Travel

casa de sierra nevada hotel

3 Weeks in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, and Riviera Maya

Kiki Koroshetz

Kiki Koroshetz is the senior wellness director on goop’s editorial team and the ringleader of the goop Book Club.

I convinced one of my best friends to come to Mexico with me for three weeks this June. It wasn’t that hard. We started traveling together as coworkers at goop, mostly for In goop Health summits in other cities—New York, San Francisco, London. We travel well together because Cat understands I will need to visit as many bookstores as possible wherever we go. She maps out where we are going to eat and orders what we’re going to share most of the time because I’m extremely indecisive. I instigate nights out, and Cat makes sure we get sleep. We both try to carry on our suitcase (even for a three-week trip) and enjoy cold brew, walking, seeing art, and farmers’ markets. During and after this trip, we both contemplated how we could stay in Mexico City forever.

CDMX

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and checked into our Airbnb in Condesa, near the border of Roma. We went straight to the little balcony and declared this would do just fine for the next ten days. We’d work from the dining room table—but not too hard, right? (If you’re looking for a hotel in the area, see CondesaDF. The lobby restaurant there is also a good place to work not too hard.)

Walk Around

Another thing we agree on: We like to explore a new city by foot. We walked around Condesa a lot—particularly on Avenida Amsterdam, following the tree-lined loop and then heading into Parque México. Roma Norte is north of Condesa and has many restaurants, bars, cafés, and shops. Juarez probably became our favorite neighborhood to wander around toward the end of the trip—you feel like a cooler person when you’re drinking a glass of wine here. Parque Chapultepec is massive and worthy of a long stroll.

dining room table
  • dining room table
    door with pink wall
    bike lane
    door with orange wall
  • door with pink walls bike lane door with orange walls

    Coffee

    Our local spot was Chiquitito Café in Condesa: great cold brew, solid Wi-Fi, outdoor tables, but limited snacks. There are a few Blend Station locations around Condesa and Roma Norte—the one on Avenida Tamaulipas is big, with indoor and outdoor seating, and it was normally fairly full with people working during the day. I thought the cold brew was outstanding, but it was a little on the bitter side for Cat. I like bitter. Enhorabuena is a café to sit outside at, and here, we went for the cappuccinos (I’m a leche de almendras girl, and Cat usually goes for avena). Buna in Roma Norte has homemade macadamia nut milk. Cicatriz is a cute café in Juarez with interesting shops next door. Almanegra is a small chain, and its cold brew can take you to the moon.

    Eat

    Cat is more of a foodie than I am, but this would be the city that would turn me into one.

    The most memorable meal of the trip was at Masala y Maíz in Juarez, run by married chefs Norma Listman and Saqib Keval. It incorporates their different culinary histories and careful study of ingredients and cooking styles from Mexico, South Asia, and East Africa. The menu changes—we ordered everything our waiter recommended and would do that again and again. The natural wine selection was also memorable. Masala y Maíz is open only for lunch. Make a reservation and plan to be there for at least a few hours.

    Amaya, also in Juarez, had a substantial natural wine list. (Did I mention Cat and I are united by our desire to drink natural wine as well?) Go for a glass and order the ceviche.

    Masala y Maiz food

    It’s important to mention legendary chef Elena Reygadas. In Roma Norte, there’s her beautiful restaurant Rosetta, inside a townhouse that gives off Italian villa vibes. Make a reservation in advance if you want to come for dinner, and order at least one pasta. Panadería Rosetta is one of her bakeries—go for the rol de guayaba (guava roll). And she has Lardo in Condesa, which might be the prettiest place to have breakfast.

    For party vibes: Paramo in Roma Norte, which is above the daytime taco restaurant El Parnita. Paramo is set up like a house, with a few small rooms leading into a covered patio with brick walls, hanging plants, exposed wood beams, tiny candles, and colorful strings of lights over the tables. You might think it’s all about the drinks, but do not sleep on the food. We had the best ceviche here (okay, Cat, you convinced me about ceviche), and the tacos were right up there.

    Back to the natural wine, though. Loup Bar in Roma Norte is a small bistro in the bottom of a building (the cocktail lounge Maison Artemisia is above it) with low-key date-night energy. They’ve got some funky bottles in the house, and we happened to be helped by one of the head chefs (Joaquin Cardoso), whose recommendations were all too right.

    We thought we would cook a bit in our Airbnb kitchen. Haha. But we did order takeout sushi from Kura once.

    Mercado Roma in Roma Sur has a maze of food stalls downstairs with different types of cuisines and drinks and a casual rooftop bar above. We had excellent Indian food and local-ish beer.

    And the food stalls on the street: duh. There was an overwhelming number to choose from near us, around the Chilpancingo metro stop and Avenida Insurgentes Sur.

    wine collection guava pastry
    Cat and Kiki grilled corn
  • food at Masala y Maiz
    wine collection
    guava pastry with coffee
    Cat and Kiki
    grilled corn
  • Drink

    Let me try to arrange this section in a way that doesn’t make me look like a lush.

    I once thought that all mezcal was super smoky but learned how wrong I was at the dimly lit, denlike La Clandestina in Condesa. The bartenders were patient and helped us discover that we prefer our mezcal to be on the side of terroso—more earthy. The cocktails were inventive, but if you want to sample mezcal straight, this is a good place to do it.

    Baltra Bar in Condesa became our local haunt. It’s got a cozy living-room feel and serves chic cocktails. Or as Cat wrote in our Google Doc, “best mezcal drink KK ever tried.”

    mezcal drinks

    For more of a club-lounge scene, there’s Xaman Bar, in a basement in Juarez. It’s difficult to find from the street but you will if you’re traveling with someone as resourceful and determined as Cat. We had a memorable late night at Sete. And of course we recommend getting a local to take you to one of CDMX’s many speakeasy types.

    You knew it was going to come back to natural wine, though, right? Le Tachinomi Desu: We adored you. “Tachinomi” means “standing bar” in Japanese, and it’s a term we hope to use more. The inside is tiny and dark. While we were there, they also had a couple of tables set up by the street, where we sat with a chilled red until it started raining. They do wines by the bottle, sake, and Japanese whisky. We had no clue how good the food was going to be. If they happen to be on the menu, get the chicken wings, curry French fries, and baby corn.

    Kiki with wine

    See

    You don’t necessarily have to go out of your way to see art in CDMX—there are galleries throughout the city to pop into. We went to a handful in San Rafael and Santa María La Ribera: Galería Hilario Galguera and Casa Wabi were our two favorite spaces. If you make it to Santa María La Ribera, walk around the main plaza, Alameda de Santa María. And omg, Biblioteca Vasconcelos. I dragged Cat to this bonkers big library even though it wasn’t open because I needed to drop my jaw from the street.

    Mercado El 100 is a Sunday farmers’ market in Roma Sur where I would absolutely go every week.

    Mercado El 100 farmers market Casa Gilardi Casa Azul

    Architect Luis Barragan’s touch can be seen around the city, and there are certain spaces you can make a reservation to tour. Casa Barragan is the house he lived in. We visited Casa Gilardi, which was the final house Barragan completed, in 1978. The family who commissioned the house still lives there, and the son gave the tour on the day we went. There are so many aspects of the space that whisper genius. There’s a huge jacaranda tree in the interior courtyard that feels like it’s a part of the walls. The way sunlight bounces through a hallway, the appearance of an indoor pool at the end of a corridor, how the color of a wall changes throughout the day: all spectacular.

    In Coyoacan, you can visit Casa Azul, a fairly intimate space where Frida Kahlo lived most of her life. (You need to get tickets in advance.) I got chills while looking at her easel set up with her wheelchair before it. After Casa Azul, pick a stall at Mercado Coyoacan to eat at (don’t stress over which one). There is also a large bookstore nearby, part of the Centro Cultural Elena Garro.

    And if you’re in the historic city center, walk through Alameda Central and go inside the museum at the end to see one of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central. It survived the 1985 earthquake and a move to its current location.

    For safety, a few more bookstores to star on Google maps: Centro Cultural Bella Época (great pastries across the street), Cafebrería el Péndulo (the best location of the chain is in Polanco), Librería Ático (in Roma Norte, my preferred form of chaos with rare and used books), Hallazgo Librería de Paso (same but in Condesa), Casa Bosques (get your postcards and gifts here), Clarice Café y Literatura (get a tea here).

    bookstore
  • farmers market
    Casa Gilardi
    Casa Azul
    book store
  • San Miguel de Allende

    After ten days in CDMX, we took a bus to San Miguel de Allende, which took about four hours and went smoothly. (If Cat were writing this, she’d tell you how I unsmoothly broke my phone right about then.) San Miguel de Allende is a small, vibrant town with colonial Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets (don’t even think about trying to take your rolly suitcase down the block), artisan markets, Indigenous traditions and beauty, a lot of boutique hotels (it’s a weekend playground for people living within driving distance), expats, hills, and churches. A portion of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    San Migeul de Allende Kiki and Cat

    Hotels

    We spent the first few days here at the small, unfussy Casa Delphine, which has five suites and is airy, bright, and gracefully worn-in. The staircases leading up to the suites are stunning (just be careful when they’re wet). Cat’s room had a thin wrought-iron four-poster with main-character energy, and mine had an arched doorway with an idyllic view and another staircase leading up to a private balcony with a bathtub and a more-panoramic view of the town. We predictably fell for the varied blue-patterned tiles in the bathrooms (we also both love tiles). During our stay, they served breakfast from La Tertulia, and it was so bright and fresh that even I managed a decent food photo for once.

    staircase brunch balcony view
  • staircase
    brunch
    balcony view
  • The last three nights in San Miguel de Allende, we were at Casa de Sierra Nevada, a Belmond hotel, which comprises a handful of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century buildings. There are thirty-seven rooms and suites, but it’s really the spaces around them that are special—terraces, gardens, courtyards tucked into corners, stucco walls, the serene pool with a stone front, the garden with rows of lavender, the lobby open to the sky (the couches here are also an excellent place to not work too hard while eating food from the hotel restaurant, Andanza). The staff was incredibly knowledgeable about the property and the area—and just so nice.

    Casa de Sierra Nevada terrace Casa de Sierra Nevada garden Casa de Sierra Nevada courtyard

    Because Cat and I are also united in our appreciation for reading poolside, we got a day pass one Sunday afternoon to Hotel Matilda, where we lounged near the waterfall end, in front of a colorful mural by artist Claudio Limon. Hotel Matilda is clean and eclectic with a playful collection of art, particularly contemporary Latin art. The spa is delightful—the Lineal Mezcal body treatment includes an agave inulin body scrub, getting wrapped up in an infusion of mezcal and rosemary, and then a massage. Can you even? We also had the pleasure of meeting the very entertaining GM Bruce James, who introduced us to his own mezcal (Lineal) and to Casa Dragones, a small-batch tequila producer with roots in San Miguel de Allende and a woman cofounder and CEO, which is not common in tequila world. (James agreed with Cat’s assessment that he was like a kid in a candy shop—if you go to Matilda, you’ll see how he’s gathered together so many different pieces of décor and art, plus drinks and food, that have caught his eye over time.)

    Hotel Matilda pool
  • Casa de Sierra Nevada terrace
    Casa de Sierra Nevada garden
    Casa de Sierra Nevada courtyard
    Hotel Matilda pool
  • Local Spots

    We took a more laid-back approach to touristing after CDMX. We wandered aimlessly, went into whatever shop piqued our interest, and allowed for pastry detours. (Okay, there were pastry detours in CDMX, too.)

    Mercado Sano is a treasure trove of organic fruits and vegetables, gluten-free snacks, and the kind of groceries one aspires to buy. For sure go to the farmers’ market there on Saturday, which brings in more crafts (jewelry, knives, ceramic table sets, blankets, etc.) and prepared foods (oh, the slice of quiche that got away).

    Many of the restaurants are set in grand courtyards and go heavy on the farm-to-table copy. For example, The Restaurant, in an eighteenth-century Moroccan-style courtyard. The chef’s focus here is on local, sustainable, and organic ingredients. My focus here was on finally getting Cat to go in on a round of espresso martinis—and I was victorious.

    Cumpanio is known for its baked goods—croissants, raspberry cruffins, cinnamon rolls, palmiers, gorgeous loaves of sourdough and ciabatta. It has three bakeries in San Miguel de Allende and a restaurant with a solid breakfast menu.

    Mercado Sano market

    Rooftop bars galore. Many center around the prime landmark Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. La Azotea has one of the clearest views and great people-watching.

    Our local bar, though, was on the ground, and it didn’t have a name (yet) while we were there. It’s on Calle del Dr Ignacio Hernandez Macias, near the corner of Umáran, in the space that was previously La Sirena Gorda. Ask Alan for his mezcal cocktail with rosemary and bitters spray, and if you’re fortunate, his mom will be sitting at the bar next to you.

    For coffee: Ki’bok, Buen Día, and Lavanda. For everyone who makes fun of me for ordering almond milk, I did have straight-up cream at some of these places, thanks.

    Cat and Kiki at rooftop bar local bar Kiki and Cat drinking coffee
  • Mercado Sano market
    Cat and Kiki at rooftop bar
    local bar
    Kiki and Cat drinking coffee
  • Riviera Maya

    For the last leg of the trip, we took a flight from BJX (in Leon, about ninety minutes from San Miguel de Allende) to Cancún. From there, we went south, past Playa del Carmen, and spent three days living a life of luxury at Hotel Esencia.

    Esencia is a fifty-acre estate, a jungle paradise with footpaths shared by families of lizards and two peacocks. We stayed in one of the newer rooftop wellness suites, a spacious double-decker. The oversize bedroom looked through sliding glass doors onto a patio where coffee and pastries were delivered every morning into a locked cabinet (the birds are smart). The shower was glorious. It was more than a shower: It was a steam room that diffused a blend of essential oils. There was a fitness area outfitted with weights, a balance ball, The Mirror, and a TRX suspension band hanging from the ceiling. I’ll be honest and say we did not make time for a class on The Mirror, but we did create a joke of a twelve-minute circuit that involved the TRX band before going to the spa one morning. (Cat will read this and say the circuit wasn’t a joke, but c’mon, Kit.) On top of the suite: a private heated pool, a canopy-covered hammock, and a terrace with lounge chairs in the sun.

    The shared hotel pools (one was adults only, although there were not many kids at the kids’ pool) were delightful. Stately trees provided shade during the day and lit up with white strings of light at night. There was watermelon juice service. And a poolside restaurant so you needn’t travel far to sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (If you’re wondering about the beach, you could not swim in the ocean while we were at Esencia because it was covered in seaweed. The staff said they had never seen the seaweed layers so thick and explained it was caused at least in part by global warming.)

  • Hotel Esencia fitness room
    poolside drinks
    resting on a hammock
  • The spa was special. It’s set up in a circular space with different treatment rooms and hot and cold pools around the edge, plus steam showers and an infrared sauna. The practitioners are extremely talented, and some incorporate Mayan healing techniques and rituals into the treatments. Sometimes you’re disappointed when a massage ends—you wish it had been longer—but I felt content, rested, satisfied after this one.

    And that feeling followed me on the plane back to LAX. Which might not be that remarkable had we not woken up at 4 something a.m. for a 7 a.m. takeoff. The chocolate croissant to go helped. And Cat—she can make me laugh in customs, or anywhere, with just a look.

  • Hotel Esencia trees
    Hotel Esencia spa
    Cat and Kiki
    Kiki walking through a garden
  • Esencia is a fifty-acre estate, a jungle paradise with footpaths shared by families of lizards and two peacocks. We stayed in one of the newer rooftop wellness suites, a spacious double-decker. The oversize bedroom looked through sliding glass doors onto a patio where coffee and pastries were delivered every morning into a locked cabinet (the birds are smart). The shower was glorious. It was more than a shower. It was a steam room that diffused a blend of essential oils. There was a fitness area outfitted with weights, a balance ball, The Mirror, and a TRX suspension band hanging from the ceiling. I’ll be honest and say we did not make time for a class on The Mirror, but we did create a joke of a twelve-minute circuit that involved the TRX band before going to the spa one morning. (Cat will read this and say the circuit wasn’t a joke, but c’mon, Kit.) On top of the suite: a terrace with lounge chairs in the sun, a private heated pool, and a canopy-covered hammock.

    poolside drinks kiki on a hammock

    And that feeling followed me on the plane back to LAX. Which might not be that remarkable had we not woken up at 4 something a.m. for a 7 a.m. takeoff. The chocolate croissant to go helped. And Cat—she can make me laugh in customs, or anywhere, with just a look.

    Hotel Esencia fitness room

    The shared hotel pools (one was adults only, although there were not many kids at the kids’ pool) were delightful. Stately trees provided shade during the day and lit up with white strings of light at night. There was watermelon juice service. And a poolside restaurant so you needn’t travel far to sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (If you’re wondering about the beach, you could not swim in the ocean while we were at Esencia because it was covered in seaweed. The staff said they had never seen the seaweed layers so thick and explained it was caused at least in part by global warming.)

    The spa was special. It’s set up in a circular space with different treatment rooms and hot and cold pools around the edge, plus steam showers and an infrared sauna. The practitioners are extremely talented, and some incorporate Mayan healing techniques and rituals into the treatments. Sometimes you’re disappointed when a massage ends—you wish it had been longer—but I felt content, rested, satisfied after this one.

    Hotel Esencia trees Hotel Esencia spa
    Cat and Kiki Kiki walking through a garden

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