“Serene.” “Romantic.” “Love the Animal Life.”
Three typical comments we heard frequently at an atypical Mexican resort.
Most of the popular all-inclusive resorts along the Mayan Riviera, stretching south from the crowded beaches of Cancun to the historic Mayan ruins at Tulum, are large, crowded and lively.
Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya is the exception.
Located along 500 metres of white sand beach just 20 minutes from the Cancun Airport, each of the 100 suites in a string of two and three story units has unobstructed beachfront views and unique furnishings hand-chosen by the Mexican owner, Carlos Gosselin. The resort is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and has been awarded AAA Five Diamond status for 13 consecutive years.
Zoëtry is the high end brand of AMResorts, known for Secrets, Now, Dreams and other all-adult and family properties throughout the Caribbean. But Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is unique in many ways and attracts a loyal following who prefer a quiet, relaxed ambience, stellar service from a well-trained staff and high quality dining. Frankly, it can be a bit of the shock after visiting a typical Mexican resort. But for most the shock soon becomes a wide smile.
The first difference comes as we enter the spacious lobby filled with fountains, 17th Century lion statues (the symbol of the owner) and antiques. Greeted with cold towels and with a sparkling wine in hand, guests can see over the large pool and beach beyond. A few swimmers, a few sunbathers on comfortable loungers but no music, no pool games, no loud entertainment director. This is what it’s like all day. Just relaxation and discreet waiters to make sure your drink glass is full. Even a daily afternoon tea in one of the many serene lounges.
As we’re escorted to our suite on an electric golf cart another distinction is obvious on both sides of the path – the animal life. We pass several prehistoric looking iguanas ignoring us as they lounge in the sun, a giant peacock strutting between the buildings, a dozen or more raccoon-like coatis, striped tails high in the air, looking for food in the grass as they chirped and snorted. Then, just before we stopped at our building we spotted a cat-sized, tailless rodent that looks like a big guinea pig with long legs. We couldn’t get a photo before it hopped away but learned it was an agouti, known as a sereque in Mexico. Along with many colourful macaws in several areas of the resort, this was non-stop wildlife entertainment!
All accommodations at Zoëtry are large one bedroom suites. They don’t have numbers, just names of places visited by the resort’s owner (Bora Bora, Havana, Kenya, Fiji) and include precious artifacts collected from that location. The bathrooms are huge with double sinks, Bvlgari toiletries, a separate shower and a sunken bathtub big enough for three or four people.
There are three restaurants on the resort, all of which promote the “Wellness” theme with fresh, local ingredients. Almost unique among Mexican resorts, there are no buffet restaurants. Breakfast is a special treat at Kaax with an excellent variety of Western and Mexican dishes like enchiladas and chilaquiles. Music is provided by a talented harpist. A pair of guitarists also stroll among guests in the evening at Kaax and at Zoëtry’s high end French restaurant, the AAA Four Diamond La Canoa. The fresh fish was, as expected, of exceptional quality with imaginative presentation and superb service. The complimentary house wines, both white and red from Chile, were okay but clearly low end. The resident sommelier told us they have plans to improve the house wines.
The other Zoëtry restaurant is the El Chiringuito Beachside Grill, with outdoor seating and a wide variety of wood fired specialties like chicken and pizza. The grilled red snapper we enjoyed was superb, especially accompanied by excellent Mexican draft beer.
A brand new section of Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita is called Impression Club, nine ocean front suites with butlers and even an on demand private chef. We were able to dine at the main Impression restaurant called Dragons with its superb Asian fusion cuisine including signature Peking Duck, carved at the table by the Chef.
The Red Kitchen at Impression Club is also used for complimentary cooking classes, part of the overall wellness and serenity theme. We all pitched in to produce pasta from flour, eggs and olive oil, then kneaded and cut it into long narrow strips and boiled them for three minutes to produce the base for our pasta dish. Great fun. We also had a Mexican cooking class where we made corn tortillas and empanadas, then added various ingredients to produce an excellent Mexican lunch.
The Wellness theme is at its optimum at the first certified Thalassotherapy Centre in North America. There are some extra cost treatments (like a seaweed or Dead Sea mud wrap) but access to the invigorating Thalasso Seawater pool is available for all. In addition anyone can sign up for the ancient Temazcal Healing and Cleansing Ceremony where a Mayan guide in traditional dress takes guests into a darkened sweat lodge. Steam is produced from red hot stones and herbs, then the leader takes participants through a spiritual ritual of aromas, sounds and sensations. This spiritual fitness is in addition to daily physical fitness classes – yoga, tai chi and Aquafit in the saltwater pool.
During our stay at Zoëtry we took advantage of a relaxing sunset cruise on the resort’s catamaran and spent a couple of hours visiting the nearby Now Sapphire resort. Also part of the AM Resorts chain, this family oriented resort was a favourite when we visited with our kids and grandkids a few years ago. Now after a major $11 million renovation, it looked even more appealing for families with many large, swim out suites, improved dining facilities and a new, kid friendly water park, still under construction. Between this and Zoëtry, the Mayan Riviera is clearly more appealing than ever for all ages.
All photos by Sandra and John Nowlan – All Rights Reserved