We needed an escape from the boisterous Carnival celebrations at our winter home on the Pacific coast of Mexico. (Think Mardi Gras on steroids. For the record: I am not a Mardi Gras kinda gal.) After considering many options, a friend suggested we check out the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun Resort and Spa.
Cancun? Wouldn’t that also be a crazy scene? Nope, she assured us, this resort would be an oasis of calm with a beautiful private beach, amazing spa, and a variety of places to dine and chill. A place that was more family-friendly than spring-break crazy. So we figured we’d try it — why not? I’m happy to report she was right on every count.
The hotel is located approximately a half hour drive from the international airport. We arrived in the late afternoon, hot and dusty from our travels, and were greeted with large smiles and cool washcloths. The lobby is heroic in scale, with a soaring atrium capped by a colorful stained glass dome. Opposite the entrance, the pool and the sparkling sea beckoned.
The hotel offers 602 all-suite accommodations, each with a private terrace and ocean views. Our room had all the amenities I love: fluffy towels, luxury cotton bedding, a plethora of pillows, quality bath products (L’Occitane), Nespresso machine, mini-bar, couch for lolling, voluminous bathrobes, and slippers for the sleek marble floors. After settling in, we lost no time in finding a poolside bar with sultry breezes and a view of the crystalline Caribbean. That’s where we first sampled their signature Golden Cadillac Margarita (Herradura 1800 tequila, Grand Marnier, and fresh squeezed lime), our drink of choice during a three-night stay.
Lounge chairs are arranged around connected, lagoon-like pools that snake along the length of the property and include two swim-up bars, volleyball net, waterfall, and fountains. Some areas of the pools have wide stepped edges where lounges rest in several inches of water. If all this sounds like a setting for a party-pool, it surprisingly wasn’t. Couples quietly sipped cocktails by the bar while families played in the shallow water.
One can also lounge on the white sand beach under heat-shielding umbrellas. Beverage service and a light-dining menu are available both pool and oceanside. An expansive area is roped off for swimming, keeping recreational vehicles away from bathers and SUP-yoga classes.
The following day, my husband headed to the gym as I checked out the sleek, 40,000-square-foot Coral Beach Gem Spa’s “Ten-Step Hydrotherapy Ritual.” I admit I’m a skeptic when it comes to fancy-pants spa treatments (just give a me a deep tissue massage, please) but this series of water treatments won me over, starting with the aromatherapy steam room and continuing with a rain shower, sauna, ice room, bubbling whirlpool, and more ($55 as part of a day pass; free when combined with additional spa treatment, such as a massage). I signed up for a classic massage, as fine as any I’ve experienced in my travels, that left me as relaxed and catatonic as a bowl of Jell-O (a good thing).
A variety of dining options include the beachy-casual Isla Contoy, serving fresh seafood and Mexican favorites under a grand palapa by the sea; Mexican-themed La Joya, a vibrant restaurant with tequila lounge and tasting bar, vintage cinematic projections, and occasional eight-piece mariachi band; and, my personal fave, Le Basilic, a AAA Five Diamond winner serving French Mediterranean cuisine in a grand high-ceiling dining room, complete with soothing tunes played on a white baby grand. The property is not all-inclusive, and guests are welcomed to venture into the adjacent lively business district with a wide range of additional dining and entertainment offerings. (Hello, Hooters! Or, not.)
The hotel spent $2 million creating the Coral KidZ Club, an enormous, state-of-the-art facility offering programs throughout the day geared specifically for various age groups. Highlights include Open Play Theater featuring a stage with digital backdrop, light-up dance floor, and dressing room with costumes and makeup; arts and crafts area; Mayan-themed outdoor sand and water-filled play zone; computer zone with Xbox and Wii play-systems; and an interactive game that teaches children about the ancient Mayan culture.
Concierge services offer guests a wide range of experiences outside the resort, including excursions to theme parks, Mayan villages, the Isla Contoy bird sanctuary, pyramids and cenotes, fishing and snorkeling tours, and the nearby Mayan Museum, exhibiting more than 400 artifacts from the peninsula. We opted to take the ferry to Islas Mujeres, the long and narrow island visible from our hotel that is celebrated for its Mayan heritage, rocky coast, and seafood restaurants. Alas, our plans were thwarted when the local ferry company deviated from its online schedule at not one, but two of its docks. After missing one ferry that left ahead of schedule, we taxied to another dock only to be informed that the 11 a.m. ferry was being rescheduled for 12:30.
“Oh, drat,” we said. (Or perhaps something stronger.) And then, “Oh joy,” as we realized we could simply return to the resort, to the lounge chairs, to the brilliant azure water, and relax with another Golden Cadillac.
GRAND FIESTA AMERICANA; CORAL BEACH CANCUN, Seasonal rates from $350. Add $200 per night for Grand Club perks including VIP lounge and private sundeck. Check online for resort promotions and deals. 888-830-9008, www.coralbeachcancunhotel.com