Excellence Playa Mujeres


Another Excellence Playa Mujeres update! How can it have changed, you may ask? What can be so different since the last update a few months back? The fact of the matter is that all resorts change over time, and with a new resort such as Excellence Playa Mujeres (opened end of 2007) those changes can easily be seen. The colors, the tropical foliage and flowers, the sandy beach, the spreading palm trees, and maybe most importantly the seasoned staff – everything goes up just a notch every trip back. Even if you’ve stayed at Excellence Playa Mujeres, it’s always improving. We’ve posted dozens of brand new Excellence Playa Mujeres pictures online.

The staff simply gets better and better. With a new resort, the first year is always the hardest – a statistic we were once told about is that a new hotel turns over its entire staff in 6-8 months. What does that mean? They say they lose about 10-15% of their employees each month, whether to other hotels offering better initial pay, or promotions within the company, or simply because the employee didn’t work out. So in the first 6-8 months, the staff is undergoing changes and retraining, and updates and promotions, all of which can contribute to some learning curves (one of the reasons why our policy is not to send guests to a resort in the first 30 days they are open, and ‘suggest’ waiting six months). Now that Excellence Playa Mujeres has been open just over a year, the staff is set in place – the best people they have are in the most appropriate positions, and the guests are the recipients of the best possible service.

And Excellence Playa Mujeres itself? More beautiful than ever. White sandy beach (sure, still some seagrass washes up as with ANY resort – but the maintenance staff at Excellence is second to none, and are out early every morning and again in the afternoon manicuring the beach) with calm water (the natural break of Isla Mujeres does wonders for the ocean) and pretty night scenes of the island’s lights over the ocean make for a very scenic stay. The palm trees are fully grown, the tropical foliage is in full bloom year-round, and the small potted plants placed throughout the resort are now quite large!

Excellence Playa Mujeres was one of our seven Pinnacle Award winners for 2008, and just keeps improving month after month. Plus, with promotions like 35% off for 2009 travel for one of Mexico’s most luxurious resorts, it’s never been so within reach.

NH Riviera Cancun


Brand new for 2009, NH Hotels has brought their all-inclusive concept to the Riviera Maya. It started with EdenH Real Arena in Punta Cana in early 2008 (now called NH Real Arena), and they’ve taken it up a notch in Mexico with the all-suite NH Riviera Cancun. This resort, which opened in December, features two concepts in one – the family suites section (394 Junior Suites, most with oceanviews) and the adults-only Paradise Club (156 Exclusive Suites) which boasts its own restaurant, pool, and bar. The family section is separated from the Paradise Club by a wide open courtyard, so guests with children need not worry about frowns from the honeymooners – and vice versa!

All suites at NH Riviera Cancun (family or Paradise Club) have an in-room jacuzzi tub, flat screen television, iPod dock, double sinks, Agua de la Tierra (rain style) shower, and in-room minibar. The family section suites are divided into eight 5-story buildings, all with elevators, and 80 are connecting. NH Riviera Cancun’s Paradise Club suites are in four 4-story buildings with elevators, and have all the amenities of the family section plus free internet access, daily newspaper, beach towels in room, upgraded bath amenities, separate lobby, and access to Premium drinks. Plus the infinity-style swimming pool is partially covered, so the Mexico sun doesn’t finish guests off too early!

NH Riviera Cancun offers twelve restaurants and bars, with cuisine from Mexican to Asian to Italian, and has menus with low calorie and vegetarian dishes. The Paradise Club has Pure, the international specialties restaurant exclusively for Paradise Club guests, as well as the Paradise Lounge for drinks and relaxation.

Rates are really fantastic for the 4.5+ star NH Riviera Cancun – because they are just recently opened (and somewhat new to the market), NH Riviera Cancun is offering some very aggressive grand opening specials. Summer rates start at $115/pp/night, and fall rates from $96/pp/night, plus a Resort Credit of $150 and kids stay free on certain dates!.

Dreams Puerto Aventuras


Our old friend Sunscape Puerto Aventuras’ transformation to a Dreams resort is now complete! They closed in April of 2008 for major renovations, and opened in December as Dreams Puerto Aventuras. We were there for its grand opening, and as with most openings they just had a little polish needed to be 100%. We just toured the six-month-old Dreams Puerto Aventuras, and she’s done!

All the finishing touches are completed – from foliage and colorful flowers throughout the resort, to the all-new Gohan sushi bar and completely redone furnishings in the rooms – and Dreams Puerto Aventuras has emerged as a true Dreams resort. Smaller than most, the property is very intimate with six floors of rooms, either spectacular oceanviews or relaxing marina views. The size of Dreams Puerto Aventuras and the friendliness of the gated Puerto Aventuras community and marina makes this resort perfect for families with smaller children.

A small cove-style beach and ocean area means parents can let the little ones play on their own, and always be in plain sight – even when sending them to the beachside restrooms! Five restaurants, none of which require reservations, always have something for the kids to choose from. The beachfront shallow pool (some call it a hot tub and say it’s not hot…mostly because it’s not supposed to be!) is a great spot for the youngest to hang out in. Dreams Puerto Aventuras’ Explorers Club takes children from 3-12, with hours from 9AM to 9PM, with plenty of fully-supervised activities. The ocean trampoline and rock climbing float give the older kids something to tire them out, and the coral formations right offshore provide great snorkeling opportunities in shallow water, in full view of the beach.

Dreams Puerto Aventuras is a great choice for families with younger children, a perfect complement to Dreams Tulum’s older child focus. As with other Dreams, Dreams Puerto Aventuras is offering the $200 Resort Credit, kids stay free, and up to 35% off regular rates for 2009 – book by June 30th!


Dreams Tulum


If you haven’t seen Dreams Tulum in a year or so, you might be surprised at the different look it has taken on – we know we were! The difference is immediately noticeable when stepping through the second story lobby and overlooking the main courtyard in the Dreams section. Walkways have been redone and all new foliage has been planted, to the tune of over 5,000 new native plants. The colors are amazing – pinks, purples, yellows, and more really stand out from the lush green grass in the open areas.

Dreams Tulum has really positioned themselves as one of the premier luxury family all-inclusives in Mexico. From the always-popular Explorers Club for kids (one of our favorites, featuring 9AM-9PM hours, dozens of daily activities – tennis, sandcastles, video games, scavenger hunts, arts & crafts, rock climbing, basketball, and the amazing beach bonfire and movie night) to the friendly bartenders always willing to serve up a virgin pina colada or strawberry daiquiri, Dreams Tulum has always been on the top lists for family resorts, especially for families with older children (seven to twelve years of age or so). New for 2009 however, they’ve gone a step further with their rooms – well, make that two steps:

The one wing of the Dreams section has been redesigned with the ability to have a ‘block’ of 4 to 7 rooms with the addition of an enclosed hallway with separate doors; this gives large families, small wedding groups, or just several friends the option to book a block and have that area essentially to themselves with its own entrance. Plans are in place to have the other wings done this way as well. Dreams Tulum has also increased the number of connecting rooms available in the Hacienda (original) section. So now it’s easier than ever to request that connecting room for families needing more than one room. They’ve heard the requests from larger families, and they’ve responded!

The former lobby area in Dreams Tulum’s Hacienda section, which was just a lounge area, has been overhauled with the addition of the Coco Cafe, Dreams’ new coffee/tea area. Guests can now enjoy premium coffees, lattes, and teas along with deli sandwiches and snacks in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. Just steps outside the Coco Cafe is the Sugar Reef bar with premium cocktails throughout the day, and where weekly tequila tastings are held.

Dreams Tulum still features all the great services and amenities they have for years – seven gourmet restaurants with no reservations needed, six bars with premium liquors, 24 hour room service, in room minibars, and daily & nightly activities – now with additional features for families. And don’t forget, the amazing Tulum ruins are just minutes from the resort – now featuring “Tulum de Noche”, a guided night tour (so it’s a lot less hot!) through the lit pyramids and structures.

Dreams Tulum, along with the other Dreams and Secrets resorts, are still offering a $200 Resort Credit for reservations made through June 30th for travel through December 23rd, and like other Dreams resorts – kids stay free on certain dates!

The Royal Cancun


First off, let us start by saying that we aren’t really the Cancun Hotel Zone types. There’s a specific type of traveler that loves the Hotel Zone (as evidenced by the millions who travel there every year) and there certainly is plenty to do and see in and around the area (Coco Bongo, Pat O’Brien’s, golfing, shopping, etc.), but with very few exceptions it’s hard to find that luxury all-inclusive, geared towards upscale adults, that isn’t stuffy or pretentious, and isn’t in the middle of spring break crowds. With the opening of the adults-only Royal Cancun in 2007, that all changed.

Upon arriving you’ll immediately notice a small gesture from any staff member you pass – a light touch of a hand to their heart accompanied by a small bow, Royal’s subtle way of greeting their guests and saying hello. It may seem insignificant, but after a few times and a few days, it really hits home – the staff means what they say and go out of their way to treat their guests like royalty. From the smiles at the front desk, to the friendly wave from the swim up pool bartenders, the staff at Royal Cancun is probably the “feature” guests will most likely walk away remembering.

The Royal Cancun is an all-suite hotel, featuring 285 oceanview and oceanfront suites. All suites offer top-notch amenities, such as internet access, flat screen televisions with DVD players, an in-room jacuzzi tub for two, a marble bathroom with oceanview shower and body massage jets, and of course 24 hour room service. A special feature of the Royal resorts (Royal Playa Del Carmen being the sister property) is Online Check In – guests in the Royal Service rooms are able to check in 48 hours prior to arrival and save time upon arrival (just get your key and go!), and guests in Royal Oceanfront and higher can select the specific room they want prior to arrival. No more worries about requesting high floor, or double beds, or non-smoking – choose the room, location, bedding, etc. two days before you check in and it’s all set! (Oceanfront and higher also get a one-hour test-drive of the Royal’s signature Mini-Coopers – how’s that for a perk?)

Five gourmet restaurants are available with cuisine from Asian fusion to Mexican-French creations to Spanish tapas to Caribbean specialties, plus the exclusive Chef’s Plate, where dinners are specially prepared by the chef nightly – no two dinners the same – in a private table area. (The Chef’s Plate is the only restaurant that requires reservations). Also available are the five restaurants at the adjacent Gran Caribe Real that give guests more dining choices than they can fit in a week’s stay. In-suite 24 hour room service plus a 24 hour sports bar mean the dining never ends.

The Royal Cancun, along with Gran Caribe Real next door, have been extensively upgraded in the beach area, and now feature some of the largest sandy areas in all of Cancun. The owners took upon the expense of building rock jetties in strategic areas, then pumping sand (again on their own) to greatly increase the size and depth of the beach. Water is very calm, very blue – just like the Cancun postcards!

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita

Such a unique resort! Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is a boutique luxury resort just minutes south of Cancun’s airport, the term ’boutique’ alluding to its intimate under-100 suite size and personal service. Guests are personally greeted at the airport by a Zoetry staff member, who greets them with champagne and privately chauffeurs them 20 minutes to the resort by Lincoln Navigator. Upon arrival, guests are given an escorted tour of the resort (which starts by walking between the two 5 foot tall Balinese lion statues that wish guests well) along with the homemade tea of the day. During the tour guests will be shown the dozens of pieces of authentic artwork the hotel’s owners have brought back from their travels around the world.

Zoetry Resorts (two more on the way by the end of 2009!) term their all-inclusive program “Endless Privileges“, which refers to the limitless food, activities, and services they provide (including an international cell phone at no charge, twice daily refreshed minibars in your room, Bvlgari bath amenities, and daily champagne and fruit in the suites).

Dining is at one of three restaurants – Kaax (pronounced “kahsch“), which is hand painted in a jungle motif and serves local Yucatan dishes, El Chiringuito (little establishment in Spanish) the open air beachside bistro featuring native hardwood-fired foods, and the AAA Four Diamond Award-winning La Canoa, Zoetry’s French-chef fusion of spices and chillies called “La Cuisine de las Soles”, or food of the suns. Or choose to have your meal served in-suite 24 hours a day (they don’t use the term room service, as their in-suite dining involves complete preparation at presentation at a location of your choice – breakfast on your terrace watching the sun come up, late dinner under the stars, or perhaps lunch in your living area). Two full bars (Hippos Bar, serving top-shelf liquors and snacks overlooking the pool and ocean, and the Library Bar, where you can find wine and tequila tasting) complete the gourmet experience. Each restaurant and bar offer several house wines to choose from (unlike most resorts that only offer one white/one red) along with an optional wine list from their 5000+ bottle wine cellar.

All suites at Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita feature a large terrace or balcony with oceanviews; several suites offer private plunge pools. All suites are listed by name attributed to an area of the world visited by the owners with corresponding motif – the Nairobi suite for example is decorated in safari style. Flat screen televisions with DVD player, complimentary bottle of tequila and a straw beach bag, and comfortable sofas and chairs in the living area make for a relaxing stay. And the Spacious bathrooms (yes, with a capital S – they are that spacious!) are designed using handmade vanities, showers, and bath areas – they have to be seen to be believed.

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita features Mexico’s only Thalasso Spa, based on wellness and anti-aging, and features a large heated saltwater spa pool overlooking the ocean, medical diagnostics to base treatments on the guest’s specific needs, and a traditional Temazcal outdoor steam room. In addition, they have their own luxurious 30 foot catamaran, “La Bonita”, which offers daily one hour cruises for guests at no additional charge. Golfers will be happy to know greens fees are complimentary at Playa Mujeres Golf Club. Beach lovers will love the powdery white sand, beach beds with wait service, and plenty of space – water is calm throughout most of the year (anything can change seasonally of course) with some natural coral. Guests are easily able to walk the beach in either direction (although directly south is a clothing-optional resort…not for the faint of heart!)

Who would enjoy Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita? Those looking for a relaxing, pampered stay with personalized service, and those looking for world-class spa and anti-aging programs. Fussy guests looking for marble, chandeliers, and a butler named Jeeves may be better served at a Ritz Carlton; Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is simply quiet luxury in the casual style, where a fresh ceviche on the beach with a chilled premium tequila is as formal as it gets.