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by Michael J. Shapiro | December 01, 2011
Pearl of the West

Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco and the nation's second largest city, played host to the Panamerican Games this fall -- and underwent a thorough makeover in preparation.

Westin Guadalajara

New lodging options include the 221-room Westin Guadalajara, which opened in Sep­tember across from the Guadalajara Expo and offers more than 4,600 square feet of event space. The Riu Plaza opened in June, a gleaming 557-room tower with nearly 50,000 square feet of function space. The Del Carmen Concept Hotel is a new boutique option downtown in a converted 19th-century neoclassical hacienda, with nine rooms named for surrealist artists (and decorated accordingly).

Jalisco's Pacific coastline is a four-hour drive west, or a one-hour flight will take you to Puerto Vallarta, where Mexico's largest tourism trade show, Tianguis Turistico, will take place next spring.

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Cancún/Riviera Maya
Villa del Palmar Cancún, which debuted its first phase last December, is on schedule to open its third and final phase on Dec. 20. When complete, the luxury resort will offer 415 guest rooms and several restaurants, in addition to a spa that opened Dec. 1.  

The 365-room Ritz-Carlton, Cancún,  is marking the end of the ancient Mayan calendar with the Awakening Group package, good for events booked by Dec. 21, 2012 (when the Mayan calendar ends) and held in 2012, 2013 or 2014. Perks include a 12 percent discount at the full-service spa and 12 percent off in-house audiovisual equipment rentals. Details are available at ritzcarlton.com/cancun. The resort offers a total of 27,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.

The 739-room Gran Meliá Cancún, in the city's hotel zone, rolled out a luxury boutique area within the resort this past summer. All 137 rooms of the Red Level, in a private tower of the complex, offer private balconies and complimentary Internet use, as well as personalized butler service. A private Red Level outdoor area has two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi and 35 Bali beds for lounging.

Iberostar CancúnIberostar Hotels & Resorts acquired the Hilton Cancún in June and closed the resort in August to complete a major renovation project. The all-inclusive, 426-room Iberostar Cancún  reopened this month. A nearly 49,000-square-foot convention center is on-site, as well as more than 60,000 square feet of outdoor event space. The complex also offers seven infinity pools, a professional soccer field, tennis courts, a spa and an 18-hole golf course.

The 132-room new-build La Quinta Inn & Suites debuted in downtown Cancún this summer. The property offers free wireless Internet access in all rooms and public areas, a 24-hour business center, a fitness center, a pool, a lobby lounge and meeting space for up to 150 attendees.

The Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts announced in November it will rebrand its La Amada Hotel as the Beloved Hotel Playa Mujeres sometime this winter. The 109-room property will become a boutique-style all-inclusive hotel, the first to fly the Beloved Hotels flag. The Playa Mujeres development, just north of Cancún, also has a 35,000-square-foot spa, a seaside golf course, a fitness center, a marina and 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

International air service to and from Cancún increased this summer. Aero­mexico launched twice-daily nonstop service between Miami International Airport and Cancún, while Virgin Atlantic began twice-weekly service between London and Cancún.
 
In the Riviera Maya, Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma, on Bahía Petempich, wrapped up a $21 million renovation in October. The 90-room boutique-style property unveiled the 1,400-square-foot Grand Salon, accommodating up to 288 people theater-style; a private rooftop terrace with room for 60 guests; two new restaurants, Roma and Latino; and expanded suites. Additionally, a new theater seats 150 and offers nightly entertainment.
 
The 596-room San­dos Caracol Eco-Resort and Spa, in the Riviera Maya 15 minutes from downtown Playa del Carmen, is launching its Xcalacoco Experience on Dec. 21. The program is a four-day reenactment of historical events pertaining to the resort's on-site Mayan ruins, set to occur on select days every week throughout 2012. Guests and groups can become acquainted with Mayan cuisine, rituals and lore by way of the experience, developed to coincide with this year's end of the Mayan calendar.

The Tides Riviera Maya luxury resort, just north of Playa del Carmen, will wrap up major property renovations this month. The work will result in the addition of new guest villas, for a total of 41; a new entrance, motor court and reception area; a new grill restaurant and gym; a remodeled restaurant, lounge and gift shop; and cosmetic improvements to the existing guest villas.