What's New in Mexico and the Caribbean

Club Med Cancun Yucatan, left, has a variety of water and land sports, activities for families and kids, and access to ancient Mayan wonders.

These resorts will appeal to those traveling with families, wellness seekers and those affluent travelers simply looking for resorts where everything is included.

Club Med Cancun Yucatan

The Club Med Cancun Yucatan was one of the first resorts to open in Cancun, and it is moving forward with a newly expanded, family-friendly area and a total revamp of its luxury, “Five-Trident” Jade section. (Five is the maximum number of Tridents in Club Med’s proprietary rating system.) 

“We were the first hotel, so there was no airport when we arrived,” Xavier Mufraggi, president and CEO of Club Med North America, explained when he stopped by our offices recently. “But, of course, when the airport was built in the ’70s, it was 10 minutes from our property.”

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That translates into a prime beach location, which Club Med has continued maximizing during the revamp by keeping buildings low — no high rises here! — and incorporating more oceanfront rooms. Club Med also routinely works with designers with local roots on its projects for a more authentic feel, Mufraggi said. 

The Resort added 60 new oceanfront rooms to Aguamarina, bringing the area’s total room count to 120. Above: A Deluxe Room - Ocean View.

Club Med completed the renovation of the family area, called Aguamarina, this past July, while Jade debuted its new look at the end of 2017. The project added 60 new oceanfront rooms to Aguamarina, split between 30 Club Rooms and 30 Deluxe Rooms and bringing the area’s total room count to 120. The Deluxe Rooms, we’re told, are among the most-requested at the resort for their great views — according to Mufraggi, they were deliberately designed with a full window looking out on the beach. Aguamarina suites are also extra large, at around 1,600 square feet, and they have two bedrooms: One for the parents and one for the kids. In a high-tech touch, each room also has a newly upgraded safe that can be opened with guests’ wristbands, and, for extra privacy, the whole area is built around its own pool just for families. The pool even has its own La Marina bar that serves a specially curated, child-friendly snack menu. 

The Jade area, which acts as a boutique hotel within the larger resort, has the property’s top suites: The Family Suite with Ocean View and the Suite with Ocean View (good for couples). Like the rest of the rooms and suites, these received a full makeover during the renovation. They now have Bluetooth sound systems and SKINJAY spa shower capsules. The project also added a new Taco Arte Beach Lounge, extended the oceanfront terrace at the specialty restaurant La Estancia, updated the La Hacienda restaurant and added a new wine cellar called La Bodega. Of these, we hear the outer tables at Taco Arte and the terrace at La Estancia are the best spots to take in a meal with ocean views; best of all, Jade guests get priority on reservations. To help with that, the area has its own dedicated concierge, who can also book room service, airport shuttles and inter-resort transportation, excursions and spa treatments. Advisors can reach them at [email protected] or 011-52-998-881-8200. 

Good to know: The spa is set to reopen as a L’Occitane Spa on March 15 after its own extensive refresh. Helmed by Spa Director Miriam Cohen, it will have eight treatment rooms and a program with treatments designed especially for children and young adults. Advisors can book services via the Easy Club Med booking engine or at 1-800-CLUB-MED. 

For other requests, advisors can reach out to Club Med’s inside sales specialists via e-mail at [email protected]m. The general manager is Abdel Osmani ([email protected]; 011-52-998-881-8200). 

Cottages, above, at Xolumado have eye-catching tile mosaics — in some cases covering the entire exterior.

Xolumado Inspiration Village

Also in Cancun, a newly opened Karisma property offers a different take on the all-inclusive concept. Xolumado Inspiration Village eschews the typical beach setting in favor of 41 bungalows amidst two and a half acres of Riviera Maya jungle. The property is squarely aimed at wellness travelers; in fact, during our visit there, we were told entire wellness buyouts would be a big focus. Wandering the intertwining paths between the bungalows and the mangroves, we could see why: The tranquil jungle setting, interspersed with surprising nooks and statues drawn from Buddhist culture, seemed like it would lend itself excellently to introspection. 

The design of the cottages also breaks the mold, incorporating eye-catching tile mosaics — in some cases covering the entire exterior — along with the aforementioned statuary. While no two cottages are exactly the same, the interiors continue the eclectic vibe with more intricate tilework and art drawing on both religious iconography and figures from popular culture. There are even a few kitschy touches, such as a multicolored glass chandelier in the entryway of one of the cottages we explored. 

Xolumado’s tranquil jungle setting, left, makes it well suited for wellness travelers.

The top-tier accommodation here is the Tranquility Suite. Large enough to accommodate four adults and four children, it consists of two adjoining Zen Garden Suites, each of which has its own private balcony. Zen Garden Suites can also be booked separately, while the property’s Serenity Suites, which have their own open terraces and palm-thatch roofs, round out Xolumado’s three suite categories. 

For guests absolutely desperate for the beach, Xolumado is in the same complex as Karisma’s family-friendly Generations Riviera Maya resort. (Xolumado is set quite far back in the jungle, however, to provide privacy from Generations and El Dorado Royale Riviera Maya, which are also part of the same complex.) Tip: Generations is where Xolumado guests can go for spa treatments or a night out at the cocktail bar, Sling. Nearby, the Bonanza Ranch offers the chance to take a group or private horseback ride through the jungle to a cenote. 

Back at Xolumado, however, guests can take part in a number of relaxing and enriching activities, such as daily yoga and meditation, “Shh Experience” sound healing sessions, outdoor breathing exercises, massage lessons, Spanish and Mayan classes, Mexican cooking classes, tequila and mezcal tastings, movie nights in the jungle, pottery painting, diving, wine pairing and painting seminars and tours of the greenhouse. There is even a pool to cool off, plus daily Mexican and jazz music played in the jungle for entertainment. The resort also has its own restaurant, the partly al fresco Xolumado Restaurant BBQ & Bar, as well as carts with tamales and paletas — Mexican ice cream pops — throughout the property. À la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner, premium wines and liquors, non-alcoholic beverages and fresh tropical fruit juices are all included as part of Karisma’s Gourmet Inclusive Experience, with many ingredients sourced from the company’s nearby hydroponic greenhouse.

Advisors with special requests can reach out to Jeanette Gonzalez ([email protected]; 52-998-872-8036 Ext 80444), sales manager.

Likewise, in the Caribbean there are always an influx of new and updated all-inclusive properties.

The Southern Cross Villa at Palm Island Resort & Spa has two bedrooms and its own infinity pool with ocean views.

Palm Island Resort & Spa

While Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Grenadines was unscathed by the 2017 hurricanes, it nonetheless underwent extensive refurbishments over the last year. All of the rooms have been updated, the resort’s two restaurants were completely renovated, and a new arrivals jetty was put in. On the wellness side, the resort added new watersports equipment, a beachfront spa and a beachfront yoga pavilion, and renovated its fitness center.

The private-island resort has just 43 accommodations set on 135 acres. We’re told the new Superior Beachfront Rooms are the most requested. These have a bright, chic color palette and large decks with Bali beds and beach showers. For a more spacious option, consider the Seagrape Suites, which have additional living areas, spacious bathrooms with double vanities, a double walk-in shower and a large soaking tub, as well as a private balcony or patio. Both of these options are great for couples.

Groups (such as families with adult children or multiple couples) looking for added privacy should select one of the two villas, which are located on either side of the property. Southern Cross sleeps four in two bedrooms and has its own infinity pool with ocean views; Sea Feathers has three bedrooms and plenty of shaded outdoor space. Both villas come with a golf cart to move about the island.

John Cather ([email protected]), director of sales, can assist with reservations.

The Heart Dining experience at Palm Island Resort & Spa allows guests to enjoy a romantic dinner served right on the beach.

Both of the restaurants, helmed by the award-winning Chef Baka, have beachfront settings and serve a range of Caribbean and international dishes. Royal Palm Restaurant offers a fine dining setting, while Sunset Restaurant & Bar has a more relaxed vibe, although it’s more “colorful” by day and more romantic by night. However, the recommended dining option is a private, catered picnic lunch set on a secluded and romantic spot on the island. With a choice of several locations, we hear Hammock No. 4 is superlative. Guests can tuck into a freshly made lunch while sipping rum punches in the shade of the cliffside gazebo set above the beach below. They can then head down to the beach and swing over the sea on the resort’s Instagram-worthy double swing. (Other options include dining at the Beach Pergola, a beachside Gazebo, at the Heart Tree or in your villa.)

At the renovated spa, the Hibiscus Package is a must. The treatment includes a hibiscus oil bath to calm and relax guests, which is followed by a rejuvenating scrub and wrap; the treatment continues with a body massage and a hibiscus facial. Note: Any treatment can be booked as a couple’s option, although the Palm Island Massage (which includes a Deep Tissue Massage with hot stones) is particularly popular among couples. 

The spa also has two swinging benches that guests can relax on and two double treatment rooms, each with a private bathroom with shower and a large deck with a soaking tub overlooking the beach. 

Katy Rosiak ([email protected]; 011-19-542-818-799) is the GM and has booked tours of Union Island or surrounding islands, swimming with turtles at the Tobago Cays, chartered sailing trips, sunset Champagne sailings, deep sea fishing or scuba diving, and kite surfing lessons at the Jeremie Tronet school. 

The Pink Lady sailing trip, which takes guests on the resort’s pink schooner to the Tobago Cays for snorkeling and a barbecue lunch is a popular option.

Palm Island also has complimentary bikes for exploring the island, a library, three nature/hiking trails, weekly staff versus guest cricket matches, cooking demonstrations, rum tastings, silent movie nights on the beach (with the aid of Bluetooth headphones) and more.

Access: Guests must fly into Grantley Adams International Airport on Barbados, then take a 45-minute charter flight to Union Island. Upon arrival in Barbados, Palm Island staff will greet and usher guests through an express customs line and ensure that their luggage gets on the charter flight. After arriving in Union Island, resort staff will again meet guests, collect their luggage and take them by golf cart to the boat jetty to board the resort’s private ferry for a 15-minute ride to Palm Island. The best part? A rum punch upon arrival.

Hodge’s Bay, above, has just 79 keys, of which the most popular rooms are the One- and Two-Bedroom Ocean Front Apartments.

Hodges Bay

Another option is Hodges Bay in Antigua, which opened in December 2018. Although the standard pricing for the resort is EP, an all-inclusive option is available. The latter option includes accommodations, lunch and dinner, any snacks and beverages (excluding fine wines, Champagne and top shelf liquor). A variety of land, water, family and couple’s activities, non-motorized water sports, beach and pool services, and a fitness center are also included. 

Should a relaxing vacation be more your vibe, head down to the main family lounge pool and grab one of the daybeds or have your butler reserve one of the cabanas (stocked with satellite TV, fans and loungers) for the ultimate poolside luxury. Here, the Pool Ambassadors can offer guests complimentary fresh fruit, flavored water, ice cream and scented cold towels. Heading to the beach? The Beach Ambassadors will wait on you there. 

If you prefer something a bit more active, Hodges Bay offers stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling and kayaking, as well as bespoke tours of the island, yoga and other fitness classes, tennis and beach volleyball. The hotel recommends tours to the Wallings Reservoir Nature Sanctuary, Old Sugar Mill Ruins or the Antigua Rainforest Zip Line. Guests can enjoy complimentary boat trips to Prickly Pear for half-day snorkel excursions. Helicopter tours of the island can also be arranged by General Manager Niels Stuedemann ([email protected]; 011-12-684-647-348). 

For children (aged six to nine), the Flying Fish Kids club offers an array of games, crafts and activities during peak seasons, including sandcastle competitions, complimentary water sports with free lessons and more. Babysitting and a section of the Kids Club is also available for toddlers. Teens have access to the Connect Teen Lounge, should they want to hang out away from the family for a bit. 

Couples should consider renting a jeep (or hiring a driver) to explore one of Antigua’s 360 beaches, complete with a picnic freshly prepared by the resort’s chef. 

And then there’s the spa. There are four treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room. We hear the Five Element Aroma Massage (book with Spa Director Murille Parotte at 011-12-684-848-000 Ext. 5100 prior to arrival) is the most requested. Available in 60 or 90 minutes, the full body massage uses its namesake oil blend (Wood for rejuvenation, Fire for zest, Earth for balance, Metal for detoxifying or Water to soothe) during the personalized treatment. Couple’s variations are also available. 

For dining, the resort hosts weekly West Indies Caribbean Night, beach barbecues, a signature restaurant called NaCL (the molecular formula for salt) by celebrity chef Edward Lee, who is a James Beard nominee and has appeared on Top Chef. Black Sails Tapas Lounge and Bar, the main dining restaurant White Sands and a pool bar round out the options. NaCL is an upscale restaurant with a prime-aged meat selection and international fare. Tip: The rum sommelier and expert mixologists can prepare exciting drinks and pairings for guests.

Hodges Bay has just 79 keys, split between 55 one-bedroom suites (across seven different categories) and 24 multi-bedroom units (available in six varieties). The most popular rooms are the One- and Two-Bedroom Ocean Front Apartments, both of which offer views of the Atlantic, spacious living accommodations, a fully equipped kitchen and a dedicated concierge and butler service. Tip: Should guests like, they can request a private chef and personal grocery services. Good to know: All of the Villas, Apartments and Penthouses offer butler service. 

Activities at the resort, left, include stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling and kayaking. 

Advisor Insight: Top All-Inclusives for Foodies

Laura Lukasik, manager and luxury travel advisor at Viking Travel Service:

“I think Grand Velas has a real niche market when you’re talking travelers that are foodies. Bar none they have the best cuisine and really know how to serve the luxury market with food and service. Also, for groups and incentives, they really meet the mark with spacious rooms in addition to a top-quality facility, but their food is just unbelievably extraordinary for an all-inclusive brand. The restaurant that sticks out in my mind is at the Los Cabos property — it’s called Cocina de Autor. It has two Michelin stars.

Le Blanc is another one. They have a new property also in Cabo, but their real staple is in Cancun. Again, also known for great quality food and service. Those would be my top two.

“I think if you’re looking for quiet with good food, that would be the Zoëtry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya. The uniqueness of that one is it was originally built to be a hacienda, so it doesn’t have that cookie-cutter feel. They have that new add-on next door called Impression — I actually had dinner there. The cuisine was impeccable, but it was very quaint and small, like your own private villa.”

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