For many, the idea of a trip to Mexico conjures up images of busy beaches, all-inclusive resort bracelets, countless tourists, nachos, margaritas, and – in some cases (i.e. Cancun) – wild parties. While there is definitely a time and place for those types of trips, these days, many of us crave something a little more authentic in our travels: we want to eat, drink, and be merry like the locals do, explore more than the grounds of a sprawling high-rise resort, indulge in gastronomic experiences to write home about, and stay in a unique boutique hotel that’s full of talking points.
Recently, I found all of the above in Mexico’s wine region. Located in Valle de Guadalupe in Baja, California, Mexico’s wine region – a still relatively undiscovered part of the country by tourists – is a no-fail spot for wine-loving foodies who seek more of an authentic Mexico experience than that of a typical all-inclusive beach vacation.
There’s plenty to do in Mexico’s wine country besides sipping and swirling in one of the region’s photo-worthy vineyards, many of which are complete with a backdrop of sun-kissed rolling mountains (though that will never get old, either). The foodies will appreciate the celebrated farm-to-table culinary scene at local restaurants and the Anthony Bourdain-approved street food; the adventure-seekers can get their rush with things like extreme zip lining (on Latin America’s largest zip line, no less), horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking; the lovers of relaxation can park themselves on a beach or poolside; and the Instagram addicts will definitely appreciate the countless like-worthy photo ops…
At the end of the wine and adventure-filled day, where you stay while on vacation can make or break a trip – a lesson most of us learn the hard way. Part of a trip to Baja, California means unique resorts where you won’t find a typical cookie-cutter hotel room, where your pets are welcome, where you can get up close and personal with nature, and where you can enjoy more of a gastronomic experience than you’d find at a resort buffet. Here, the hotel rooms are just as conversation-worthy upon return home as the wine is, and offer a refreshing fusion of luxury and nature.
Here are three unique accommodations in Baja:
1. Cuatro Cuatros
In the coastal town of Ensenada, the pristine glamping spot Cuatro Cuatros allows guests to disconnect (quite literally, as the Wi-Fi is spotty at best) and enjoy the sounds and sights of nature, all from the comfort of an elevated luxury tent that’s nestled among vineyards and mountains, next to the Pacific Ocean. The “tents” feature chic, cozily designed interiors, complete with bathrooms, terraces, heaters, a fireplace, electricity, and indoor/outdoor showers with views of the surrounding mountains and a private outdoor lounging area (perfect for tan line-free sunning).
Things like the need for flashlights when navigating the remote property at night, the-fresher-than-fresh air, and the incredible star gazing opportunities (I’ve never seen stars like these) offer a nostalgic camping-like feel, but other elements – like plush linens on a queen or king size bed, quality wine from the property’s picturesque vineyard, and a full, in-the-know concierge team (it’s the type of place where its employees become friends after a stay) – mean an all-frills-attached experience of a luxury hotel. As for the food, it’s safe to say it’s nothing like the stuff your childhood camping trips were made of. The restaurant – housed in a large tent – serves up a locally sourced menu that includes highlights like fresh ceviche, a hearty huevos rancheros dish, fresh grilled white fish, and a creamy shrimp-filled pasta. As an added perk, you can even have your meal delivered to your cabana.
One of the most notable features of Cuatro Cuatros is their breathtaking, breezy Bar Bura, a beautiful, sprawling outdoor bar that sits high on an incredible lookout over the never-ending Pacific Ocean below. Enjoying the stunning sunset here, with a glass of wine in hand and an assortment of delicious local cuisine within fork’s reach is definitely a pretty magical, memory-ingraining experience. A similar view is enjoyed when taking the property’s horses for a ride up the mountain – something that’s a must if you find yourself here. Another bucket list-worthy adrenaline rush is found nearby at the Desert Nest zip line company, where you can fly high above the mountains and ocean below (excursions are arranged through the front desk).
For yet another unique experience, there’s the option of taking the Cuatro Cuatros sailboat – a 50-foot boat that fits six people, with three rooms and two complete bathrooms – to the beautiful Salsipuedes Bay, off the Ensenada coast, for a night. If a beach is a vacation-must, you’ll get your sand and saltwater fix at Cuatro Cuatros, at a beach just a short shuttle ride away.
2. Encuentro Guadalupe
Just a 20-minute drive away is the luxury eco resort Encuentro Guadalupe – a futuristic-feeling property where Rihanna once stayed and where the landscape, like at Cuatro Cuatros, is the focal point. The cut-no-corners quality of the Encuentro Guadalupe experience is evident from the moment you arrive at the sleek lobby – located in the centre of the mountain, with stunning views of the valley and a breezy terrace – and are offered a welcome drink. You don’t have to go far to find a fresh, locally sourced meal when you stay here; the restaurant, Origen – which specializes in creative and sophisticated fusion cuisine – is housed in the same view-filled building as the lobby.
Designed by Tijuana architect Jorge Garcia to feel anything but like a hotel, guests stay in pod-like eco-lofts in the boulder-dotted hills, which are elevated to both offer a beautiful view of the surrounding Guadalupe Valley and to preserve the flora below. Each eco-loft – made with steel, glass, and timber – is complete with strong and reliable wireless Internet, crisp white linens, a bathroom, an outdoor clay kiva, and a private terrace. The modern, minimalist interiors feature industrial touches like retro-looking Edison light bulbs and pipe light fixtures. The idea here is to disconnect, and – like at Cuatro Cuatros – none of the rooms feature televisions or telephones. They do, however, have walkie-talkies to communicate with the front desk, along with iPod docking stations.
The property features seven hectares of mountain vineyards that produce merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, Nebbiolo, as well as other varieties, and a well-received complimentary wine tasting is included with each room booked. Aside from the wine and memorable meals, another highlight at Encuentro is definitely the much-Instagramed infinity pool, which disappears into a backdrop of rolling mountains and is accompanied by a soothing hot tub and a bar and grill.
3. Bruma Valle de Guadalupe
Another hotel option that’s a far cry from your typical high-rise resort – and one that includes one of the region’s most photo-worthy wineries (the barrel cellar is built around a stunning 300-year-old oak tree) and incredible new restaurant (with a chef that has an uncanny resemblance to Ryan Gosling) – is the new boutique hotel at Bruma Valle de Guadalupe, which will be fully completed for a scheduled February 2018 launch. Individual villas dot the landscape here, all designed with careful consideration of the surrounding environment and an accomplished intention of “redesigning the accommodation experience.” Perks include suites with private pools, stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains, a spa, and cozy, fireplace-filled lounges where guests can play a game of pool and where drinks are serve-yourself and on a merit system.
So, if you’re looking to ditch the crowded, all-inclusive resort for a more authentic – decidedly less tourist-y experience – I’m convinced you’ll find it at these unique accommodations in Baja, California.
A huge thanks to Visit Mexico for hosting us on this press trip. As always, reviews and opinions are our own. For more on Mexico vacations – including where to go and what to do – check out www.visitmexico.com