For our April issue, which focused on island stays around the world, we highlighted Mexico’s offshore islands: Isla Holbox, Cozumel and Isla Mujeres. That led us to interview Sylvie Laitre, director of Mexico Boutique Hotels (MBH), which has a stellar collection of hotels across the country, including properties on all three islands.
Paloma Villaverde de Rico (PVR): Why should travelers headed to Mexico stay on the islands, such as Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres and Cozumel?
Sylvie Laitre (SL): Islands tend to be more relaxed and have a slower pace that appeals to travelers who truly want to switch gears. The Mexican Caribbean is breathtakingly beautiful, and wanting to surround yourself with the crystal-clear, turquoise-hued water is natural. Islands afford a soothing setting that is also nice for travelers who like to have a sense of smallness and even of “conquering” their destination. These islands are easy to get around and visit completely. They give you a sense of “resort” community while still allowing for individuality. In the case of Isla Mujeres, you can sit at your hotel and see Cancun on the other side. You have the option to be in a completely quiet environment, yet can also hop on a ferry within minutes if you need to sightsee or shop or connect with the mainland.
Isla Holbox is special in that it forces you to go through all these tiny Maya villages on the way to the “port.” It’s an exciting and adventurous destination in that sense, but still affords all the above-mentioned benefits: small, manageable, laid-back.
PVR: Who is the target clientele for an island stay in Mexico and specifically the MBH hotels on these islands: CasaSandra, Villas Flamingos, B Cozumel and Villa Rolandi?
SL: Young couples, baby boomers, honeymooners, destination weddings, wedding anniversaries, adults in general looking to enjoy peace, privacy, unpretentious luxury and world-class amenities with the warm grateful service of the islanders.
But I’d also say families—especially for Holbox. This is a destination with no cars and driving around in golf carts appeals to kids. Also, the fact that the ocean is so calm makes it a safe place to take your kids on a fun beach adventure.
CasaSandra has a strong NYC clientele, which is amusing. It’s the complete opposite of NYC and that’s probably what appeals to many. It’s luxurious (within tropical island standards) yet allows you to love the “island escape” fantasy of a simple life. And all surrounded by art work.
Villas Flamingos has an eco-component and that appeals to travelers more and more. It’s the least “chic” of our four options but it doesn’t try to be more than it is. It’s authentic, colorful, and friendly. It’s boutique and unique but very accessible.
PVR: What makes MBH hotels the ideal setting for travelers who want to find some R&R on a Mexican island?
SL: One of the great characteristics of boutique hotels is the guest-staff ratio: Boutique hotels will have a smaller inventory without sacrificing the number of staff members, thus, service will be exceptional and personalized, the type of service where after a day, your waiter will know your name and the bartender will remember how you prefer your poolside cocktail. MBH call this “intuitive service”: anticipating needs, serving unobtrusively and knowing when to just stay out of the way.
PVR: What sorts of activities can a visitor expect while staying at these hotels?
SL: There is something for everybody—from just sunbathing and reading a book by the pool to scuba diving with sail fish or whale sharks, going through being pampered at the spa or just cruising along the island on a golf cart.
On Holbox there are many activities: horseback riding, crocodile hunting (no, they’re not close to hotels), deep-sea fishing, simple fishing, swimming with the whaleshark (the MOST popular), and day trips to Chichen Itza or Tulum or Ek Balam.
When I was on Holbox the first time, my BF and I went fishing early in the morning on a small boat with a guide. We did this for a few hours and he eventually dropped us off on another part of the island, to walk along a deserted beach. When we came back from our walk, he’d prepared fresh ceviche with our fish and we ate it by using seashells as spoons. LOVE this!
The last time I was there, there was an impromptu classical piano concert at CasaSandra with one of the guests. It’s a very arts-oriented property and musicians tend to flock there. Part of the charm for sure.