$145 • Veracruz
As coastal Mexico slowly gives way to a glut of high-rises and libidinous throngs of tourists, a few tucked-away treasures hold tight to their cultural roots, not to mention a high standard of innovative indigenous design. The solo project of Carlos Couturier (one of the hoteliers behind Mexico City’s Habita Hotel and Deseo in Playa del Carmen), Azúcar (Monte Gordo; 52-232/321-0678; www.hotelazucar.com) is set between a pristine beach, citrus groves, and sugarcane fields in the eastern state of Veracruz. The resort manages to defy tradition while embracing it: spare meditative surroundings, early morning yoga, and an Asian-inspired spa lend the property an Eastern air; vivid pink accents, Mexican votives, and dishes such as the fragrant house special, acamayitas (freshwater prawns), infuse it with a distinctly Latin flavor. The 20 luminescent white bungalows have sculptural walls, pearl-hued cement floors, and private terraces with hammocks.
While There Ten minutes away, the town of San Rafael simmers with a potent mix of Afro-Caribbean and French influences, remnants of the area’s sugar-industry heyday. Within its tiny confines, you can find handmade cheeses, bakeries specializing in both baguettes and pan de agua, and sublime lechero coffee: try Mr. Lambert’s Traditional Cheese and Cream (39 Avda. 16 de Septiembre N.; 52-232/325-0373) and the Maasberg family bakery (3 Calle Encinas; 52-232/325-0423). —Jessica Hundley
South & Central America
$170 • Buchupureo, Chile
Chile’s rugged south-central coast, a few hilly turns west of the famous wine-producing valleys of Region VII and five hours south of Santiago, has long sat quietly, frequented primarily by wandering surfers and oxen-driving farmers. Now, as if to remind people that Brazil isn’t the only South American country with stunning stretches of sand, a young American couple has opened La Joya del Mar (56-42/197-1733; www.lajoyadelmar.com), a three-villa property that’s an oasis of simple luxury. Embracing a modern and organic aesthetic, the hotel’s open, airy villas are decorated with clean-lined furnishings custom-crafted from oak harvested in the nearby province of Cordillera. The on-site restaurant is charmingly bicultural, serving local dishes such as barbecued fish, shellfish empanadas, and fresh ceviche alongside pizzas and pastas from the kitchen of owner (and surfer) Dayna Del Duca, who inherited the recipes from her Sicilian father—all complemented by an excellent collection of 80-plus Chilean wines. It doesn’t take a surfer to appreciate the Pacific backdrop: a black-sand beach rimmed by lavender, oak, and banana-tree-covered hillsides.
While There The lovely Itata Valley, just an hour’s drive east of La Joya, is home to a handful of small vineyards—the best being Casas de Giner (56-42/351-025; www.casasdeginer.cl). For more tasting options, head to the historic Maule Valley (56-71/246-460; www.valledelmaule.cl)—a two-hour road trip from La Joya—which has a wine-making tradition that dates to colonial times. —David Hanson