Looking Back: Travel Agent's Mexico Picks in 2013

Travel Agent has covered Mexico this year, from the Baja peninsula to Mexico City to the always popular Yucatan. Here's a look back at what we learned and what we recommend for your clients.

A Year of Firsts

In March Mexico kicked off the 38th annual Tianguis Turistico in Puebla - a first for the Tianguis legacy. Up until this year, Tianguis was always held in a surf-and-sand destination, be it Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta. This was Mexico's year to showcase more than just its ocean and sand, and that is why hosting the event in Puebla was so important to Mexican officials. 

The biggest news out of Tianguis was the development and resurgence of Mazatlan. It is expected that Mazatlan will invest upwards of $11 million in marketing this year, which is up from $9.7 million in 2012. This number is only going to increase in 2014 as the destination expects to pour in $17 million. In terms of airline connectivity, Mazatlan is in negotiation with airlines to launch new routes from Seattle, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago. These are scheduled to become official as of June. By Tianguis 2014, it is expected that there will be an additional 40 percent more flights. Cruises are also returning to Mazatlan. Holland America was the first to jump back into Mazatlan, but several other cruise lines are confirmed for the 2013-14 season, including Princess Cruises, Norwegian and Azamara Club Cruises.


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Next year's Tianguis Turistico will be held in Cancun.

Where to Stay

Travel Agent visited Paradisus Cancun in January, following its reopening and rebranding on December 1. Before, the resort operated as a Gran Melia, but has since been repurposed as a Paradisus, Melia's luxury all-inclusive brand. The resort offers guests six restaurants and three bars, several pools, a YHI Spa, golf course and more. Paradisus Cancun is also home to the specialty Royal Service, a private enclave of rooms that are adults-only, and come with their own set of privileges. Those who book four nights in the Royal Service section receive an included meal at Tempo. Royal Service guests also have access to the YHI Spa's hydrotherapy suite without having a treatment scheduled. A private pool and beach section is also available for guests of Royal Service. The resort offers a selection of Life Enriching experiences to help bring guests closer to the culture of Mexico and Cancun. We participated in a tequila tasting with the resort's sommelier. Guests can also opt for experiences like massage classes, DJ lessons and more. 

In April we were off to Hard Rock Cancun, part of Hard Rock's All-Inclusive concept, which completely changed the way we look at all-inclusive. At most all-inclusives, the cuisine is generally sub-par and alcohol is bottom shelf. At Hard Rock Cancun, however, they completely blow the lid off the F&B concept. Travel Agent had the pleasure of dining at Ipanema, the resort's Brazilian steakhouse; Frida, the Mexican restaurant; the buffet and the poolside cuisine and we can honestly say that the food went above and beyond our expectations for all-inclusive meals. What's better is in-room dining is also part of the plan. Guests are treated to top shelf liquor, as well (and yes, this includes some delicious Champagne, which we were sure to sample). The hotel also includes all hotel taxes and gratuities, most on property sports, unlimited phone calls to the U.S. and Canada, Wi-Fi throughout the resort and up to $1,500 in resort credit. Hard Rock Cancun (previously a Palace Resorts property) was recently rebranded and brought up to Hard Rock standards. The resort has 601 rooms, a spa, fitness center, amphitheater for concerts, pool, beach cabanas and more. True to Hard Rock form, the hotel has hosted some major names as of late, and the hotel is decked out from head-to-toe in impressive rocker memorabilia. 

Then it was off to Mexico's Pacific Coast to Los Cabos, where we visited Grand Solmar Land's End Resort & Spa. The resort, which has been a work in progress for the last two years, is built directly into the iconic rocks of Los Cabos, overlooking the crashing Pacific Ocean and pristine beach. Guests staying at the resort can dine at restaurants La Roca, Don Luis or one of three pool bars. Our favorite was Las Brisas snack bar. Here guests can dine at one of the resort's infinity pools overlooking the ocean. (Try the tuna sushi! Yes, sushi in Mexico!) Be sure to ask about the resort's tequila tastings or wine making classes, which are as informative as they are indulgent. Who to book: While we saw plenty of families at the resort, this property was built for romance. We say book your twitterpated clients at this particular property. If the views aren't enough to make them coo lovingly at each other, the deep soaking tubs in the rooms will certainly do the trick.

No doubt our favorite visit to Mexico this year was in Mexico City, where we fell even more in love with the country. A frenetic energy pulses through the streets of Mexico City. Bright colors catch your eyes at every turn, while mouth-watering aromas waft from doorways where sizzling street meats turn on spits. The city is both ancient Latin America and modern cosmopolitan Euro-chic, and is a must for any traveler that is looking for the next best place to visit. Be sure to check clients into one of the many Group Habita hotels in the city. These boutique hotels are scattered throughout Mexico City and have feels that are all their own. We stayed at the newest of the bunch, Downtown Mexico, which is in the heart of the Centro Historico, just steps from the Zocalo. The hotel has only 17 rooms and sits in a 17th-century palace. The design is minimalist chic (think gray tones, exposed beams and plenty of stonework). Our favorite spot in the hotel was the rooftop pool deck, from which you can see over into the Zocalo. To help us during our stay, Travel Agent reached out to Journey Mexico, an expert in all things luxury in Mexico. We were met at Benito Juarez International Airport and whisked off to the National Museum of Anthropology for a private tour with expert guide Juan Carlos, who is beyond passionate about Mexico City and its history and culture. The following day, he took us on a private walking tour of Mexico City's markets and street food. You name it, we ate it. Filled with tacos, churros, quesadillas, tortas and fruit juices, this is one of the most authentic and local ways to see and appreciate the vibrancy of Mexico City. 

Still to Come

Travel Agent is off and running again to Mexico on Thursday when we will tour and stay at the new NIZUC Resort and Spa in Cancun. Following that, we will fly to Puerto Vallarta to visit the brand-new IBEROSTAR Punta Mita in Riviera Nayarit.

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