Boulevard Kukulcan Km 12.5, Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Originally designed as a chef-focused showpiece before becomeing an adults-only luxury all-inclusive, Live Aqua Cancun is a big step up from most competitors on the strip, with an abundance of style, good food, and an expanse of swimming pools.
Live Aqua Cancun's parent company is better known for its Fiesta Americana hotels, high–end business–friendly properties throughout Mexico. Live Aqua is such a departure from those in style and focus that it's the flagship of a separate resort brand. It aims to be an all-inclusive for the discerning set, with finer finishings, better service, and better restaurants than most of its neighbors in this popular resort city. With a full-time DJ, a well-regarded spa, and a full aromatherapy program, Live Aqua has plenty of attributes to set it apart.
The semicircular white building, accented with green glass, soars above the beach at a prime spot in Cancun's hotel zone—out of the fray of the major bar–and–club area, but walking distance to upscale shopping and sleeker nightspots. Uniformed staff welcome new arrivals and whisk them to overstuffed sofas in the lobby area for check-in, with a cool drink and a hand massage. The soaring space of this area is nothing compared with the view out the floor–to–ceiling windows: an elaborate network of eight swimming pools, all fronting the incomparably blue Caribbean—possibly the most lavish pool area in the city. One has a swim-up bar, one is long enough for laps, and others are best for gazing out at the sea from the infinity edge.
Down on the beach, which widens and narrows depending on storms and restoration work, there are lounge chairs and busy waiters fetching food and drinks. You can reserve a daybed for an extra fee for non-suite guests) with curtains that will be a perfect spot for an afternoon siesta after your included foot massage. At both the pool and beach, don't be surprised if someone offers a cold popsicle, gives you a cool water spritz, or cleans off your smudged sunglasses.
Rooms are not as spectacular as the public areas, but nearly all have a great ocean view. Up to the suite level, they feel average in size, though they do have large sunken bathtubs, furnished balconies, and carefully placed mirrors that help expand the space. For this reason, Aqua's more discerning clientele just make a beeline for one of the 36 suites—even the smallest one is 762 square feet. These have private terraces, outdoor showers, and space for massages and other spa treatments. Mod Italian lamps and dark–wood furniture don't break any new ground in décor, but they're perfectly attractive. The real key in selecting a room, though, is to request one closer to the center of the building, rather than along the outer edges of the two wings—this way you'll avoid a view of the Aqua's neighbors. Suite guests and members of the parent company's loyalty program have access to a private lounge with a view.
Amenities are extensive and tick off all the right boxes. Minibars are stocked with snacks and drinks, the included Wi-Fi works well, inclusive room service is 24 hours, and there are robes in the closets. Bathroom amenities are abundant, including five different types of soaps with different ingredients, and there's turndown service each evening. Aromatherapy is a big part of the theme at Live Aqua, with strong (but meant to be relaxing) scents following you around all the indoor public areas. In your room you get a choice of multiple oil blend options with names like "energy" or "romance" and contain scents such as mint, rosemary, ginger, and sandalwood.
The original concept for this hotel had three restaurants overseen by three celebrity chefs. That went out the window when the property switched to an all-inclusive setup. The original spaces are still stunning, however, and some of the recipes have stayed on. It's hard to get bored with the food here even if you're staying a week. There's a playfulness to the nine choices, with a sushi spot by one of the bars, a coffee shop, an Italian restaurant nestled in the foliage outdoors, and another hidden restaurant that serves Asian cuisine. The seaside restaurant serves seafood while the most elegant spot MB (originally named after Michelle Bernstein) toys with molecular gastronomy. The main restaurant Siete, where an excellent breakfast buffet is laid out each morning, has seven columns with artistic renderings of Mexican icons through the ages.
The liquor selection is rather predictable at the bars, but nice Mexican wines from Baja Norte are standard in the all-inclusive plan and you can order from a well-curated list for a special dinner. There are plenty of places to find a drink by the pools during the day and the clubby downstairs lounge open at night has a pool table and comfy sofas.
There's a daily schedule of activities here, but they're thankfully more low-key than the typical all-inclusive—no chirpy actitivities director with a microphone trying to rope people into games. Most are body and spirit oriented, with yoga, tai chi, water aerobics, beach volleyball and the like. Each evening there's live entertainment. The gym here is bright and well-equipped, while the cool spa is a welcome respite from the sun and humidity when it's time to cool off and get a massage.
The obvious comparison on the strip is Le Blanc, which is a bit more stylish and hip. Live Aqua wins the war of the swimming pools though and has a service style that's more friendly and attentive. It's hard to find much fault here for those who already like all-inclusive hotels. Those who have avoided them because of fears of routine meals and rowdy kids just might be won over by this well-run beachfront resort for adults.
Web Address: www.liveaqua.com
Total Number of Rooms: 371
Published rates: $250 to $2,500 per person all-inclusive
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.