Retorno del Rey No. 36, Cancún, Mexico
The Ritz–Carlton Cancún singlehandedly boosted this resort city's image when it opened in 1993. It's still the most reliable and enjoyable property here, constantly upgrading its features, even if its style remains strictly old–school.
The Ritz–Carlton name is a reliable one in luxury, and its Cancún property doesn't disappoint. With soaring ceilings, plush carpeting, glittering chandeliers, and rare oil paintings adorning the walls, the hotel would seem more at home in Europe or East Coast America. But the E–shaped complex, in which every room as at least a partial sea view, is oriented entirely toward meticulously groomed white sand and the gleaming turquoise Caribbean outside.
Few can resist the beach, where cocktail service at your lounge chair is de rigueur. Farther back from the water, thatch–roof casitas offer more shade, and they're converted into private dining space in the evening––making this the only hotel in Cancún that offers the opportunity to slurp down oysters while seated directly on the beach.
Not that the other places to eat at the Ritz–Carlton Cancún are lacking. The company's dedication to fine food is carried on all over the property, from the super–fresh ceviche bar in the Lobby Lounge to the unapologetically old–fashioned Club Grill, which features dishes like braised veal cheek and filet mignon along with live dinner music and dancing.
That same unchanging elegance informs the room design. Where every other beach hotel has tile floors, the Ritz–Carlton sticks to deep carpets. Robes are the thickest terrycloth available––made for entirely air–conditioned living. The marble bathrooms glitter with endlessly reflecting mirrors, and though your bathtub may not be made for romance or full of bubbling jets, it is wonderfully deep and comes with a pillow for your head. There is one nod to contemporary tastes: the espresso machine in every room.
Thanks to all these lavish touches, standard rooms are more than comfortable, but a step up to a suite gives you more than double the space, with a full separate living room and an extra balcony. The club–level rooms, which occupy the top two floors of the hotel, aren't really worth the several–hundred–dollar premium unless you need the concierge service––you get a few extra amenities, including private check–in and cocktails and assorted snacks, but the rooms are essentially the same as those on the lower floors.
The "Itzy, Bitzy Ritz Kids Room," on the other hand, can be invaluable. Unlike many resorts, the Ritz–Carlton Cancún is very child–friendly, and these rooms cater specifically to people traveling with infants, as they're outfitted with every sort of baby gear imaginable, so parents don't have to lug it with them.<
It's worth noting that Cancún, more so than the Riviera Maya to the south, does the bulk of its business between January and April, and even a known luxury property is affected by this fluctuation; as a result, the Ritz–Carlton can be exceptionally good value in the low season, when rates drop by almost half.
A recent addition to the Ritz–Carlton Cancún is its exceptionally stylish culinary center. Plenty of resorts offer cooking classes and a chance to schmooze with chefs, but none do it in such a fantastic show kitchen, outfitted entirely with Viking appliances, including high–tech induction ranges. The culinary center hosts cooking classes and wine and tequila tastings six days a week.
The hotel's spa, by contrast, is hidden away in a basement wing — it's beautiful, but seems a bit perfunctory. But then it's the very fact that the Ritz–Carlton Cancún doesn't chase after every trend that makes the place so consistently appealing.
Web Address: www.ritzcarlton.com/resorts/cancun
Total Number of Rooms: 365
Published rates: $279 to $959 ($1,229 club level)
Review and photos by Zora O'Neill