Well-outfitted fitness center; yoga, Zumba,
water aerobics, volleyball, and a tennis court
Gorgeous spa and salon with a variety of treatments
(for an extra fee)
Nightly music and entertainment; destination weddings possible
Only 20 to 25 minutes from the airport
Lots of seaweed; ocean not really swimmable
Isolated location makes it challenging to get to
Dress code enforced (pants required in
restaurants at dinner); pro for some
Resort credits are a hassle to use
This luxurious, 433-room all-inclusive resort is an adult-only escape with a fairly remote location a half-hour drive south of Cancun's bustling Hotel Zone. There's a classy, jet set vibe, and spring break shenanigans are prohibited, as are children under 18. Extensive features include a white-sand beach (that's smaller than those at competing properties), eight pools, nine
restaurants, and abundant bars -- plus nightly entertainment to keep things lively. There is a full-service spa as
well as a nicely outfitted fitness center, not to mention regular yoga and water
aerobics classes. Rooms are spacious, spotless, and modern, all with amazing whirlpool
tubs and balconies or patios. Really fantastic free Wi-Fi is offered throughout (reception can even be found on the beach).
A luxury beach resort with lots of activities that appeal to the jet set
Since the resort is adult-only, the vibe at this resort is
decidedly more trendy and hip than family-friendly. Upon arrival, it doesn't look like anything
special -- there's just a small white entrance around a circular drive. But guests are
greeted warmly not only with champagne and cookies, but also eucalyptus-infused
towels -- a welcome refresher after travel.
The check-in area has multiple desks, and the actual check-in process is much more involved than just getting room keys, as staff members take time to explain the resort's vouchers, restaurants, and activities. The lobby -- like the rest of the hotel interior -- is sleek, airy, and uber-modern, with nearly all-white decor. There is a metallic school of fish sculpture and a spiral staircase that takes guests to a massive bar and lounge below, which has views of the resort through the large floor-to-ceiling windows. This offers guests their first glimpse of the idyllic setting that lies beyond.
The grounds are expansive with lots of palm trees, green grass,
and paved pathways to the different areas of the resort. Ocean views are
prevalent, but even in obstructed view areas there is a tropical feel. Modern
accents such as illuminated mannequin-like statues (which change colors at
night) are intermixed with more traditional structures such as thatched-roof
buildings and hammocks.
In the evenings, people dress to impress (partly owing
to the dress code in the restaurants, but also because of the upscale culture of the place). Most guests spend lazy days by the beach and pool, and then partake in evening entertainment, which may include live musical performances, rousing rounds of bingo, and drinks at one of the many bars. There is a lot of interaction between
guests, but couples can easily find intimate time for themselves as well if that’s the preference.
Beachfront location on the Riviera
Maya, a 30-minute drive south of Cancun
Immediately surrounding this hotel there is pretty much nothing.
The hotel is set down a private road lined with indigenous plants accessible
only by vehicle. Once at the resort most guests tend to stay put. However, should guests wish to
take side trips it is about a 15- to 20-minute drive to Puerto Morales (with
its impressive reefs that are popular with the diving set), 30 minutes to downtown
Cancun, and an hour and 15 minutes to the Mayan ruins in Tulum. The Cancun
International Airport is about 25 minutes away. If guests turn left to walk down the beach they will encounter various other resorts, including a
clothing-optional hotel (so be prepared for nudity if taking a sandy stroll).
Spacious, uber-modern rooms adorned mostly in white, with
jetted tubs and balconies; some have ocean views
The rooms here are luxurious and large, starting at nearly 700 square feet. Unlike some resorts where
guests might not want to spend much time in their accommodations, it’s
quite easy to loll away hours in these comfy, modern spaces. The decor is streamlined but appealing with lots of white, making the
spaces feel clean and open. Interesting features like blue track lighting and a
granite-covered divider that illuminates from underneath add contemporary
appeal. Almost all rooms are Junior Suites -- the difference between most categories is the view, though guests can also upgrade to the Preferred Club for extras such as better minibars and better bath amenities (Preferred Club guests also get access to a lounge with a free breakfast and afternoon hors d'oeuvres, though many won't find that a worthwhile upgrade given this is an all-inclusive property). There are separate living spaces with couches as well as super comfy
beds with lots of pillows. Personal climate control allows guests to keep temperatures
cool or tropical at will.
The fully stocked minibars have a varied selection of Coke
products, bottled water, and plentiful Coronas; it is restocked daily for no additional fee. Purified ice
machines are also located in the outdoor hallways near rooms. Other modern
amenities include flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, and coffeemakers. The bathrooms are huge with double sinks, walk-in showers, and separate whirlpool tubs (though the jets aren’t powerful, the water is warm and the
baths are huge). The showers are partially open
so things can get a little wet, and while the marble floors make sense in a
sandy environment, they can also get really slippery. It
is a good idea to wear shoes or socks with rubber bottoms in order
to prevent falls. The toilets also have see-through frosted glass doors (a tad
awkward if sharing a room).
There are robes and slippers available for guest use, though once
the robes get soggy it takes forever for them to dry; same thing goes with
swimwear so pack multiple suits. There is a clothesline in the shower but the
humidity is so high things stay damp for days. The Gilchrist & Soames
toiletries are quite nice, and include sunscreen, bath wash, shampoo, and conditioner in generous four ounce sizes.
The rooms are kept spotless thanks to a very diligent
housekeeping staff. Unfortunately their attention to detail means that rooms are
often not cleaned until really late (sometimes someone comes by for turndown service before the room has even been spruced up for the day). However, the romantic touches like incense are nice and all rooms
have balconies or patios. For those really looking to splurge, specialty suites include the Honeymoon Suite, Master Suite, and Presidential Suite. The Junior Swim-Out Suites have lounge chairs on a stretch of grass a few steps from the pool (technically, they don't have direct swim-out access).
A full-service spa, fitness
facilities, and slightly annoying resort credits
Upon check-in guests receive a handful of resort credits, which
seems like an exciting perk, as they’re purportedly applicable for the spa,
a romantic dinner on the beach, or shopping. Unfortunately, upon closer
inspection it becomes apparent that these vouchers are really just a way for the resort to get guests to spend more money, since the credits aren't sufficient to cover an entire spa treatment and there are limitations on how many coupons can be used at one time.
If guests decide to visit the spa --
limited vouchers aside -- it’s lovely and worth the extra expenditure. There
are 17 treatment rooms and a variety of services available (the massages are
very popular) as well as hydrotherapy and salon services. Just try to book in
advance or at off-peak times if you want to get serviced by the best
estheticians and therapists.
The sporty set will appreciate not
only the well-equipped gym -- which has at least a dozen pieces of cardio
equipment, free weights, pulleys, physioballs, and more -- but also the daily
yoga and Zumba classes. There are a putting green and a tennis court as well
(with racquets available for loan).
Nine restaurants with quality food, including French, Mexican, Italian, and Pan-Asian options
While there is 24-hour room service, the menu is very limited. Though items are cheerfully delivered whatever the hour, the quality isn't up to the same standards as the food found in the resort’s nine restaurants. Speaking of which, the food is generally very good by all-inclusive standards.
Breakfast is available only at the casual World Café, and the buffet is impressive; there are enough choices to satisfy any palate. Highlights are the made-to-order omelette station and the smoothie bar (which even features soy milk), as well as a wide variety of hot and cold items. It’s impossible to leave this buffet hungry. Lunch can also be enjoyed at the World Café, though many guests opt for relaxed noshes like quesadillas and guacamole at the poolside Barefoot Grill. On certain days resort chefs make a giant paella poolside as well, which is delicious and a big hit.
Fresh seafood can be had at the outdoor Oceana or Seaside Grill (which are overlooking the pool and open for lunch and/or dinner depending on the day). Just watch out for the seagulls in this area, as they are brazen and not afraid to dive in if food is left unattended for even a moment. The French restaurant Bordeaux has a formal dress code and is lovely, with black-and-white decor and punches of red. Service here, however, can be really slow (be prepared to spend your entire evening here); keep in mind that if wine is ordered by the bottle, there will be an additional charge. The French Onion soup is a highlight here, arriving with a cheese sprinkled puff pastry topping. The tinkling sounds of a live pianist at a grand piano add to the ambience.
The other more formal dinner choices include Himitsu for Pan-Asian cuisine, El Patio for an authentic Mexican food experience, and Portofino, which specializes in Italian offerings.
Finding a drink is never an issue at this resort as bars seem to be everywhere. Popular bars include the Veranda Bar -- which is closer to the main building and evening entertainment (including live musical performances as well as fun activities such as bingo) -- and the Barracuda Bar, which is housed under a thatched roof and is located almost right on the beach. The Desires Sports Bar also turns into a disco for dancing late at night (and people definitely participate in the revelry). Opportunities for a good time abound here.
The resort is directly located on a small white-sand beach. It's well-suited to sunning there
and listening to the relaxing sound of the waves, but it's not ideal for ocean swimming or activities, as it is overrun
with seaweed and the ocean floor is rocky and slimy. The
resort staff is tireless in its effort to clean the beach of the seaweed, but there is so much that it's impossible to eradicate. This a general downside to the area, and is a problem at other resort beaches as well.
On a positive note, there are plentiful
sun loungers and palapas for guests. Waiters
regularly mill around taking fresh drink orders (the Sexy Banana is
particularly delicious), and there are strong breezes from the ocean, meaning
this area never feels too warm (basically, it’s heavenly).
Destination weddings are easily scheduled here and the setting could not be more idyllic, with ceremonies taking place at the end of a pier in a large, thatched-roof gazebo directly over the ocean.
If the beach doesn’t appeal, there
are eight pools covering over 43,000 square feet.
The main pool has a swim-up bar and lots of activities (including daily water
aerobics and water volleyball). Plentiful sun loungers, umbrellas, and beach towels are available. Poolside activities also include the occasional swimsuit fashion show.
The almost adjacent infinity pool has a stunning view out to
the ocean and is a bit more subdued than the main area (though the piped-in
house music can still be heard). There are fewer loungers here but still more than enough to go around.
The other pools on the property are connected to the separate hotel buildings, giving them a very private feel. Those staying in Swim-Out Suites should keep in mind that these rooms are
actually separated from these pools by about 10 feet of grass, and are not actually of
the open-the-door-step-into-the-water variety. There are two large hot tubs on-site
as well; one with amazing views of the ocean that is open late (enjoying cocktails
in the hot tub after dark is popular).
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