Mexico with Vanora
To say that I was ready for my first tropical holiday since the pandemic would be a major understatement. At least once a year, I like to relish a getaway that involves little to no thinking or planning, a place where you can bid adieu to your wallet, where your biggest problem is which pool or restaurant to pick! Cruising is one wonderful way to have an all-inclusive experience, but for this trip I sought pure relaxation and didn’t have much desire to deal with shore excursions or getting on & off a vessel.
HOTEL MARINA EL CID BEACH & SPA RESORT is a 4-star resort situated in Puerto Morelos, nestled between Cancun & Playa del Carmen. It’s comprised of three sister hotels, and guests have access to all three properties! I didn’t have a chance to cover everything, but their website boasts of the following features:
26 Gastronomic Experiences
The restaurants ranged from casual to formal, buffet to a la carte. The food ranged from good to great. The quality varied at most of the restaurants we tried, so it comes down to meal selection. No shortage of menu options, so you just have to decide and hope it’s a winner. Reservations are required at some of the restaurants (mostly the specialty ones). To avoid being disappointed, book as soon as reservations open, as the popular time slots sell out quickly. Alcohol is included, understandably with the exception of premium liquor (available for a fee). I’m not much of a drinker, but I think it’s safe to say the cocktails were more than watered down. Gratuities are included in the package price, but the presence of tip jars at the bars is a sign that’s one way to up the booze content.
1922 square foot Sandy Beach
Unfortunately, there is no longer much of a beach, as this area has taken a beating from storms. The beach is narrow, rocky in parts, and full of seaweed in others. (I felt for the workers in charge of the endless cleanup.) One reason I prefer the Caribbean side is because of the brilliant turquoise ocean, but under current conditions, the algae here darkens the water & sand. Fortunately for the hotel, most guests understand that Mother Nature is beyond their control, and don’t overly mind thanks to the numerous beautiful pools!
There is a pool for every type of guest - big, small, lively, quiet, ground level, roof top…The activity pool has a rock wall, where kids can dive or slide. There are several giant (almost pool size) hot tubs. And last but not least, my favorite -.infinity pools! Food is not served in the pool areas, which I considered a positive (a forced break from feasting!).
I packed some workout clothes, but…
I did not have the pleasure of trying out their spa (or a beach massage). The treatments are expensive but I’m sure they are also heavenly.
I remember being told that when booking hotels in developing countries, it can be a good idea to subtract one star from their advertised rating so that expectations are more realistic. However, one area that deserves an extra star is this complex’s sprawling grounds - stunningly lush, inviting and immaculate. Having now returned home, my senses miss the garden paradise.
The Cancun area is known for its many party hotels, but this isn’t one of them. In fact, some guests complain there isn’t enough to do at night. The quality of the entertainment varies, but don’t expect cruise quality.
The hotel doesn’t offer airport transfers, but we had a positive experience with one of the suggested companies, Nexus Tours. Renting a car is an option, but many of the companies (even major ones) have poor (even scary) reviews - so research very well. The rental rates can be almost too good to be true, but be prepared to pay a lot for insurance because that’s where they make their money. We had a car for a couple of days and rented it from Avant. They are not located right at the airport but close enough, offer a free shuttle and are highly rated for their transparency & honesty - no pressure tactics. We wondered if we’d feel safe driving around and thankfully we did, although I would avoid driving after the sun goes down in case you get lost. One frustrating lesson we learned is that it takes a LONG time for road accidents to be cleared, so always add cushion because you can and will lose a lot of time in traffic. We missed out on exploring any cenotes as a result. We did, however, manage an excursion to Tulum - chosen over Chichen Itza because of its proximity and unique backdrop of the Caribbean Sea - as well as Valladolid. The town didn’t blow me away, but it was more interesting and charming than Puerto Morelos, and it was a nice change to get out and experience an authentic Mexican city and food.
We chose to stay at the main hotel (El Cid) to be close to most of the restaurants & activities, but the neighboring sister hotels – Ventus & Ventus Ha are newer and more contemporary. The latter is an attractive boutique hotel focused on nature & wellness - ideal for anyone who wants to get away from it all.
I believe the bedroom layouts are similar in all the hotels. More like junior suites, pleasant and very spacious.
I was surprised that I wasn’t more impressed with the service & hospitality, but I would visit again. (Just stay away from the timeshare agents!)