I craved a mini escape to somewhere warm and tropical with the combined feeling of winter blues and being drained from work. A destination where I could lay on a giant bed and watch the waves crash onto sandy shores. My burnout happened because I worked endless hours at home, feeling like my workday was a never-ending hamster cycle. In addition to that, I had severe winter blues. Imagine an environment where the sky is grey for 70% of the days, the sun sets at 5pm, and the cold air makes you want to stay indoors all day.
The stars aligned for me when JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa reached out, offering a three-day escape to experience Cancun through the resort’s eyes. I tried its great amenities–from its luxury spa service to its full-service gym to the plush king-sized beds sitting on the sandy shores. I also tried the top-notch restaurants located at the resort and its sister property the Marriott. The culinary options varied from a pop-up taco feast, an unexpected Polynesian buffet at Hana, and fresh seafood dished at Sacbe seafood shack. My curated experience with the JW Marriott Cancun extended beyond the resort. I also explored the ancestral town of Valladolid and had my first fashion grillhouse experience at Chambao.
Here’s what I did in three days
Day 1 – Decompress and feast on tacos and margs After suffering at the airport’s crowded immigration line, my room was a sight for sore eyes. It was spacious, had beach inspired decor and offered amazing views of Cancun’s from my balcony. While I was excited to start diving into the tacos being prepped for dinner, I also craved to lazily melt on the king-size bed in my plush robe. For my first meal, tacos and margaritas were a must. Before I built my shrimp and octopus tacos layered with a mound of guacamole, I sipped on refreshing margaritas at the JW Lobby Bar. The bar not only attracts guests for its modern chic aesthetic but offers 150 margaritas. It’s a feature that would entice guests like myself to gleefully return to Cancun to say, “I’ve tried all 150 margaritas; I am a Margarita Marvel.” So far, I had the Grapefruit Rita and Coffee Rita. The grapefruit is part of the “classic” options, perhaps where purists spend most of their time. This margarita features Gran Orendain Blanco tequila, grapefruit juice, Cointreau, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice. Whereas for nonpurist choices, the menu has “modern,” “exotic,” or “fusion” margaritas. The Coffee Rita is part of the modern section, flavored with Patron Cafe XO Bailey’s, chocolate, and raspberry sauce. This was an interesting option, nutty and less sweet compared to the Grapefruit Rita. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d go for a classic.
Post the margaritas, I headed to the pop-up taco fest outdoors. Live music filled the air as guests walked to build their unique taco combinations. The line for the cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) was the longest, suggesting that it was very tasty. However, I choose shrimp and octopus fillings which were equally amazing and topped them with creamy guacamole. As the darkness filled the sky, I had a second serving of the green goddess and a bowl filled with crispy corn tortilla chips.
Day 2: Explore beyond Cancun.
On the second day, I headed to Valladolid. Valladolid can be considered off the beaten path when vacationing in Mexico. It’s an incredible hidden gem deep in Mexico’s Yucatan jungle, approximately a two-hour drive from the JW Marriott Cancun. “The Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town) of Valladolid in Yucatán is one of those places where time slows down. Afternoons are made for wandering around its barrios full of colors while sipping on a homemade lemonade packed with nutritious chia seeds. Or, stumbling into a local store to purchase a Mexican barbie doll or vibrant Frida Kahlo art pieces to bring a bit of Mexico back home. While in Valladolid, I also experienced traditional Yucatecan fare. The food of Yucatán is very much influenced by its location and culture. The state sits at the end of Mexico’s curling peninsula, often described as Mayan. It is home to resilient people who resisted Spanish influence and continue to live off the land, cooking pibil in earthen pits. If ever visiting Valladolid, check out El Atrio del Mayab Restaurant perfectly located close to El Centro in Valladolid. It’s a charmingly lovely restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. On the menu you’ll find foods like papazules, cochinita pibil, or empanadas de Chaya. Again, the cochinita pibil appeared to be a popular item but I especially liked the papazules. The papazules are warmed corn tortillas, smothered with pumpkin seed sauce from which the green oil has been extracted and flavored with epazote. The tortillas are filled with chopped hard-cooked eggs and topped with a tomato sauce. A trip to Valladolid is a perfect way to dive into Mexico’s roots and see the ancestral and colonial paradise it is. Following my short trip to Valladolid, I had my first experience at a fashion grillhouse, Chambao. Located across the street from the resort, Chambao welcomes guests to celebrate and eat within its rustic setting, made with palm leaves and wood. Upon entering, I thought I had walked into a misty jungle before seeing the beautifully illuminated dining area with ocean views. Although the magnificent ocean views were great it could not compete with its exquisite menu. Some of the menu highlights included an Australian lobster tail, a hearty beet salad, and flambeed pineapple for dessert. Despite being enormously full, I had difficulty resisting the flambeed pineapple that boosted the flavors of the creamy ice cream. As I kept dipping, around 10pm, the grillhouse entertained guests with a fashion and aerialist show. If you’re heading to Cancun for any celebration, I will undoubtedly recommend Chambao. Day 3: Relax before heading back to reality.
I’ll not mince my words: a massage on vacation is a must, and The JW Marriott Cancun’s Spa did not disappoint. Wrapping up my mini winter getaway, I was treated to a stress-relieving massage. In the past few months, I’ve inadvertently developed sore muscles because of typing on the computer for 8+ hours a day and not stretching after working out. This has left me afflicted with lots of stiff muscles. I was thrilled to have a massage to dig into this problem (literally). I felt relieved and stress-free, which I hadn’t experienced in the wintry months at home. Booking a Bali Bed for the day is another way to relieve stress at the resort. Unlike a spa trip, there are no massages, but you can lazily gaze at the ocean on a giant bed and have a couple cocktails while you’re there. If you get hungry, I’d recommend checking out Sacbé beach shack conveniently located at the Marriott. My body tends to crave colder fresh foods like the shrimp ceviche and never-ending flow of cocktails or diet cokes in the hot weather. I listened to my cravings and Sacbé beach shack delivered, speaking on the quality of food and excellent staff service. While technically not at the JW Marriott Cancun, Hana is also part of the Marriot culinary family. Like the 150 margaritas, Hana Polynesian Grill brings another unique element to the resort. While I don’t foresee myself acquiring the blahs from Mexican cuisine, the Marriott Cancun family sets itself apart from other resorts. It does so by adding the fresh takes of Polynesian cuisine to its culinary umbrella. I envision Hana will be seen as a method to entice locals to visit the resort because they may be more intrigued to try new cuisine beyond tacos. At Hana’s opening party, I tried the refreshing ahi tuna and watermelon salads, sweet banana lumpia bites, and barbecue chicken. On my final day, I visited Sedona Grill, located at the JW Marriott Cancun. Typically, I get overwhelmed at breakfast buffets but I knew I wanted to have a Mexican themed breakfast before returning to reality. I choose eggs, tamales, guacamole, black beans along with rich tiny mug of Mexican hot chocolate. My plate was clean in a matter of minutes and I went for seconds of the beans. Before returning to the wintry weather, I took one last stroll of the beach and saw a pelican perched on the lifeguard’s tower. I thought this pelican must be living its best life because it’s a permanent resident of the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa. JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
Km 14.5, Blvd. Kukulcan Lote 40-A, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
I enjoy listening to the stories of the people who devote their time to fill our stomachs with scrumptious food. And of course, experiencing and sharing my thoughts on the cuisines that span across the world.