Calling all sustainability-minded travelers: In 2020 and 2021, a spate of new, handsome coastal resorts and villas have opened in Mexico with a focus on ecoconscious, socially responsible design—properties that have carefully considered the environment and local communities in construction, design, and operations. Whether you’re looking for an under-the-radar lakeside retreat or an ocean-facing jungle hideaway, these eight resorts and hotels each offer a pristine slice of paradise while ensuring your vacation treads lightly on the destination.
1. One&Only Mandarina
Book Now: From $1,250 per night, expedia.com
Just under 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, along a Pacific-facing cliff on 80 jungle-covered acres, One&Only Mandarina made a point to incorporate low-impact practices into almost every aspect of the hotel, from the landscaping to the restaurant. The 105 stand-alone tree house suites, which were constructed with sustainably sourced native woods, sit on stilts to minimize impact on the rain forest floor and were built with the input of botany experts to help preserve the land. Sprawling accommodations are all clad in warm woods and cool white cottons; some have outdoor soaking tubs and views of the sparkling Pacific. One&Only recruited Mexican superstar chef Enrique Olvera for the onsite Carao restaurant, which features locally sourced seafood, such as clams and red snapper.
2. Palmaia, House of Aia
Book Now: From $586 per night, expedia.com
Named after the Riviera Maya’s endangered palma chît tree, Palmaia, House of Aia has a wellness philosophy that strives to heal both the traveler and the surrounding landscape. The resort, which is located in a quiet corner of Playa del Carmen, aims to become carbon neutral through such practices as leasing energy from solar panels and other renewable energy sources; currently, it uses 50 percent less energy than a comparable traditional property.
The 234 ocean-facing guest rooms were constructed with cool white tiles, enormous soaking tubs, and a palette that reflects nature and the ocean nearby; some have verandas on the edge of the resort’s infinity pools. The resort’s four restaurants and taco truck are all heavily plant-based and feature creative dishes, including smoked carrot toast and soy-marinated watermelon poke.
3. Paradero Todos Santos
Book Now: From $410 per night, expedia.com
The Mexican founders behind Paradero Todos Santos chose a previously farmed plot of land within an agricultural community for the site of their new retreat, located 60 miles northwest of San Jose del Cabo airport in the surfing haven of Todos Santos. They replanted dozens of endemic species like Shaw’s agave and Mojave yucca on the nearly six-acre property and outfitted the resort’s 35 suites with plenty of outdoor verandas, hammocks, and hand-crafted Mexican textiles and furnishings. The resort’s immersive experiences go well beyond those of a normal sandy getaway: When you’re not taking surfing lessons, try your hand at local farming practices, head into town for a colonial tour of the adobe architecture, or take a cooking class focusing on Baja cuisine.
4. Monte Uzulu
Book Now: From $141 per night, expedia.com
Sustainable minimalism mixes with homegrown craftsmanship at this handsome beachside retreat an hour’s drive south of Oaxaca’s popular Puerto Escondido surf spot. Monte Uzulu is the vision of Alan V. Favero, the creative director of Taller Lu’um, a socially conscious design firm that collaborates closely with artisans all over Mexico. Favero bought land in the fishing village of San Agustinillo and recruited architect Mariana Ruiz Ortega to build the 11-room resort.
Monte Uzulu reuses 100 percent of the water it takes in, in addition to a rainwater catchment system, biodegradable skin products, and retractable walls that cool interiors with ocean breezes in lieu of air-conditioning. The guest rooms and public spaces, with their thatched roofs and cool concrete walls, are filled with handcrafted furnishings made with local materials like macuil wood.
5. Casona Sforza
Book Now: From $350 per night, booking.com
Set along the Pacific coast in Oaxaca’s surfer town of Puerto Escondido, the handsome, design-driven Casona Sforza was created by Mexican architect Alberto Kalach with sustainability in mind. The 11 neutral-hued guest rooms are housed beneath a series of soaring arched ceilings fashioned out of local brick that both deflect the sun and keep the coastal air circulating without the need for air-conditioning. Furnishings throughout the property were brought in from different parts of the country—rugs from Teotitlán del Valle, hammocks from the Yucatán—and some items, like the terra-cotta pottery and glassware, come from Pueblo del Sol, a social project created by the Casona Sforza founder, Ezequiel Ayarza Sforza, to support local Indigenous artisans.
6. Habitas Bacalar
Book Now: From $400 per night, expedia.com
Ecoconsciousness is the founding principle behind Habitas, a small but growing hotel group born in Tulum in 2014. Its third and latest retreat, Habitas Bacalar, opens August 2021 along the shores of turquoise-hued Lake Bacalar, a less visited corner of the Riviera Maya just over two hours by car from Tulum near the Belize border. Habitas Bacalar was built using modular construction and sustainable materials, both of which reduce the hotel’s energy consumption and waste. The 35 lagoon-side guest rooms, with their palapa-style A-frame architecture and water-facing verandas, were built on stilts to minimize the hotel’s impact on the site, and interiors are cool, high-ceilinged oases with thatched roofs that echo traditional Mayan architecture.
7. Casa Bautista
Book Now: From $2,100 per night, casabautistatulum.com
This ecoconscious beach retreat sits on the edge of a jungle within the UNESCO-designated Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve near Tulum. Also owned by Ezequiel Ayarza Sforza, the entrepreneur behind Casona Sforza, the brutalist, five-room private villa was built by Mexico City–based architects Productora on cross-shaped columns to lighten the footprint of the building, which runs on solar and wind energy. The blue concrete exterior of the three-story building is offset by winding staircases as well as warm-hued wooden verandas and pergolas constructed by local carpenters with tzalam (Caribbean walnut). The rooftop pool, which offers a view of the ocean and the surrounding jungle, is the place to be while watching the sun dip beneath the horizon. Nesting sea turtles are a common sight on the nearby beach.
8. Baja Club Hotel
Book Now: From $240 per night, expedia.com
Many visitors to Baja California flock to Cabo San Lucas, but the latest property from beloved Mexican hotel group Grupo Habita could offer good reason for them to venture 100 miles north to La Paz, the less-visited regional capital flanked by white-sand beaches. Located across the street from the malecón on the Sea of Cortez, Baja Club Hotel is located in a former mission-style residence dating to 1910, with a 34,100-square-foot add-on to accommodate guest rooms.
Mexico City–based Max von Werz Arquitectos teamed up with Parisian interiors firm Jaune Architecture to reimagine the building as a 32-room hotel with a rooftop bar for social gatherings. Original warm-hued terrazzo floors and exposed wood beams are offset by furnishings made from wicker and earthenware pieces sourced from within Mexico. The building takes advantage of natural heating and cooling mechanisms wherever possible, such as shade and strategic cross ventilation to minimize the use of air-conditioning.
>>Next: The AFAR Guide to Mexico