JW MARRIOTT CANCÚN
A group of 350 loud Americans from the office-machinery industry checked in to the 448-roomJW Marriott the same afternoon I did. Winter pale, they were ready to party. Their welcome dinner, with sombreros on every table, took over the grounds. The next day, they commandeered the beach volleyball courts, packed the whirlpools, and wandered the halls with beer cans. I asked the front desk when they were leaving. "Tomorrow," I was told. "But they're being replaced by a bigger group."
The JW mixes 'n' matches opulence and soothing chain-hotel familiarity. My over-furnished room was generic luxury, but the corridor running the length of the ground floor was so glossy and imposing, a gaggle of awestruck guests commented that it looked "just like a museum."
In fact, JW went all out in its public spaces, expense- and imagination-wise. The pool area, separated from the hotel proper by a broad expanse of lawn and a series of man-made lagoons, felt remarkably underpopulated, even when I was sharing it with the conventioneers. At 35,000 square feet, the multilevel spa is the largest in Cancún. It was always deserted—except for the fitness center, where I took an amateurish yoga class from a woman who'd finished teaching kickboxing only moments before. She rolled out the yoga mats and, without pausing, launched into the downward-facing-dog position (or "dog facedown," as she called it). The spa itself was softly lit, if slightly corporate in feel (the relaxation room reminded me of a business center). The service was unbeatable: I was constantly trailed by a cheerful attendant bearing a glass of water. Everyone at the JW Marriott took this approach, and they remembered my name—from Gina at reception (who upgraded my room to one with a better view) to José (the doorman who gave me tips on local taquerías). They knew, and cared, that I was there. That alone would bring me back.
Km 14.5, Blvd. Kukulkán, Zona Hotelera; 800/223-6388 or 52-998/848-9600; www.jwmarriottcancunresort.com; doubles from $489.
ALAN BROWN is a contributing editor for T+L.