News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Mexico Review: Belmond Maroma, Mexico

LVMH might be able to convince you that dropping an average person’s annual income on a designer handbag is a sound financial decision.  However, even their powers wane when it comes to convincing you that paying a hefty sum to sleep in a dumpster is appealing.  Belmond Maroma emerges from a two-year closure as the refreshed flagship of the brand, marking its first significant transformation since being acquired by LVMH in 2019.  After an extensive renovation, the resort reopened last year, poised to set the standard across Belmond properties.  And boy, did some of them need it.  The refurbishment focused on blending contemporary luxury with the area’s rich cultural heritage.  It feels very authentically Mexican and also very Belmond-y – just in an alternative reality where Belmond doesn’t produce properties that resemble ruins.

Belmond Maroma is nestled on the Riviera Maya, a stretch along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, famed for its pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, lush tropical landscapes and an infestation of seaweed that wreaks havoc like a swarm of locusts suffering diarrhoea.  That and the plastics, but what can ya do about that?  Other than maybe, just maybe, people, we collectively try not to throw our junk in the ocean.  You fly all the way to Mexico, check into a luxury resort, dip a toe in the ocean and get greeted by enough plastic debris that you could go into the oil industry.  Then there’s the never-ending battle against Sargassum, which they have clearly put a lot of effort into fighting, but it’s like trying to get rid of the Kardashians; strike one down, and another one appears elsewhere.

Ignoring all these widespread challenges on the Yucatan Coast, which aren’t unique to Belmond, the beach here boasts incredibly soft sand that’s a delight to stroll on.  Its beach rivals those of the Caribbean and easily surpasses any found in Western Mexico.  The blend of jungle and beach creates a habitat where parrots and coatis roam freely, making for a seamless transition from sunbathing to exploring a more untamed setting.  Although another property shares this stretch of beach, it hardly impacts the sense of exclusivity.  Not once did my spider-sense tingle that I was suffering the indignity of seeing people who don’t have a travel agent good enough to send them to a Belmond.

Located just south of Cancun, the airport is like walking into the rapture.  Luckily security camera footage captured my reaction as we left the airport.

Escaping the chaos, we were quickly whisked away and greeted with an impressive array of snacks and drinks—amongst the best I’ve encountered.  There was juice, water, and sparkling wine in an ice bucket and even a watercolour book for the children.  A roughly 30-minute drive later, we approached Belmond Maroma, navigating a lengthy path through the jungle to reach the resort.  A unique welcome awaited us, including a greeting from the “pet concierge” (a dog), a traditional Mayan drink sweetened with local honey, and a ceremonial Mayan welcome involving smoke before we were escorted to our room.

Naturally, they basically forgot every request we made in the emails, but the default welcome amenities were lovely.  To sound like a spoilt brat for a moment (or more than often?), hotels tend to give out gifts to the kids like it’s a drug dealer handing out free samples.  I assume that’s how it works; I didn’t go out much in my…well, anytime in my life. It’s a practice so common that we usually leave them behind.  Not here.  They had lots of thoughtful children’s gifts, including some adorable rash protectors that will forever come with us – if we hadn’t lost one at One&Only Mandarina.  Additionally, us adults received a tequila set, some guacamole, and an inventive watermelon-based fruit pizza.

Facilities

The redesign weaves traditional elements with modern aesthetics, featuring local materials and artisanal touches throughout its spaces.  The rooms and public areas are adorned with handcrafted furniture, vibrant textiles, and artwork that reflect the cultural vibrancy of the Yucatán.  Lush gardens and panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea create a serene and inviting atmosphere.

Maroma’s transformation is evident in every detail, showcasing the depth of its modernisation.  The result is a property that feels brand new.  Fortunately, it avoids displays of its LVMH affiliation.  The exception is the choice of Guerlain spa, although this has also been embraced by other hotels like One&Only.  Additionally, the boutique exclusively focuses on Mexican products, further emphasising the resort’s commitment to local authenticity and charm.  I was very excited when it was announced the parent company of Cheval Blanc were taking over Belmond, thinking the companies would merge.  Now it’s clear they’re not merging, I’m even more excited, as they are allowing Belmond to maintain its identity of local authenticity, but now with the budget to excel at it.

The Bambuco bar in the main building exudes an elegance reminiscent of Cheval Blanc St. Tropez, offering a sophisticated and stylish atmosphere.  Guests have access to three swimming pools, including one exclusively for adults.  The largest pool, conveniently shaded and near our room, was an ideal spot for relaxation. Freddy’s Bar, located on the beach, provides a scenic spot for drinks, and there’s also a water sports centre.

The gym is equipped with the latest Technogym machines, including treadmills, bikes, and strength training equipment. However, the low ceiling limits activities like skipping and pull-ups—humble brag alert. Above the gym, a yoga studio offers complimentary daily classes, and the gym also has a complimentary daily schedule, which goes to show that even though they will make your wallet hurt at Maroma, it will not feel violated.

The spa stands out with its stunning, rustic design.  Near reception is an apothecary; beyond that, a path leads guests through to a hydrotherapy pool that ingeniously combines warm, hot, and cold sections in one beautifully designed space.  Additional facilities include a sauna, steam room, and beauty salon, all contributing to a luxurious wellness experience.

There is a kids club, but it is a really pitiful implementation.  The staff were lovely, but to essentially have a converted bedroom turned into the kids club ain’t exactly Disney World.  If two children are in there, it’s claustrophobic.  If you have three, it might be considered torture.

Room

With 72 rooms and suites, it is intimate but offers a sizeable amount of facilities and space.  The refurbishment of the hotel was extensive yet constrained by the original structure’s limitations and regulatory boundaries.  This resulted in some unique design choices.

Our Ocean View Suite, located in the main building, had a large enough square meterage but suffered an unconventional layout and minimal storage options.  Despite boasting a generous ocean-facing terrace, an additional balcony overlooking the courtyard and pool, and a spacious outdoor shower, storage was confined to a modest wardrobe area situated between the bedroom and bathroom. It’s not much fun when you feel like you’re living from a suitcase or have to consider leaving everything on the balcony – all that’s missing is your trolley and binbag.  Only once have I ever experienced this before, which was in another LVMH property, Cheval Blanc St. Tropez.

Navigating to our room felt like squeezing through the birth canal – our suite, #19, snugly to the right and #20 so close to the left it was flirting with us.  Entering our suite for the first time turned into a tango with our neighbour, each of us insisting, “After you, no, after you”. That’s what a suite gets you here.  Mornings brought coffee placed right outside our door, turning every exit into an escape room challenge and likely barricading our neighbour’s door.  The space is, let’s say, intimate.  On a positive note, I know the soundproofing works, as no one complained about my bellowing children.

Size-wise, the suite was adequate, but each individual room felt cramped, especially the bedroom and bathroom, while the living room provided some breathing space.  The layout was somewhat awkward and impractical..  The balcony was the largest area, but it wasn’t actually prime location or view, offering a mixed view of the ocean and the tops of buildings.

I know I make this sound like the worst place on earth, but the room was perfectly pleasant, it simply had to exist within the building’s limitations.  All they needed was a proper storage area and I would have been more than happy with it.  We were only ever in the room to sleep, as the rest of the property was too inviting.  The room’s design was pleasing, especially the bathroom’s open design with a large bath adjacent to an open-planned shower and outdoor shower (once again: they can include that, but not a luggage rack?).

The tech was intuitively designed, such as light switches with three options: bright, dim, off.  Describing the room’s attempt at blackout would be an insult to the entire colour spectrum, given the ambient light leakage from outside, the wardrobe’s lights refusal to turn off, and the relentless glow from various electronic devices.  But, the idea that I get to enjoy a lay in these days with kids is so foreign that it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is having a TV with streaming capabilities and thank god they had one here, so those few hours in the morning our nanny could take over – Elsa from Frozen.  Over in the minibar, they provide shot glasses, which is how my children decided to drink apple juice.

From a design perspective, I like it and the authenticity, from a practical perspective, not so much.  Basically, get a higher room category or villa.

Food

Maroma offers two dining options Casa Mayor and Woodend by Curtis Stone.  Different menus are available at their bars, but it confused me so much I gave up figuring out who/what/where/why/how.  They really shouldn’t let the menu designers sample the wares whilst working.

Michelin-starred Chef Curtis Stone’s menu focuses on local ingredients, embracing a minimalist approach.  His signature live fire technique, utilisies an open flame visible from the dining room. Woodend’s dining room has a cosy feel under a traditional Palapa roof with a bamboo ceiling.  The room features curved seats and unique cane chairs, an open kitchen, and a floor with a colourful mosaic tile design.  Large windows offer beautiful sea views, and shell chandeliers inspired by Mayan jewellery that dominates the ceilings.

The beautiful scenery and setting at Woodend’s seemed to be in a conspiracy to distract from the food—which was nice, without ever being in danger of approaching spectacular.  My lasting memory will be the epic Manchego bread and the large selection of petit fours.  The meal has long faded from memory.

Breakfast unfolds in the main building, a few staircases beneath our room, with the option to enjoy it beachside.  The attention to quality is evident, right down to the charming Mexican cutlery, plates, and placemats—so tempting, we might have indulged in a shopping spree had this not been our first stop.  Breakfast is strictly à la carte, leaving my three-year-old to existentially question, “Why is there no buffet!?”.  The menu, concise and steeped in local flavours, may not be extensive, but they invade your table with a huge assortment of food, including a fruit platter, bread basket and selection of daily pastries.  Traditional tacos and quesadillas are prepared by Maroma’s own La Tia, Olivia, each morning—a delightful nod to tradition and a unique touch that I liked.

During the first breakfast, the waitress already knew my preferences – big tick.  Better still, the Eggs Benedict were amongst the best I’ve ever had, and their brioche must have been made by witchcraft, as it was so good.  It seems breakfast has evolved from humble Weetabix or granola beginnings to a level where indulging in a “chocolate factory” for breakfast is the norm. That’s why there’s never been a better time to be alive

The problem is that lunch and dinner were just ok and were always slow to arrive.  Breakfast had set such high expectations, but lunch and dinner never matched it.

Service

The welcome was wonderful, and being hooked up into a WhatsApp group with our butler was great and convenient, but our first real experience of their service was housekeeping arriving at 10 pm, persistently ringing the doorbell before entering without waiting for a response before I had to tell them to bugger off.  I never felt they really addressed this, whilst later on, someone made an error over lunch, came and apologised, and that’s it – problem solved, and we move on.

They truly shine in conveying genuine kindness, from complimentary poolside deliveries of snacks and water to refreshing watermelon mojitos.  Each evening brings the delight of a new drink to your room, alongside thoughtful turndown gifts.  Come 8 pm, a second turndown gift arrives, including a cuddly monkey soft toys for children, personalised luggage tags, and pastries adorned with the Dorsia logo.  It was all capped off with farewell cookies at breakfast.

The staff were proactive, notably when our butler actively sought us out to assist with dinner reservations upon noticing we hadn’t made any.  The service was undeniably warm and eager, although not the quickest.  Assistance was readily available, especially in navigating the premises with buggies, given its less-than-ideal accessibility.  The team was also incredibly caring with our one-year-old, ensuring she was entertained and well looked after during some meals.  However, the frequent requests for our room number and preferences, along with the incessant requirement to sign for every little thing—including complimentary meals for children under five—was tedious.

Surprisingly absent from their website, the resort offers an extensive range of activities for children.  However, what isn’t disclosed online is the current state of the kids club—unfinished and confined to a small room with limited toys.  Despite this, the scheduled activities provide some redemption, offering entertainment options for children, though the space itself is as lively as a quiet nursing home.  Completion of the kids club, along with the tennis courts, is anticipated “this year.”

The Good

  • Service
  • Breakfast
  • Very high occupancy but still felt peaceful and exclusive

The Bad

  • Poor storage space, but overcome that with a bigger room or villa
  • No kids club, but overcome that with a vasectomy and a time travel machine

The Luxurious

  • Setting
  • Spa
  • Generous with complimentary amenities

Rating

Good

Conclusion

There is a lot I shouldn’t like about Maroma, but they won me over.  The hardest thing to convey in a review about a property is how much you enjoy just being there.  This is a really relaxing, gorgeous setting where you feel well looked after.  I would certainly return.

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide where to stay in Cancun, and Belmond was the one most likely to get the chop. I’m very pleased that my brain malfunctioned and I left it in place. I really want to be able to highly recommend Belmond Maroma, but the food needs work, and the kids’ club is as complete as my diploma in empathy. Otherwise, it’s a really charming property.

Belmond is a brand I rarely associate with top luxury; they have a strong sense of place and some properties in wonderful locations, but more often than not, they’re in serious need of investment.  This is the turnaround that will propel them to be in the conversation once again.  You can tell you’re in a Belmond at Maroma, just like you can tell you’re in one at Hotel Caruso.  But that feeling has often not been one drowned in luxury; it’s often a sense of old charm, of clinging onto the past, better times.  But this is the new standard.  This is their blueprint to a better Belmond.

In Summary

  • Best room

    Consider the Oceanfront Suites as your starting point and work your way up

Oceanfront Suites start from $4,000 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 19th Mar '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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