A Sunny Forecast

The future is promising for Cancun and the Riviera Maya

By: By Patricia Alisau


Dreams Resorts & Spas

Fiesta Americana

Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya

Hyatt Regency Cancun


Puerto Cancun

Real Resorts

Secrets Resorts & Spas

Zoetry Paraiso la Bonita
Riviera Maya



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Never content to rest on their laurels, Cancun and Riviera Maya resorts are well into the year with a slew of new projects under way. This Caribbean destination attracts the lion’s share of North American visitors to the country and with good reason — it keeps on refreshing its image and adding to its sun and sea allure.

A Sunny Forecast

The Hyatt Regency Cancun
opened an indoor spa with
beachside cabanas.
// © 2009 Hyatt Regency Cancun

Perhaps the biggest news for beach lovers is a government initiative to protect Cancun’s crisp, white-sand beaches from future erosion. Given the enormity of the post-Hurricane Wilma recovery project (it took months to replace the sand swept away by the hurricane), Cancun hopes to prevent such damage again with a 10-year program. When approved, the first step in the $100 million task will be the creation of breakwater reef systems along the 12-mile hotel zone plus other long-term projects. Hotel beaches that have eroded since the post-Wilma sandfill project will also be replenished, tourism secretary, Rodolfo Elizondo announced. At press time, bids for the contract were still being evaluated.

In addition to improving its beaches, Cancun is re-imagining many of its hotels with innovative renovations. The Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Cancun’s next big endeavor will be a 40,000-square-foot spa with 26 treatment cubicles in a two-story building. Being built where the tennis courts once stood, the spa will be the largest in Cancun and will open this November with an eclectic mix of healing treatments from around the world. The ancient rituals will be gleaned from places like the South Pacific, Mediterranean and Mexico’s own Caribbean Sea using products that are indigenous to the region.

Coral Beach is also finishing a $27 million upgrade to all rooms to give them a more contemporary look by adding plush mattresses, 32-inch plasma televisions, Bulgari amenities, 400-thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets, extra robes and brighter wall art. The award-winning Le Basilic restaurant now specializes in Mediterranean cuisine since a new French chef took over.

Spa enhancements are also par for the course for the Hyatt Regency Cancun, which opened the Beach House, an indoor spa with al fresco cabanas on the beach. Besides a new fitness room, coffee body wraps and aromatherapy for kids, a signature treatment for couples is a private, candlelit Jacuzzi for two with champagne and strawberries.

Although no new hotels are being planned in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, real-estate developers have acquired land between downtown Cancun and the beginning of the Hotel Zone for what’s called Puerto Cancun. Lying fallow since the project was first announced in the 1970s, Puerto Cancun is starting to bloom again with a new infusion of cash. The master plan calls for a “city-within-a-city” layout, and the streets, signage and utilities will be in place by the end of the year. A 125-slip marina is nearly finished, and an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf-designed course is expected to open this year. More than 2,400 luxury hotel rooms along a mile-long beach are also in the pipeline over the next 10 years, as well as condos, homes and a resort village with shops and restaurants.

The Riviera Maya

New properties south of Cancun in the Riviera Maya include the 497-unit Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive resort with luxury features in suites such as butlers, outdoor plunge pools, indoor Jacuzzis and iPod connections. A spa with 40 treatment rooms is under way, and dining is offered at eight restaurants.

The Paraiso de la Bonito has been reflagged as the Zoetry Paraiso La Bonita Riviera Maya, the first Zoetry Wellness and Spa Resort by AMResorts, which places emphasis on a holistic experience of wellbeing. For example, the restaurants offer organic menu choices, and new excursions include volunteering in local villages and touring the nearby Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, which is under the protection of the United Nations.

The United Nations is also funding a new ecotourism outfit called Kanche, which has put together excursions into isolated Maya communities along a 70-mile jungle trail starting at the Maya ruins of Coba and veering north to the island of Holbox. The tours visit spider monkey sanctuaries; caves and lagoons, including a “floating forest” (trees growing out of a lagoon which gives them the illusion of floating on the water); and the communities themselves where Maya teach participants about traditional folk medicine, music, cooking or embroidery. Other activities might include mountain biking, ziplining or swimming with nurse sharks. Clients can sign up for one-day or overnight trips where lodging takes place in rustic jungle cabanas. Excursions start at $150 a person, and commission is 10 percent.

Among the hotel deals out there, the Riviera Maya’s trio of Secrets Resorts’ has a Girlfriends Getaway package good year-round with a minimum three-night stay with such perks as a complimentary pedicure, champagne, yoga classes and in-room breakfast. The Fiesta Americana Condesa Cancun has lowered rates to $114 a night and Secrets, along with four Dreams Resorts and five Real Resorts, for a limited time, is offering flu-free guarantees, promising free vacations if guests contract the H1N1 flu virus during their stay.