FOR THOSE WHO DESIRE MORE OUT OF THEIR MEXICAN VACATION than sun, surf and frozen margaritas, Mexico City is the place to get a quick fix of the culture south of the border. As the world's largest city, it also has the type of hotels that discriminating travelers expect in major cities.
Open less than a year, the Embassy Suites Mexico City-Reforma (www.embassysuites.com) is an Americanized hotel with local touches. While it's too new to have an official rating from AAA, it's the equivalent of four diamonds from what we experienced during our stay there.
The best rooms are the Premier and Corner Suites because of their oversized living areas, views and access to connecting suites. For the best views of Paseo de la Reforma and the cityscape, book rooms ending in numbers from 3 to 8.
The Embassy Suites has no spa but it does have an indoor pool and fitness center. Full, cooked-to-order breakfast and evening manager's reception with light snacks and beverages are complimentary to guests. Amenities also include washer/dryers, 42-inch flat-panel TVs and 300-thread-count sheets.
For dinner, Evita is an Argentinean steakhouse serving up sizzling portions of traditional meats and delicacies, such as sweetbreads. It also has an extensive wine list, including a private-label collection, and features monthly tastings. Agent Advice
Agents can book over the GDS. For VIPs and clients with special requests, contact Sánchez, director of sales (sinai.sanchez@embassy suitesmexicocity.com, 011-52-55-5061-3004). The hotel is pet-friendly and is most crowded in February, October and November.
Those looking for some high style should stay at the 237-room W Hotel Mexico City (www.whotels.com, 888-625-5144), on the opposite side of the Reforma from the Embassy Suites, near Polanco and Chapultepec Park. The AAA four-diamond hotel has a minimalist feel, and the decor throughout its spa creates distinctly Zen spaces, such as an indoor koi pond.
Book your clients into the Fantastic Suites, with their great views of the parks. From the Wonderful Rooms on floors 17 to 24 you can see Polanco and the city. The Fantastic Suites and rooms ending in 10, 11 and 12 offer sunset views. The best unit is the Extreme Wow Suite.
Signature restaurant Solea serves steak and seafood dishes rooted in Mexican flavors. Suggest the dorado en salsa de hongos (mahi-mahi in mushroom sauce) or panuchos de pato pibil con x'nipec (a duck appetizer). The rooftop Terrace is a spot for sipping cocktails with local cognoscenti and hip out-of-towners. The real party, however, is downstairs at the Whiskey, featuring DJs Wednesday through Saturday.
The modest-size Away Spa has five treatment rooms, including one for couples. During warm days, guests can request a massage in the Sky Box on the Whiskey terrace. Favorite treatments include Temazcal (involving physical and mental purification rituals), deep tissue massages and reflexology, and Valentina Rodionova is the most popular masseuse. For more spa info, contact Teresa Torres, spa director, at 011-52-55-9138-1881. Book the hotel via GDS, or for VIP clients, contact John Freudenthaler, director of sales and marketing ( firstname.lastname@example.org, 011-52-55-9138-1820).
The only Mexico City hotel to receive five diamonds from AAA is Four Seasons Hotel Mexico (www.fourseasons.com/mexico, 800-332-3442), also located on the Reforma. The 240-room hotel is built around a courtyard, and its design cleverly combines Spanish and Mediterranean influences with some decidedly Mexican architectural touches.
There are several large suites here, including the 2,228-square-foot Presidential Suite, the 1,529-square-foot Master Suite Jardin and the 1,615-square-foot Master Suite Reforma. They all feature king-size beds, CD and DVD players, plasma/LCD-screen TVs, refrigerated private bar and twice-daily housekeeping service.
The contemporary Mediterranean cuisine of the Four Seasons' restaurant, Reforma 500, is billed as light and balanced cooking that uses basic ingredients such as fine herbs, dried fruits, pasta, vegetables, meats and seafood. Dishes include homemade smoked salmon and grilled tuna medallion with sesame seed crust and vegetables julienne with ginger. There's a special set-menu, three-course Executive Lunch that can be served in 50 minutes or less.
The hotel has a full-service spa, fitness room and pool. Book via GDS; for top-line clients, agents can contact Sakari Malinen, director of sales and marketing (email@example.com, 011-52-55-5230-1818, ext. 1446).
The Marquis Reforma Hotel (www.marquisreforma.com, 800-235-2387), a 209-room property that belongs to The Leading Hotels of the World, was designed in a postmodern, Art Deco-influenced style. Most of its accommodations are suites, including four Presidential Suites, 55 Junior Suites and 24 Master Suites.
James Beard House-honored Chef Ignacio Gutierrez presides over the hotel's signature restaurants. La Jolla serves American, French, Italian and Mexican cuisine. Los Canarios offers Spanish and Mexican specialties prepared with food purchased fresh that morning at the market, so the menu changes. Café Royal is a more casual alternative for indoor and outdoor dining on a patio overlooking the Reforma.
The marble Spa Marquis is the largest in the region at 16,000 square feet. It has 11 treatment rooms for massage, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, facials and scrubs. Other facilities include Jacuzzis, steam bath, sauna, a panoramic pool, beauty parlor, Swiss shower and fitness center. Contact Yolanda Piña, spa director, at 011-52-55-5229-1200. For VIP guests, contact Angelica Villalobos, director of sales and marketing, at the same number or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.