Epiphanies arrive in many guises-— Newton’s apple, Archimedes’ bath, St. Paul’s donkey ride. But a particularly good epiphany happens on the coral sand at the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. Dozing on a beach chair a few steps away from the soft wash of the Caribbean, you open your eyes to see a smiling, white-clad spa attendant. She gives you a hand massage, just in case you weren’t relaxed enough already.
That’s when it hits you: You have got to order the ceviche again.
The Belmond Maroma is one of those corners of heaven that operate on at least four levels of bliss. Yes, it’s an exquisitely groomed luxury resort on a stretch of idyllic coast. It’s also home to one of the best spa experiences in the Western Hemisphere. The dining is flawless, from the eggs benedict with salsa verde delivered to your suite in the morning to the roast suckling pig carved up in the cantina. But, for all that, what you really remember is the service, which makes an impression from the moment of your arrival, when you’re greeted with a house margarita.
But first, you have to get there. Maroma isn’t easy to find. Unlike the mass of Riviera resorts off the Cancun-Tulum highway, it has no pharaonic entrance, no shimmering marble, no Vegas-scaled lettering. Unless your driver knows where it is, he might miss the subdued driveway, hardly big enough to pass two taxis abreast. Then it’s a rumbling ride through jungle so dense that until a few decades ago, the coastline here was only accessible by boat. You arrive at a fantasy of dark wood, white plaster and thatch, designed with an eye for natural curves and winding garden paths. Butterflies flit through the foliage, and iguanas amble along the flagstones. As you step into a courtyard dabbed with Mayan statuary, the first thing you notice is a gigantic red parrot eyeing you from a perch among the flowers; the second is the mood of peace that enfolds you as you breathe the ocean air.
Inside, rooms are opulent but uncluttered. Suites have hardwood floors, mosquito netting and tiled bathtubs big enough for swimming laps. There are hammocks on the private porches and local herbs in the bath products. And there are no televisions. Maroma is deliberately relaxed, in contrast to the all-inclusive resorts that mushroom on every stretch of sand in this part of the world. The property has only recently welcomed families, and two of the three pools remain adults-only. A pingpong and games center operates near the bike shed, and the restaurants have children’s menus with burgers and fries, but otherwise the facilities are weighted more toward the post-pubescent crowd. (If you really need it, there’s a TV and video library in the 24-hour entertainment room.)
The spa, for instance, offers a shared treatment hut for couples, including a circular bath strewn with tropical flowers. Saunas are scented with local herbs, and services include a Janzu treatment involving guided movements in a warm meditation pool. Just opt for a deep-tissue treatment, though. It will likely be the most cathartic experience your torso has ever known.
A lot of guests visit with a mind for health, and the resort boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center and yoga pavilion. Even more interesting is the authentic temazcal sauna fired up on moonlit nights. An underground chamber at the edge of the beach is heated with volcanic rocks, and guests purge themselves in torrents of sweat. They can retoxify at the thatched-roof beachfront tequila bar, which also serves sashimi and the aforementioned ceviche.
For a sophisticated evening out, El Sol restaurant is candle-lit, elegant and tapas-oriented, with an emphasis on local fish, citrus and chilies. But the ambiance is subdued. More lively is La Cantina, a small dining room with bright Mexican decor and traditional cookery. Don’t miss the tequila dinners. The main patio restaurant, though, is the best spot for midday guacamole and shrimp tacos overlooking the sugar-white beach.
This is, of course, the reason you booked your trip. Maroma’s stretch of beach is blissfully uncrowded. Attendants rake the sand for anything that might stub or entangle. They even carry around buckets of iced fruit. A boat will take snorkelers and divers out to the coral reef just offshore, and there are opportunities for parasailing. But it’s hardly necessary. Lying on one of the resort’s blue recliners, letting your gaze drift out to sea while the sun and breeze brush your skin, is a revelation enough.
-Service is polished to a tee, but also personable. Staff members call guests by their first names, and they remember them.
-At night, the garden paths are lit with hundreds of candles. This reduces electric glare, but try not to kick them.
-Not enough can be said for the resort’s guacamole. It should be eaten as often as possible.
Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa | 77710 Riviera Maya Quintana Roo, Mexico | 866-454-9351 | maromahotel.com