At the Riviera Maya’s Mayakoba, an eco-conscious resort compound that embraces 620 artfully developed acres, I ride a boat along an undulating canal through a mangrove forest en route to my Harmony Three Bedroom Beachfront Pool Villa. That’s the moment the vacation begins, as if I’m being conveyed from the hubbub of my real life to a world of tranquil fantasy, one watery inch at a time. Banyan Tree Mayakoba is one of four resorts that compose Mayakoba, an immense, award-winning wilderness reserve and resort complex, a popular retreat near Cancun for outdoorsy types who also hanker for pampering when they travel. As part of Thailand-based wellness leader Banyan Tree, Banyan Tree Mayakoba imparts a soothing, Asian motif throughout its corner of Mayakoba, a section of the reserve rife with wildlife and marked with jungle flora, thatched-roof villas, waterways, and a pearly-white beach that frames a cobalt sea. Surrounded by palm trees, Harmony, Banyan Tree’s top villa, sits on the sand, steps from the water. With three bedrooms (which can accommodate six), a fully equipped kitchen, heated pool, and complimentary bicycles, the pet-friendly villa opens to the sea — a rarity at Mayakoba where most resort rooms rise along the jungle’s canals, a short boat ride or bike jaunt from the beach. Though Harmony guests can utilize all aspects of Mayakoba Resort and the Banyan Tree’s own unique offerings, the villa’s close proximity to a recently launched beach club, equipped with a glimmering pool, an outpost of the Banyan Tree Spa, and a new restaurant, means they never have to tread far.
Here are five more we love:
Casa Xzavian, San Pancho
Birdwatchers, prepare to be wowed. Magpies, blue-footed boobies, herons, frigates, and more than 300 species of birds set the mood in the Riviera Nayarit’s leafy, less trammelled jungle, home to peerless Casa Xzavian, available for bookings on Airbnb Luxe. An hour from Puerto Vallarta and five minutes from the characteristic village of San Pancho, the sublime villa compound holds a main house with five en suite bedrooms, plus a detached casita, equipped with three more. Boasting its own private beach, a saltwater pool, and an exemplary staff — including chef, gardener, bartender, a pool tender — the sprawling property also has a bird savvy concierge to organize ornithological forays and other sightseeing outings.
Rancho Pescadero in Todos Santos
Leave the kids at home when you indulge in one of Mexico’s newest and most stunning villas at adults only Rancho Pescadero, which opened after a long awaited renovation and re-imagination November 1. In Todos Santos on the Pacific coast of the Baja California Peninsula, known as an arts colony and dubbed a Pueblo Magico (Magic town) for its cultural offerings, the wellness-driven Rancho Pescadero has 12 oceanfront villas, each summoning the region from a decor standpoint with furniture and artwork by local artisans, including ornate leather headboards anchoring the beds. Outdoor fire pits, huge soaking tubs, and infinity plunge pools amid a milieu of verdant gardens encourage repose.
Montage Los Cabos, Los Cabos
A world of low slung buildings, deftly arranged on 39 acres on Los Cabos’ storied Golden Corridor, this decidedly avant garde resort wedges itself between mystical desert terrain and the unbridled Pacific Coast like a portal between two worlds. Conceived to pay homage to its location with architecture that melds into the landscape, an ideal vantage point for whale spotting in season, Montage Los Cabos offers stunning Casa Cardon as a sanctuary for groups or long-stay guests. Incorporating 10,871 square feet of classic stone and wood architecture, the five-bedroom residence features a master with memorable vistas of the Sea of Cortez, with two of the four guest bedrooms providing private entrances. An infinity-edged pool and Jacuzzi, day beds, fire pits, a palapa, and courtyards ensure al fresco fun.
Four Seasons Tamarindo, Jalisco
Take a deep dive into Mexican biodiversity and the nation’s rich culture at this newly opened resort, set on a secluded peninsula in a nature reserve between the towns of La Manzanilla and Barra de Navidad in the state of Jalisco — best known as the home of tequila. Three thousand acres of lush jungle enwrap the rustically elegant resort in this undiscovered section of Mexico. Developed sparsely so that only two percent of the retreat will ever be built up, its rooms and villas hide amongst greenery. Discover serenity cliffside, 250 feet above the churning sea, in the Tamarindo Panoramic Five-Bedroom Villa with Infinity Pool, a sleek haven. With a fully equipped kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining and living spaces, and a festive, 203-foot, wrap-around pool, this villa has a transformative effect on its guests.
La Casa Que Canta, Zihuatanejo
This poetic resort flows down a hill above legendary La Ropa Beach. With a name that translates to “The House That Sings,” La Casa Que Canta makes metaphorical music with its flowing stucco architecture, artisan-made furniture, artwork, handmade tiles and textiles. A warren of paths lead to various nooks, including the pool and restaurants. Its guest rooms are named for romantic, nostalgic Mexican songs. But by far its two villas reign as the boutique hideaway’s creme-de-la-creme. Check into glamorous El Ensueno, an alluring oceanfront sanctum with four pool suites, perfect for small destination weddings or family reunions. Staffed by a chef, the villa’s kitchen provides private customized meals indoors or out.