Mexico’s Caribbean has new Magic Towns and Michelin chefs to add to its appeal. A new Magic Town—or Pueblo Magico—designation goes to the island of Holbox. The honor recognizes towns deemed to provide visitors a “magical” experience in terms of beauty, cultural riches and traditions.
The long, narrow island (pronounced hole-bosh) on the north coast of the Yucatan certainly has all that. But, negative headlines gave it a black eye last summer.
The destination had to close down for a day after electrical blackouts disabled water pumps and limited water supplies. Drainage problems added to the woes. Environmental groups claimed that over-development (some illegal) was destroying the island’s unique charm.
Lizzie Cole, director and CEO of the Cancun Tourism Board (which oversees Holbox), downplays the disruption.
“The problem was caused by some overload in the summer. It was fixed very quickly, and things are great now. Holbox is one of the hidden treasures of our area. Agents should know that there are new hotels there, such as Villas HM Palapas del Mar,” Cole tells Travel Agent.
The 52-room property includes junior suite-level accommodations with private pools. And, its sushi bar terrace is an island hangout.
“The island is small and it’s a very fragile environment. There are no paved roads. You have to use golf carts or bikes to get around. It’s a great option for visitors to Cancun," says Cole. "If possible, stay one night there. The kids will love it, especially during whale shark or turtle seasons. What is lesser known is that Holbox has some incredible bioluminescent beaches. You can see them at night in the summer and in January. It is a wonderful experience."
In Playa del Carmen, Royal Hideaway Playacar is in the news. The Barceló Hotel Group property has introduced Alejandro Sanchez as its new gastronomic director. The Andalusian superstar chef's eponymous restaurant in Roquetas de Mar, Almería, holds a Michelin star.
The chef’s arrival will gradually shake things up at the luxury resort's five specialty restaurants. Menus at the Royal Club Theater will change once each week to complement thematic shows, and,the "Chef's Table” offers the chance to interact with the charismatic Sanchez up close.
The adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
At the southern end of the Riviera Maya, Tulum is in the news.
Oasis The Sian Ka'an
Oasis Hotels & Resorts has created a new “resort within a resort” experience following a multimillion dollar enhancement at Grand Tulum and Grand Sens. The adults-only concept, called “The Sian Ka'an,” offers upgraded amenities such as private terraces with plunge pools, personal concierge service and private beach clubs.
There’s a new hotel opening of note in the Tulum area, as well. Mukan Resort is located in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guests arrive to the Hamak Hotels property via a private boat voyage through the mangroves, after entering the biosphere. Mukan features four standalone beachfront bungalows and a main villa with five guest suites. The property includes a thatched-roof gourmet restaurant, oceanfront spa, alfresco cigar bar and hammocks strung throughout the trees.
“Guests tell us they want more of a sense of belonging,” Nicolás Domínguez, operations managing director for Hamak Hotels, tells Travel Agent. "That is what really drives us. At the moment, the line between institutional properties is very thin. It’s important to offer the visitor an alternative."
The biosphere surrounding Mukan is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico. It’s filled with mangroves, forests, wetlands, cenotes and islets. It also includes the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and a wealth of wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Guests can kayak, paddleboard and snorkel, dive in the cenotes, and fly fish in the lagoons.
Mukan Resort Spa
“You see the lagoon and the beach when you open your eyes in the morning. This part of the Caribbean is so amazing, and the reefs are within swimming distance,” said Dominguez.
Tulum fever continues to catch on. Hotel and brand management company Dream Hotel Group will make its first venture into Mexico with a Tulum property. Called Unscripted Tulum, early details reveal that the 97-room boutique property will have two pools, an al fresco dining concept, spa/wellness center and three different rooftop areas. This being Tulum, there is also a lounge for meditation and yoga.
Unscripted Tulum is set to open in 2020.