7 luxury vacations in Mexico

Mexico has always had all the elements of an upscale vacation destination: glittering white Caribbean beaches and wave-crashed Pacific shores, thriving mega-cities, pre-Columbian ruins, world-class cuisine and an ever-expanding selection of excellent hotels.

The opulence isn't just for visitors, though. Mexico boasts the 15th-largest economy in the world, with an upwardly mobile moneyed class that includes Earth's fourth-richest man, corporate magnate Carlos Slim.

Even if you're not part of Señor Slim's intimate posse, here's where to do Mexico like you're at least one of his cousins.

Acapulco

Acapulco's skyscraper-lined beaches and stunning cliff-top mansions have long been the stuff of vacation legend.

Sadly, its star faded in the 1980s and 1990s as younger, better-planned Mexican resorts took center stage.

Like other gracefully aging beauties, however, Acapulco has been having some work done.

It's once again filled with updated attractions, top-flight golf courses and outstanding new hotels.

It's also one of Mexico's best deals on a five-star vacation -- and, yes, Acapulco's famed cliff divers are still an attraction.

Go big: Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués

Fantastic views from luxuriously outfitted villas scattered along the oceanfront are just part of this outstanding hotel's charm.

Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués; Boulevard Cabo Marqués, Lote 1, Colonia Punta Diamente, Acapulco, Guerrero; + 52 744 434 0100

Go boutique: Casa Yalma Kaan

Nine rustic wooden bungalows will satisfy the most discriminating traveler looking to get lost in a secluded spot along a quiet stretch of sand.

Casa Yalma Kaan; Carretera Hacia Barra Vieja, Kilometer 29, Lote 189, Acapulco, Guerrero; +52 744 444 6389

Cabo San Lucas

At the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Cabo attracts celebs, wealthy jet-setters, championship golfers, US party boys and girls, families and anyone interested in living luxuriously along the Pacific.

Outdoor attractions include scuba diving, sport fishing, surfing, sailing and basic beach bumming -- but Cabo's fine dining options and nightlife may surprise you.

Go big: Esperanza

Cabo has scores of upscale resorts, but this award-winning property gets raves for its huge rooms, excellent spa, secluded beach and other extras.

Esperanza; Carretera Transpeninsular, Kilometer 7, Manzana 10, Punta Ballena, Cabo San Lucas; +52 624 145 6400

Go boutique: The Resort at Pedregal

By Cabo's mega-resort standards, 66 opulent rooms -- plunge pools, local decor, digital amenities -- still count as boutique hotel. This one is in an unforgettably dramatic setting, with a glorious oceanfront pool.

The Resort at Pedregal; Camino Del Mar 1, Cabo San Lucas; +52 624 163 4300

Cancún and the Mayan Riviera

Mexico's most famous vacation destination is Cancún; flawless by design, the site was chosen and designed in the 1970s using computer models. Really.

Perfect white beaches, fantastic weather and cheap plane tickets from the United States have attracted a selection of five-star resorts unparalleled in Latin America.

The entire area is now swimming in great options. Isla Mujeres is a mellow island just offshore, and the Mayan Riviera is a seemingly endless strand of resorts and hotels stretching south to Tulúm.

Go big: The Ritz-Carlton Cancún

It's hard to choose just one of Cancún's many mega-resorts, but this classic beauty's fine rooms, luxury spa and gorgeous beach stand out from the crowd.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancún; Retorno del Rey 36, Zona Hotelera, Cancun, Quintana Roo; +52 998 881 0808

Go boutique: Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya

Wrapped in wildlife and wilderness just 30 kilometers south of Cancún, this luxury property's pretty beach bungalows and jungle ground front an almost undisturbed beach.

Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya; Carretera Chetumal-Cancún, Kilometer 328, Bahia Petempich, Benito Juárez, Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo; +52 998 872 8300

Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo

Only recently discovered by the luxury crowd, these twin resort towns on the Central Pacific coast couldn't be more different.

Like Cancún, Ixtapa was planned from the start, its flawless coastline carpeted with gleaming high-rises, golf courses and shopping.

Neighboring Zihuatanejo started out as an authentic Mexican fishing village, and still has charm to spare.

The two compliment each other well, with glitz matched by atmosphere.

Go big: Capella Ixtapa

Rustic but luxurious rooms perched on ocean cliffs come complete with personal assistants and other extravagant amenities found nowhere else in the region.

Capella Ixtapa; Paseo Playa Linda, Ixtapa, Guerrero; +52 755 555 1100

Go boutique: Amuleto

Upscale travelers have a bohemian outpost in laid-back Zihuatanejo in this luxurious and well-appointed bamboo-and-thatch hotel.

Amuleto; Calle Escénica 9, Playa La Ropa, Zuhuatanejo, Guerrero; +52 755 544 6222

Mexico City

Mexico's capital is a metropolis with 21 million people, the elite of which are at the center of the business, political and cultural hub of the nation.

World-class museums, trendy restaurants, glittering boutiques, bohemian galleries and an artistic undercurrent make Mexico City one the most vibrant cities on the planet.

Luxury travelers will feel most at home in Polanco, just north of famed Chapultepec Park. It's loaded with designer suits, gourmet meals and expensive golf courses.

Go big: W Mexico City

Mexico City has five-star, business-class hotels to spare, but the W's cool, clubby ambiance, complete with neon and sleek design, remains a magnet for the stylin' crowd.

W Mexico City; Campos Eliseos 252, Chapultepec, Polanco, Mexico City; +52 559 138 1800

Go boutique: Hotel Condesa df

The star of the trendy, bohemian Condesa neighborhood is this hip hotel, famed for its French facades, modern interiors and a fresh rooftop bar.

Hotel Condesa df; Veracruz 102, Colonia Condesa, Mexico City; +52 55 5241 2600

Oaxaca

The "culinary capital of Mexico" is much more than its legendary restaurant scene.

Carved from glistening cantera stone into a splendid example of harmonious Spanish Colonial architecture, it's home to exquisite churches, museums, pre-Columbian ruins and shops selling seriously psychedelic handicrafts.

Go big: Quinta Real Oaxaca

Built almost 450 years ago, graceful Santa Catalina Convent has had its courtyards, gardens and rooms refurbished by Mexican luxury chain Camino Real. Classic.

Quinta Real Oaxaca; 300 Cinco de Mayo, Oaxaca; +52 951 501 6100

Go boutique: Casa Oaxaca

This whitewashed gem offers seven perfect rooms surrounding a sunny courtyard with one of Oaxaca's best restaurants; guests can arrange meals, cooking classes and market tours.

Casa Oaxaca; García Vigil 407, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca; + 52 (951) 514 41 73

San Miguel de Allende

Its artsy ambiance, refreshing climate and UNESCO historic district make the magical mountain town of San Miguel de Allende a magnet for both adventurous expats and wealthy Mexican families.

In recent years, its "quality of light," and quality of life, have been enhanced with renowned art schools, gourmet restaurants, eclectic nightlife, fine hotels and real estate agencies (with English-speaking employees) on every block.

Go big: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel's plushest property offers world-class accommodation in the heart of the historic center.

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende; Nemesio Diez 11, Colonia Centro, San Miguel de Allende; +52 415 152 9700

Go boutique: Casa Misha

Each detail is anticipated in this elegant seven-room winner, featuring balcony views over San Miguel's famous Parroquia.

Casa Misha; Chiquitos 15, Centro, San Miguel de Allende; +52 415 152 2021

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