After a stay at this sophisticated B&B and some fabulous meals, a family of Mexicophiles discovers that Cancun has changed for the better.
As we drive in from the airport past elegant highrises and neon marquees, the moist warmth of the tropics hangs in the air. The bustling Zona Hotelera of side-by-side four and five-star hotels teems with waterfalls tumbling into lavish pools that overlook the iridescent sea or mangrove-laced lagoon. Lifestyle malls with Zara boutiques complement traditional Mexican markets like Mercado 28, whose stalls sell tacos and crafts, toys and T-shirts, and the wonderful talavera ceramics the Yucatan is famous for. At night it’s just a bit brighter, magnified by wattage from The City, neon from other nightclubs and, everywhere, festivals and performers out on the streets.
The New CancÃºn Is So Hip
This is CancÃºn – Mexico’s version of the Costa Brava or Miami Beach – one of the most successful resort developments ever overbuilt. The density of distractions may not be everybody’s idea of a good time, but we guarantee that CancÃºn’s fresh combination of big city thrills and sun n’ surf will appeal to families. In fact, the variety of attractions makes it an ideal reunion destination. Whether you have to please a sun worshipping cousin or a shopaholic grandma; your party animal uncle or some budding teen surfers; toddling nieces and nephews; or a sister intrigued by Mayan culture, it’s all here.
And despite the city’s distinctive manaÃ±a flavor, CancÃºn’s international young entrepreneurs have refreshed its cache of fine restaurants, hip bars and innovative attractions. Luxury hoteliers have remade the coastline in the wake of Hurricane Wilma’s devastation, so that the city looks better than ever. My family was delighted by the modern art galleries in el Centro; an engaging Museum of Folk Art and the fun aquarium at the open-air La Isla shopping complex. In addition to several excellent restaurants along the lively Yaxchilan Blvd downtown, we tried a classic cantina, La Guadalupana, at the Plaza de Toros bull ring. In typical style, customers over 15 who take a seat are brought dishes of food to complement their drinks; if you want to try anything else you can order from the gregarious waiters.
Typical of the city’s makeover is the oceanfront complex known as The Beach Club, comprising a comfortable sundeck; lifeguard-supervised pool and waterslides; a Flowrider wave pool that simulates surfing conditions; and a seaside cafÃ©. Within the gated attraction is a supervised kids club for ages 4 to 11 where kids can get out of the sun or romp in a kiddie pool, while parents nurse a piÃ±a colada and a mystery novel in the company of bikini-clad strangers. Why anyone would create the perfect beachscape on the beach is, well… the clever idea of someone who understands one of CancÃºn’s drawbacks is the rough surf along much of its Atlantic and Caribbean coastlines. After a day in the sun, exchange your suit for your dance duds and head next door to The City, a state-of-the-art electrified dance environment for 5,000 party-goers, already immortalized by MTV.
No surprise then that the same innovators are behind The Avalon Resorts that have opened in the last 15 years around the Yucatan peninsula. We love the low-profile Avalon Reef on Isla Mujeres; its quiet beachfront, calm lagoon setting and simply deluxe duplex townhouses (with several bedrooms) make it ideal for extended families or those with infants and toddlers. Within the city is the Avalon Grand, a more predictable all-inclusive resort with a friendly staff and big buffets. But just a few doors down and cheek-by-jowl with the governor’s mansion and a few other boutique hotels typifying the new CancÃºn, is the Avalon BaccarÃ¡ CancÃºn.
Mexican Style in a Family-Friendly Hotel
Within walking distance of Planet Hollywood, Margaritaville and the whirlwind of Blvd Kukulcan, the three-story BaccarÃ¡ appears disarmingly small and simple. Inside the marine-blue stucco walls trimmed with terra cotta is an inviting lobby; quiet and high-ceilinged, it boasts beige leather couches, a small and friendly bar, pool table and some marble top chess or backgammon tables. Within this oasis of chic boutique style, in a room overlooking the beach and pool, there’s a children’s program, Avalon Wild Things Club, offered at Avalon Resorts to keep kids entertained with adventure-filled activities.
The Avalon BaccarÃ¡ CancÃºn’s greatest asset is the small size that makes it practical for adults and kids to spend unpressured time together. At our visit, parents seated their children at a chess table while they sipped one of the island’s best margaritas, or sent kids downstairs to the breakfast buffet to talk with the waiters while they finished dressing. The friendly front desk staff arranges outings, watersports out on the beach or private babysitting. After a day or two, you will know everyone by name and they will know you.
Children respond well to the BaccarÃ¡’s other facilities. The elegant pool, hand-tiled with beautiful patterns, has entry steps, a small tiled island for resting, a swim-up bar and a waterfall. The tiled sundeck overlooks the sea and provides shade for a Beach Bar below (open seasonally, it’s one of CancÃºn’s oldest bars) that opens directly onto the sand. On the street side of the hotel is the small Boulevard Bistro CafÃ©, perfect for thin crust pizza, foccacio sandwiches and similar take-to-the-beach gourmet fare.
The hotels’ 27 rooms each have distinct personalities: perhaps a hand-tiled Jacuzzi in the middle of a large, a Nichupte lagoon-facing balcony; walls painted in Frida Kahlo hues; a collection of large ceramic pots decorating a stucco niche; a shower stall facing the sea. Our rooftop 1BR suite boasted 12 feet of sliding glass doors; two couches easily sleeping a child under 60″ tall; a dining table and six chairs; and a handy kitchenette. The living room’s Caribbean-view, tiled balcony had two chaise lounges and a four-person Jacuzzi, while the spacious corner bedroom had its own smaller balcony with two chairs for reading or admiring the view. There was a kingsize bed, flat screen TV and armoire, with enough closet space to accommodate our family’s attire for a week-long stay.
The BaccarÃ¡’s sunny standard-size rooms have the same home-from-home decor, with smooth terra cotta floors, a large balcony with seating area and plants, and a compact, all-tile bathroom with stall shower. Extended family and reunion groups will love the one-bedroom Presidential suite that sleeps up to eight. In addition to a very large bedroom with king bed, there are two double-size sleep sofas and room for two rollaways or cribs on the loft level, an enormous balcony overlooking the ocean, a very large modern kitchen with dining area and a washer/dryer by the third bathroom. Although the layout is best suited to those who don’t require much privacy, it’s a palace all ages can enjoy while taking a break from everything else CancÃºn has to offer.
We especially liked the BaccarÃ¡ because it isn’t an all-inclusive resort. While having a kitchen provides savings on food (and there’s complimentary coffee, pastries and newspapers each morning.), this delightfully Mexican retreat is for those—like my family—who savor Mexican cuisine and the culture it embraces. The hotel’s own Avanti restaurant is quite good; its low-key service allows piped-in Mexican music and stunning Caribbean view to dominate.
Since our 2005 visit, this small resort has been thoroughly renovated and restyled to reflect Cancun’s evolution as an upscale, highlife destination. We’re confident that what made it special for us –Miguel who remembered to bring our son a large glass of milk at breakfast, Andy who squeezed the perfect amount of fresh lime into a margarita, and Manuela who cautioned our son to safeguard his iPod from the sun and sea air — will be there when we go back.
Resort Report Card
|Seasonal Rates:||$ – $$|
|Choice of Activities:||C|
|Quality of Amenities:||B+|
|Bonus:||Intimate atmosphere and gracious staff make kids feel right at home.|
|Note:||With online specials, excursion advice from the concierge, and dinners on the town, this place is a surprising bargain.|
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.