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JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa

Blvd. Kukulcan Km 14.5, Lote 40-A, Hotel Zone, Cancun, Q.R., Mexico

JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is a smart and comfortable vacation option on the beachfront in the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone. It contains appetizing restaurants, efficient staff, and welcome Mexican touches, including a Mayan-influenced spa and 150 different types of margarita. It's not just for business travellers...

JW Marriott Cancun

With 32,000 hotel rooms across one of the world's busiest tourist zones, Cancun has got most travelers' needs covered, from family vacations to energetic party breaks to peaceful romantic getaways. While some hotels aim to stand out from the crowd with bold design statements, eco credentials, modern art, cutting-edge cuisine, or entertainment offerings, JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa feels more like a straight-down-the-middle hotel. It's a safe bet for those looking for a comfortable, luxurious, no-nonsense getaway. (Or it's a worthwhile choice for cashing in those Bonvoy loyalty points from biz life on the road.)

It's an easy place to unwind. JW Marriott is a step up from the company's standard Marriott hotels in terms of luxury. But the important words here are "Resort & Spa." The Marriott brand might be associated in many people's minds with city/business hotels but business travelers amount to just around 40% of the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa's guests. There's clearly plenty to do at the beachfront resort: pools with swim-up bars, gourmet restaurants, and a Mayan-influenced spa for relaxation and letting the good times roll. The hotel has been here since 2001 but in summer of 2019 the resort completed a $40 million renovation, with all 373 rooms and 74 suites given a bright, new, ocean-inspired décor.

To reach the grand, blocky white building, it's a 20-minute drive from Cancun International Airport into the heart of Cancun's Hotel Zone. Parking the car outside the reception, welcoming staff arrive promptly to empty bags from the trunk, a valet providing you with a ticket and taking the car away to park before you're led inside. It all runs like a smoothly oiled machine.

JW Marriott Cancun lounge

The lobby is mainly white, with marble flooring and high, gold-painted arched ceilings, together giving the feel of a smart city hotel. There are emerald green marble columns, plus green and yellow circles and squares laid into the marble along the corridors. A quiet Lobby Lounge has comfy sofas and armchairs, a bar well-stocked with tequila bottles and other spirits, and large windows looking out onto palm trees, swimming pools, and the shining ocean.

The lobby is where standard check-in takes place, but if you're booked in as a Club 91 guest you'll be shown to an elevator and taken up to the 14th floor (the hotel has 14 floors, though the 13th is missing) for check-in at the Club 91 lounge. This exclusive area comes with several other benefits, including a quieter, more refined breakfast experience, lunch, afternoon snacks, alcoholic drinks, and an evening selection of food to try from one of the hotel's (and the neighbouring Marriott hotel's) restaurants. The JW Marriott has three restaurants, including Italian, Mexican and the poolside Beachwalk, plus the 750 Pizzeria at the shop. The range of options extends to Thai, Japanese, and Argentinian cuisine next door.

JW Marriott Cancun suite

Checked in, you'll make your way to your room or suite, down corridors that look out, from high up, to the swimming pools, beach, and ocean at the front of the hotel and the expansive lagoon to the side. We stayed in a Caribbean Suite, which has a clean, crisp design with whitewashed walls and an oceanic feel in the details, such as the blue and white swirls in the rug. The lounge area is spacious, with a fridge in one corner stocked with soft drinks and alcoholic drinks, all provided as part of All-Inclusive Packages. An off-white L-shaped sofa and two armchairs are arranged around a wall-mounted TV. You'll be drawn out to the balcony, which looks out onto the resort below and the ocean with jet skis and speedboats passing by.

The bedroom has the same clean white walls, with chocolate-brown wood paneling decorated with patterns featuring flowers and birds. A comfortable large white bed dominates the center of the room, facing across to a second wall-mounted TV, and a long writing desk/counter runs along one wall. Again, the big draw is the balcony, the suite's second, which has chairs arranged to look out toward the ocean.

The bathroom, also spacious, has a rain shower unit, twin sinks set in front of the large mirror, and a white oval bathtub tucked to one side, set beside a panel of glass with a whirling pattern of blues and whites, like an ocean wave.

JW Marriott Cancun suite

The most upscale of the hotel's restaurants is Gustino Italian Grill, a circular room with a domed ceiling. A musician performed jazzy versions of Beatles classics during our dinner, which felt a little dated. Service is speedy and friendly waiters can't do enough to help, checking food preferences, making menu and wine suggestions, and explaining each dish. You can kick things off with classic cocktails, including Bellinis, Old Fashioned and Negronis. The Italian menu has a crowd-pleasing Mozzarella Bar section that includes caprese with burrata, mozzarella fritters, and various bruschettas. Antipasti dishes include beef carpaccio and JW Marriott cancunpear carpaccio, as well as drawing on the Riviera Maya's seafood, such as fried calamari and sautéed shrimp. There's more seafood too in homemade pastas and main courses, such as poached Caribbean lobster tail with garlic butter sauce, pan-roasted sea bass or seafood bavette with mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari and lobster, with the likes of prime black Agnus beef steak and braised Barolo short ribs available for meat-eaters.

The food is tasty and just on the heartier side of fine dining, with popular Italian classics like fettucine carbonara with pancetta, or cannelloni with ricotta and spinach, plus pizza and risotto. A good wine menu has wines from around the world, including Italy, such as a recommended Nero d'Avola from Sicily.

For breakfast, there's a choice between the Club 91 lounge on Floor 14 or the main Sedona Grill restaurant. The more exclusive lounge is a quieter, more sedate experience. A bar areas has teas, coffee and juices, with counters loaded with plates of fresh fruit, meats, salmon, cheeses, pastries and more. Hot plates contain bacon, pancakes and scrambled eggs, with a chef on-hand to cook omelettes. You'll want to get a table by one of the windows for breakfast with a view of the deep blue ocean stretching to the horizon.

Breakfast downstairs at the busier Sedona Grill has a little more noise and bustle, but there's also a wider selection at the buffet, including all of the above and more, such as five types of salmon (from smoked salmon to peppered chunks), doughnuts, and Mexican staples, such as refried beans and quesadillas. There's also a menu with options ranging from blue crab omelette to Mexican chilaquiles.

JW Marriott cancunDuring the days, you can relax on loungers on the peaceful stretch of beach, though most people seem to prefer to be by (or in) one of the vivid sky-blue swimming pools. The resort's outdoor area is slightly odd in the use of space; walkways, artificial streams and even mini-waterfalls create a pleasant ambience but also take up room that might've been better used for another pool. Plush, plump-cushioned loungers are comfy but do feel a little crowded in around the main pool and the water is often busy with families and other guests. Waiters in blue and white uniforms work their way around the outdoor pools, delivering drink orders. Around the corner, there's an Adults-Only pool with a swim-up bar, with guests socializing in the water with cocktails, beers, or glasses of wine in-hand. These feel like pools for relaxing and cooling down. If you want a proper swim, the best option is the indoor pool up by the spa.

The spa area, up on the fourth floor, has more white marble, as well as sculpted figures, water features, and a grand staircase with bright orange glass. Helpful attendants lead guests to changing rooms and assist with lockers and robes. As well as silent relaxation lounges, there's also a sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi. The spa menu has pedicures, manicures, and massages, including Couples' Treatments. A good representation is the Mayan Ritual, which begins with a sort of prayer in Mayan (which is then translated into English), the burning of incense, and the blowing of a turtle-shaped ocarina. Where it really counts, you'll have knowledgeable, expert therapists providing great, relaxing massages, using elbows and forearms as much as hands, as well as hot towels, while music plays, from flutes and strings to Brian Eno ambient works. Through a window, you can see the elegant swimming pool below, which is often empty.

Club 91 guests can use the club lounge in the afternoon for a glass of wine or a light meal. But it's easy not to leave the outdoor pool areas, with a casual menu served at BeachWalk. There's plenty of choice, including seafood, from sandwiches with coconut-encrusted red snapper or blackened grouper to pan-seared mahi with rice and veg, as well as steaks, burgers, and Mexican favourites, such as tempura shrimp tacos, quesadillas and fajitas. You'll find plenty of choice in the cocktail list too, from a classic Mojito to a Prosecco Margarita.

JW Marriott Cancun cocktails

That drinks selection pales though once you're at the Lobby Bar, where the 150 tequilas on offer at the bar have been put to use in a menu containing 150 inventive margaritas. Margarita tastings include a choice of four margaritas, each served with an additional pipette of the specific tequila it contains to taste separately. Not sure what to pick? You can hit a button on an iPad's "Margarita Roulette" and it'll make suggestions. Among the most popular choices are the Classic Margarita, the Cranberrita, and the Tamarind Rita. A Margarita in Manhattan, from the Fusion range, comes with bourbon and vermouth, and there are several drinks inspired by Mexican food, such as the Margarita Al Pastor and the 7 Moles Margarita. Expect a little spice with some of the orders.

JW Marriott Cancun pool

It's good to see Mexico celebrated at the hotel, though the Sedona Grill lays it on a bit thick in the evenings. If you didn't know it was a Mexican restaurant before entering, the colorful flags, giant sombreros, cactus sculptures and a band of Mariachis musicians doing the rounds would soon give it away. The setting is less formal than Gustino, with both indoor and outdoor seating, and there's a broad buffet selection with counters filled with salsas, salsas, cheese, warm tortillas and hot plates with Tacos Al Pastor, roast vegetables, enchiladas, quesadillas, and fish in garlic sauce, though one or two will perhaps be a little dry from being left out too long. The restaurant delves a little deeper too, with Pozole Rojo Estilo Jalisco, a traditional Mexican soup/stew, and Chile En Nogada, a pepper stuffed with meat and covered with a creamy walnut sauce. For sweet tooths, there's a table of desserts, including the very Mexican churros.

JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is not the Riviera Maya's most bold, novel, or exciting hotel. There are more stylish and original options in the Hotel Zone and further along the coast in Maroma, Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Instead, this is a solid, reliable mainstream option for families and less cool-obsessed couples. But it comes up with the goods where it matters: comfort, friendly and helpful service, enjoyable food and drink with good-to-see Mexican influences. And it would be hard to find a hotel anywhere on this coast with quite so many margarita possibilities.

Total Number of Rooms: 447
Published rates: $199 to $799 plus taxes room only

Review and photos by Graeme Green

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