Two iconic hotels return in California and Mexico

Ventana Big Sur’s new luxury tents offer an unrivalled Cali-under-canvas experience, while Hotel Esencia has 11 new suites on the gleaming Xpu-ha beach

Guests at Ventana Big Sur can opt for one of the 15 luxury tents set in the hotel’s 160 acres of wilderness
Guests at Ventana Big Sur can opt for one of the 15 luxury tents set in the hotel’s 160 acres of wilderness

The big news in central California is that Highway 1 from San Francisco down to Big Sur has reopened, after a series of landslides earlier this year closed large sections of the coastal route, scuppering one of the Golden State’s most iconic drives. The timing of Alila Hotels and Resorts couldn’t be better, then, with this month seeing the Asian company relaunching an old Big Sur favourite. Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort (alilahotels.com; from $675) has been completely redone – its 59 rooms and acclaimed Sur Restaurant renovated, Alila’s own spa brand installed, and a standalone art gallery built. But best of all is the addition of 15 luxury tents on Ventana’s 160-acre wilderness, for a California-under-canvas experience that aims to be unequalled in these parts. Another icon, this one on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, has just emerged from similar attentions: the 11 massive new suites at Hotel Esencia (hotelesencia.com; from $850) – scattered along gleaming-white Xpu-ha beach and in the dense palm forest – bring to 40 the number of highly coveted keys at this mainstay of the New York movida. And the new restaurant, with its whitewashed floors, palapa roof and cinematic sunset views, is manned by an elBulli alumnus.

The gleaming-white Xpu-ha beach at Hotel Esencia, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya
The gleaming-white Xpu-ha beach at Hotel Esencia, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya
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