Weird and wonderful hotels in Mexico for a unique vacation

Mexico’s landscape is extremely varied, ranging from steamy jungles and cactus-strewn deserts to white-sand beaches and even a few snow-capped mountains. The accommodations across this colorful country are just as varied as the geography.

In Mexico you can sleep anywhere from a luxuriously converted bullfighting ring or castle to upcycled Volkswagen Beetles or a lone designer museum by a beach in the wilderness. Read on to learn more about the most unique accommodations across one of the most diverse countries in the world.

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Spend the night in a tequila brewing barrel at the Matices Hotel de Barricas © Courtesy Photo

Matices Hotel de Barricas

A field of blue agave blankets a tequila brewery. Squatting amongst the spikey tequila plants are giant barrels. These are the surreal hotel rooms at Matices Hotel de Barricas, a “barrel hotel” in the heartland of the Mexican drink tequila in Tequila (of course!), Jalisco.

Coming for a drinking tour is oodles more fun when you know you will be sleeping on site here. The interior of each oversized cask is surprisingly sleek too, with curved wood-paneled ceilings, air-conditioning and enough space for a sofa, bathroom and private terrace for tequila cocktails under the stars. The restaurant serves regional cooking and the town center is a ten-minute walk or free shuttle bus away. Staying here is a transporting experience when each morning the scent of roasting pina (agave hearts) wafts by and reminds you that you could only be in Mexico.

Hotel Castillo Santa Cecilia

On the grounds of a 17th century hacienda a castle has been converted into a sprawling hotel complete with four-poster beds to live out a medieval Spanish fantasy. The rooms are rustic with arched doorways and cobbled terraces opening to rampart walls that peer across the colorful houses strewn on the hills of colonial Guanajuato. But beyond the historic setting there are modern comforts here like air-conditioning and full bathrooms.

Opened since 1952, it’s fit for actual royalty: Spanish King Carlos de Borbon and Queen Doña Sofia have stayed here and graced the ballrooms of Hotel Castillo Santa Cecilia, as have famous Mexican and foreign film stars including María Félix and Brigitte Bardot. When you want to return to everyday life, the charming narrow streets of Guanjuato town center are a short drive away.

Casa Tiny

Less is more at this lone stark-grey building near a beach and surrounded by scrubby trees clinging to the yellow sand. Austere, angular and stripped of visual distractions (even wifi), the tranquil house makes the wide-open view of nature outside the windows the star. With no neighbors, the private pool and beach are yours alone. For everything else (including food), you need to walk 10 minutes to Hotel Escondido (and its surrounding Casa Wabi arts center, designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando) or taxi to nearby Puerto Escondido, famous for its lesser-developed, surf beaches on the coast of Oaxaca. Casa Tiny is designer beauty that will make you feel like you are sleeping in a museum art installation.

Cabins in the forest at Playa Viva in Mexico
The off-grid eco-luxury resort of Playa Viva is making a name for itself © Courtesy Photo

Playa Viva

The tiny town of Juluchuca, Guerrero may not be on the radar of most visitors to Mexico but its off-the-grid “eco-luxury” resort is making a name for itself. While Playa Viva is most famous for its hyper-Instagrammable beachfront bamboo treehouse, its commitment to sustainability is reason enough to visit.

In addition to offering (very popular) yoga classes, Playa Viva operates a sustainable permaculture farm, organizes guests to help baby sea turtles return to the ocean, and arranges trips for guests to town, where they can volunteer in the same community where the resort’s employees live. Note: most of the accommodations are private bungalows and casitas so if you’re set on reserving the treehouse, be sure to book well in advance.

Tubo Hotel in Mexico
This is tobuhotel, otherwise referred to as Tube Hotel, the name speaks for itself © Courtesy Photo

tubehotel

Just 80 kilometers south of Mexico City sits the bohemian village of Tepoztlán, one of Mexico City’s famed pueblos magicos. The magical village is renowned for its creative energy, hiking, and rich Náhuatl tradition, and is a popular weekend escape for Mexico City residents. Just outside the main city center is a tubohotel (Tube Hotel), a budget-friendly, backpacker paradise that is exactly what it sounds like: a hotel made of tubes.

Cozy, glass-fronted rooms have been built inside enormous concrete tubes that are stacked up like pyramids. As tubes are stacked nearby and on top of each other, the hotel’s occasional party works best for heavy sleepers and travelers with a good set of ear plugs. Bathrooms are shared and the wifi signal may or may not reach your tube. Speak with the hotel staff about arranging a cooking class with the local celebrity chef.

Quetzalcoatl's Nest north of Mexico City
Explore the psychedelic complex of Nido del Quetzalcoatl House (Quetzalcoatl’s Nest) near Mexico City © Courtesy Photo

Nido del Quetzalcoatl House

Just north of Mexico City sits Nido del Quetzalcoatl (Quetzalcoatl’s Nest), named after the Mesoamerican feathered serpent deity. The psychedelic complex includes 10 private apartments scattered around 165,000 square feet of land, each with incredible views of the surrounding garden and connected to each other through a series of tunnels. The surreal estate is close enough to Mexico City to be convenient but removed enough that you’ll forget there’s a sprawling metropolis next door.

Quinta Real Zacatecas

Built around the restored 19th century San Pedro bullfighting ring is the classy Quinta Real Zacatecas, walking distance to must-see sites like the Zacatecas Cathedral and El Edén mine. Rooms are spacious and its on-site restaurant, La Plaza, serves great food with an even better view. The restaurant overlooks the ring and the centuries-old aqueduct that used to bring water into the city.

The hotel has added modern touches like stone fireplaces and marble baths, while showcasing elements of the original structure. The inner courtyard and dramatic stone arches are especially picturesque in the evening, when illuminated by candlelight.

Eco Camping Valladolid

Long a travel hub for visits to Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán, provincial Valladolid has cenotes and other Mayan experiences nearby that seem to multiply the longer you stay. Just outside of town you can kick back at an eco camping grounds and sleep in converted vintage vehicles.

In the gardens of Eco Camping Vallodolid, you’ll find combis with curtains, light planes, a treehouse, and a team of vochos (VW Beetles), each a one-off: hot-pink with matching hammocks, as an upside bed, or fashioned into a barbecue. This venue isn’t about glitzy glamping, but a place where you can compost, recycle and reuse everything, including some charming VWs.

Seashell_House.jpg
The Seashell House is a fun cottage rental for a family, complete with pool and minutes from Isla Mujeres’ lovely beaches © Sean Mezzo / Seashell House

Seashell House

Resembling a cottage straight out of Alice in Wonderland, the Seashell House is an actual home for rent on Isla Mujeres, Cancun’s quieter neighbor across the water. The island has a much more relaxed vibe than Cancun and is known for snorkeling, tranquil bike rides, and a small turtle sanctuary.

This nautically-themed home is great for families and small groups. Though the main Airbnb listing describes two rooms, a third room is available. The house sleeps up to six people, there’s a private outdoor pool, and even a concierge next door. It’s nice enough that you may not want to leave, though the isla deserves exploration. Reserving this one-of-a-kind stay does require some pre-planning and flexibility, as it is sometimes booked up to six months in advance.

This article was first published December 14, 2019 and updated about 24 hours ago

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