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Mexico vacation

Hotel Encanto

By Lena Katz

It’s great to see Mexico rebounding after a rough 2009. Cancun leads the charge when it comes to Mexico vacation destinations, back to nearly full occupancy thanks to Spring Break and great promotions. But all over Mexico, tourism is up and new hotels are opening. Plus, cruise lines continue to frequent both coasts, adding new and even lengthier Mexico itineraries for 2010.

Acapulco welcomes Hotel Encanto, the boutique all-suite “design hotel” perched on a crest above Puerto Marques Bay. White-on-white, with colored, guest-controlled, “special effects” lighting and sweeping clean lines, this is something totally new for Acapulco. Even though it has only 44 guest units, it boasts an organic spa, three restaurants and a pool.

In Riviera Maya, the latest arrival is Ocean Breeze, a Green Globe-certified boutique property located in the town of Playa del Carmen. While it only has 102 rooms, this pretty beachfront hotel has all the facilities of a full-scale resort including four restaurants and a snack bar. It’s not all inclusive, but a full meal plan is an option. Other perks include tennis courts and a 24-hour pool. This hotel is under the umbrella of Mexican-owned Grupo Vidanta, which also owns the Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan.

Mexico vacation

Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya

Grupo Vidanta has been busy this year — they’re opening the Grand Luxxe in Nuevo Vallarta in April. This ultra-modern, sleek new hotel sets a new standard for the company and offers a totally different version of ultra-luxury for a Mexico vacation than the other prestigious addresses in Riviera Nayarit. It’s more cosmopolitan, with spacious accommodations and a butler for every floor.

Recently I’ve blogged about Barcelo Los Cabos, my pick for the nicest all-inclusive to open in Los Cabos in … oh, probably forever. But I didn’t mention Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya, the just-renovated property that all the Barcelo staffers rave over in a way that suggests they’d actually like to retire there someday. This beloved Puerto Vallarta all-inclusive saw each of its 317 suites renovated, as well as its pools and its lounge. A beach rejuvenation program restored the sands fronting the hotel.

Mexico vacation

But let’s get back to Cabo: While it’s by no means as massive as Cancun, this West Coast favorite is booming on the development front — and the most happening neighborhood is “Land’s End,” home to the new Cabo San Lucas Marina and the ultra-luxury category Capella Pedregal. This hotel opened in 2009, and some say its rooms are the nicest they’ve ever seen, not just in Cabo but anywhere. Of course, soon-to-open hotels will bring some stiff competition: In 2010, Los Cabos will welcome a new Montage resort and Ritz-Carlton Quivira — both world-class luxury brands.

Visiting all the hotels above in a single Mexico vacation might not be feasible (okay, probably isn’t), but if you want to travel in style and see several Mexican destinations, the obvious way is via the ocean. And Mexico cruises are taking on new dimensions these days. Ships are larger and more luxurious, and to answer demand, some lines are expanding their West Coast-based itineraries beyond what used to be the 4-day standard.

Mexico vacationHolland America offers 7-night Mexican Riviera cruises aboard the ms Oosterdam, with stops at three of of the most popular Mexico vacation destinations: Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. Shore excursions allow guests to get off the ship and experience unique aspects of each place. In Mazatlan, outdoorsy travelers can take a 4-hour cross-country trail ride to a lagoon. In Puerto Vallarta, you can be “Dolphin Trainer for a Day” — or rather,be a sidekick to a dolphin trainer for six hours, working hands-to-flippers with dolphins in a variety of settings. This is a six-hour activity, and much more extensive than typical dolphin interactions.

If cruising’s your fave way to discover the world, consider a 10-night, 11-night or even a 14-night cruise aboard ms Zaandam. These itineraries could be classified “Mexico: Expanded and Obscure” because in addition to the popular “Mexican Riviera” ports, they also visit little-known Sea of Cortez destinations including remote Loreto, funky Guaymas and Topolobampo. This last port may not ring a bell, but it’s actually home base for  an all-day excursion into Mexico’s interior to see legendary Copper Canyon. Once you’ve seen this natural wonder — which is deeper than the Grand Canyon in places — you can truly say you’ve seen the best of Mexico’s west coast,  from the resorts and the ports to the inland secrets.

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Lena Katz is the author of SUN: California and SIP: California, part of the Travel Temptations series published by Globe Pequot Press.

Tagged: Cruise, Family time, Mexico

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