For the past four years, I've spent every winter in Mexico. I use it as an escape from the long, dismal New York winter, but more importantly, I use it as a learning opportunity to dive deeper into a country that has become a second home.
This year, however, my hands-on education was cut dramatically short when impending airline route cancellations threatened displacement. Now, with no real end date in sight, I'm stuck in my living room like the rest of the world, with nothing but the Instagram rabbit hole and virtual experiences to scratch my Mexico itch.
On the bright side, this whole experience has sparked a travel fire in most of us that is on the brink of burning out of control. We are ready to hit the road, and soon. So where is this Mexiphile headed as soon as this is over? I have a few ideas in mind.
San Luis Potosi
There are many reasons why this state in eastern Mexico has been on my wish list. But what drew me to be interested in it were its waterfalls. Known as La Huasteca Potosina, this remote region is flooded with gushing waterfalls and swimming holes, as well as some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Mexico.
But in researching La Huasteca Potosina, I discovered how much more there is to see and do in San Luis Potosi. It's peppered with historical villages that are steeped in the mining culture of the region. One of the most eerily beautiful is the village of Real de Catorce, which for years held "ghost town" status after the collapse of the price of silver. Today, travelers are lured by the promise of a rising boutique hotel scene, which is helping to transform it into one of the country's hidden gems. Its cobblestone streets and architecture ooze character, set to the haunting backdrop of stark desert and rolling mountains.
Where to stay: Tourism to the state of San Luis Potosi is not as developed as other parts of Mexico, so accommodations in more remote locations like Huatesca Potosina or Real de Catorce are a bit limited. But the capital, San Luis Potosi, has a variety of lodging options, such as the Conrad San Luis Potosi, Hilton San Luis Potosi, Quintana Real Palacio de San Agustin, and Tryp by Wyndham San Luis Potosi.
As a self-proclaimed "Mexpert," it's a tad embarrassing that I've yet to visit the state of Guanajuato. How I haven't managed to visit San Miguel de Allende is rather surprising. And while I would absolutely love to get there, for me the real draw to Guanajuato is the capital, also called Guanajuato.
A simple Google search will make it pretty clear why Guanajuato is on my short list. Surrounded by mountains, the city pops out of the valley with bursts of bright colors, at the center of which is its iconic canary-yellow cathedral. The city, a Unesco World Heritage site, was founded in the 16th century and has a collection of lavish colonial buildings, museums, markets and small restaurants and bars. I picture it something akin to what San Miguel de Allende was like 10 to 15 years ago.
Where to stay: Guanajuato City is peppered with lovely boutique hotel options. Consider the design-forward Antigua Trece Hotel Fusion, which overlooks the city cathedral from its rooftop restaurant.
It seems like it's getting harder and harder to find a stretch of Mexico's 5,800 miles of coastline that remains pristine. But, if you can believe it, a few do still exist. Lovers of Mexico's west coast are already well-versed in Riviera Nayarit, from Punta Mita up to Sayulita, and maybe even a bit farther to San Pancho. Still, there is so much more coast to be discovered.
Chacala is a tiny tourist town that manages to retain its sleepy fishing village identity. The peaceful cove has calm, swimmable waters, a string of beach bars and palapas, and the iconic views of the green-carpeted Sierra Madres in the background. It's also a prime destination for nature lovers, who can snorkel or explore the hiking trails. Surfers will find that Chacala is a jumping-off point for some top surfing beaches in Nayarit.
Where to stay: Chacala has many boutique hotel options, as well as more budget-friendly beach hotels, so clients may do better to stay closer to Sayulita, or even in Puerto Vallarta, which is about two hours away. However, the master-planned Costa Canuva community, a $2 billion investment, is in the works for this stretch of coast, so it won't be long before ultra luxury arrives in this part of Nayarit.