A tour of Cacti Mundo botanical gardens is available to guests at any Pueblo Bonito property. // © 2016 Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resorts and Spas
Feature image (above): Hacienda Jurica brings the outdoors in, featuring lush flora throughout the grounds. // © 2016 Hacienda Jurica
For all their talk about comfy rooms and luxurious amenities, hoteliers in Mexico know that what really draws many visitors to the destination is its abundant natural beauty. Perhaps that’s why an increasing number of properties have made it easier for guests to connect with nature without even leaving (or straying too far from) the hotel grounds. With on-site nature preserves, trained guides and a variety of property excursions and activities for adults and children alike, guests can learn a lot about nature just steps from the reception desk.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya, on the Caribbean coast, is home to various hotels that make the most of their natural settings. Hacienda Tres Rios is a resort set on a nature park crossed by — as the name suggests — three rivers, with bike and kayak tours among the options for exploring local beauty. And at Mayakoba, a property that includes Fairmont Mayakoba, Banyan Tree Mayakoba and Rosewood Mayakoba, guests can travel via the Mayakoba Connection, an electric ferry service that navigates the waterways, with free ecological tours led by a biologist. Also on-site is the Mayakoba Nature Trail, which guests can explore by foot or bicycle, with the possibility of viewing more than 200 species of flora and fauna.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya, also on the Caribbean coast, offers a free ecological tour that includes a visit to the property’s mangroves to learn about native species such as sea grapes, sea lilies, coconut palm and salt grass. Guests also visit the beach to learn about the artificial reefs that lie off the property’s coast and how sand dunes are built to prevent erosion. The last stop on the hotel’s tour is at the property’s “cenotes,” which are natural pools of fresh water, where the guide points out more of the region’s biodiversity.
Farther south, close to the city of Chetumal and the Belize border, Rancho Encantado Eco-Resort & Spa has just 12 cottages on a large ranch. Private and small-group excursions led by expert guides help visitors learn more about the local flora and fauna, which includes more than 150 species of tropical birds and a variety of orchids. In the nearby state of Yucatan, Hacienda Chichen Resort is home to a private bird refuge and Mayan jungle conservation reserve.
On the Pacific coast, near Puerto Vallarta, Majahuitas Resort features eight casitas on communal land that belongs to the indigenous community of Chacala. Reachable only by boat via the Bay of Banderas, the property is heaven for bird watchers, with the endangered military macaw, grey hawk, golden-cheeked woodpecker and black-throated magpie jay among the local residents.
Farther down the Pacific coast, Las Brisas Ixtapa offers a guided nature walk, which starts with a “mocktail” made with the local tetechas cactus flower. A professional nature guide leads guests through the jungle that surrounds the hotel, providing insight about the vegetation and wildlife, which includes more than 320 bird species. The guest who spots the rarest species on the tour wins a prize from the hotel. Meanwhile, children who participate in the resort’s free kids’ program can take part in a drawing contest based on the most interesting things they’ve viewed on the nature walk. The best drawings are featured on the hotel’s Facebook page.
In Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach Golf & Spa Resort offers the Cacti Mundo tour, which visits a nearby botanical garden. The tour is open to guests at any Pueblo Bonito property, and an expert guide provides details about the many species of cacti in the gardens.
Mexico’s interior also provides travelers with unique opportunities to connect with nature. In the colonial town of Queretaro, Hacienda Jurica by Brisas, part of the Las Brisas Hotel Collection, guests can request a guided tour that focuses on the property’s 16th-century history as well as the grounds’ lush flora.