Be hip in Mexico

Considering it’s the world’s biggest metropolis, Mexico City is surprisingly short on trendy hotels. The super-minimalist Habita was hailed as a trailblazer when it opened in October 2000; but it remained the city’s only design hotel for the next three years — in fact, until the opening last year of W Mexico City.

Part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group, W is the design-led hotel brand that made its debut in New York five years ago. Since then, 17 W hotels have sprung up in key cities, from Seattle to Sydney.
This latest venture is the first in Latin America and is being hailed by tourism officials as a major coup, putting the Mexican capital on a par with W’s other locations.

Situated in the same wealthy district as Habita, the 237-room W Mexico City has a dramatic five-storey, glass façade, giving passers-by a glimpse into the restaurant, bar and lounge area. Design features will include a black lava-stone tunnel leading to the reception area, a restaurant developed by the group behind 160 Blue and Wave in Chicago, white-leather seating in lounge areas and guest rooms with cherry red walls, all-white beds and bathroom hammocks.

Promotional material describes the design as “envelope-pushing,” but marketing jargon aside, it’s pretty stylish.

Mexico Chic, a glossy, coffee-table book profiling 45 of the country’s most stylish hotels, including the new W, is expected to give the country a further boost, showing potential visitors that, alongside the traditional attractions, there is a hip Mexico waiting to be discovered.

So, if you thought you had to go to Asia for culture and style, think again, and take a look at our pick of five of the best chic hotels in Mexico.

Habita, Mexico City: An über-cool urban retreat, located alongside Ferrari dealerships and designer clothes shops in Polanco. With its frosted-glass façade, dazzling white interior and ambient background music, the 36-room Habita is as far removed from Mexico’s traditional colonial style as possible.

Rooms are stark, verging on the clinical, but with all the amenities you could wish for, including flat-screen TVs, Hermes toiletries and two in-house music channels. After a day’s sightseeing, guests can unwind by the rooftop pool with the house cocktail, a tamarind martini.

Hip factor: 10/10. As the first design hotel in Mexico City, Habita quickly established itself as the place for movie premier parties. Aura, the hotel’s restaurant, and Area, the top-floor bar, still attract the city’s in-crowd.

Maroma Resort and Spa, Riviera Maya: Set on one of the best beaches in Mexico, the hotel is housed in a white-washed, Moorish building, surrounded by jungle. Palapa roofs, bamboo shutters, hand-woven fabrics and hammocks give the interior a rustic feel. After a major overhaul in 2002, the hotel closed again for two months last year when the restaurant was extended to include outdoor, beach-side dining. Eight ocean-front villas were also added, bringing the total number of rooms to 65. A dedicated spa with five treatment rooms, a float tank, sauna and steam room opened in February.

Hip factor: 8/10. It may be rustic, but it’s not basic. Maroma is owned by Orient-Express Hotels, the name behind some of Europe’s most luxurious hotels, including Hotel Splendido in Portofino and La Residencia in Majorca, and attracts the same sort of well-heeled guests, including its fair share of celebs.

One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos: Acquired last year by One&Only resorts, Palmilla underwent an $80-million redevelopment and reopened in February. It is the first foray into Mexico for One&Only, and in keeping with the group’s other high-profile resorts — Le Touessrok in Mauritius, Royal Mirage in Dubai, and Ocean Club in the Bahamas to name a few — it is stylish with an emphasis on slick but unobtrusive service. Set just outside Los Cabos, at the tip of the Baja peninsula, it has spectacular views of the rugged coastline.

Hip factor: 9/10. Originally built in the 1950s, in its heyday it attracted an eclectic mix of the United States’s rich and famous, including Ernest Hemingway, Bing Crosby, John Wayne and former president Dwight Eisenhower. If One&Only’s other resorts are anything to go by, it’ll be making regular appearances on the pages of OK! and Hello magazines.

Secreto, Isla Mujeres: Secreto is a small, secluded hotel on the northern tip of Isla Mujeres, an 8km-long island off the Caribbean coast. A flat-roofed, white-washed block with floor-to-ceiling windows, it looks more like a private beach house than a hotel. Each room has a veranda overlooking Half Moon beach.

Hip factor: 2/10. With just nine rooms, it’s a little too intimate to attract celebrities, but that’s the appeal. It’s the perfect retreat for those who want to chill rather than pose.

El Tamarindo Golf Resort, Costa Alegre: Part of the Starwood Hotels & Resort’s Luxury Collection, El Tamarindo is set in 400ha of rainforest on the Pacific Coast. Accommodation is in 29 palapa bungalows.

The spa’s signature treatment is the Temascal, a two-and-a-half hour ritual involving healing mud and cleansing with smoke. Other features include an 18-hole golf course, watersports and walks through the jungle.

Hip factor: 7/10. El Tamarindo is a well-established exclusive retreat. Its staff are used to waiting on celebrities, although having made a name for itself as a discreet resort, it refuses to reveal the names of any famous guests. — Â

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