BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- Early March marks the spring break recess across much of the United States, and students use it to descend on popular destinations such as Cancun and Honolulu for collegiate debauchery. Those looking for beer bongs and toga parties can look in those obvious travel directions. Those looking for a bit more refinement can seek out these chic Mexican retreats just south of the border.

You'll likely share a plane with Cancun-bound revelers pounding mini-bottles of Jack Daniels, but upon landing you'll go your own way to Mexico's ever-fashionable Tulum, just two hours to the south. With its front-row proximity to the Mayan ruins and hotel structures that rarely rises above the palm trees, Tulum has managed to endure as the antithesis of the often overbuilt, mega-touristic Maya Riviera region it cohabits. It's been compared by fashion bibles such as Vogue Italia as the new Goa and by others as the Hamptons dipped in an Ibiza bath, but in actuality the eco-destination of Tulum is like no other. And it's most idyllic in spring, when the fashionable elite return in droves.
Hotel Matilda is a uniquely modern boutique hotel in a town with a heritage of Spanish Colonial landmarks.

There are two ways to see Tulum: Staying at a hotel that masters the boho glamour of the area's history or one that embodies a zen hedonism, a theme for which the area's quickly becoming known. The previous is exemplified no better than at Coqui Coqui Residences, owned by an Italian fashion designer and her Argentine perfumer-slash-designer partner, who oversee one of the chicest beachfront posadas in the hemisphere and an ever-expanding brand that includes two additional properties on the peninsula. Minimalist palapa-style cottages feature smooth concrete floors, dramatic beds under a thatched roof and bathrooms adorned in homemade perfumes and body products.

Those looking for the Tulum of the future can find it at Be Tulum, a 20-room boutique property that is part of Design Hotels and mixes Banyan Tree-esque architecture with in-room plunge pools and a beach club bar that manages to be lively without losing its laid-back charm.

For those seeking a bit more boom and bass, to the north of Tulum is the party epicenter of Playa del Carmen, where Mexican hotelier Grupo Habita offers Hotel Basico. This south-of the-border beachfront boutique features an architectural facade and industrial aesthetic for those in search of a party hotel with a stylish edge. A truly tropical resort infrastructure features an airy restaurant specializing in Veracruz cuisine and a lively cocktail bar stocked with an energetic set of spring breakers -- just not quite on party par with Cancun. Direct access to the beach means that some guests of the hotel's 15 rooms and suites are a little slower to discover the rooftop bar and above-ground pools, which are made from repurposed petroleum tanks.

The town of San Miguel de Allende is not a new name for luxury seekers. It has a fabled history and two world-recognized luxury hotels, including an outpost of Orient Express Hotels. Hotel Matilda, however, can compete with the best of them with a name that's been part of the city's identity for more than a generation. It's a uniquely modern boutique hotel, given this town's heritage of Spanish Colonial landmarks, and while it's within the town's cobblestone core, it has a modern facade by Marco Martinez Valle Arquitectura and interiors by U.S.-based McAlpine Booth & Ferrier. Grand living spaces mix modern design and eclectic decor with extensive Latin American art collection with works by such artists as Diego Rivera and Nacho Rodriguez Bach.

Imanta Resort is a new name for those in search of a removed location and five-star bragging rights. With a name that translates from the Spanish as "magnetic attraction," it's an epic resort with a main hotel complex defined by a spare tropical aesthetic and a series of casas built with stacked-stone walls and private terraces and adorned with a lagoon-style infinity pool. Meals are taken in one of three in-house eateries, where ingredients are either plucked fresh from a garden or caught on the line the same day as ordering. Days can be spent in numerous yoga classes, at the in-house spa or exploring the inland rancheros by ATV far away from the brashness so many people associate with spring break in Mexico.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.