henequen in the 19th century resulted in an array of sprawling estates across the Yucatan peninsula, centered around stately hacienda homes. Most of these properties no longer serve their original purpose, but many have been recast as elegant small hotels. They’re an ideal base for anyone looking to explore the ruins, cities and towns of Yucatan state.
Among the top hacienda hotel choices are Xcanatun, a beautifully restored property that sits conveniently close to the city of Merida, and the Luxury Collection, a Starwood Hotels & Resorts brand that manages several historic haciendas. A luxury travel company called Blue Parallel offers packages that include accommodations at a variety of historic haciendas, as well as tours of the top sites in the region.
Staying on a working farm can be an interesting way to connect with nature and stay active in a positive way while on vacation. Among the choices in Mexico is Rancho Sol y Mar, which describes itself as a “sustainability education center” and campground, located two hours south of Puerto Vallarta. Here you can camp in tents and learn about sustainable living during ranch tours, even learning how to milk goats, make cheese and maintain solar energy and water systems. Free time can be spent horseback riding, boating and visiting a nearby fishing village.
Additional options can be found through WWOOF Mexico, a network linking travelers with organic farms. Guests at the properties participate in eco-friendly farming practices with daily chores like harvesting, milking and preparing soil for planting. According to the organization, days usually include between five and seven hours of farming activity, five or six days per week.
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These inexpensive accommodations are great options for travelers on very tight budgets. Hostels in Mexico can be found in picturesque beach areas like Cancun, Tulum, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, as well as interior cities like Oaxaca, San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City.
The amenities may be basic, but the locations are often good. The Mexico Tourism Board provides a listing of recommended hostels. If you’re shopping for hostel accommodations, be sure you know what you’re getting — verify the amenities, location and overall conditions of the properties. Some may not have air conditioning, which can be important for visitors to hotter destinations in Mexico. Some do indeed offer private rooms, with either shared or private baths, so you can often find specific options to fit your budget and personal preferences.
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From Our Partner: 10 Things Every Traveler Should Know Before Going to Mexico
–written by Mark Chesnut