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How a Resort-to-Avoid Got Redeemed 

How a Resort-to-Avoid Got Redeemed

Nizuc resort

There's a case to be made for Cancun as a destination again.

For anyone planning a big beach trip there is good news: Spring break is almost over and the summer season hasn’t started. That means you’ve got May pretty much to yourself; prices haven’t peaked and the Scandinavians haven't all yet raced south to de-ice and turn the Caribbean blond.

So where to go? As much as this may sound like comic relief: Try Cancun. Yes, a resort that once rated as the Caribbean’s vomitorium, a bro-happy strip of beach that didn’t attempt to be anything curated or authentic. This was the place to dunk tacos in your marguerita, chase them down with more tequila, and then slap a big old sombrero on your dizzy, drunk head. And it still is, in spots.

But it’s also proof that it sometimes takes just one property to reclaim a destination, and that property is the Nizuc Resort & Spa. I’d heard a lot about the place but my skepticism persisted. In fact, upon arrival, nothing seemed any more welcoming about Cancun, starting with the surly baggage inspection at the airport. (Underwear went flying.) But once the taxi dropped me at Nizuc I understood part of the resort’s immediate attraction: It doesn’t actually sit in Cancun proper. Instead it sprawls a few miles outside of town on its own sandy sweep of thirty seaside acres, far from the crowds and big box resorts. Nizuc merges with its tropical surroundings. A celebration of local sourcing, the understated complex has been designed with sustainable Yucatecan woods and Michoacan stone. There are private garden villas if you want to splurge, but even my ocean suite felt expensive, washed in a serene, neutral palette. The numbers here are all big (three infinity pools, two beaches, six restaurants) but the place still feels intimate. You don’t even have to wander off to find good food.

Cancun, to its credit, is seeing something of an overall culinary renaissance. But if you don’t want to leave the property, Nizuc’s Ramona restaurant is an escape from the usual taco, tamale and tortilla trifecta. Granted, there are tamales here, but they come stuffed with foie gras. And, the ceviche trilogy features shrimp brightened by coconut and mint, and lobster in a coriander sauce.  

If you want to turn this into a longer trip, either head west to the colonial port of Campeche, an ethereal town that too many people miss by stopping midway in the much-sadder Merida, or venture south to Maya Riviera proper. Known as the more subdued counterpart to Cancun, the Maya Riviera now boasts - if that’s the word (ok it isn’t) - its own mini-Cancun in Playa del Carmen. The fishing village now claims its own street performers, including a heavily sweating Michael Jackson, and a row of pharmacies hawking over-the-counter Xanax, Viagra, and Ambien. You can escape the din, however, at the recently opened Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort, a very affordable retreat located a few blocks from the main street.

I headed out of town though and returned to Maroma, which has recently been taken over, renovated, and renamed the Belmond Maroma Resort and Spa. Thankfully, though, the renovation is quiet. The complex, sitting in dense jungle, still feels like a secret. The thatched roof haciendas still look out on a perfect scene of palm trees, hammocks, white sand and a very blue sea. This is one of the few retreats where you genuinely feel like you are living on the beach. Aside from eating a lot of suckling pig cracklins and duck carnitas tacos at the al fresco restaurant, or sampling a mud massage in the spa, I mostly spent my days reading on one of the fat blue daybeds lined up on the beach. These aren’t disguised as chic loungers. They are just big cushiony mattresses, shaded by white umbrellas, where pretty much everyone lies snoring on by the end of each day.

Nizuc Resort

Photos courtesy of Nizuc resort.

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