Carretera a Garrafon, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Just up the road from the mellow town of Puerto Morelos, Ceiba del Mar combines hideaway resort features like a huge pool and a spa with easy accessibility to a variety of restaurants and other attractions. It's a good pick for people who don't want a total retreat.
Most resorts on Mexico's Riviera Maya are behind locked gates and down winding roads—once you're in, you're in for the week. Ceiba del Mar, on the other hand, is easy to reach, on a beach frontage road, and you can drive right up to the front door without stopping.
This might not sound like a selling point for a luxury hotel, but when you're just one kilometer from Puerto Morelos, one of the most pleasant, relatively un–touristed small towns on this coast, which is known for its great restaurants, from fresh fish straight off the boat on up to a place
Inside the front doors of Ceiba del Mar, however, the feel is typical tropical resort. A lofty palm–thatch roof covers the lobby, filled with overstuffed sofas and profusions of flowers. Guests are greeted by name, offered cocktails, and taken directly to their rooms for check–in.
The simplest rooms are relatively unremarkable—better to make the minor jump up to a junior suite to enjoy a nice design feature: a raised bathtub separated from the main room by screens that open so you can see through the room and out the window. It sounds complicated, but this way you can bathe and enjoy the sea view (which every room on the property has, by the way), but the tub isn't in the way when you're relaxing later on the front terrace.
Master suites are substantially larger, more like apartments, with nifty features such as plasma TVs. The highest level, literally and figuratively, is the penthouse suite; one tops each of the seven buildings around the property. These rooms have more contemporary furniture (others have a rustic look, with painted plaster, mosquito nets, and bamboo blinds) and a positively enormous terrace with a whirlpool tub.
Guests without such amenities spend their days at the big, freeform pool that flows past the front of every building. The pool's size and accessibility make up for the water off the beach, which is thick with sea grass apart from cleared areas, and thus not quite the idyllic Caribbean most people expect. The beach, studded with palm trees, is quite pretty, however, and a long pier leads out to a thatch palapa where yoga classes are held daily.
Another pier leads off the back of the property and deep into the mangrove swamps that line this part of the coast. The winding boardwalk is a rare chance to explore this boggy terrain without an accompanying guide; a raised pavilion in the middle of the walk is a great place to watch birds in the morning or, more decadently, have a private massage or romantic dinner. (Massages are also on offer inside the small spa. Built using all Mexican materials and locally made furniture, it has a naturally relaxing ambiance, especially in the indoor–outdoor couples' massage room.)
But overall the emphasis at Ceiba del Mar is not really on spa indulgence or pure isolation. Although everything is well kept and comfortable (and the two restaurants perfectly functional), the outside world is welcomed in, in the form of free wireless Internet access in all the rooms and the morning paper delivered along with your continental breakfast. And unlike many resorts on the coast, Ceiba del Mar's rates fluctuate very little between high and low seasons, appealing to a clientele that might drop in for a stay any time of year––and then zip back out for dinner in Puerto Morelos.
Web Address: www.ceibadelmar.com
Total Number of Rooms: 88
Published rates: $370 to $1,000, incl. continental breakfast
Review by Zora O'Neill, photos by Timothy Scott.