Carretera a Chankanaab km 6.5, Cozumel, Quintana Roo, 77600 México
The turquoise Caribbean ripples over legendary coral reefs in full view of this treasured island hideaway, beloved by celebs and recluses for more than three decades. Completely revamped in 2006, the stylish suites encourage lingering—as do the waterside hammocks, superb restaurants, Mandara Spa and generous lawns.
Hidden down a long drive lined with graceful palms, the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel is unlike any other Cozumel hotel. In the first place, it's totally hidden from view, far from the island's unfortunate cruise ship frenzy around the town of San Miguel. With its spacious grounds and lack of invasive neighboring properties, the sprawling resort reflects the community's abundant charms while remaining removed from the unsightly development that's taken over much of the coastline. At the Presidente, you get to experience Cozumel at its absolute best, right down to the resident iguanas.
Known simply as the Presidente when constructed during the Mexican government's tourism boom in the 1970s, the hotel's name has expanded to include several appendages during stints with various management companies. InterContinental took over shortly before Hurricane Wilma nearly destroyed the property in 2005, and along with the resort's owners completely transformed the nearly obliterated, aging hotel into a youthful, comfortable island home for new and returning guests.
All rooms and suites (in eight categories) are decorated in cream, dark chocolate and orange and have all the au courant amenities—flat-screen TVs, pod-style coffeemakers, complimentary Wi-Fi, rainshowers, Egyptian cottons—and are tended to by some of the most accommodating housekeepers around. Their animals created from rolled towels are so imaginative guests raised a ruckus when management, thinking the animals weren't appropriate for a five-star resort, banned them for a very short while. Along with the elephants and swans, guests receive an illustrated bedtime story about Maya deities and legends at turndown.
The least-expensive rooms face a green lawn and serene adults-only pool in a section that feels like a small boutique hotel within a larger property. Though just 452 square feet, they seem spacious thanks to the minimalist furnishings. Standard rooms in the two wings facing the sea start at 535 square feet and have balconies with hammocks. Some upper-floor suites are arranged with ocean views from the bathroom's whirlpool tub—a great place to begin and end your day.
Both categories are just fine if you're pinching pesos, but if you really want the full experience, staying in a waterfront room or suite is a must. All rooms in these categories have large terraces with lounge chairs just steps from the sea and water views from the king or double beds. Ranging in size from 670 to 1400 square feet, these ground-floor rooms offer varying amenities including outdoor rainshowers, indoor tubs, walk-in closets, separate living rooms, and 24-hour butler service. Different tropical fruits appear on the table each day and bottled water is complimentary.
The resort's Mandara Spa was the first freestanding full-service spa on the island and remains the best. Services include a Mayan temascal (steam bath) ritual and herbal baths in an outdoor garden pool complete with waterfall. The nearby large fitness center is blissfully air-conditioned and use of the two tennis courts and putting green is complimentary. A kid's club is also located in this activities area surrounded by lush lawns. Scuba Du, one of Cozumel's finest dive shops, offers snorkeling and dive trips from the hotel's pier to the nearby reefs, known for their superb coral formations and abundant tropical fish.
An enormous palapa shades El Caribeño, a casual restaurant serving excellent breakfast buffets, ceviches, seafood dishes and guacamole prepared tableside. Alfredo di Roma, the more formal dinner restaurant, specializes in northern Italian cuisine. The food and wine can't be faulted, but the Italian theme seems out of place in this seaside setting. Room service delivered by a waiter pedaling a triciclo (a traditional Mayan three-wheeled pedicab bike) is especially fun.
All the Presidente's amenities and services are worthy of the hotel’s five-star status, but it's the extra touches that make it so special. Many staff members have worked there for decades and greet returning guests with broad smiles. Waiters quickly remember your preferences and there's always someone around to fetch a cocktail or towel. Piers and stairways lead into crystal clear water where parrotfish crunch on coral, and special stone pyramids provide shelter for the resident giant iguanas. If you're looking for action and revelry, you'll want to stay closer to town and the island's many raucous bars. But if you're looking for natural beauty, serenity and super service you'll be glad you discovered this hidden gem.
Web Address: www.intercontinentalcozumel.com
Total Number of Rooms: 220
Published rates: $234-$2,250
Review and photos by Maribeth Mellin
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