Mexico’s 10 Greenest Hotels Offer Luxury With a Lighter Carbon Footprint
Flying south of the border is as easy as knocking back a couple of margaritas. And with the rise of luxury resorts, boutique hotels, and all-inclusive deals, Mexico has become the destination for yogis and young things captivated by a certain om-biance and cooler-than-Miami cachet.
Related: Best Beach Resorts in Mexico
While Americans have made Mexico their No. 1 favorite place to visit—with 20.3 million trips a year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office—there are ways of finding uncrowded beaches, quiet palapas, and Mayan ruins that are selfie stick–free, if you know where to look.
Verana in Yelapa, Jalisco
Tucked up in the hills overlooking the Bay of Banderas, Verana is a five-acre boutique hotel that could double as a Hollywood backdrop, which makes sense as the husband-wife owners are a former movie set builder and set decorator. Beyond the aesthetics—the nine rooms, a newly remodeled restaurant and spa, and a springwater pool best enjoyed with a spicy margarita or aged rum mojito in hand—there is cochinita pibil, slow-cooked in an underground pit Yucatán style, freshly caught octopus and lobster (opt for the meal plan; $95 for three daily feasts cooked by Yelapan chef Fabian), yoga classes, ocean kayaking off Verana’s private pier, whale-watching, and waterfall hikes in the jungle. Rooms from $250.
Xixim Unique Mayan Hotel in Celestún
Travelers tend to flock to the northwestern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in winter to see one of the world’s largest pink flamingo colonies, in the Celestún Biosphere Reserve. But if you’re content to see 300 other kinds of bird species, the best time to visit is in the spring. Come April, there are almost no guests at Hotel Xixim (pronounced shee-sheem), and the water is so warm you’ll want to stay in the gulf until the pelicans take their final dinner dives at sunset. Opened by Verena Gerber, a pioneer of Mexico’s eco-hotel movement, Xixim’s myriad conservation efforts include preserving 1,300 acres of sensitive ecosystem and offering composting and water recycling programs, along with a solar-heated pool. Order the omelet de queso with spicy Valladolid sausage at the hotel’s new Restaurant Zaxim, walk the sand dunes with black-and-white-striped iguanas, cruise along the coast in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, and relax in your cabana’s waterfront hammock—which feels just as private and peaceful as the rest of the resort. Rooms from $226.
Amansala Eco-Chic Resort in Tulum
The unlockable door to your bungalow is the first clue that this place plays by a different set of rules. After putting your passport in the safe and peeking around the newest Amansala Chica property, you’ll get that you’ve entered a sacred space where yogis come to recharge (and unplug) and Zen is the unspoken language. Shed the wariness, embrace Tulum’s bohemian vibes, and jump on one of Amansala’s cruisers for a 20-minute bike ride to the Mayan ruins, which are free from crowds if you go at 8 a.m. Cool off in the Caribbean Sea, then listen to Ben, the hotel’s adventurer-in-residence, who’ll tell you to grab drinks (and shop for enviable cargo) at Posada Margherita, an under-the-radar restaurant/hotel/boutique just down the beach. While yoga retreats are often inherently eco-sensitive, Amansala takes responsible travel to new heights, with its locavore mentality, groundbreaking recycling program, and solar-powered operation—which means no air conditioners, so book a beachfront room and welcome the cool sea breezes. Rooms from $165.
The Lodge at Chichen Itza
The Lodge at Chichen Itza will fulfill (or awaken) your heart-of-the-jungle fantasies. While there’ll be no bushwhacking (the 39 luxurious Mayan huts don’t come with machetes), the 100-acre grounds are akin to a lush open-air aviary, where peacocks, social flycatchers, and great-tailed grackles roam free, and it’s often just you and them and the giant elephant ear trees by the pool. You may have come here for the private access to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s the commitment to environmental and cultural preservation—and the delicious churro French toast—that make this Rainforest Alliance–certified hotel a winner. Rooms from $175.
Las Alamandas in Costalegre
On a romantic getaway, it doesn’t get much better than showing up at your hotel to discover that you two will have the place all to yourselves. But when you consider that there are only 16 suites and more than 2,000 acres at Las Alamandas, that sense of seclusion is probably what everyone else is feeling too. The hotel is good at giving guests and the environment plenty of space; while you have four exclusive beaches, three lagoons, miles of hiking trails, and private outdoor Jacuzzis, the protected land gets to grow wild, producing 80 percent of the vegetables, fruits, and other organic ingredients used in the restaurant’s dishes. Regardless of how many cocktails you’ve had at the tequila bar, you can’t help but feel a deep connection to nature at Las Alamandas, whether you’re cooking with freshly caught tuna, riding horses on the beach, or stalking blue-footed boobies on a bird-watching tour. Rooms from $259.
Hotel Escondido in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Surveying the terrain from within a 50-meter pool, you imagine the wild landscape hasn’t changed much since the fall of the Aztec Empire. For all you know, the only developments between then and now have been Casa Wabi, the striking 8,000-square-foot Tadao Ando–designed artist colony, and its next-door neighbor, Hotel Escondido. But the owners, hoteliers Carlos Couturier and Moises Micha (also of Manhattan’s Hotel Americano), have come in peace, taking great care to build 16 all-natural palapas with wood and palm leaves, serve the most local, indigenous cuisine, and inspire guests to experience just how cool a sustainably minded, car-free lifestyle can be. You’ll find no reason to create a travel itinerary, beyond lounging on your terrace—with its daybeds, hammock, and private pool—indulging in a massage, and surfing Mexico’s best waves at Zicatela Beach until it’s time for five o’clock somewhere at the bar in this Mexican Mad Men-style hideaway. Rooms from $269.
Playa Viva in Juluchuca, Guerrero
All eight open-air casitas are perfectly accommodating, with unobstructed ocean views, thatched roofs, and comfortable canopy beds, but you’ll want to be the first guests in the tree house when it opens this October. It seems only fitting that one should sleep among the palm trees at 200-acre Playa Viva, a bona fide natural theme park with a turtle sanctuary, mangrove forest, 100 percent off-grid solar system, and working organic farm, where guests are welcome to volunteer or just pick salad fixings. Daily meals are included, as are morning yoga classes, airport transportation, organic tequila drinks, and a seriously light carbon footprint. Rooms from $195 (Tree house from $354).
El Patio 77 in Mexico City
El Patio 77’s breakfast of homemade enfrijoladas, chilaquiles, or molletes, served in a quiet courtyard, is the best way to ease into an active day of sightseeing in the capital. The city’s first eco B&B is housed in a recently renovated 19th-century mansion in San Rafael, a shabby-chic neighborhood with colonial charm. From the doorstep, you’re within a 15-minute walk of the Museo Nacional de San Carlos, Galería Hilario Galguera, Mercado San Cosme (where El Patio 77 leads tours for adventurous foodies), and an EcoBici bike-share station ($5/day). Each of the eight guest rooms is named for a place in Mexico and is well curated with handcrafted elements inspired by the regions. While there’s nothing in-your-face green about the B&B, you can sleep soundly knowing your hotel is doing its part to protect the environment—most significantly by helping combat the water crisis in Mexico with a sophisticated water-recycling system. Rooms from $82.50.
Hacienda Tres Ríos in Riviera Maya
Big, all-inclusive, family-friendly resorts aren’t known for being ambassadors of climate change, so it’s refreshing to experience Hacienda Tres Ríos, a 326-acre luxury property that the government considers to be a model for sustainable tourism development (think motion-activated lights, a water desalination plant, and major reforestation projects). There may be 273 suites, but the hotel’s 150-acre nature preserve makes it easy for guests to get lost and reboot in the great outdoors through a variety of activities like a mountain biking, experiencing a blindfolded sensory hike, and swimming in Manatí or Nuevo, two of the 10 surrounding cenotes. Rooms from $350.
Taboga Eco Boutique Hotel in Costa Esmeralda, Veracruz
Whether you’re passing through Veracruz en route to the El Tajín ruins or looking to save money between the more extravagant haciendas on your road trip, Taboga will be a pleasant surprise for discerning travelers. The eight bamboo cabanas are stripped down to the bare essentials, so that the spotlight is on your terrace hammock, the ocean views beyond it, and the beautiful simplicity of a self-sufficient place. Guests are invited to unplug (only the common areas have Wi-Fi) and connect with the world outside Instagram. Given the hostel-level prices for everything—from the room to the food to the stand-up paddleboard tour through the mangroves—you’ll soon forget your phone entirely. Imagine that. Rooms from $15/ per person.