Calle Vialidad Paseo Mujeres, Mza. 1 Zona Continental, Lote 10 SM 3, Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Quintana Roo
Set on an as–yet–undeveloped stretch of Mexican Caribbean beach, The Beloved (formerly La Amada) offers all the creature comforts along with a real sense of isolation. It's also remarkably good value.
As the coast south of Cancun filled up with big–name luxury palaces, The Beloved opened in 2009 on a quiet beach north of the vacation capital. This area, about a 20–minute drive from downtown Cancun, and 45 minutes or so from the airport, has been christened Playa Mujeres (not to be confused with Isla Mujeres, across the bay). Playa Mujeres might eventually be the next hot real estate on the coast, but in the meantime it offers a now–rare sense of true getaway. So far, the only other major property in the area is the neighboring Excellence Playa Mujeres, owned by the same hotel group and priced in the midrange. The properties sit side–by–side, but stroll farther north, and there's virtually nothing but forest and sand for about a mile, and just a glimpse of the golf course inland.
And although the hotel hits all the right notes for a high–end property (more on this shortly), it's really the beach that's the most luxurious detail of all. It's broad and edged with the shallow, calm waters of the bay between Cancun and Isla Mujeres. As the hotels in Cancun proper have struggled with beach erosion, it's a treat to come here and see this decadent expanse of sand.
Back to the hotel itself: The Beloved isn't groundbreaking in its style, but it feels modern without being forced. It smartly incorporates most of the hallmarks of luxury resorts established in the last decade or so. This covers smaller details, such as multiple shower heads and quality street–brand amenities (L'Occitane de Provence, in this case), as well as structural ones: there are separate blocks of two–story family suites with plunge pools, and of course there's a grand spa. (And fortunately, it skips some of the sillier fads, such as aggressive aromatherapy in public spaces.)
Both buildings and rooms are basically white. But potential starkness is offset by layers of rich cream, burnished silver and palest lavender. Even the standard junior suites are plenty large —960 square feet, including the terrace — with a sitting area, a side bar and a large terrace, plus a whirlpool tub that opens onto it. The look is a good balance of minimalist and plush — Philippe Starck lamps are cutting–edge, but the sofa and bed are sumptuous and welcoming.
The Beloved welcomes children — there is a kids' club, and the oceanfront penthouse suites have two separate rooms, to better accommodate families. In this respect too, it's following a trend set by Mandarin Oriental and others on the Riviera Maya, which have looked beyond the typical honeymooner demographic to entice parents who want a decadent vacation even with the kids along.
The spa deserves special mention — it's a large, beautiful indoor–outdoor space with a central pool and a great hydrotherapy circuit, included with any treatment. Some luxury properties in the area have opened with token spas, or wedged them in to dark corners, but The Beloved dedicates serious real estate to its spa and (just as important) seems to have trained its staff quite well.
For dining, the property has three restaurants: a beachside grill–bar; the main dining room, Aroma, serving Mediterranean food; and a refined Mexican restaurant facing the adjacent marina. This last dining venue was added after the time of this review, when the property shifted to an all–inclusive model, giving guests an improved range of dining options. At the time of this review, at least, the food was expertly prepared, with lavish breakfasts featuring local flavors, such as spiced cold drinking chocolate. Considering the relatively small size of the place, it's likely these standards have been maintained, which would place The Beloved high on the list of all–inclusives with respectable food, and an alternative to Las Velas for those who prefer a more intimate setting.
If you'd like to explore beyond the resort, The Beloved's location is a slight drawback. It's a 20–minute taxi ride to downtown Cancun, where there are some excellent restaurants, but it might take a more adventurous traveler to navigate the winding streets. A trip to Cancun's hotel zone is a bit impractical, as restaurants there can be 45 minutes or more away.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya have a few “luxury” properties that feel a bit hollow at the core, as they're too large and cookie–cutter in their production. With a strong attention to detail, The Beloved is perhaps the first hotel in the region that hits all the right notes for comfort and service, but isn't priced well into the stratosphere.
Web Address: www.laamadahotel.com
Total Number of Rooms: 109
Published rates: $149 to $599
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill