Mexican auto hotels might have an unsavory, pay-by-the-hour reputation, but some of them are downright luxurious, offering upscale amenities like in-room mini pools and open skylights.
Whitney Allen was en route from San Diego, California, to her condo in Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico, when her husband suggested they spend the night in an auto hotel. Often used by road trippers making their way around Mexico, auto hotels feature a single-vehicle garage connected to a room via a door. Guests pay in advance for the block of time they wish to stay (usually priced for four-, eight-, or twelve-hour options), pull their vehicle into the garage, and then enter their room through the connecting door.
As they drove to the Hotel La Marina in Tampico, Allen steeled herself for what she assumed would be bare-bones accommodations; she just hoped their room would be clean. But when they pulled up to the hotel, “it was glorious,” she says. “Like a really posh resort.” The room, she says, was “gleaming” and double the size of a standard hotel room.
But when Allen turned on the television, hoping to catch up on the news, she realized that something was different about Hotel La Marina. The first channel she turned on: porn. The next channel: porn. Every single channel available was showing porn. Another strange amenity: the pack of condoms in the bathroom, nestled in a basket of products alongside the body lotion and shampoo.
As it turns out, Mexican auto hotels don’t only cater to long-distance truckers and pet-laden gringos looking for a place to sleep. In fact most of the people staying at auto hotels aren’t there to sleep at all: they’re there to have sex. In a country in which many generations live together under one roof, auto hotels give amorous adults privacy (not to mention props that range from stripper poles to sex chairs). Often located on the outskirts of towns, auto hotels have long catered to a specific crowd, but the ones in Mexico are gaining best-kept-secret status among travelers willing to overlook their no-tell reputation in exchange for a clean, safe place to lay their heads and secure parking for their vehicles.
“We travel with everything in the back of our car,” says Deirdre Mize, an American who has been living in Mexico for three years and who blogs at AWOL Americans with her husband, Jason. “It’s impractical to unpack it every night when we check into a hotel room.” She and her husband used to take whatever they could out of the car and cross their fingers that the rest of their stuff would still be there when they returned the next morning…