‘Dude, this is gonna be awesome,’ the fellow next to me in a tequila-branded T-shirt crows (along with some intermittent shouts of ‘woohoo’) as we begin our descent into Cancún International Airport.
Mr Smith and I swap a quick smirk. ‘Bet our awesome beats his,’ Mr Smith whispers. We have a feeling that our definitions might be radically different from our seatmate’s, as we’re set to bypass bustling Cancún in pursuit of the serene Maroma, a boutique resort and spa, on the Riviera Maya.
A mere 30 minutes south of the airport – we zoom up to the collection of whitewashed, thatched-roofed buildings perched on a secluded stretch of shore on one side with dense acres of rainforest on the other. All of it is blissfully removed from the tourist masses.
Ready to enter vacation mode, we find that the friendly staff awaiting our arrival with icy anise-flavored margaritas (made with the Mayan liquor xtabentún) are one step ahead of us. ‘Now this is awesome,’ Mr Smith chides. The sun is setting as we clink glasses, check in and make our way to Pescado, the Ocean View Junior Suite we will call home for the next two nights.
Set on the north edge of the property with pristine ocean views, our second-floor room has a canopy bed with hand-loomed bedding, a soaking tub big enough for two in the tiled ensuite and a private hammock-slung balcony facing the shore. It’s a travel brochure sprung to life. Rose petals are artfully arranged on our downy bed and aromatherapy tinctures are displayed near the pillows.
‘Maroma? More like Maromance,’ I joke to Mr Smith. He shoots me a ‘how corny?’ look. In this setting, I’d probably fall in love with the party-boy seatmate from my flight. Worried the room will lull us into missing round two of pre-dinner margaritas, we swap our travel gear for breezy linen dinner attire and beeline for the oceanfront bar.
Before we’ve even taken our seats, it’s evident that Maroma knows how to ensure a good time: the end barstool is emblazoned with the name of a trusty regular, who returns each year for his share of margaritas from the barkeep, Victor, who, it would appear, is the world’s foremost tequila expert. Victor directs us to seats next to the regular’s chair, asks a few questions about our tastes and shakes us jalapeno-spiced cocktails with expertly salted rims. As with any top bartender, he also shares a few bits of wisdom on what to order (lots of guacamole) and how to spend our days (doing nothing, except maybe a bit of snorkeling). We nod obediently, already planning our next visits. Mr Smith and I make a pact to have our own regular barstools before the decade’s up.
Mediterranean-inspired Mexican restaurant, El Sol lures us outside for dinner, where we feast on ceviche and pasta with local lobster, not to mention a few more margaritas. Though we’ve been on the ground less than two hours, we feel an eternity away from real life.
The beach is completely deserted as we make the short stroll back to our room. Feeling a bit naughty and emboldened by Victor’s potions, the Mister and I take full advantage of the seclusion, stripping off and dashing into the warm, placid water. Giggling like kids, we splash and float and try to spot constellations that even the Hubble telescope couldn’t locate over our home in light-polluted New York City. It feels like we’ve been here a week already.
Mornings are bustling at Maroma. After all, only fools – and the very hungover – would skip the excellent breakfast, which includes options like chilaquiles, chilli rellenos, homemade tortillas and papaya juice. It’s also an ‘early bird catches the sunloungers’ race to nab prime spots on the sand.
Enchanted by just how far this breakfast is from our usual grab-and-go oatmeal, we linger and miss reserving the chairs nearest us and end up a bit down the beach, beside the snorkel shack. Clearly it’s a sign. Booking a boat trip out to the reef, we spend the morning spotting tropical fish, holding starfish, scouting baby sharks and working up an appetite for guacamole.
Following our ambitious life-aquatic morning, we commit to an afternoon of quality time sun-lounger time. The gracious staff – or beach butlers as they are called – offer us free refreshments of ice pops and fruit, and are speedy with the guacamole and cervezas we order.
Glorious as this private playa is, there are few reasons to leave the beach at Maroma. And one is Kinan Spa, a tree-surrounded open-air space that has a few open-air pools and several secluded treatment rooms that face east-to-west to channel positive energy.
Having romped in the night sea, snorkeled, hammocked and overdosed on guacamole and margaritas together, Mr Smith and I opt to do this as a duo. We choose the couple’s treatment room for one of the spa’s messy-but-relaxing signature mud massages, using custom-chosen muds from the special bar. Detoxifying, soothing and sun-burn-busting, the treatments feel almost as naughty as our night swim, especially at the end in our 10-minute post-massage Jacuzzi plunge. The hot tub – with rainbow lights that flash red most often – is meant to amplify the Maromance.
But if there’s anything we’ve learned so far, it’s that Maroma doesn’t need any help setting the mood. The mood is set. And it’s awesome.