Boutique hotels worthy of any luxe traveler's bucket list

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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Tucked away on a quite beach south of some of Cancun and Riviera Maya's most popular all-inclusive resorts is the Hotel Escencia, the former private home of an Italian duchess that has been transformed into a boutique resort that represents everything this popular tourist area is not.

A few hours to the west, in the jungle near Merida, is the Chable Resort & Spa in Chochola, with just 38 casitas and two villas that offer the ultimate in luxury, from private pools and lush gardens to a spa built around a natural cenote.

Even farther west, in Punta Mita on Mexico's Pacific Coast, travelers seeking the ultimate in privacy and exclusion can forgo the better known Four Seasons and enjoy one of a handful of villas at the Imanta, set on 250-acre ecological jungle preserve overlooking the ocean.

And to the south, travelers weary of what many consider to be the overdeveloped regions of Costa Rica have a new adventure option in the in favor of a Rio Perdido, a 20-bungalow adventure destination in the untouched San Bernardo Lowlands, where the cool Rio Blanco meets the hot water of the Rio Perdido, creating a natural hot springs pool that can only be accessed by the resorts' guests. Biking, hiking and other activities are also on the agenda.

These unique hotels are just a sampling of some of ultra-luxury products there were on display at the recent ILTM Americas conference.

While the big, better known luxury brands are always out in full force, and with plenty of interesting new hotels and resorts of their own to showcase, my favorite part of any ILTM show is meeting the representatives (often the owners themselves) of these small properties that are worthy of even the most wealthy of travelers' bucket lists. And despite the luxury boom in recent years that has fueled the well-documented rise in popularity of such unique and often-remote resorts, I'm always surprised at just how fast this sector seems to be expanding.

"With key consumer trends such as the need for 'personalization' and 'self improvement' often cited in the world of luxury travel, there is little wonder that demand for small, cool boutique hotels is growing fast," said Simon Mayle, head of marketing for ILTM.

"We are seeing other new segments of the market appearing including 'aspirational elites' and those seeking 'transformational travel,' he said. "Helping these new travelers, as well as those with more experience, discover new destinations and travel sustainably is a great responsibility for ILTM, and we take it very seriously.

At the Escencia, the demand for these new products is obvious, as the 29-room, 50-acre property on the still largely untouched beach of Xpu-Ha is in the process of adding 11 beachfront suites. The Chable is looking to expand its brand with a new beachside resort in the Yucatan.

The growing number of these boutique brands, along with the market segments that Mayle said target aspirational elites and those seeking transformational travel, is in part behind the growth of ILTM's regional shows, which run throughout the year in addition to its global main event each December in Cannes.

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