JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa’s $40 million renovation is a refreshingly modern take on the majesty of Mexico
I’m sitting in an elegant soaking tub, centered on a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling marbled art piece. The artwork’s jewel-like blue echoes the Caribbean waters outside and its white veining suggests the ocean’s foamy, rhythmic waves. The entire bathroom—with its luxurious rainfall shower and sensor lights that turn on automatically when you enter—is a spa-like dream.
But the inclusion of this mesmerizing panel in my newly renovated guest room is more purposeful than just evoking the sea, I later learn. “It’s a beautiful art piece that mimics the experience of looking up through a cenote, a natural sinkhole,” explains JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa Hotel Manager Tiffiany Holmes. “It’s a nod to the Yucatan Peninsula’s vast network of underground rivers and lakes.”
And that was the goal of the resort’s $40 million renovation, which started in October 2017 and wrapped up in May of this year: infusing the 447-room resort with a sense of place. “We wanted to bring Mexico into the hotel,” says Holmes. “Not just into the guest rooms, but into the service, style, food, and beverage—the entire guest experience.”
Photographs by Edgardo Contreras/courtesy of JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa (bottom), courtesy of JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, opposite page top)
Cool, crisp, and contemporary, my room features clean-lined furniture, artistic glass pendant lights, and a floating vanity in the oversized bathroom. However, to give it a sense of place, the suite’s aesthetic is still rooted in Cancun’s signature coastal vibe thanks to warm sand tones and pops of turquoise.
Up close, there are plenty of details to take in. Intricate carvings in the bed’s reclaimed wood surround feature native symbols, including hummingbirds, which are sacred in Mayan mythology. The carvings’ overall effect was inspired by the cross-stitched embroidery typical of garments worn by the ancient Yucatan people. It’s evident that G+G Interiorismo spared no historical or cultural research when the design firm re-envisioned the resort’s interiors.
There’s a lot to love in my room—including the balcony’s stunning views—but I can’t spend all day here (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing). I grab my sunglasses, key, and book and head straight to the beach, where I camp out and lounge with the best of them. When the kindly waiter asks, my snack of choice is chips with salsa and guacamole plus a Prosecco margarita, because Prosecco makes everything better.
After an afternoon spent bouncing between the ocean, pools, hot tubs, and back to the ocean again, I’m ready for dinner. Between JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa and sister Marriott Cancun Resort there are many delicious restaurant choices: Japanese, Thai, and even an American-style sports bar. Onsite, the JW Marriott’s Italian restaurant Gustino boasts a pasta making and drying area, where you can watch the chefs at work or even make your own.
My favorite choice, however, is the JW property’s Sedona Grill. Its ambiance is warm and festive, and the Southwestern fare, served buffet style, is definitely the food to eat when in Mexico—I don’t think I’ve ever had so many helpings. The chili rellenos are a crowd-pleaser and the homemade churros are to-die-for.
One of the renovation’s stars is the newly redesigned JW Lobby Bar, whose swanky feel is second only to its 150 Margaritas menu. Yes, you read that right: 150 margaritas. They are divided into four categories: classic, modern, fusion, and exotic, with silver, reposado, and añejo tequilas (plus mescal). You can go really, really top shelf here. I came away with a favorite: the Serrano, composed of Grand Marnier, serrano chili pepper, blistered serrano, and Cointreau. The smoky spice paired perfectly with the mixologist’s choice of Arette Gran Clase Extra Añejo tequila.
Day two starts off at just the right pace for me: lounging in an ocean-facing cabana. The property’s cushy cabanas have to be reserved, which is an extra indulgence I highly recommend. Make arrangements for the delivery of a picnic lunch and it’s the perfect way to beach.
Although it was hard to leave the sun and surf, opting for a spa treatment that afternoon did not disappoint. I chose a facial but other options include massage, manicures, pedicures, and a steam room. After my facial, I grabbed some lemon-infused water from the lounge and relaxed in a hot tub with cool cucumber slices on my eyes. It was heaven.
For adventurous types, the resort is happy to arrange a variety of activities, from dinner in town to reef diving to tours of Mayan ruins. Friends and I head out that night to RosaNegra on the concierge’s recommendation. This Latin cuisine hotspot, set right on the water with open-air seating, is perfect for celebrations. I noshed on empanadas, sliced steak over risotto, and baked Alaska, which the waiter set on fire for the full Instagram experience.
On the last day of my stay, I indulge in what I consider the ultimate Cancun daytrip: a private boat charter. With coolers packed, music on, and perfectly blue skies, our small group set off from the dock. The first mate doled out cervezas while we snaked through a canal into the Nichupté lagoon, sunbathing and sightseeing along the way.
First we stop for snorkeling, which I have to admit was my first time! After I got the hang of keeping my mask fog-free and tight to my face, I really enjoyed the experience—it did not disappoint. Then, we anchor on a beach and wade in for a seaside lunch at Mar-Bella Rawbar & Grill. Here, the only thing better than the view is the food. Calamari, ceviche, octopus: all of the waterside restaurant’s fresh, creatively presented seafood delighted.
Without doubt, the resort’s renovation was a resounding success and the rooms are gorgeous; everyone agreed. But my stay was less about the room and more about the memories. There were so many highlights, from having a nightcap in the lobby bar with live music, to rocking a sombrero at the Sedona Grill, to relaxing with lavender sea salts in my soaking tub after the beach.
But my favorite part was how the resort encapsulates all that there is to love about Mexico: the colors, the culture, and the people. Inside, it pampers and outside it invigorates without sacrificing any sense of place. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my stay.