Camino Real Oaxaca. Rick Bayless, one of America's leading experts on Mexican cuisine, has visited Oaxaca for the past 20 years. Bayless, the chef and co-owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, says this sleepy colonial town has some of the best food in Mexico. And every time he goes, he stays at the Camino Real Oaxaca, a restored sixteenth-century convent with original frescoes in the halls and luxurious rooms that are a far cry from nuns' cells. The location is unbeatable: just four blocks from the zócalo, the town center (300 Calle 5 de Mayo; 011-52-951-60611; doubles from $195). Best food excursion: Bayless always goes to El Naranjo for black mole (a complex sauce with chiles) and salads made with local, organically grown greens. "It's one of the few places in Mexico where Americans can safely get great salads," Bayless says. "The chayote with oregano is fantastic" (203 Calle Trujano; 011-52-951-41878). Best nightlife: Bayless says that at Candela, a salsa club a few blocks from Camino Real, people "of all ages, body types, skill levels and fashion sense" dance to the live music (413 Calle Murguía; 011-52-951-42010). Best spa: Bayless and Deann, his wife and cookbook co-author, always book treatments at the Temazcal Indigenous Herbal Steam Baths, where after meditating inside a saunalike adobe hut, they lie on palm mats for a gentle massage (402 Calle Reforma; 011-52-951-61165).
Villa del Sol. "You don't know hospitality until you stay at Villa Del Sol," chef Traci Des Jardins of San Francisco's Jardinière says about her favorite resort in Zihuatanejo, a traditional fishing village on the Pacific coast. As soon as you arrive, Des Jardins reports, the staff hands you a cold towel and cup of refreshing guava juice. The hammocks scattered around the resort invite guests to take a siesta at any time of day, and massage therapists work at tables set up on the beach (Playa la Ropa; 800-525-4800; doubles from $240). Best food find: At La Gaviota, a seafood restaurant on the beach a short walk from the resort, Des Jardins recommends the percebes, big barnacles that look like clams but have the flavor of sea urchin, and the delicious baby abalone seviche. "These are flavor sensations you just don't experience anywhere else," Des Jardins says. "And those margaritas with fresh Mexican limes are divine" (Playa La Ropa; 011-52-755-43816).
Related: How To Make Tamales