When planning a beach vacation, it’s easy to opt for an all-inclusive resort or chain hotel—they deliver consistency and convenience, often for a reasonable price. However, the burgeoning boutique hotel industry is known as the go-to option for vacationers in search of something new. As vacation hot spots, the Caribbean and Mexico are laden with noteworthy hotels that deliver an authentic experience singular to where they’re located. We went ahead and curated a list of the coolest hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico for your next beach vacation.
Jake’s Hotel, Jamaica
Before boutique hotels were even a thing, there was Jake’s. Located in Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s south coast, this artsy hotel started out as a restaurant and gradually evolved into a group of eclectic, hand-built structures containing 84 rooms in cottages, villas and bungalows. The colors and decor are bright, unbashful, firmly Jamaican and no two rooms are the same: think Bob Marley meets Van Gogh. All have quick beach access—the oceanfront bungalows are so close you can fish right off the deck. Jake’s Hotel is whimsical, secluded and as far from a hotel chain and crowds as you can get.
Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel & Spa, Dominican Republic
Santo Domingo and Punta Cana are among the most popular and tourist-packed destinations in the entire Caribbean, but the Dominican Republic still has breathtaking, unspoiled beauty. Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel & Spa is a perfect example—it focuses on coexisting with the environment and helping its guests disconnect, re-energize and immerse themselves in tropical tranquility. The 12 Feng Shui designed cabanas have eclectic decor made up of palm-thatched roofs, wood, shells and stones. Guests can take advantage of the on-site spa, yoga temple, Pilates classes and two restaurants. Relax on the pristine beach during the day and fall asleep at night with nothing but the sounds of crickets and ocean waves in your ear.
Casablanca Beachfront Hotel, Sayulita, Mexico
The surfer generation of the 1960s discovered Sayulita—25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s West Coast—but for the last half-century, it has remained largely undiscovered by beach vacationers. In this hip, quaint fishing-village-turned-surfer-mecca, you can’t do better than the Casablanca Beachfront Hotel. As the name implies, it’s right on the water’s edge, and its 14 suites and private three-bedroom house provide a secluded getaway on Mexico’s spectacular Pacific coast. The suites come in three different styles and the large house accommodates up to 10 people. Palm trees, thatched roofs, a gorgeous heated pool in a lush tropical setting and the blue ocean stretching to infinity—that’s all you’ll see. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from Sayulita’s main plaza—meaning it’s just close enough to town without compromising on privacy.
Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico
On the other side of Mexico, you’ll find Riviera Maya, the vacation locale legendary for expansive swaths of white sand and indescribably brilliant turquoise water. Resorts here are a dime a dozen, but the Palafitos (Spanish for stilt houses) at El Dorado Maroma, provide one of the most unusual and unforgettable experiences in this ethereal paradise. Why? Because the bungalows aren’t just close to water, they’re built over the water. And if that isn’t enough—portions of the floor in each bungalow are glass, allowing guests to look straight down at the tropical sea life and experience the Caribbean in a totally unique way. Additional amenities in each bungalow include a deck with a private infinity pool, outdoor shower, indoor hot tub and ladder access to the sea. Not to mention the on-site over-the-water grill and wine bar that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. What used to be possible only in far-flung places like Bora Bora and Fiji has come to Mexico, and it’s a positively extraordinary experience.
Sea-U Guest House, Barbados
If sun, rum and calypso music in a beautiful tropical paradise sound appealing, catch the next flight to Barbados. Make your reservation at Sea-U Guest House in Bathsheba, on the quiet, laid-back side of the island. This charming B&B sits on a hill overlooking the Caribbean and has accommodations ranging from rooms, to studios and apartments, all with an ocean view. The decor is tasteful and charming, with mahogany furniture, rattan chairs, locally-made clay lamps and batik art. An on-site restaurant serves breakfast every day and dinner several times a week. If you love simple, tasteful and off the beaten path, Sea-U Guest House is the place for you. Settle into a hammock strung between coconut trees and soak up the sun and spectacular ocean view.