Last year’s Hurricane Wilma dealt a mighty blow to some of the Yucatán Peninsula’s best resorts. A year later, several of these posh lodgings in Cancún and along Mexico’s Caribbean Coast have returned to form. Others are new, and definitely worth a visit. Here’s a round-up of stunning debuts and noteworthy comebacks.
New Kids on the Block
The Fairmont Mayakoba, Solidaridad
The 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba, which officially opened in April 2006, is big. But just because it’s large doesn’t mean it’s not eco-conscious. Situated around mangroves and forest canopies, the resort encourages one to commune with nature while unwinding in the lap of luxury. Suites are clustered throughout the property in 90 two-story Casitas. With such a large property, getting around can be tricky, so the hotel introduced complimentary canal boats, called lanchas, which whisk guests from place to place. Rates start at $239.
Morning: Primp and pamper at the deluxe Willow Stream spa, or sign up for beach horseback-riding excursions at nearby Rancho Loma Bonita.
Afternoon: Visit Xcaret, an eco-archaeological theme park featuring an underground river for swimming and jungle tours.
Evening: Sample the freshest catch in town at the hotel’s El Puerto Restaurant.
Le Blanc Spa Resort, Cancún
Although it sits in the heart of Cancún’s bustling hotel zone, adults-only Le Blanc Spa Resort feels like a world away. The hotel, which opened in January 2006, has 260 suites, three pools, four restaurants, and a 29,000-square-foot spa, with private spa suites in secluded bamboo gardens. The rooms are a study in tranquility — sleek, cool interiors conjure up hot nights in Miami’s South Beach. Rates start at $502 (low season); $582 (high season).
Morning: Cool off in the hotel’s expansive infinity pool, or enjoy a fun-filled AquaWorld adventure driving your own speedboat through jungle groves.
Afternoon: Explore archaeological ruins at nearby El Rey. If something more luxurious is in order, retire to one of the hotel’s five-couple spa suites facing Nichpute Lagoon.
Evening: When it’s time to hit the hay, choose a scented pillow from Le Blanc’s “Pillow Menu” (fragrances include scented lavender and chamomile).
Hotel Esencia, Xpu-Ha
Located at Playa Xpu-Ha, 46 miles south of Cancún, is Hotel Esencia, a villa originally built for the Italian Duchess of Ferrari. Accommodations at this exclusive beachside property feature minimalist white décor plus lots of amenities — DVD players, CD players, satellite TV, automatic black-out shades, and more. The property’s main house encompasses 17 drop-dead gorgeous rooms, but there are also 10 garden suites and two garden cottages. The hotel is perfect for those who want the peace and quiet of a remote location as well as close proximity to nearby Cancún and Playa Del Carmen. Rates start at $475 (low season); $525 (high season).
Morning: Start the day with a dip in Esencia’s infinity pool.
Afternoon: Nourish yourself with a signature treatment at Aroma, the hotel’s new spa.
Evening: Sample fine Meso-American cuisine at the hotel’s restaurant Sal y Fuego.
Ceiba Del Mar Hotel, Puerto Morelos
Sometimes what doesn’t destroy a hotel can end up making it even better. At least that’s the case with Ceiba Del Mar, a luxurious oasis situated in the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Morelos, just 20 minutes from the Cancún airport. The hotel’s opening marks a long-awaited return after Wilma wiped it out. With the addition of seven new penthouse suites featuring big roof terraces and private Jacuzzis, this Zen-like sanctuary has become even more plush. There are fewer guestrooms to go around, but all accommodations are now more spacious and include high-tech amenities like Plasma TVs and iPod docks. Deluxe double rooms start at $370 (low season); $460 (high season).
Morning: Get an early start with a sunrise yoga class on the hotel’s private pier. Then borrow a complimentary bike and ride into Puerto Morelos.
Afternoon: Travel five minutes on the hotel’s private launch to snorkel the world’s second-largest reef.
Evening: End the night on a high note with sultry music, drinks, and appetizers at Ceiba’s rooftop Terrace Lounge.
The Ritz-Carlton, Cancún
Following an extensive post-Wilma renovation, The Ritz-Carlton reopened to guests in September 2006. All 365 guestrooms have been refreshed with new gourmet coffee machines, 400-thread count linens, and rainforest showerheads. You’ll also find marble baths with double vanities, flat-screen TVs, CD players, and high-speed Internet access in each room. The opening of a new $250,000 Culinary Center with Viking Range equipment has guests lining up for cooking classes, while others opt to sample selections from the new Ceviche Bar. Rates start at $239 (low season); $579 (high season).
Morning: Work off breakfast with a game of tennis at the new Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center.
Afternoon: Sign up for the Tuscan Dinner Party class and savor the sunrise views from the cooking school’s verandah.
Evening: Surprise your sweetheart with a romantic beachside meal at Casitas, Cancún’s only seaside restaurant featuring private cabanas.