Beloved Spa is the largest of the hotel group’s properties in the area. // © 2017 Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts
Feature image (above): Beloved’s casita suites focus on luxury. // © 2017 Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts
With a new hotel in the Dominican Republic and another in the works in Jamaica, Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts is in growth mode. And the company is also fine-tuning its product in Mexico — most notably in Playa Mujeres, a gated resort complex just north of Cancun. Here, Beloved Playa Mujeres relaunched as an adults-only property in 2016, as part of the company’s strategy to cater to the needs of different travelers. The idea is that couples and single adults can enjoy the luxurious vibe at Beloved; then, on future visits, they can perhaps move on to Finest Playa Mujeres, which sits nearby and has both adults-only and family sections. Here’s a look at what both properties offer.
Beloved Playa Mujeres
I wasn’t sure if I’d like scrubbing myself with small cubes of ice. And I was dubious that I’d like standing beneath alternating showers of hot and cold water. But when you’re trying a hydrotherapy session for the first time, you’ve got to go for the full experience. And the end result was as intended: utter relaxation, followed by an especially effective massage treatment.
Such is life when you’ve signed up for an afternoon at the 35,000-square-foot Beloved Spa, which, in my opinion, is one of the top reasons to stay at the Beloved resort.
The 109-room, all-inclusive property is the only Beloved-branded property in the Excellence Group portfolio. And since the change to an adults-only format, Beloved has worked to perfect its new identity. The new approach fits well with the hotel’s elegant, smaller-scale setting. The change also further cements Beloved’s role as the top-of-the-line accommodation option within Excellence Group’s range of properties.
The staff-to-guestroom ratio is three to one, according to Natalia Boschi, sales and marketing manager for Excellence Group, who notes that guests tend to be older couples. The hotel’s goal, she says, is to provide an upscale ambiance with romantic touches. The decor is elegant, with landscaping that highlights the colorful flora.
“Whether it’s for a honeymoon or it’s a couple just celebrating their love, it’s a very romantic place,” said Maria Gonzalez, brand manager for Excellence Group.
For a small property, Beloved offers plenty of extras. One aqua wellness session — similar to what I received — is included per person with every stay. Guests also receive a fruit basket and champagne upon arrival and one complimentary laundry service.
Although Beloved is smaller than its sister properties — Finest Playa Mujeres and Excellence Playa Mujeres — its Beloved Spa is actually the largest of Excellence Group’s three properties in the destination — a key indicator of Beloved’s focus on luxury, pampering and adult experiences. The spa and fitness facilities offer programs that include yoga, fitness and massages, among other treatments. Brides can make use of a bridal suite that’s furnished with a treatment table, a shower and a steam room. And the gym has a separate room outfitted with TRX suspension training equipment.
Guests at Beloved can choose from an impressive array of room categories, including swim-up suites with private gardens, casita suites with private pools and two-story casita suites with plunge pools. All rooms have a Jacuzzi, Bulgari amenities, a large shower and a “secret” room-service door that allows for the delivery of food and drinks without disturbing the occupants.
I stayed in a junior swim-up suite, which overlooks one of the resort’s swimming pools. It seemed like every aspect of my room was designed to provide some kind of a picturesque view. The bathroom sink area is open to the sleeping area, so I was able to gaze out through the giant sliding doors at the pool; the large shower even has a window facing out into the bedroom and beyond to the pool. The Jacuzzi, meanwhile, sits in a glass-enclosed corner of the room, with windows facing the terrace and pool. The setup allowed me to soak in the tub and gaze outside without having to leave climate-controlled comfort.
In keeping with the property’s decidedly romantic vibe, its four restaurants offer a combination of elegant decor, attentive service and — in the case of El Mar and Isla Grill — lovely beachfront views. Lupita is the favored venue for gourmet Mexican cuisine, while Aroma specializes in tasty Mediterranean dishes.
Entertainment at Beloved is also perfect for couples and friends looking for a relaxed and casual experience. There are no large-scale, crowded performances or activities here, and no noises that would ever invade the tranquility of a guestroom. One night, I attended an intimate show by a talented salsa band, while another evening showcased the talents of a guitarist and singer.
Given that Beloved is a romance-oriented, adults-only property, it’s no surprise that weddings and honeymoons are a focus of the property. And multiple venues provide scenic options for events, including beachfront palapas and rooftop terraces.
This may be the only Beloved-branded hotel for now, but it will likely not be the only one in the years to come, according to Gonzalez.
“The idea is to grow the brand, although we don’t have any official announcements to make at this time,” she said.
Finest Playa Mujeres
If I hadn’t known that I was staying at a family-friendly property before arriving at Finest Playa Mujeres, I probably wouldn’t have guessed itbased on my check-in and pool experience. This all-inclusive hotel is so well-designed that the adults-only section is blissfully tranquil, while the family-oriented section is equipped to satisfy the needs of vacationers of every age.
Finest’s quiet beachfront location is ideal for travelers looking to get away from it all — although downtown Cancun and the Hotel Zone are a relatively short cab ride away. Opened in 2015, the 430-room hotel is the first — and, for now, the only — property flying the flag of Finest Resorts, which is the newest brand in Excellence Group’s portfolio. It’s also the company’s only brand that targets families in addition to adults.
This unique positioning is a key part of the strategy for retaining customers as they make their way through various stages of their lives, according to brand manager Gonzalez.
“People can progress from the adults-only hotel to the family property once they have kids,” she said. “The selling point for Finest is that whether you’re an adult, a family or a kid, you’ll get the luxury, all-inclusive experience.”
Indeed, the property makes a point of providing various settings that are appropriate for all traveler types. I checked in at the Excellence Club Lounge, which is the reception area for the adults-only section of the hotel. In addition to top-notch service, I enjoyed the lounge’s 24-hour snacks and bar. Travelers with kids can also get an upscale, VIP experience by using the Finest Club Lounge.
In both areas of the hotel, the decor is classy and mildly minimalist. The property seems to land in that sweet spot where it’s large enough to provide lots of dining venues, entertainment and activity options without being so massive that it overwhelms guests. This isn’t the type of Mexico beach hotel where you have to spend 20 minutes walking from one side of the property to the other.
The quality of the accommodations is another selling point at Finest; all rooms are at least 800 square feet. I stayed in the adults-only section, where I made good use of a king-size bed, a large couch, a work desk and a well-stocked minibar (everything inside is included). The spacious bathroom was also exceedingly inviting, with its double sinks, large shower, Bulgari amenities, ample closet with comfy bathrobes and thoughtful extras such as toothpaste. But without a doubt, the large balconies are a big draw for many guests — as are the glassed-in Jacuzzis, which can be accessed from the bedroom.
The diverse and decidedly international menus at the hotel’s 12 restaurants assure that guests have plenty of food options. A central wine cellar stocks some 130 different labels from Mexico as well as the U.S., Italy, Australia, Argentina and Chile. All but one restaurant uses an a la carte format, providing a more upscale experience. Reservations aren’t required at any venue, except for the teppanyaki grill room at pan-Asian restaurant Shoji. I especially enjoyed the French delicacies at Le Petit Plaisir, an elegant and romantic venue where I dug into a crispy candy goat cheese ball and stabbed at expertly prepared grilled scallops with pumpkin cream. I also found it necessary to make multiple visits to The Sweet Corner, a casual place with a variety of desserts, including a rotating wheel of gelato that I found irresistibly hypnotic.
Finest offers 16 bars and lounges to quench clients’ thirst, ranging from a popular swim-up bar at the pool to the Golden Bar, a handsome lobby lounge where mixologists create an array of cocktails behind a giant oval bar, just a few steps from the hotel’s grand staircase.
A variety of activities, on-site attractions and other extras provide plenty of value-added punch to a stay at Finest. Guests here receive one aqua hydrotherapy treatment per stay at One Spa, a handsome facility with a juice bar and even a children’s section with a family massage room. Also included is one free round of golf per stay at nearby Playa Mujeres Golf Club, which features an 18-hole Greg Norman-designed course.
Amenities across all Excellence brands include 24-hour, complimentary room service and free Wi-Fi access and calls to the U.S. and Canada. There are also comped wedding packages available depending on the number of nights and room categories booked.
Guests will find different amenities in Finest’s two main sections. The adults-only area has its own bar, swimming pool, beach and restaurants. The family-friendly section has waterparks and a sizeable kids’ club with a robust schedule of activities for various ages. Adult guests can go back and forth between the areas and enjoy all of the property’s venues.
Vacationers looking to stay fit can head to the 3,500-square-foot fitness center, which offers cardio boxing, yoga, meditation and Pilates classes. Additional day activity options available for an extra fee include scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, tennis lessons and private yachting excursions.
With so much to do that’s included, though, I have a feeling that guests rarely book optional activities.
A quick scan of the published schedule provides a glimpse of everything from live music and dance performances to pool aerobics and beach parties. So, whether you’re booking adults or a family, Finest Playa Mujeres offers excitement along with a healthy dose of comfort.