ABOVE PHOTO: A fine Mexican feast at Finest.
By Renée S. Gordon
Nearly 5000 years ago Mayans migrated into the Yucatán region of Mexico and between 500 BC and 900 AD they constructed large commercial, ceremonial and religious centers. The first documented Europeans to sail into the area, although they did not land, were part of the 1513 Ponce de León expedition. Four years later Francisco Hernández de Córdova, landed there while seeking slaves. Encountering indigenous people, he asked where he was in Spanish. They responded in their language, “Tetec dtan. Ma t natic a dtan,” basically, “What are you saying?” Córdova believed they were answering his question and, hearing their words as “Yucatán”, named the land accordingly.
This unbelievably lush and bountiful region remained relatively isolated until the 1950s because the only access was by sea. In the mid-20th century both a railway and a road were constructed to connect the Yucatán to the rest of the country. Because of its former inaccessibility the region has maintained much of the Mayan culture and is home to one of the largest indigenous populations and the greatest number of indigenous language speakers.
The Yucatán’s semi-tropical eastern coastline is lapped by the Caribbean sea, famous for being comprised of seven distinctive colors of blue. It’s pristine beaches and the world’s 5th largest barrier reef make this an ideal tourist destination, just as it was a sacred and secular destination for the ancients. There are currently more than 2,500 ruins, of varying sizes, in the area including Chichen Itzá, Cobá and Tulum. Seventeen of the ruins have been restored and two have been designated Wonders of the New World.
Mayan roads were engineering marvels. They were comprised of three layers covered with limestone and crushed shells. These “white roads” were luminescent in the dark and were gateways to the culture and to the most beautiful and luxurious places along the coastline. Modern roads follow many of these same paths and lead to still stunning destinations.
Three adjacent resorts comprise the Excellence Group Luxury Hotels and Resorts complex and are located just a few miles from Aeropuerto de Cancun off one of those ancient roads at the end of a stunningly landscaped boulevard that appears carved out of the jungle’s lush foliage. Architecturally, the resorts blend harmoniously with the setting, the sea and with each other. The two newest properties, named Beloved and Finest, offer unique experiences and opportunities to immerse oneself in the culture and spirit of the country.
Finest Playa Mujeres is the larger and newer of the two luxury resorts. It is the sole all-inclusive, family-friendly resort in the Cancun area and it accomplishes this in a novel manner. One entire section of the resort is for families while a second section is reserved for adults only. A common area accessible to all guests separates the sections.
There are more than 400 accommodations, including rooftop suites and casitas, the smallest of which is 800-sq. ft. and features a full range of amenities. The exclusively adult Excellence Club accommodations feature Bvlgary toiletries and an upgraded minibar. ADA rooms are available. Many activities are offered and Finest is an ideal wedding location because of the setting and the layout.
Finest offers 12 all-inclusive international restaurants complete with vegetarian options, 16 bars including the trendy Sky Bar, 10 swimming pools, a 3,500-sq ft. state-of-the-art fitness center and spa. The One Spa menu boasts treatments based on both traditional and modern techniques with a special hydrotherapy experience that is linked to the sea. www.finestresorts.com
Beloved, a 5-star adults only boutique all-inclusive resort is the most romantic destination in the area. There are 109 luxurious accommodations with designer amenities, Jacuzzi and minibar. There are 4 restaurants, 4 bars, 3 swimming pools, a 304-ft. beachfront and complete selection of water based activities and land excursions. It provides a singular romantic and intimate experience with an unprecedented level of service. There are 3 service providers per guest.
Beloved’s 35,000-sq. ft. Spa & Wellness Center presents guests with numerous treatment options. The signature hydrothermal therapies that are taken in the Agua Viva facility include the crystal steam Hammam, Roman Caldarium and Swedish Sauna. Each guest is assigned a personal thermal valet and treatments end with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. www.belovedhotels.com
Excursions to nearby sites can be arranged from either resort that create a perfect combination of traditional culture and sensual Caribbean luxury. There are several nearby day-trip notable cultural destinations including Mayan ruins, cenotes and Xcaret Mexico. Xcaret Mexico is a must for a quick overview of authentic Mexico, its traditions and architecture. Highlights of a visit include activities in an underground river, exhibitions and “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular,” a musical trip through history. www.xcaret.com
Excellence Group Luxury Hotels and Resorts is a best bet. Specials and packages are offered online and you will be amazed at how affordable your visit can be.
There are small things about traveling that can be problematic but charging your personal devices has just be removed from the list by a new device, the Twist World Adapter Duo. This universal travel adaptor functions in more than 150 countries, has 2 USB ports, a universal AC outlet, a built-in MacBook charging port and you can charge as many as 3 devices at a time. The adaptor is round, lightweight, a mere 3.5 by 2.5-inches long and it is available online at the Grommet. www.thegrommet.com
The Kingdom of Peacocks, by Fadel AlMheiri, is a great vacation read. Originally written as one of a trilogy of screenplays. it deftly conjures up pictures of unbridled adventure. The story, though not a historical narrative, recounts a tale of Portuguese exploration and exploitation in the early 16th-century when Portugal ruled the seas. The book is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle editions.