Cancun has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to hotels and resorts. The uber-popular tourist destination has had booms that would make other hotspots blush. From the outside, it may appear that many of the hotels and resorts are all the same, and not in the best sense of the word. Things are beginning to change though in Cancun and a recent stay at an upscale and secluded (yes, secluded) resort taught me that I may need to rethink Cancun altogether.
The Villa del Palmar sponsored my trip down to Cancun in order to swim with the whale sharks; an annual treat that draws in adventure travelers from around the world. But my stay at the resort proved to be about a lot more than jumping in the water. I also had some time to investigate the hotel itself and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Most of the hotels in Cancun are centered in an area known as the central hotel zone; and it’s just what you think it is. It’s an over-commercialized part of town where hotels sit adajacent to one another and horrible shops and restaurants abound. Think Senor Frogs meets Wal-Mart. But newer hotels and resorts are leaving this core of mediocrity and finding nearby, but infinitely more relaxing areas.
The Villa del Palmar was built just two years ago in a part of Cancun known as Isla Mujeres. Even though it’s a short 15 minute drive (traffic depending) from central Cancun, I instantly felt as if I had left the region altogether. There’s no hustle and bustle, there’s no endless throng of tourists, there’s not even a Hooter’s. All that is featured is the beautiful hotel and a pristine, quiet beach. I frankly didn’t think this was possible anymore in Cancun.
The Resort And Rooms
Since the Villa del Palmar is new, the design aesthetics are all modern and luxurious. I hate walking into dated hotels and the architecture and style of this resort matched mine well. There are of course many different room options available, but they are all suites featuring multiple rooms and a spacious kitchen. Even though I love a nice hotel, I hate being cramped for days into one room. I love having different spaces to sleep, eat and work and I enjoyed all of that at the Villa del Palmar. It wasn’t a chore to spend time in the room, it was a pleasure. The large balconies each with a private hammock completed the ascent to full relaxation mode and for such a simple feature, they transformed my trip into one that was truly peaceful.
Walking around the ground of the Villa del Palmar, there are many features that one would expect. Multiple pools, hot tubs, restaurants, bars and of course endless activities for those who want to partake. But the simple touches around the resort transform it into something that seemed special and even luxurious at times. An infinity pool next to the beach, private beds and cabanas along the shore and bars not with chairs but swings all add something special to the experience.
The price of seclusion and privacy is, well, seclusion and privacy. There isn’t a McDonald’s across the street and so guests must rely upon the Villa del Palmar for meals. There are options, like at many resorts in the area, to purchase the all-inclusive option or not. The restaurants on site though make the all-inclusive option an incredible bargain. The restaurants are themed: Japanese, Mexican, Mediterranean and so on, and it’s possible to enjoy a different style of meal almost every night. A limited room service menu is also available for those who can’t bear to leave the relaxing confines of their rooms.
One of the drawbacks I found was breakfast. From what I was told, there is only one restaurant open for the morning meal and when the hotel is busy, the wait can be annoying. I also noticed some inconsistencies with the quality of the food throughout the resort; but those were restricted to individual dishes and not entire restaurants.
Service and Luxury
The Villa del Palmar calls itself a perfect retreat for jet setters, due in large part to a suite of extra services they offer; most notably their butler service. Guests can choose to have their own private butler for the duration of their stay and believe me, it’s well worth the expense. From greeting guests at the airport to tending to their every need at the hotel, the butler service is one of the best I’ve experienced and that alone is a testimony to the spirit of service at the hotel. Anyone can buy nice sheets and a fancy bed. But instilling in staff the importance of service takes the experience to an entirely different level.
I’m a big fan of spas when I travel; I think they add an extra level of relaxation that is important on a vacation. The spa at the Villa del Palmar is different from a traditional concept and is actually built into a series of hidden bungalows in the center of the resort. Hidden by jungle foliage, guests wander into the spa retreat where they can enjoy any number of services, from the standard to ones more specific to Mexico.
My experiences at the spa were good, but it isn’t the largest one I’ve visited. This means that the wet areas (steam and hot tubs) are co-ed, which frankly put me off at first. But as far as things go, there are worse things one has to endure in this world.
At this point you’re probably thinking, wait how can he be objective? This place took care of him and saw to his every need! True, but that has never affected me and never will. I’m honest because I think it’s important that if things go wrong, everyone (including the hotels) should know about them. Was my stay at the Villa del Palmar perfect? No, of course not, no hotel or resort in the world can really manage that. It’s all a function of our expectations and on the whole, mine were surpassed on many levels. What was most important to me was seclusion and the ability to relax, both found in ample abundance at the Villa del Palmar.
A true mark of a great experience though is whether or not I’d return and I can say categorically that yes, I’m pining to return to this beautiful resort. As I left, one of the staff shook my hand, clasped my shoulder and said, “We have to see you back here again you know.” Such a simple gesture, but one that cemented a lifelong friend of the resort.Add to Flipboard Magazine.